Tag Archives: campaigning

One woman’s election experience – ‘It didn’t come easy!’

27 Jul

by Paula Sherriff

Hi everyone, really pleased to be able to contribute to this worthwhile and much needed site!

I was very proud to have been elected as a Labour Councillor in May this year. However, it is fair to say it didn’t come easy! I was elected in an AWS seat (incidentally really interested to hear other’s views on AWS?) The ward for which I stood had a candidate in mind and yes you guessed it – it was a man! I can go into details if you wish but, in a nutshell they made life very difficult indeed. Ultimately my selection was made by the DLP with Regional involvement. During a difficult campaign, I was subjected to abusive telephone calls, threatening behaviour and a number of untruths were circulated around the ward in question, generally questioning my integrity.

I had a couple of mini ‘wobbles’ but was determined to keep going and not give in to shocking, misogynistic behaviours. What really saddened me was that this treatment was being dished out from fellow party members, effectively going against everything the Labour party stands for.

I made over 5000 contacts between being selected and the election and improved the contact rate in the ward from 11% to nearly 50%.

I hope you are relieved to read that I was elected with a fairly sizeable majority despite an ex Labour party member standing against me as an Independent. Upon making my ‘victory’ speech I stated I was so proud to be a Labour party member but more importantly a ‘strong Labour woman’. I hope this resonates with many of you. We have a duty to and must try to stamp out this kind of behaviour within the party, there is simply no place for it!


Paula SherriffPaula Sherriff is a Labour Councillor for Pontefract North

Follow Paula on Twitter: @paulasherriff

Grassroots versus Advertising

17 May

by Becky Wright

Generally the forces that disagree with us have a wealth of monetary resources at their feet.  They can pour money into TV ads, into billboards and in reaching the powerful to support their aims and messages. What do we haveGrassroots to compare to change the way people think on our issues?

This question resurfaced while I was watching this article on the Rachel Maddow show.  In describing the Republican attack on the rights to abused women who have come to the US via marriage (and whose visas depended on this relationship), she outlines the relationship between the owners of sites that advertise mail order brides (who this law helps) and the groups who are lobbying to repeal the law. Half way through the piece, I began to consider again about the impact that money has on building support for campaigns coupled with a focus on slogans, messages and polling.

A while back I read David Plouffe’s Audacity to Win which described how their planned and ran the Obama election campaign.  With my organiser’s hat on, I found it a really interesting and thought-provoking book.  In his description of how they built a grassroots membership and activism and the importance of this to winning the election, I was struck at first by how this was very similar to an organising campaign rather than any elections I had witnessed.

What impact did this emphasis on people have on the campaign?  Profound in terms of leadership, and authenticity.  If there was a negative ad about Obama, the network of activists would refute it to their families, friends and colleagues.  While looking after the front lawn, they would talk to their neighbours about why they supported him and what he stood for that was in their interest.  What had the most impact on that person’s viewpoint and was able to effectively bring someone on board?  Was it the ad or the person they trusted and respected?  Often we overlook the power of human interactions and subtle leadership.  The person in the community, workplace or family who everyone looks to for guidance or trusts in analysis.  Get that person on board and despite the prevailing winds, a campaign will be in a good position.

I advise campaigners and organisers to look at structuring plans in five basic areas:

  • Goal: what are you trying to achieve (be specific!)
  • Organisational considerations: all of your resources plus what you know you’ll probably need.
  • Constituents:  Allies and opponents and who you want to campaign with/for.
  • Target: Who is the person that will make the decision you will get you what you want.
  • Tactics: Actions that will build up your organisation, and put pressure on your target.

I’m highlighting this because the order of the planning underlines where a campaign should put its emphasis.  Who is on your side and will be your advocates should come a long time before working out your slogan or title.  Groups as mentioned on the Maddow show have endless pots of money to spend on snazzy logos, slogans and ads.  When we try to compete on their terms we lose and overlook the most powerful resource that those of us on the progressive spectrum have – potential of people power.

There is a reason why astroturfing is so big in the US, it’s because those campaign groups have no organisation or people power and have to make it up.  We don’t.  Concentrate on how your campaign will build up your base rather than snazzy logos and slogans because the word of a trusted person is worth more than an ad.

Becky Wright Becky Wright,  Director of the TUC’s Organising Academy, also writes for Stronger Unions

Grassroots is being held at the TUC, Congress House, Great Russell St, London on 26 May.  To register go to http://grassrootsuk.org/register-to-come/ 

Women united: branching out and building (some unlikely) alliances?

5 Apr
The average idea of a WI?

A common misconception?

by Hannah Blythyn

When we think of the Women’s Institute what is the image that springs to mind? Jam, Jerusalem, knitting and stitching? More ‘mature’ women conservative – with a small c – in their outlook and lifestyle?

Last night I was invited along to a local WI meeting as the guest speaker on the topic of ‘A woman’s place is in her union’. There wasn’t any jam in sight but the meeting did kick off with a word-perfect rendition of Jerusalem and whilst I was definitely the youngest in the room, the welcome was warm and the interest empathetic and genuine.

We talked about how far women have come in the workplace and society and just how recently some of those changes have come about. We also discussed the challenges faced by women today, the importance of union campaigns reaching out to the local community and – this is where it could get interesting – the potential of building broad campaigning coalitions on issues of shared importance and interest.

The Women’s Institute is currently part of the Speak up for Libraries alliance, which also features Unison. They have campaigned to end violence against women and human trafficking – issues also close to the heart of many trade unions.

Lest we forget, whilst we may have a pre-conceived idea of the stereotypical Women’s Institute, as trade unionists we also have to confront on a daily basis many people’s – fuelled by parts of the media – perception of what a traditional, typical trade unionist is. This is in part what my talk was aimed at dismantling and there is a great and pressing case for rolling such presentations out to Women’s Institutes and other women’s organisations across the UK.

But we could and should go further and look to identify and build shared campaigns, creating a coalition to better the lives of women – a coalition that has the potential to make politicians sit up and listen. We know as trade union women that together we are stronger and that as women we can achieve great things when unite and fight for change.

Perhaps the current political and economic climate and our changing world means it is time to think outside the box and encourage once unlikely alliances?

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