Labour bets millions on community organising to win next election

Party spends £2.9 million on dozens of staff who will support local campaigns, train activists and recruit new members.

The Labour Party has bet £2.9 million on community organising to win the next election, the Red Roar can reveal.

Analysis of job postings for the party’s new community organising unit shows that 38 staff have been hired on wages that will add up to £2,910,515 over the course of their two-year contracts.

Labour announced the creation of the unit in January, saying it would “organise around local issues and develop campaigns” with a focus on “seaside towns and traditional Labour heartlands”. Dan Firth, a former director at respected community organising charity Citizens UK, has been appointed as the new unit’s Director of Community Organising and is directly accountable to the general secretary, giving him a degree of independence from Niall Sookoo, Labour’s replacement for previous Director of Elections Patrick Heneghan.

Labour has sought to take advantage of community organising techniques in its campaigning before. Under Ed Miliband, Chicago-based civil rights activist Arnie Graf was invited to review the party’s campaigning and share his community organising knowhow with staff and activists. Despite working with the party for some years, Graf’s reforms came to a halt when he was accused of working in the UK illegally.

This time the party is taking a different approach. Instead of training its existing staff, Labour is hiring dozens of full-time community organisers working across the country, coordinated by Dan Firth and two lead community organisers working out of the party’s headquarters in Victoria.

Job descriptions for the new roles reveal that as well as leading community campaigns in target constituencies, the community organisers will be expected to boost Labour membership. Ten of the 35 new roles will specialise as “digital community organisers” working to “assemble and support large teams of remote volunteer leaders”.

It marks a departure from Labour’s investment in election-focused campaign organisers at the 2015 and 2017 elections. In 2013, the party’s former general secretary boasted that he would have 100 organisers in place by Christmas through its trainee organiser scheme. In 2018 Labour is planning to hire just 17 – less than half the number of community organisers it is planning to recruit.

The benefits of such an approach are as yet untested in the UK. While many political campaigners have made use of community organising, no other domestic political party has attempted to use it on such a scale.

Labour’s New Organisers

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