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On treating Labour members like adults

Have a nice dayI got an email from the Labour’s General Secretary a couple of days ago. This was presumably because I had replied to some general circular in which I said I would consider doing some back room work for Labour, or perhaps it went to all members.

I have never met Iain McNicol but nevertheless the letter opened with

David, It’s brilliant to have you on our team …”

Brilliant eh? It’s nice to be appreciated by the great and the good – or at least that seems to be the reaction I am expected to have to this synthetic enthusiasm. McNicol continues:

But I was talking to Ed the other day and realised that I couldn’t answer all his questions about who you are and why you’re fighting to beat the Tories with us”.

So, Ed was actually asking about me and wanting to know what I thought! And all that from a chat about me between the General Secretary of the Labour Party and the Party leader. Wow! Apparently :

Ed wants that to change… and we want to know how you feel about our party, our politics and our country”.

The assumption that ordinary Party members are willing to accept this sort of insincere drivel at face value speaks volumes about the current state of the Labour Party. At least I hope it is insincere because if it isn’t then the people writing this stuff are as stupid as they appear to assume their target audience to be.

I also have a personal reason for finding this chatty approach particularly insincere. Over the last few years I have written to Iain McNicol, Ed Miliband and various Shadow Cabinet members asking for information on policy. From Iain McNicol I got no reply, not even an automated acknowledgement, Several letters to Ed Miliband brought no reply until I said I would go public about the matter in question.

The matter in question was the failure of Steven Twigg (late of the Shadow Cabinet) to reply to letters asking for information on Labour education policy. The letter which I finally extracted from Ed Miliband apologised for the lack of response and told me that he had instructed the education team (led then by Twigg) to send me the documentation I was asking for. Nothing happened. I wrote to Twigg with a copy of Miliband’s letter. Still no reply. And I never did get one.

Similarly I wrote six or seven times to Ed Balls asking for information about Labour’s economic calculations i.e. for details on how it was reaching its conclusions as to what could and could not be done. Again no answers, not even automated acknowledgements. And so it goes on. When I complained to other active members about this they just said “Welcome to the club David, we all get the same treatment”.

So when Iain McNicol feigns enthusiasm to hear my thoughts about Labour and what it is doing I will perhaps be excused for thinking that this is a shallow, insincere exercise showing all the signs of bad taste that we have come to associate with the marketing mentality.

The rest of the letter from Iain McNicol asks me to select options which best express my views and preferences. This kicks off with asking if I would complete the sentence “Above all, I believe Britain should be ….” with either “compassionate” or “diverse” or “fair” or “pioneering” or “respectful”. In other words it kicks of with typical marketing drivel. Do I want Britain OR do I want it to be “respectful” indeed!

The quality of this opener signals the quality of the rest of the document. It tells me “we are really looking forward to reading your responses”. The only surprise is that the document doesn’t end with “Have a nice day now”. It continues.

Below is a list of issues that we as a party feel are important. Which of these matter most to you, David?

(1) Building affordable housing, (2) Growing a sustainable economy, (3) Improving our schools, (4) Defending LGBTQ rights, (5) Defending women’s rights, (6) Ensuring childcare is affordable (6) Protecting our environment, (7) Raising living standards for all, (8) Safeguarding our NHS.

How do I choose the importance of “improving our schools” as against “growing a sustainable economy” or “protecting our environment”. This is political nonsense. The only hope for people issuing this sort of rubbish is that they do so with complete insincerity. If they believe in what they are doing then there is no hope for them. On the other hand if our leaders are either insincere or stupid ….

The electronic questionnaire doesn’t have the usual space for respondents to make additional nonpredetermined points. No way then of saying that Labour should nationalise the railways and the utility companies. Taken as a whole this is political drivel in concentrated form. There is no way that Labour can be a genuinely radical party of social change if it does not treat its members as intelligent adults with views worth taking seriously.

Image credit: By Left Futures adapted from hermione13 / 123RF Stock Photo


  1. PoundInYourPocket says:

    Good article. Illuminating that you received such little response given that your views are of value.
    having recently joined the LP I was suprised to receive a number of these inane survey e-mails. Given that I joined out of a serious desire to engage in politics.
    “Lets cut to the chase…” was one of them , imploring me to donate. I replied “let me cut to the chase, give me some left wing policies and then I’ll donate”. The most recent one asked me to finish the sentence “I vote because…” with option 3 being “because I enjoy it”.
    I don’t know when the change took place but since joining the LP it seems I have become a complete imbicile. Thanks.

