Our last meeting of 2012 was a jolly affair. Somehow we squeezed into the chair’s front room with the help of a couple of garden seats. Perhaps having to sit closer together helped, or maybe it was just the closeness of the festive season, but even the quarterly business meeting feels friendly these days. We wanted to share a glass or two at the end of the meeting, so when it came to working in pairs to review our objectives the chair and I resisted the temptation to turn it all into a game of charades. Not sure there was quite the floorspace.
Of course there are always hidden issues. One of the reasons we crowded into a house was that we are in the middle of working out where the best places to meet are. Several sensible options were ruled out as it was clear some organisations just don’t want politics on their premises. If we are serious about renewing democracy there must be a better way. All political parties need to be in the middle of their communities. To get there needs two way trust. So this week I was delighted when a group of Labour women from across Kirklees found themselves holding an event in the lovely Packhorse gallery.
The evening, part of One Billion Rising, was not your usual political meeting. We had time to chill out with tea first, an ability to share ideas with sticky notes (OK, I know I am always bringing sticky notes to meetings these days) a few speeches and a little debate, rounding off the whole thing with a spot of Bhangra. Participation was optional. I had never met about half of the women in the room, but for a short while we were one happy family.
The One Billion Rising event and an equally friendly constituency meeting last night coincided with a few shoots of spring beginning to struggle through. That all seems appropriate. After that jolly December meeting I hurried around embarking on the family Christmas, throwing anything that looked like political paperwork into a drawer just in case I was tempted to deal with it. A good break ended with the family flu, so January was well under way when I realised I had no idea what I had done with any of the outcomes of that jolly meeting. Did the lucky prize draw winners have their winnings? Were there any minutes to write? But worst of all, had I posted the cheque the treasurer gave me or was it still lurking in that drawer? A bit of hopeful January filing clarified I must have sent it, unearthing a few more little jobs to add to the ‘to do’ list on the way.
But the big jump on my ‘to do’ list though, was created by that bold announcement on 8th January, when Labour announced the 106 target seats for the General Election. My beautiful Colne Valley is number 76 and one of the few that need to jump from third place to first. I don’t always agree with my old mate Luke Akehurst, but his brilliant organisational skills instantly recognised the significance of producing this list.
A month on it is beginning to show how significant this list is locally. Optimism and with it activism are on the increase. Having someone else say we can win this seat back increases our confidence, spurred on by Andy Burnham taking a lead on new directions for the NHS, the brilliant mansion tax move, and the march of John O’Farrell.
Of course we know it will take more than a #JasonTory hash-tag to shift our bandwagoning MP, but plans are afoot – many pages of them at the meeting last night. We will start the search for a dynamic candidate who can help build on our community based politics very soon. Those first signs of spring will entice us all back on the doorstep. Hibernation is over. Time to start blogging again.