”This work was strictly voluntary, but any animal who absented himself from it would have his rations reduced by half”
Following the row I had with @lukeakehurst on Friday* I thought it would be worth setting out some of the reasons that things got heated and suggest how the situation could have been better handled.
It started (as is mandatory with left wing arguments on Twitter) with @danhodges. Himself and Luke were rehashing (for what seems like the thousandth time) an argument about canvasing.
It’s a very old argument, one which they have had ‘ad infinitum’. Repetition of arguments on Twitter typically occur because someone isn’t listening. In this case it was Luke who (as he has done time and time again) was trying to undermine Dan by pointing out that he doesn’t go out canvassing for Labour.
Dan has addressed why he doesn’t canvas before. You might not agree but its a legitimate viewpoint and clearly expressed. That didn’t stop Luke once again pressing Dan to come out and canvas which was very frustrating, because what Luke was really saying was that Dan’s views don’t count because he doesn’t canvas.
That made me very angry and led to my snarky tweet thats quoted below, and the resulting argument:
Luke is one of the good guys, only the other evening he put up a admirable and principled fight against the mouth-breathers of Respect, it was this post that made me decide to join the party in the first place and any enemy of this pillock is my friend. However on this I think he is wrong.
Running a party is difficult, especially when money is short. As a result people need to work for nowt to get the job done – thats ok, a lot of the theatre work I do is unpaid, I’m still very happy to do it.
Furthermore, favouritism is a natural by-product of humans interacting. If Luke likes people who get their boots on and go out and leaflet then he’s going to favour them because they feel like his people. It happens in all industries – you don’t get anywhere in theatre without tonguing an arsehole or two (literally and figuratively) – is it right? who cares? its going to happen regardless.
But there’s a difference between those two things and explicitly stating that you don’t take people seriously if they don’t canvas. I don’t want to sound like a bourgeois capitalist swine but I pay a subscription to be a party member and in return I expect to be listened to. I’m not paying to be allowed to work for free so that perhaps if I do really well Luke will think my views worthy of his consideration.
What I resent most is the implicit implication that you’re not a ‘real’ Labour member unless you’re doing a repetitive unpleasant job to the detriment of your personal life. Its not enough to write repeatedly about how you think the party can be better (albeit with controversial views) or to make art about how society can be better, that’s soft work, ‘real’ members are those who dedicate all their personal time to doing something hard and boring on behalf of the party.
That’s not a good way to inspire a new generation of activists. There are so many ways to reach the electorate now, and so many creative ways that we can communicate and help the party. Narrowing down how a potential activist can be of use to Labour to canvassing, and then suggesting that unless you do a certain amount of this your views don’t count simply ensures that many people will not bother. Especially when there’s one law for us and another for the Labour elite (Luke seems happy to admit the people who actually run the party by and large graduated from the PPE course at Oxford and never did the work with the activists anyway.)
My generation blogs, it gets into arguments on Twitter, it creates satirical videos and memes. In my case I have spent and continues to spend quite a lot of money (with no expectation of getting it back) making art I feel is important (even if over time I come to regret it!). This takes time and effort and skills you learn over many years. If we are to bring new, young, professional and driven members into the party we need to respect those skills and engage them because that will motivate the new members, and benefit us.
I respect you Luke and you’re on the right side of the Left but your response to my second tweet should have been as follows:
@georgemaddocks ‘All members views count, but it would be great if we could find a way to get to know you better…
@georgemaddocks and for you to be able to help out. what do you do?’
That’s how you engage people and that’s how we will move forward as a strong and successful party. We won’t do any of that by urging blind allegiance, proscribing endless graft and ignoring those who aren’t prepared to prioritize that over their friends, family and careers.
*I know last Friday is a very long time ago, I would like this blog to be productive and help us move forward as a party so I’ve rewritten this piece several times. Where it is still a little angry/sarcastic I hope Luke will forgive me it is hugely improved from the first draft which liberally encouraged various objects** be inserted up his ‘Rodger Helmer‘
** The complete works of Marx, Nick Clegg’s burning Cacti Collection, Nadine Dorries