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West Worcestershire CLP with Ann Black NEC
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West Worcestershire Labour Party has been reborn in rural Worcestershire with an energetic and passionate,  widening group of members and supporters. After narrowly missing out on several council seats and coming a very credible third in the General Election in May, Labour locally are on the up. Importantly, local CLP officers are keen to not just engage members with campaign activity but also play an important role in the policy making process.

I was delighted to be sharing speaking duties with Ann Black, long-serving member of the NEC and one of the most popular and authoritative voices on Labour Party workings. Myself and Ann spoke and took questions on the structures of the Labour Party and how they are related to policy making. Sandwiched in the middle,  our fantastic audience split up onto different tables to discuss some key issues that will be at the heart of our next manifesto and how they applied locally. We had a fascinating feedback session including the need for more affordable homes, concerns over the future of the NHS and social care, total opposition to forcing school to become academies and the real problem of good reliable and fast broadband in the area.

But key to most of the discussions amongst members was the need for the Labour Party, like it has in key moments of its history set out a big vision of what it wants to do for our country. Food for thought for all those in attendance and I’ll certainly be feeding the ideas and viewpoints of members into the process

Hereford and South Herefordshire Executive Committee meeting
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I had the pleasure of heading south to meet Hereford and South Herefordshire CLP members to talk about how we can ensure we engage more members in the policy making process. I attended an executive committee (EC) to speak to officers on how they were planning to engage with members on policy making and also hear from them how we can do more to help them do so.

We had an excellent discussion on trying to answer some of the big questions that Angela Eagle has posed in trying to reform the NPF and how the review into digital inclusion by Tom Watson may play an integral role in involving and engaging members. On a more local level, we discussed the different challenges that Labour faces in rural constituencies like Hereford. In particular, how do we counter Conservative policies and build better relationships with key stakeholders and organisations.

I was very impressed by the plans of the executive to invite special guests to address members at future meetings and intertwine that with campaigning on key local issues. I look forward to going back to Hereford later in the year and hearing directly the views of local members.

In discussion with Angela Eagle – Widening participation in policy making
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Angela Eagle MP, chair of the National Policy Forum (NPF) has been asked by the leadership and National Executive committee (NEC) to undertake a review of how the NPF works. The aim of which is to ensure that the NPF is more accessible to members and helps widen the policy making process.

Angela visited the headquarters of the West Midlands Labour Party in West Bromwich to meeting CLP officers to get their views on how we can improve the NPF and widen accessibility. The session was very useful for both Angela and myself as an NPF representative because it gave us a first-hand viewpoint of the different challenges officers face in trying to juggle the challenges of campaigning, regular CLP business and policy development. I’m extremely grateful for the important work that our CLP and branch officers do in facilitating policy making discussions as well and will be certainly taking forward their suggestions on how we support CLPs in doing this more effectively.

Coventry event with PCC David Jamieson and Council Leader Ann Lucas
16/04/16

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Coventry North East, North West and South CLPs came together to engage members in a series of policy meeting on core policy issues. I was asked to chair the meeting, which focused on crime and disorder issues with Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson and Coventry City Council leader Ann Lucas.

David and Ann both gave excellent presentations and took questions from members in attendance before we split into different groups to tackle some key questions. We discussed about how crime affects local communities and how it is intertwined with issues of mental health, housing and transport.

Many of those in attendance were very concerned about the Conservatives plans for neighbourhood policing. Neighbour policing and in particular the future of PCSO’s were raised as a real success of the last Labour government and an integral part of local policing. It was good to hear from David Jamieson talk about the work he has done in the West Midlands area to protect PCSO’s and policing numbers.  Whilst in the past law and order might have been seen as a strong area for the Conservatives, its clear with their cuts to the policing budget and disastrous relationship with police officers it’s important for Labour to champion neighbourhood policing and ensure the public are aware that we will back our police officers.

There will be further meetings on different policy issues in the upcoming months and I look forward to attending.

Redditch CLP event
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In the General Election last May, Redditch was one of Labour’s key target seats in the West Midlands. Held by former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, Labour held the seat from 1997-2010. Rebecca Blake was Labour’s candidate in 2015 and was selected very early on and as a very well-known local Labour Councillor she ran one of the most hardworking and community based campaigns I’ve seen.

Sadly despite this incredible local candidate, dedicated campaign team members and a very long campaign the Tories actually increased their majority. With this is mind I was keen to speak to local members about policy and what we could learn to ensure we appealed to those voters who decided to either vote Conservative or UKIP this time.

I was joined by my NPF colleague Trudie McGuinness as we spoke to members and got their feedback. Redditch is a very hardworking CLP, but it is also very good at ensuring that local members are valued for their experiences and expertise and not just their ability to leaflet and knock on doors.

The message from members was clear, they felt we didn’t address some of the key concerns of local residents about the economy and immigration and that many voters were convinced by the Tories false narrative that Labour were responsible for the worldwide economic depressing caused by the subprime mortgage market in the United States. Members also wanted us to be better at responding to negative Tory campaigning. There were several comments asking for us to have a more concise offer to the electorate to rival the Tory campaigning slogan ‘Long term economic plan’.

In terms of members taking part and engaging in policy formation, members wanted a clearly laid out timeframe for members and CLP officers to have so that they could juggle differing demands on the times of officers and members.

It was a pleasure to visit Redditch again and see a lot of friendly faces and I’ll certainly be feeding back their comments into the process.

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Worcester CLP event
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It was great to join Worcester members and address them on how to get involved with policy making in the Labour Party. I shared speaking duties with potential Labour Police and Crime Commissioner Candidate Daniel Walton so it was quite a quick presentation but it was good to hear from members who have particular areas of policy they want to be involved in.

Worcester Labour Group, the group of Councillors who represent Labour on Worcester City Council run an exceptional policy making scheme when they engage not only members, but Labour voters and supporters on what they think about the proposed policies for the Labour manifesto for Worcester. I think this sort of approach is a tremendous model for other Labour groups to follow in engaging members directly in policy making that they will then be campaigning for when speaking to voters.

Lichfield CLP Event
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There are seven elected National Policy Forum representatives and to ensure that we get round all the 50+ CLP’s in our region we have split them up amongst ourselves to ensure we share the workload.

It was a pleasure to assist Trudie McGuiness who covers the Lichfield CLP in speaking to members on education, the NHS and Social care. Trudie is currently writing up the key points of the meeting and ill post on here when I have a copy.

Norton Branch, Stourbridge CLP event
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I had the great pleasure of attending the Norton branch of Stourbridge CLP as my first meeting as an NPF representative. Norton is a strong Conservative area of Stourbridge with three Conservative Councillor on Dudley Borough Council, but a significant rise in membership and activity means the Labour Party are certainly holding them to account. I addressed local branch members on the NPF and how members could play a leading role in policy making. It was an honest and frank conversation about engaging members. It was particularly interesting to hear the views of new members who wanted to be involved in policy making and how our party structures can sometimes be confusing for new members. Stourbridge CLP will be engaging members on contributing to the Labour group’s manifesto on Dudley Borough Council for the upcoming local elections. I look forward to joining members at those meetings to make note of good practises to share across the region.

Thank you to Geoff Dixon and Cllr Mohammed Hanif, two very hardworking branch officers who are doing excellent work in giving local members support to take part in all areas of Labour Party activity.

Education Committee Appointment
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I’m pleased to say that I was successful in my application to sit on the education policy commission of the National Policy Forum (NPF). This means I’ll sit on the committee headed by Lucy Powell MP, shadow secretary of state for Education, in the very early process of formulating ideas for Labour’s education policy priorities.