A little over a year ago I knew nothing about local politics. Last month I spoke alongside Jeremy Corbyn to over a thousand people at his rally in Derby. How did that happen?
Politics can seem like a difficult world to get into. Beyond voting in every minor election you can, or sharing memes in an attempt to educate and not infuriate your Facebook friends, it’s easy to feel powerless. The volume of rich, older, Eton educated men in politics can easily leave anyone not in that demographic feeling disenfranchised. But left-wing politics is all about grassroots power, and local groups are always welcoming new members to grow support across the country. Getting involved is surprisingly easy.
In June 2015, there was an event near me in the East Midlands where the Labour leadership candidates put forward their policies for their ambitions in the party. I was vaguely aware of the relevance (surely someone had to replace the man, the myth, the legend of Ed Miliband), but really I’d no idea. A friend attended the event and afterwards spoke with almost sycophantic enthusiasm for Jeremy Corbyn. To me, this unknown name sounded like a myth. A politician that cares about other people? Nah.
Less than three months later, I was a Labour Party member and in tears of joy over the huge mandate Corbyn received.
The straightforward, kinder politics that Corbyn promotes has interested hundreds of thousands. You only need to look at the Question Time audience to see the amount of young people his policies have attracted. Personally, I finally found a vision for the future I could get behind.
But having moved to university in the West Midlands, I found it hard to get involved. I was very busy and the place I lived wasn’t the place in which I voted. The local politics I wanted to be involved with was no longer local.
One cold November morning I headed home and joined an event encouraging people to sign a petition against the tax credit cuts. Guess what? The cuts didn’t go ahead! I’d done something of note.
I started attending more events and speeches, more workshops, more rallies. I met welcoming, likeminded people and started giving my opinion in meetings. But more often than not, I was the only young woman there.
I began to feel like an active part in the movement that’s now been sweeping the nation for over a year. I can’t recall the exact figures to support every single argument I make, I’ve never attended my local CLP (Constituency Labour Party) meetings because of university and their suspension during the leadership contest, and I’ve never attended a rally outside of my hometown. The difference I’m making is small, but it exists. It’s this involvement that meant I was asked to speak alongside Corbyn.
Who do I speak to about getting involved in local politics?
Momentum is the grassroots support group that grew out of the campaign that got Jeremy Corbyn elected. There are branches all across the UK – a quick Facebook search should bring your local one up. If not, post in this Facebook group and someone should be able to direct you.
What impact can I make?
Attending rallies and signing petitions are good if you don’t have that much time you can commit. Attending workshops with expert speakers is a great way to learn about topics you’re not too sure on. Your local group will keep you up to date with door-to-door campaigning, phone banking, and any support they need around local by-elections.
Your local group should have an events section that will let you know about all relevant local events going on. If you’ve got an idea for an event not currently happening, you can suggest it to them and help organise it.
As one of the Young People’s officers, I’m helping organise an event where young people discuss what they want from their future.
In short, there’s lot you can do that will result in worthwhile outcomes.
What if I’m not a Labour Party or Momentum member?
Totally cool. To be a Momentum supporter you only need to support Corbyn’s politics and not be a member of a Party that stands against him.
I fear counting the amount of times I’ve thought this. If you know you want change, and that Corbyn’s socialist change is what you want, that’s all you need. Definitions, abbreviations, who’s an MP for where, that can all be explained. When I started out I’d only just got my head around how the UK’s voting system worked.
You don’t need an A-Level, let alone a degree, in local politics to get involved and start making change. Enthusiasm and a willingness to be a part of a huge movement are far more essential.
If you fancy, you can check out my speech with Corbyn below.
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