Building a Party and a Movement that can meet the Challenge


Building a Party and a Movement that can meet the Challenge

  • We need to be a well-led, professional, innovative organisation with a more inclusive culture
  • Our Party must be connected with the communities and voters we want to serve
  • We should build a genuine popular movement, involving our members and trade union supporters so we are more than the sum of our parts
  • We need to revolutionise our digital methods and tools

In Part One we set out the long term factors that led to Labour’s 2019 election defeat, and the short term issues that catalysed these trends among the voters that we lost. In Part Two we illustrated the major failings of our campaigning strategy, organization and digital infrastructure over recent elections.

Chapter 7 underlines the political, geographic and demographic mountains Labour needs to climb to win again. A generational shift in our capabilities and an historic effort will be needed to win the next election.

Chapter 8 seeks to set out the foundations of a winning political strategy for Labour, identifying the voters that Labour needs to engage and regain to win a working majority, and setting out some ideas for how we can find common ground across the coalition we need to build.

These twin analyses underpin the recommendations in this Chapter: how we can climb the mountain to electoral success; and how we can rise to the challenges we have been set by the voters who want us to succeed.

Our conclusion is that, unless the Party undertakes a radical reform of its culture and ways of working, it will not be able to deliver the ambitious but necessary political strategy set out in Chapter 8. This Chapter sets out the key steps and changes we believe the Party needs to make.

Underlying and running through our recommendations is a vision of the Party we need to become to meet the challenges identified in this Review:

  • a Party looking outwards to the public
  • a Party thinking and working relationally, not transactionally
  • a Party that understands that creating this new culture and building these new relationships will take, not months, but years

Completing this journey together will take shared commitment, patient cooperation and continual collective learning at every level of the Party and the movement.

We need to be a well-led, professional, innovative organisation with a more inclusive culture

To build a winning team to change the country, we need to accept that we need to change ourselves and our Party.

Changing the culture of our Party must flow from the top down, as well as the bottom up. We must learn to respect and value each other, be led by evidence, learn from experience, and act professionally.

It should not need stating that Labour Party members have much more in common with each other than that which divides us, but our Report makes clear that we do. It is vital that each of us recognises our responsibilities to do politics differently and better.

To realise this step-change in the way our Party and movement operate we recommend:

A coherent, clear, shared political strategy

  1. Build a clear long-term political strategy for Labour. In Chapter 8 we set out recommendations for how a new political strategy for Labour to get into power and transform the country could be developed. This strategy needs to be based on data and evidence and robustly scrutinised and understood by all levels of the organisation. All levels of the Party and movement – MPs, devolved representatives, local government, trade unions, and CLPs – should use this Report to understand the scale of this task, and be involved in drawing up this plan.
  2. Ensure this strategy integrates the need for Labour to advance in every election as well as in the next General Election. This review has highlighted the cumulative impact of losses in local and devolved elections on Labour’s community presence and campaigning capacity, and the need for the Party to join up its approaches to winning votes and increasing its representation at every level. Next year’s elections to the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Senedd, and London Mayoralty and Assembly, as well as mayors, councillors and police and crime commissioners across the country, will be a critical stepping stone to positioning Labour to win the next General Election but must be part of a long term strategy.
  3. Establish operational plans to support this strategy across our Party and movement. We must ensure this strategy is understood and implemented consistently through every level of the Party. Each part of the organisation and movement needs to be treated as an essential partner and work in alignment. The strategy needs to be translated by every part of our movement into concrete plans for how they can each contribute towards achieving its goals. Each staff team, CLP, MP, affiliated union, and Labour Group should have their own plans, laying out how they are contributing to the overall goal to get Labour back into government.
  4. Reinforce the strategy with clear chains of command and lines of accountability. Everyone in the Party should have a clear sense of their role and responsibilities in advancing its goals. Decisions and resources should be devolved to the lowest possible level, within a clear framework that ensures outcomes are monitored and decision-making structures optimised. The extent to which the strategy is being effectively operationalised should be subject to ongoing scrutiny and review, up to and including senior levels. As part of this approach, the Party needs to identify one official who is in charge of election strategy. This should be someone with expertise in campaigning, who is directly accountable to the Party Leader.
  5. Better public coordination across our different nations and regions. As we have seen in Chapter 6, there needs to be better coordination between different geographical parts of our Party particularly on messaging and policy. There needs to be an understanding of devolution, devolved policy and devolved governments throughout the Labour Party and more careful consideration of what our offer is to target voters in those areas rather than just assuming it is the English offer minus the devolved areas of policy. There should be advanced warning of key policy announcements for Welsh and Scottish Labour so they are able to prepare public responses proactively in support. UK Labour HQ should also seek to obtain briefings on Scottish and Welsh issues for Shadow Cabinet ministers, ahead of major media appearances, particularly given Wales is currently the only Labour-led government within the UK. We should proactively showcase policies we are implementing in power to show how Labour values can be delivered in government. Labour should also seek to utilise a broader range of voices on the national stage around devolved issues, including spokespeople from Welsh and Scottish Labour, as well as Metro Mayors and prominent leaders in local government.

