There is little doubt that in the past few year politics has become enthused with new energy, new ideas and the potential for new ways of shaking up the business as usual approach to running our society.
Admittedly not all of this has been positively channeled. Like most people, I’ll confess that the spectacle of Donald Trump and his strange behaviour, throwing out a daily diet of racism and misogyny, is a sight I could well do without. But we must not let the relentless negativity of Conservatism, often demonstrated in this country by hardcore Tory Brexiteers, deflect us from the positive changes that flow from the new political phase we have entered.
Part of the reason I am running for the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee is because I feel the Labour Party has a serious opportunity to become the community based movement that at its best it has always been.
As part of my Inclusivity Action Plan which I launched a few weeks ago, I outlined how we could capitalise on society’s re-engagement with politics to make a number of reforms to our party. We need to address the under representation of excluded groups so our party better reflects the diversity in society. We need to up engagement from women, ethnic minorities, disabled people, LGBT members, particularly those in the trans community, and those with mental health issues.
This won’t be done through blandly issuing generic invites to dreary meetings or committees, as important as they are for Party democracy, it will only be done by creating a transparent, open and inclusive climate in the party. That means banning the sort of aggression that mars too much of our discourse, putting in place buddy schemes so new and older members can come together and learn from each other and expanding our use of digital tools to open up our discussions to wider audiences, especially those who don’t have the luxury of spending many hours a week in party meetings.
But we should also not just be looking at our navels. I firmly believe many of our members and supporters, old and new, want to be out there in the community, making a difference to society even though we are not in government.
A very high proportion of older people in the UK regard the television as their main contact with the world, causing illness and depression that destroys their lives. Labour should seek to address this by becoming an anti-loneliness movement
This is an idea talked about a lot, but rarely does it find practical manifestations. There are some great initiatives going on in some parts of the country, like on the Wirral where Labour members and community groups recently joined together to provide 3,000 Christmas hampers for some of the poorest and most disadvantaged families in the area. I think we can do more things like this as a movement.
That is why I have proposed we make tackling loneliness a key part of our focus as a social movement with a real plan as to how we achieve it. As I outlined in my Inclusivity Action Plan, loneliness is an issue fast rising up the political and social agenda. Labour can help make a difference. One of the most impressive models we could look to replicate is the 10,000 strong volunteer “Network for Neighbourhood Palliative Care” in India which is mainly comprised of students and young people, though not exclusively so. Its goal is to make sure no older person confined to their home is ever completely alone.
The Jo Cox Foundation is also doing some impressive and much-needed work on loneliness here at home. A very high proportion of older people in the UK regard the television as their main contact with the world, causing illness and depression that destroys their lives. The Labour party should seek to address this by becoming an anti-loneliness movement, proving itself by making a direct contribution to society not just blindly seeking power for its own sake.
This is just one idea we can pursue, and there are many more that I have heard from our members who have a rich background of experience and knowledge.
This is what the NEC should be doing: it should style itself as a forward thinking body looking beyond the party to how Labour can shape our community, even when we are not in government. This is the challenge and the opportunity that the new politics offers us – and its one Labour and the NEC should fully grasp.
Eddie Izzard is a comedian and campaigner, and is running for a seat on Labour’s NEC