Nominate your community campaigner

I recently blogged about the lack of any meaningful campaign against the closure of post offices. From the responses received, comments made to me, and my own observations, we seem to have a generation of politicians who lack an understanding of what campaigning is.

Dan Wilson, in support of Nancy Platts, said: “There has been activity in Brighton: Nancy Platts has been supporting the CWU campaign against Royal Mail privatisation and post office closures” and provides a link to Nancy’s website

Nancy is quoted on her website as saying, “Recently, I was pleased to join colleagues from the CWU and support their campaign against the privatisation of Royal Mail. Unfortunatly, as you can see, the elements were against us. It’s such an important issue that we braved the rain nonetheless.  Post Offices and the Royal Mail are at the core of our communities and I oppose anything that weakens their important social role”.

The picture she has posted underlines the point I am making – a trade union banner on the seafront (in appalling weather). Being photographed on the seafront is not campaigning. It is a photo opportunity.  A campaign would have been gathering signatures outside a threatened post office for days, even weeks, galvanising local people (not party activists) to form a campaign group, and then allowing them to lead it, true community empowerment. Nothing short of this is tokenism.

Scott Redding talks up the Greens record on post office closure, that “not just in Brighton, but around the country, Greens have campaigned against post office closures. The first two pages of hits describe Green campaigns in Gloucestershire, Kent, Lancaster, Leamington, Leicester, London, St Ives, Stroud and Sutton”. Impressive, Scott, but not in Brighton. We have had so many post offices closed and the Greens have been conspicuous by their absence in any campaign to save any single one of them. I don’t expect Caroline Lucas to take the lead (I am often told by Green friends that she is fully occupied in Brussels and as Party Leader), but where have the local Green councillors been? Bill Randall understands activism, but do many of the other Greens?

I go to community meetings where both Green and Labour councillors display a stunning lack of awareness that scoring party political points off each other is one of the great killers of enthusiasm for the party political process.

What we need are exmples of true community activists who can pull together a good community campaign. Would anyone like to nominate a good example?

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3 Responses

  1. It’s up to us all.

    I completely agree with you. This is a vital issue. Let’s do it! This isn’t about party politics. It’s more important than that.

    Let’s galvanise this campaign. Let’s get out there BPB! Let’s use our blogs as catalysts for a positive campaign to support the vital services and importance of the Royal Mail.

    The time for talking is over! Let’s get organised.

    (I’m serious: are you?)

  2. BPB, I really must refute your assertion that locally “Greens have been conspicuous by their absence in any campaign to save any single [Post Office]”.

    When the Brighton & Hove PO closures were announced in October 2007, Greens cllrs were appalled to find that no less than four of the six doomed B&H sub-POs were located in our wards (Trafalgar Street in St Peter’s & North Laine, Elm Grove in Hanover & Elm Grove, and Preston Circus and Preston Road in Preston Park).

    Subsequently, Brighton & Hove Greens were the only political party locally to call a public meeting to try and hold Post Office Ltd to account (http://www.carolinelucasmep.org.uk/2007/11/28/greens-fight-post-office-closures/), which was held on 6th December 2007 at the Friends Meeting House.

    The meeting was Chaired by Peter Crowhurst (North Laine Community Association), and the panel consisted of Caroline Lucas, Selma Montford MBE, David Bull (then Conservative PPC for Brighton Pavilion) Gary Herbert (Post Office Ltd), Malcolm Butler (Postwatch – consumer watchdog), and a CWU rep (sorry, name escapes me). Invitations were also issued to local Labour MPs, but in the event this offer was not taken up.

    Green councillors also organised petitions in all the condemned B&H POs (including the two in Hove), amassing several thousand signatures, in addition to supplying free template letters for customers to send to Post Office Ltd, Postwatch, and their respective MPs. We sent the original petitions to Hazel Blears MP (then CLG minister), and forwarded copies to PO Ltd and Postwatch.

    Needless to say, the axe fell regardless, thanks to the Labour government’s relentless drive to introduce “efficiency” into public services, regardless of the (not necessarily intangible) cost to communities. I have to say it was pretty ironic watching Nancy Platts running around trying to “save the Post Offices” when (if I recall correctly) both David Lepper and Des Turner voted for the proposals to close the B&H sub-POs, and hundreds like them across the country

    We are still working to try and progress an “Essex model” at local authority level, so watch this space. And we have and will continue to picket with the CWU. So it’s not fair really to suggest that Greens aren’t doing anything to protect post offices and public mail services.

    As for local community campaigners, the Lewes Rd Community Gardeners get my vote this summer 🙂

  3. There was a fantastic community-led campaign to save the church hall in Salisbury Road recently. It used to be home to our local nursery school. It was lost when the Greens (yes its true) and Labour voted together for it to be demolished. What on earth were these people thinking of?

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