A professional organisation with an inclusive culture

  1. Overhaul Party operations and HR practices. To achieve its goals the Labour Party needs a skilled, professional, diverse, and engaged workforce. Staff appointments should be based on ability to do the job, experience, and commitment, both to the Party’s core values and the organisational culture we want to build. HR practices need to be independently audited and overhauled as necessary to achieve this. Processes for recruitment and promotion should be transparent, with full equality and diversity monitoring. The Labour Party should be an exemplar employer, its staff valued. Morale, retention, inclusion and diversity should be measured and reported on using the best HR standards. Pastoral care should be a clear function of HR practices, so staff are supported to thrive in a positive working environment. Factionalism and favouritism of any kind must be rooted out. Teamwork and discipline, with the Party’s agreed strategy and policies placed above personal views and interests, should be an expectation across the Labour Party and at every level.
  1. Develop robust, independent and transparent complaints, disciplinary and appeals processes to reinforce tough action on anti-Semitism, and every form of racism, misogyny, bullying, intimidation, sexual assault, harassment and discrimination. We support the establishment of a clear process to deal with complaints and disciplinary matters. We should localise compliance procedures and practices with specialist staff in every regional office, supported by a strengthened national team, to ensure professional practice and speedy responses and actions to resolve concerns raised. This would also ensure that regional organisers could focus on building local campaigning and organising capacity, not adjudicating internal disputes.
  1. Conduct a thorough Race Audit of every level and function of the party. The Commission has received some evidence containing troubling allegations and detailing experiences of structural discrimination including anti-black racism. While we have encouraged people to report this to the relevant authorities, Labour needs to conduct a thorough Race Audit to prevent further instances of discrimination. The audit should monitor diversity in staff recruitment, local parties and candidate selections and explore the experiences of BAME activists, staff members and politicians to identify and remove structural barriers at every level of the organisation. We would encourage the party to consider outside expertise to inform the audit process and to provide external challenge.
  1. Be a learning organisation. To survive and succeed in a fast-changing and increasingly diverse social and political environment, Labour needs to be agile and adaptive. That requires an organisation that at every level is open to new information and ideas, ready to experiment and innovate, rigorous in evaluating what works, and seeks to mainstream best practice in a way that is consistent but also sensitive to context. It also means measuring success impartially, while keeping those metrics themselves under review to ensure their relevance to strategic priorities. This is most obvious in rapidly evolving areas such as online communications and the use of data, or evidence on the most effective use of communications budgets. However, as we indicate below, it applies equally to others areas such as methods of canvassing and campaigning, which this Commission believes should be subject to ongoing evaluation and evidence-based evolution.
  1. Take operational decisions based on evidence. This is critical both for internal legitimacy and strategic consistency. For example, Labour’s target list should be based on objective evidence and clear principles, not preferment. Resources must be allocated in line with the core general election campaigning strategy, rather than funnelled to particular seats on factional or personal grounds.
  1. Invest in culture change and commit to it. Strengthening and steering an organisation’s culture requires a serious long-term commitment of time and resource. Processes need to be carefully designed and reviewed. Change needs to be led and consistently backed from the top. This will take significant investment of both political and financial capital over years, not months.

