Labour’s Organisational Review – Building Support

In my eyes, this section of the review, Building Support, is one of the most vital. In times of declining participation in politics, and declining levels of political party membership (note: I’m not privy to Labour’s membership number, but I’m noting a general trend among modern political parties which I assume is also seen in Labour), Building Support is necessary not just to make sure we win in 2014, but to make sure that we’re around in the future.

So here are the recommendations for building support, as endorsed by Labour’s New Zealand Council:

D) Building Support
a) We will review and improve our welcome processes and induction packs for new members.
b) We will reduce barriers to membership by introducing a koha-based initial membership fee for young people and for people living on low incomes so that, on entry, low paid members pay what they wish.
c) We will up-skill our activists in the key skills of campaigning, organising and fundraising, and policy development. An early priority is enhanced candidate development.
d) We will develop a ‘registered supporters’ scheme for individuals and groups. A registered supporter is a person who agrees to have their name listed as such. They will receive communications and attend party functions, except formal meetings. Registered supporters cannot be a member of another political party.
e) We will increase our focus on building both our membership base and registered supporters.
f) We will encourage affiliation of appropriate bona fide groups in the community that share Labour’s values, principles, and kaupapa.
g) As a priority we develop a specific strategy for recruiting young voters and activists which includes a focus on Maori, Pasifika and our ethnic sectors.

There is a lot to cover! Only one rule change proposed for this section, rule 11, which relates to point d. We’ll come to that soon…

a) We will review and improve our welcome processes and induction packs for new members.

Good good. I understand that this is already underway, and it can’t come fast enough. All party members have heard some terrible stories of poor introductions to the party, so I’m very glad to see it get some focus. I guess we’ll have to wait and see what the outcome is like, but it’s excellent to see that here.

b) We will reduce barriers to membership by introducing a koha-based initial membership fee for young people and for people living on low incomes so that, on entry, low paid members pay what they wish.

I’m really in two minds about this one. Given the current fee for a someone who is un-waged is only $6.60, it’s not going to be a huge difference. Perhaps however the difference will be more psychological, I’m not sure. I’d be interested to hear what people think about this idea. It’s also interesting that a rule change is not required to action this point.

c) We will up-skill our activists in the key skills of campaigning, organising and fundraising, and policy development. An early priority is enhanced candidate development.

Excellent. I’ve got lots of ideas about how this could be achieved, but I’ll save those for some other time. For now I’m just glad to see it in the recommendations.

d) We will develop a ‘registered supporters’ scheme for individuals and groups. A registered supporter is a person who agrees to have their name listed as such. They will receive communications and attend party functions, except formal meetings. Registered supporters cannot be a member of another political party.

This is an interesting idea. The rule change (11) that accompanies this point changes the existing rule around supporters, which is (probably deliberately) vague. It specifies that supporters can attend party meetings except when in committee (does that include conferences?) and that they cannot be a member of any other political party. It’s not as stringent as the test for membership, which can also exclude people who are members of other groups as the New Zealand Council decides.

However, beyond that, the recommendation doesn’t go very far. Supporters are not allowed to vote for selections or the leadership and the recommendation doesn’t really suggest how they can be involved in the party. It will be interesting to see how, if at all, this is implemented.

e) We will increase our focus on building both our membership base and registered supporters.

I’m going to have to say I’m not happy with how vague this recommendation is. I believe the last time we had a major party-wide membership drive was back in 2009/10, and it was somewhat successful. I do think this needs to be something we do every year, so that recruiting new members becomes a fundamental part of our culture. I would at least like to see a measurable goal for membership growth come out of the review. I haven’t got the numbers, but off the top of my head I’d suggest that a goal of 5% growth would be a good place to start.

f) We will encourage affiliation of appropriate bona fide groups in the community that share Labour’s values, principles, and kaupapa.

Now here I have to eat a piece of humble pie and point out that my post about the affiliates section of the review was incorrect. There is a recommendation to encourage more affiliates. This is a very good thing. However, again, it is a reasonably vague recommendation and it will all come down to how much time and resource is devoted to it.

g) As a priority we develop a specific strategy for recruiting young voters and activists which includes a focus on Maori, Pasifika and our ethnic sectors.

This is a somewhat clumsily worded, but well intended recommendation. Are activists not voters? Is this saying we need to convince young people, Maori, Pasifika and “ethnic people” to vote for us, or join us? Both are worthwhile, but I’m not sure which it is suggesting.

All in all, this is a very important part of the review. My worry is that it only seems to be scratching the surface, and because it lacks any significant structural changes, ideas for implementation, or metrics to measure success, I don’t really see much changing because of it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

two × four =