Friday 1 May 2009

Something for the weekend (and beyond)

Guest post by Adrian Prandle

Yesterday’s launch of the Young Fabian / Labour Staff Network publications based upon the experience of our 80-strong delegation to Ohio during the final days of the Obama presidential campaign, gave me opportunity to write – over on the Young Fabian blog – about the focus on, and investment in, people that served the campaign so well.

To step aside from such broad themes and big ideas, it may be of interest to Next Left readers to hear a bit more about the nitty gritty of the campaigning and organising. Unsurprisingly it’s not rocket science (nor necessarily expensive) – which is why I’ve been such a strong advocate for Labour campaigners taking it on board in their own areas.

Neighbourhood campaign centres were divided very clearly into three colour-coded areas with teams organised around each. The blue team dealt with voter contact, the red team was in charge of the extensively planned polling line operations and the white team dealt with logistics (drivers, toilet breaks, cooking for volunteers etc). The power of ‘The Ask’ was immediately clear – by late October it was about turning supporters into foot soldiers but earlier it had been about developing volunteers into committed and reliable members of the team, with real responsibilities. The very thorough briefing pack volunteers from out-of-state (I think Britain counted!) were given ahead of their arrival was impressive and useful. But its content was significant – the sharing of field strategy in particular seemed bold but was designed to get the most commitment and contribution from volunteers. Doorhangers were used as printed literature but also served to identify which voters had come home from work and provided an excellent way of the right candidate dominating a street – like posters and yard signs but without needing permission to put them up.

Other things – such as any supporter being able to upload data to the central voter contact system and iPhone applications that could re-order your contacts from alphabetical to swing state order – would need to be implemented at a national level, but there are enough ideas that could be started locally this weekend.

The doorhangers have been around a while but none of the other stuff was being done in the areas of Georgia and North Carolina in which I campaigned in 2004.

I’ve written about a campaign volunteer I worked with, Cecil Webster, a retired colonel from Texas whose military experience was capitalised upon to run canvassing teams with motivation, discipline and a sense of humour. He trained volunteers and later delivered debriefing, with his own unique stamp, as ‘after action reports’. Cecil perfectly exemplifies how the campaign found good people to be well organised and implement the easy stuff with minimal of fuss but maximum effectiveness.

Simple? Certainly not non-transferrable as some like to argue. And similarly strong organisation, ideas, and use of volunteers are definitely happening in the UK. But we need to get better about it being the norm nationwide, and not the exception.

Adrian Prandle is the International Officer on the Young Fabian Executive.


Calix said...

Inspiring stuff and I look forward to reading more. The problem is voters have to be really motivated by a fresh political figure or movement for these things to work, and I'm afraid we don't have that crucial ingredient at the moment.

Robert said...

We never did and never will because our leaders are more interested in what they can get make. Look at Blair two wars and a few million quid telling the yanks I backed you when the people said nope.

Politics within the UK are at an all time low and you cannot expect any difference can you

Unknown said...

Thanks for your comments guys.

I understand people's temptation but I really don't think the Obama-Brown comparison is the be all and end all. Believing Obama to be a one-off and Brown unable to compete only serves as an excuse for us not trying.

I just don't buy the premise. The Young Fabian publications are about maximising the potential of Labour support and increasing campaigning activity and effectiveness. This is essential wherever the party and its leader stand in the opinion polls.