Our Party must be connected with the communities and voters we want to serve

To win again, we need to win back the trust of more of the British public whilst retaining our existing supporter base. We must be in touch with voters, listening and recognising their concerns and working with communities to deliver positive change all year round, not just asking for their votes at election time.

This objective needs to be embedded in our culture and ways of working, from the top to the bottom of our Party. It needs to be reflected in the roles, responsibilities, plans and metrics of success through which our strategy is operationalised. And it needs to be pursued in the innovative, adaptive way we recommended above - continually evolving best practice and finding ways of tailoring it to specific contexts and circumstances.

As well as making our existing organisation more open and outward-facing, we also need to become one that is present in every community and part of the country where we need to build support. This means finding ways of rebuilding our contacts and connections in constituencies where we have lost seats and our membership has become thinned out.

Policy that is radical and inspires people to believe we can deliver real change is vital, particularly on the economy, as we have discussed above. We must have policymaking processes that are rooted in people’s lives, and the problems they and the country face.

To achieve this goal we recommend:

Listening, learning and facing out

  1. Expand the Call Keir outreach programme to every constituency, using our MPs, councillors and members. All CLPs and all elected representatives should play their part in engaging the public regularly through listening events, and other forms of engagement activity, to listen and understand the public’s concerns and work with them to realise real change in our communities, showing Labour is in touch.
  1. Open up local Labour Parties. To encourage greater accessibility and transparency between Party and community, make some meetings open to the public and advertised as forums to discuss local issues. CLPs should be more relational and less transactional, encouraged and supported to organise outwardly. This entails a major cultural shift in many cases, which will take time and sustained commitment to embed and needs to take the form of options that are sensitive to different contexts and situations. One way of supporting this might be through the development of different goals and metrics that could help to dislodge an exclusive focus on voter ID and contact rates; another might be to offer training in community organising to CLP campaign officers or dedicated community engagement officers. This work should be done in partnership with the work of local elected representatives, and trade unions. Strengthen support from the centre and regions, so CLPs and elected representatives can access resources and training to help them engage their voters and community groups in policy-making.

Rebuilding our presence across the country

  1. Adopt a broad list of seats Labour needs to proactively engage and build in so that we can form a majority government at the next general election. We need to learn from and adopt best practice approaches to building capacity and presence in constituencies where we do not now have an MP. In some places this may entail early candidate selection, while being mindful of the demands and potential financial detriment that PPCs (Prospective Parliamentary Candidates) can be subject to, and the risks that this can pose to diversity. Where there is no PPC, another elected representative could be chosen by members to fulfil a role of Labour Community Champion until the selection process starts.
  1. Implement Seat-Twinning now, with MPs in Labour-held seats twinning with target seats Labour has lost. In Scotland and Wales, this support role could instead be played by sitting MSPs or MSs representing the same or nearby constituencies or regions. Elected representatives could mentor or support Community Champions in these seats, and support CLP campaigning activity locally as well as in home seats, increasing campaigning volunteers and capacity. Through the Co-op, TULO and the LGA co-op parties, affiliated trade unions and Labour Groups should also twin with these seats, so that the whole movement is focused on supporting activity to win elections.
  1. Each region should have a shadow cabinet lead to help coordinate all aspects of the party’s efforts and resources. This will help build up the relationships between the leadership and the grassroots of the party. For Scotland and Wales, this role should be played by the Shadow Secretary of State and, in the political cabinet, the Scottish and Welsh Labour Leaders.

