I was wrong about Labour Live

I was wrong about Labour Live.

If you look back through my social media, you’ll find a bit of snark about Labour’s struggle first to sell tickets and then to pack the venue with free tickets.

I wasn’t wrong because it turned out in the end to be a rip-roaring success. I was wrong because trying something new and failing – especially when it comes to rejuvenating the format of political events intended to involve large numbers of people – is just what we need more of, in politics in general and in the Liberal Democrats.

Trying something new and succeeding is definitely better than trying something new and failing – but you can’t have successful innovation without also sometimes getting the unsuccessful flavour too. Demanding that the only new things done should be those which are definitely going to be successful is a demand for cautious, conservative inertia.

What’s more, if your reaction to any failure is to ridicule, the risk is that you put people off trying out more new things in the future. That’s why, to take a Liberal Democrat example, although my view of the recent Ashdown Prize competition is that it rather reinforces my scepticism of demands that ‘we must be radical!’, I very much prefer the sort of reaction of Caron Lindsay who set out a serious of possible improvement for next time.

I would also add to Caron’s ideas the lessons for (federal) party conference. In one go, I make it, the Ashdown Prize secured as many policy submissions as the last decade or so of federal conferences received all put together. That to me suggests that the Federal Conference Committee (FCC) could most usefully look at the Ashdown Prize not through the guise of ‘see, our policy process is all fine’ but rather through the guise of ‘crikey, there’s a lot of policy interest out there we haven’t yet found a good way to tap’.

Returning to the more general point: there’s a reason why if you search for a phrase such as ’embracing failure’ you’ll find a huge volume of material about how businesses should be willing to try and fail. The principle applies to political parties too.

Especially large-scale events to involve people. Political parties really only have two of these at the moment: mass rallies, which so far only rarely work when you have a leader temporarily fresh and exciting, and political party conferences, whose basic look and structure have been unchanged for decades. A bit more speechifying, a few more videos and a little less suspension of standing orders – a modification of event style away from procedural to showcasing seen in many mass membership voluntary organisations too, such as Amnesty International AGMs.

Is that really all we, in any party, can manage? No, we could and should do better than that. Depending on which political party you’re a fan of, you may well have one or two examples of attempts to do better that have been tried in the last few years.

We need more of them, and more of them to be successful. Which also means we need more failures.

So sorry about my Labour Live snark. It was part of the problem,  not the solution.


P.S. Labour Live? The old Liberal Party got there first, writes Jonathan Calder.

5 responses to “I was wrong about Labour Live”

  1. Funny you should say that. I’ve just done the member survey mentioned in your adjoining post, and my response to the final question (paraphrased as “what do you wish the party would do?”) was to “engage with average people through public meetings”.

  2. Who in the party will organize our Knebworth (or other locality) Live?
    Get the Ashdown Prize more widely publizised in the party would be a good idea.

  3. From the article: (https://www.markpack.org.uk/155118/labour-live-political-participation/ )“… my view of the recent Ashdown Prize competition is that it rather reinforces my scepticism of demands that ‘we must be radical!’, [and] I very much prefer the sort of reaction of Caron Lindsay …” My understanding is that Caron Lindsay rightly connects the word ‘radical’ with ‘the root of the problem’ and encourages greater radicalism in LibDem policy making; apparently contrary to Dr. Mark Pack’s interpretation, unless I have misunderstood his meaning.

    Without being party to the complete spectrum of suggestions that were made, the winner of the Ashdown Prize, while an admirable suggestion, is hardly radical or even political and in many cases is being implemented at the commercial marketing and social levels (q.v. https://www.libdemvoice.org/the-ashdown-prize-how-there-can-be-more-than-one-winner-57671.html ). I would proffer that in the event of its adoption as policy, it will make marginally less impact that Tim Farron’s timidly presented (GE 2017) “… 1p in the pound to fund the NHS …” (a policy subsequently appropriated by Labour); i.e. practically zero.

    The real ‘root’ of the UK’s problem is in the constitution and the political infrastructure that supports it and which it supports; very much a bootstrap relationship with very little substance beneath, other than faith in the indomitable authority of the British Empire … oh wait a moment !!

    Whether you consider major reform or replacement of some of our British institutions, valued by some and despised by others; THAT is where radicalism is necessary and where it must start; THAT is what will attract attention and voters. It will, of course, alienate some and attract others but as long as policy is decided carefully, with due attention to the likely future outcome in social, economic and political terms (like a fine wine, based on expert analysis with subtle hints of populism) then we can be sure that the party’s agenda is moving in a progressive direction. It will attract the ‘right sort of voter’ – those with the courage to shrug off the heavy mantel of historical exploitation and suppression of the electorate by the political executive; both right- and left-wing! It could even re-establish the centrist consensus agenda as the true harbour of both radicalism and social progress.

    There is one major practical issue currently facing the UK, as proven in the local elections when the national issue of brexit shaped the votes for all parties. It is obvious also that brexit is a symptom and not the radical origin of the UK’s problems. In terms of reform or replacement, we could start with constitutional monarchy, progress to FPTP, the Parliamentary whipping system (professional blackmail by any other name), the structure of the House of Lords (preserving the erudite and eliminating the freeloaders), the implementation of press reforms, basic living wage in the light of the onslaught of AI … the list is not endless but it is lengthy and it presents a wealth of opportunity for REAL radicalism; and a BIG hike in LibDem polling figures.

    Put on your thinking caps everyone !!

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