Our new Party Leader has only been in place for weeks, but changes are already showing themselves within the Party. As Karen our Treasurer indicated, in the South West, Labour Party membership had grown by 150%. This figure is reflected in the Bridport and District Branch as membership is now in excess of 350 members. Also what is apparent for those attending the last three Branch meeting, the new members politically are not only well versed, but they bring a deal of experience along with them. In this respect it has been a pleasure to chair the last three meetings, as the majority of those attending have not only contributed, but have put forward differing views as to how we go forward as a Branch.
Also, given the experience shown by many new members, we must as a Branch consider as to how they can contribute over the coming months. I did make the point at the last Branch meeting that we needed to change the way in which the Party organised itself, and that we must in my opinion include the way in which the Branch operates. Here the Branch AGM will be held in March, and we need to discuss before that meeting, any shortcomings that new members feel should be addressed. In this respect, we have already had some suggestions which we will circulate to our membership for their consideration. At a National level, it is also being suggested that between Annual Conferences, all policy issues should be put to a ballot of the general membership by electronic ballot. A revolutionary concept.
Of the last three meetings, the first was really an introduction exercise for new members and for the present Branch Officers to introduce themselves. The second, and very well attended meeting, gave a platform for Green Town Councillor’s, and the debate was open and positive. The third meeting, given it debated Party organisation, was to say the least dry, but it was necessary if we are to change the way in which policy is arrived at. However, it was positive in that we agreed as a Branch to contact Tom Watson MP and request a meeting either in Bridport or the House of Commons to discuss our position on the reorganisation of the Party structure. My understanding is that Billy Bragg met Tom for a coffee in London, and we await a reply from the Deputy Leader. It was also raised at the last Branch Meeting that the Branch becomes more involved in local issues such as housing and public transport. To this end it has been suggested that Branch members attend the Democratic half hour of the Town Council to raise such matters, and in doing so not only give us a political platform, but show we have a real interest in to what is happening in Bridport and the surrounding area.
However, we still have a way to go, and we must ensure that the momentum, (no pun intended,) is not only maintained, but built upon. With this in mind we must not forget the social side to the Branch and we have organised a Curry Night on Monday the 14th December in the British Legion Hall, Victoria Grove commencing at 7pm. The intent is to not only raise funds for the Branch and entertain members, but for members to get to know each other in a more informal setting. I do hope as many as possible can attend. In this respect, if we are to develop as a campaigning Party in the area, we will need the funds not only to produce leaflets, but given the size of the Branch, possibly hire transport to get members to demonstrations in the South West and London.
Overall, I am confident that we now have both the political experience and commitment of the membership to make the next 12 months both interesting and proactive in terms of local issues.
Richard Nicholls (Chair)