Making policy that is relevant and resonant

  1. Reform our Party policy-making process at all levels, to ensure that it is connected to our communities. This must be a more deliberative form of policy-making which involves the public. Use methods such as People’s Panels, Citizens’ Juries, and Citizens’ Assemblies and other methods involving the voices and experiences of people across our movement, alongside the public, to develop policy between the public and members. Public engagement should be measured and valued in our policy-making, resulting in policies that are co-produced with the public, supporting our political strategy. CLPs and elected representatives should be encouraged to organise regular People’s Panels or other engagement events, with numbers per year benchmarked to promote good practice.
  1. Think local, by more fully integrating the experiences and knowledge of devolved administrations and local government who are delivering credible and radical change on the ground for communities into our policy processes.
  1. Engage independent organisations, to help ensure our manifesto is credible and deliverable. There are a wealth of organisations across civil society who are keen to work with Labour to transform our country for the better. Build more ways for them to engage with our policy process, especially outside of Westminster, and test the plans we develop to ensure they are believable, credible and deliverable.
  1. Dedicate polling and resources to conducting genuine, high quality research of BAME voters on a regular basis to better understand and represent their needs and concerns. As shown in Chapter 1, too often Labour has taken for granted the support of BAME voters, treating them as a homogenous group rather than understanding their different concerns and viewpoints. Insufficient polling data exists currently to monitor the evolving concerns of specific BAME groups. Labour should consult with experts to consider how it can use its position as a procurer of data and polling services to help polling become more inclusive and capture the views of minority communities more accurately.

We should build a genuine popular movement, involving our members, affiliated trade unionists and campaign allies so we are more than the sum of our parts

Our members and our movement are our greatest strength. However, evidence in this Report shows we can and must do more to give them the tools they need so we can leverage this advantage, and be ready to think creatively and innovatively about the best uses to which their time, skills, knowledge, and commitment can be put.

We must unleash the potential of our movement to ensure everyone can make a contribution to the task ahead. We need to encourage, equip and empower everyone in our Party and wider movement to be the bridge we need between our Party and their family, friends, workplace colleagues and communities.

In line with previous recommendations, this needs to be taken forward in a way that maximises autonomy and enables experimentation within a framework that ensures strategic coherence and shared learning. The cultural and organisational changes we have identified above are intended to enable and underpin this.

Mobilising our members, councillors, affiliated trade unionists and allies in the cooperative movement be our bridge into communities and workplaces

  1. Make community organising central to what we do as a party. As recommended above, Labour needs to learn from experience and be ready to do things differently if that is the best way of harnessing our members’ energies and advancing our political strategy. We believe this Review adds to the evidence that community organising has a vital role to play in helping Labour to reconnect with voters and rebuild our capacity in key parts of the country. This work needs to become a permanent and integrated part of our structure from top to bottom, from a clear and coherent stream of work in party headquarters down to our CLPs. Ideally, each CLP would have an officer trained in how this method of building support can work locally.
  1. We should evaluate and modernise our approach to doorstep canvassing. As party loyalty declines and Labour’s “core” vote becomes less stable, we need to look at integrating relationship-building and persuasion into our communications and campaigning, developing less transactional approaches to door knocking and a more engaging approach to online spaces for different points in the electoral cycle. We should have a rigorous evaluation of the value and effectiveness of our canvassing techniques. Looking both to international best practice and internal innovation, our canvassing methods should be updated to include persuasive canvassing practices, and our members and elected representatives trained in this method when it is agreed. In line with our recommendations above, there needs to be a consistent approach to structured experimentation and evidence-based evaluation. Different approaches should be piloted in elections in 2021.
  1. Embed a community organising approach that links up across the Labour Party and its affiliated trade unions. Labour needs to work with the trade unions nationally and locally to make the vision of community organising succeed, including reaching out to union members to root Labour policy in their priorities. This will require not only dedicated staff resources but also the development of shared training programmes. There may be value in bringing together Labour Party members and members of different unions for training. The Party should also look to extend this approach to other parts of the movement, such as the Cooperative Party.
  1. Make the Labour movement an empowering presence in our communities. In a number of areas where Labour has lost ground, and in particular suffered from the loss of an MPs’ office as a focal point for the community, the Commission believes the party and unions should pilot Manuel Cortes’ innovative recommendation to this review for Labour Community Centres. These would offer a range of services, employment rights advice and spaces for community groups to meet and organise, not only working with local partners such as Coop branches, but also tapping into and linking up relevant local resources. This would help us serve the needs and interests of communities and put Labour back at their heart. Something similar is already being attempted by Leigh Constituency Labour Party in collaboration with the Cooperative Party.
  1. Explore new innovations in workplace organising. The Labour Party and trade unions should look to learn from innovative methods being developed by workplace organisers and campaigners, to look at how we can build support for Labour among workers from traditionally non-unionised background, including using new technology to reach out.
  1. Strengthen support for local government year-round campaigning and engagement activities. Councillors are vital to our future, yet there are mixed approaches to campaigning with some people doing lots of political activity, while others do less. We should ensure councillors can share and learn from best practice in maintaining levels of contact and campaigning ahead of and beyond elections.
  1. Map and engage with local online activity. Increasingly, local communities come together and interact online as much as in streets, neighbourhoods and shared physical spaces. Labour councillors and candidates, supported by CLP social media officers, should be mapping local online groups and spaces, such as Facebook Groups, and work on building relationships with the admins and being an active presence. This should not just be at election time but throughout the year. We must organise in online community spaces as well as offline.

