Hidden in plain sight: Labour trains a new generation of political activists

labour_conference Pic credit politicshome

Labour Conference 2017: the top of the iceberg Pic credit: politicshome


The Labour  Party conference this year was like one huge political iceberg.

The ten per cent that was visible was dominated by the passionate, football chant style support for Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell – as the architects of a Labour revival that had seen membership soar to 569,500. It did unveil new and radical policies.It suppressed a public row over Brexit  which I notice Danny Finkelstein on The Times saw as shrewd politics, leaving divided Tories to take the flak. It contained a dispute about whether there was anti-Semitism among  Left wingers despite the best efforts of Guido Fawkes ,the Daily Mail and the Equality and Human Rights Commission to stir the pot.

But under the eyes of the media ( who were given very restricted access to the conference hall) the hidden 90 per cent of the Labour conference was carrying out another revolution which will ensure that the current revival of political activism among the young has a long term future.

Contrary to what most Conservatives would like to think the 369,000 new party members who joined after Corbyn became leader are not all former card carrying members of the Social Workers Party, the Communist Party and other Left wing groupings. And they even applies to those who joined Momentum

Just on a micro political point, members of the local Labour Party in Berkhamsted and Tring in  Hertfordshire have jumped from about 40 to 450 as a result of Corbyn.. If they were all committed former Communists, I think I would have noticed. Having lived in Berko since 1983, the town is not known for having Marxist banners festooned all over Berkhamsted station or the civic centre.

No the truth is – thanks to lack of any political  or civic education in our schools – they have ideals, strong views but little hard knowledge of how to participate in a political democracy. Many may be savvy with social media but need to know how to use it for the benefit of the Labour Party.

There were sessions on door knocking, electoral law, what becoming a councillor is like. making Labour Party branch meetings more fun, championing equality, building up women’s forums,  getting more disabled friendly meetings and how to use the traditional and social media to get your points across. There was also advice on how to tackle the problem of success, too many new members swamping local meetings.

Jeremy Corbyn has already transformed interest in politics by doubling the percentage of people involved in party membership in Britain. Now it looks as though Labour is going to get the new membership to engage in democracy. to help them win the next election. Even if only 10 per cent of the membership become fervent activists – that is still some 57,000 people – more than half the total Tory membership, I am told.

What is going to be interesting is when that hidden 90 per cent of the Labour iceberg hits  the opposition at the next election. Will it be the  sinking of the Tory Titanic or will the Tories try and steer well clear and come up with something new.





4 thoughts on “Hidden in plain sight: Labour trains a new generation of political activists

  1. Hi David,

    Many thanks for this. My sense of Brighton caught exactly.

    I was there on the World Transformed circuit promoting the Orgreave campaign in which many too young to be alive in 1984/5 showed great interest in that bit of Britain’s largely hidden history.

    Trust things are well with you both.

    A lunch/drink soon?

    Best regards,




  2. You seem to have an irrational fear of question marks, for some reason? Kindly stick one on the end of your last sentence? Thank you. I think you are also wrong about the Marxist threat, in Berkhamsted. I live in Watford, and there are plenty of reds in, out of, and under the bed there. Vernon.


  3. As a 56-year-old disabled woman, I joined the Labour Party just as Jeremy Corbyn was going for his first try at leadership.
    I’m not a communist – far from it – but his words brought back to me the verve and passion of my convictions when I was young, and the need I now have, to fight against this austerity-driven Tory Government., and so I decided to put my money where my mouth is (I had to pay that extra £25 so I could vote in the leadership elections, despite already paying for my membership) and join up with everyone else sickened by the dismantling of our Welfare State.
    I’m so pleased that things have gone well at the Conference, and am looking forward to seeing what comes out of it – especially what was talked about, in making meetings more disability-friendly! 🙂


  4. Maybe we are all missing the real reason for Corbyn’s rise, and it’s that the well oiled New Labour Party collapsed, allowing the Left to position themselves in leadership roles. The other is that the Middle Class and the semi skilled & skilled workers have employment contracts similar to the unskilled. In other words we are following the American model of work, one pay cheque from poverty. No longer do people start work at 15 and retire at 65 with a gold watch, most face unemployment or casual work at some time in their lives.
    How strange that after Marxism is dead and buried, his predictions could become true.


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