Your first visit to a Labour Party meeting, by Michael Birchmore

So it was your first party meeting. The room was so full there was standing room only at the back. At the front there were three people sitting behind a table and you could see many people who looked as if they’ve been doing this for many years, because they have. Speakers were speaking, some with their hands up to attract the Chair, some to vote. You hadn’t got an agenda and you didn’t really know what was going on.

“What was that? What did he say? Oh no, I disagree with that but…how do I respond? What is the procedure? I don’t want to make myself look silly. What does AMM mean? What’s a PLP?”

It was just like this scenario last night at our All Members Meeting (AMM). It was my second AMM meeting. The room was packed because Jeremy Corbyn has indeed inspired many new people to join and to get active. Myself being one of them. I am quite used to being in a room full of people I don’t know and going to official events where I don’t know the full protocol and procedure. It is part of what I do in my business world. It doesn’t phase or scare me. Near the end of the meeting in AOB there was a question from one of the new people who was asking about procedures and rules and where can they find them and would the group do any presentations for them. Others were so fired up and keen I could tell they were ready to jump in and say something or anything without it necessarily being productive or relevant.

Having been like that myself once when I was a few years younger than I am now, I can confidently say that one of the biggest lessons I have learned is patience. The second when in a situation like this is watch, listen and learn. I can assure you that you will learn a lot more by doing that than reading a book of rules. All too often I used to read the rules and then find that when I apply a certain rule find I’ve done it wrong because “in this situation we don’t do that”. “But it says in the rule book…” “yes, but not then..”.

I know you can ask questions and that is a good way to get the answers you want. But much better to start with by simply getting involved in a conversation. People can answer your direct questions yes, but you are more likely to get a much better answer when part of a conversation. In all aspects of life you will get a better response from others when they know, trust and like you. No, this doesn’t happen quickly even though you want that answer now!

So you’re keen, enthusiastic and want to change the world by creating a revolution with the Labour Party and have Jeremy sitting on his Parliamentary throne. Great. Unfortunately not everyone in the party wants that but the majority do. What are you going to do? Better still what does the party need you to do? Well as we heard the Executive Committee (EC) need a Women’s Representative. Can you do that? But I’m a bloke. Ok, we’re going to need door knockers and canvasers, how about that? Well, thing is I’m shy and don’t really like that.

I’m like that. I can’t be a Women’s Rep and I really don’t enjoy knocking on doors. But last night I found several things which I can offer to the party. I was lucky enough to sit next to Sue Mullans who produces this newsletter. We had previous connection via email and when we realised who we were knew we had an immediate connection. This gave us common ground and started our conversation. One of my current functions is that of an aspiring freelance writer. In our conversation I asked Sue if she ever needed voluntary contributions to the newsletter. Her eyes lit up as she normally had
trouble getting such contributions. So I had found something I could do for the party that I enjoy doing. Wondering what I could write came to me by watching and listening. Hearing the question about learning the rules.

By being alert, watching and listening can open many doors for you. Not just within the party and what you can do to help bring us to a glorious victory in 2020 but in all aspects of life.

Yesterday, I was an aspiring freelance writer having trouble thinking of what I could write and for whom. After last night I didn’t just get the idea to write this but now have ideas for three more articles for our newsletter, all from watching, listening and chatting with people. Try it. It costs you nothing.