Supporting campaigners and candidates to succeed

  1. Conduct a full audit of each of our target seats identifying their unique campaigning needs and capacities. The seats we have lost and need to gain will all have different needs. Some may have small memberships and lower campaigning capacity, while others may have large memberships which are not mobilised. Some seats will be rural, others more connected. There is no “one-size fits all” approach, and Labour needs to provide the right kind of political infrastructure and support that meet each seat’s needs. Working with local representatives, local parties and using targeting analysis, the party should have a clear long term strategy for each of our target seats.
  1. Empower and upskill our movement through a national network of support for learning and skills development. As our campaigning capacity in some seats is limited, we recommend setting up a network of support, which might include Regional Organising Academies as well as a full range of online resources and delivery methods, to train staff, politicians and members in all forms of organising, campaigning and leadership. We believe this would be well in line with Keir Starmer’s proposal for a Labour College for developing campaigners and candidates.  This will help to ensure our political strategy is understood and knowledge is shared across all layers of our movement, so a culture of campaigning is embedded at all levels. This should include training in social media campaigning.
  1. Give our members access to the digital tools they need. We should invest in creating more usable digital tools that are available to people who need them. There are more detailed recommendations in the submissions from Common Knowledge, that the Commission believes could have merit. We should be investing in digital tool training, adopting a “train the trainer” model (equipping an initial group or network with the skills that enable them to go on to train larger numbers) to better distribute training for Labour Party tools. Digital volunteer communities can help with this. Introduce a transparent and understandable system for establishing digital credentials and access, so that the right people have credentials for the right tools.
  1. Improve support for candidates and campaigners. This review found that policy and message briefing was a particular weakness of the 2019 campaign. Alongside this, Labour should strengthen the consistency of messaging in election communications, and the quality of our leaflet and direct mail offer to local areas. Candidates should also be given access to a set of core support services and templates, for example access to a professional videographer and the latest evidence-based guidance on campaign methods (for example, likely impacts of social media or direct mail) to inform budget spend.

Making the most of our members’ capacities

  1. Create a volunteer timebank. Members with particular sought-after skills should be able to volunteer their time to the Party either at a local or regional level, to increase campaigning capacity or share skills. We believe this is in line with Angela Raynor’s proposals for a “Labour Community” platform to facilitate skills-sharing across the movement. Initiatives such as Swing Left in the US match volunteers with specific skills to the campaign nearest to them that needs their particular skill. Such initiatives are worth investigating.
  1. Engage with volunteer networks. The Party should seek to engage more officially with affiliated organisations, Party groupings like Campaign Lab, or Labour Graphic designers, to better harness the skills and talents of networks in our movement. Labour HQ should open up to these groups to work together to solve particular problems or build capacity in an area.