    1. David Pavett says:

      Thanks. The poor quality of these electronic messages tells us a lot about the way the people who run the Labour Party (and that ain’t you and me) understand politics. It is not an attractive view.

  2. Rod says:

    Poundinyourpocket: “since joining the LP it seems I have become a complete imbicile”

    They’ll be pleased about that. Their credibility is dependent on our gullibility.

    1. David Pavett says:

      Emperors clothes come to mind. More people should speak out against this rubbish we are deluged with.

  3. Lois Radice says:

    Nice one, Dave. These emails turn me into a gibbering furious non-idiot

    1. David Pavett says:

      Thanks. I can hardly believe the inanity of these things. The authors of this stuff are either extremely stupid or have a very low view of humanity. I guess it is the latter (not entirely excluding the former).

  4. Syzygy says:

    Totally agree – the faux questionnaire was excruciatingly inane and patronising.

    But I think we should also know who wrote it? As you say:

    ‘The authors of this stuff are either extremely stupid or have a very low view of humanity.’

    Both of which should preclude them from ever writing on behalf of the LP again. My suspicion is that some PR company were employed which IMO heightens the insult. However, was there no-one in the LP with the commonsense to pull it before pressing send.

    1. Rod says:

      “some PR company were employed”

      It certainly does read like PR drivel.

      And there’s probably going to be much more of it now that marketing bigwig Axelrod has been contracted to deliver Miliband to Number 10.

      But there’s a simple solution: Leave the Party and don’t vote for those who treat you with such contempt.

      The only reason the Right within the LP have more influence than the left is that they are prepared to follow through with action. Many left to form the SDP and when they didn’t support Livingstone for mayor they launched an abstention campaign.

      And Miliband initiated his own anti-left rout at Falkirk, which led to dumping the unions – a move that would have been unthinkable when Miliband became leader.

      But, out of a misguided sense of solidarity, Labour’s Left have tolerated all this and will no doubt be out on the doorstep campaigning for a Progress Party victory in 2015.

      One might wonder: Will they ever learn?

      1. John Reid says:

        Lord paul who backed Ken as an independent ,didn’t back him in 2012′ Lord a sugar, hardly a labour man said he couldn’t Back him, Alex Hilton left labour voting Ken for his second choice after backing a independent for his first choice, no difference to Sunny Hundal labour member voting agreen first,a Ken second and Dan hodges left the party voting Boris for a mayor,a labour for the assembly, was there a abstention campaign , I never heard of it, regarding the opt in rather than opt out it’s hardly dumping the unions

        1. Rod says:

          Ending the collective link is dumping the unions.

          And of course, TU members are already free to ‘opt in’ as full members, but don’t. It is expected that only an tiny number will ‘opt in’.

          So the Progress Party will have rid itself of an institutional feature which, over the decades, has provided great credibility and resilience.

          The Party has moved on. We should expect a slow decline as the voters move on also.

          1. John Reid says:

            More people who opt out may now opt in, those in the PCS for inatance

      2. PoundInYourPocket says:

        First Past The Post , which of the two do you least want ?

  5. swatantra says:

    Excellent post. Drivel ineed! Brewers Green must think we’re all a bunch of moroins. I’m getting to the stage where I’m having to delete these emails as soon as they appear. Has Alexrod already begun working?

    1. David Pavett says:

      I have to fish this stuff out of my Junk folder because my email package, undirected by me, has decided that is where it belongs. Artificial intelligence or what?

  6. David Pavett says:

    I just received an follow-up communication from Iain McNicol.


    This is fantastic — in just three days, 35,101 Labour supporters have taken our survey!

    We saw that you started, so before we look at the responses and show them to Ed, we want to give you a chance to have another go.

    Take our four-minute survey here.


    No chance Iain – I know a phoney questionnaire when I see one.

  7. PoundInYourPocket says:

    I just received the same one.
    It reads like auto-generated happy-robot speak.
    My CLP is down to its last penny. We are delivering sparse leaflets in graing B&W. Can someone stop this fecking idiot wasting cash.

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