We need to revolutionise our digital methods and tools

Chapter 5 and Chapter 6 showed that, as digital technology disrupts and transforms political communication and campaigning, Labour is in danger of falling behind the curve. Labour needs to invest in and upgrade its technological infrastructure and capacities, not just as a one-off push but with an ongoing commitment, and should adapt its working culture and structures to match.

A digital transformation

  1. Establish a fully resourced, cross-functional digital team centrally working on digital tooling at all times, including software engineers, user-experience and digital design specialists, and product and project-management specialists. Ensure plans are in place to quickly scale this up and integrate staffing during busy election times.
  1. Completely overhaul our suite of digital tools to support our campaigning activity and deliver our political strategy, including tools to more efficiently produce leaflets, support relational organising (for example by mapping community relationships or recording data from one-to-ones) and tracking our contact with voters and their responses on key issues (the Conservatives have a bespoke tool for tracking what is resonating with the public – Labour should develop and integrate its own).
  1. Work towards open-sourcing Labour tools, with a phased rollout to open up the tools to additional volunteer communities, supported by increased staff, with a defined pathway to full open source. This should be combined with a strategy to create an open API platform (allowing programmers controlled access to the Party’s systems and software without risking their security or integrity) that can facilitate third party toolmakers, as was done recently by Elizabeth Warren’s campaign in the US.
  1. Engage productively with tech volunteer communities like Campaign Lab. This could mean developing a process for incorporating volunteer-made upgrades to Labour Party tech. It could also mean sharing challenges with volunteers through facilitating Hackathons (bringing together coders, project managers and others to form interdisciplinary teams to find solutions to key challenges over a short period of time), funding digital community management and these communities directly.

A more sophisticated approach to data

  1. Improve data literacy throughout the organisation. The Party needs to be able to keep up with and harness the latest techniques in data science, appreciating its potential uses while also understanding its limitations. This will require improved levels of data literacy across the organisation. Ideally regional staff and local organisers should be able to appreciate the uses of such analyses, as well as challenge or test their assumptions.
  1. Use data to empower members and drive organisational learning. Labour’s organisers and campaigners need to be able to access the data they need to target their efforts and evaluate their impact. This could range from demographic and polling information to social network analysis that can help spot social influencers. Systems also need to incorporate feedback channels that allow this evidence to be shared, and also for tools and platforms to be continually improved, as bugs are fixed and usability enhancements identified. This applies to everything, from the design of voter ID sheets to Party tools such as Insight and Contact Creator.
  1. Analyse long-term trends using both data and local insight. The Party should be thinking about how we can anticipate demographic trends, by undertaking much more long-term strategic analysis and modelling of seats we currently have, and anticipating how this might change. Working with local representatives and Parties and using targeting analysis, the Party should have a clear assessment of the needs of each seat, based on their CLP development plans.
  1. Make better use of social media data: We need to see social media as a rich source of data and be clearer about what metrics we are using. Labour needs to overhaul its metrics, focusing not just on vanity measures like number of shares but also metrics that measure engagement. We should be monitoring how our messages are received online by different audiences, and this should be acting as a feedback loop.
  1. Establish a data ethics policy to ensure we are at the forefront of the ethical use of data in campaigning.

Laying the groundwork for victory in next year’s elections

  1. Integrating campaigns for 2021 where we will be fighting between one and four elections in any given part of the country, with parties with very different capacities and skills. That will need advanced planning and regular communication to coordinate between the layers of campaigns.  Ensuring that this is collaborative rather than competitive will require:
  • Clear win numbers, for voter groups that form winning coalitions in each area and election. 
  • Campaign managers in place and ready. 
  • Integrated plans for media, message, field, digital, and fundraising and are adapted for the level of campaign capacity
  • Regular coordination and communication to relay lessons and re-deploy resources 
  • Working effectively with Welsh Labour and Scottish Labour HQs.
  • Coronavirus contingencies pre-planned, with surge capacity for digital and home phone banking and a postal only election