LME had a very busy year, and the fact that we had 15 candidates standing for the Executive elections is just one sign how much profile we have gained.
We set out into 2011 to address 3 key development areas:
- We wanted to make the LME more visible
- We wanted to start developing new narratives on Europe which would move us out of the old ‘pro-European’ versus ‘euro-sceptic’ trap
- We wanted to start a conversation on what the ‘European Social Model’ is and can be in the future
We knew that our work on Point 1, the LME’s communications, would need to be put in place in order to get the message about the other two areas out there.
The first half of 2011 I worked closely with our volunteer Communications Working Group. Let me thank the members of this working group in person: Brian Duggan, Susanne Kendler, Martin Philips and Jon Worth. By April we agreed on a new logo & look (which Susanne did for us) not just as a design exercise, but to set us up to be seen as a serious organisation worth listening to. By June we developed a new flyer about the LME, aimed both at potential members and non-members who we want to engage in talking about Europe.
With the specific help of Jon for technology and Susanne for editorial, we launched the new LME website in June. The website is now a much more dynamic place. It brings our twitter, facebook and other publishing areas together, and we are working on tying it in with our (new) newsletter, so we can automate some things and get interesting EU-related info out to people faster and more regularly.
We look and sound like a professional organisation – to such a degree that I sometimes have to remind 3rd parties who approach us for sponsorship and resources that the LME is fully volunteer- and membership driven and has no extra funding at this stage. It’s nice to be seen as punching above our weight a bit.
2. Narratives – How we talk about Europe
All the communications work is a means to help us get our message out and change the narrative on Europe.
To do that – apart from in the articles we have published on our own website and on other websites, and promoted on twitter and facebook – we took part in a good number of conferences throughout the year, in London, and in other parts of the country.
We had a stand at Progress and at Compass Conferences, and then in September had a very successful fringe event at Labour Conference in Liverpool. Altogether, we managed to raise LME’s profile quite a bit during Conference, and came back with over 100 new sign-ups to our mailing list.
We have not just done events in London, we ran a successful fringe event at the Labour Party’s South West Regional conference together with the EPLP and the Labour Group in the LGA. Special thanks to Brian, Glyn and Linda for making this happen.
In addition, there was an event by a fledgling LME Bristol city group and an EPLP event in Exeter with LME presence. LME was promoted at a European Policy Forum event organised by Linda McAvan MEP in Leeds last month and a bunch of very active and committed people in the North West found the LME and launched our North West regional branch at Labour Conference – There are a number of people rearing to go and get regional and local LME activity going where they live and work. We have made progress on expanding our activities across the UK, and there are promising signs that we will significantly up-scale our regional footprint in 2012.
Having a stand, sending delegates, speaking on discussion panels during those conferences – all of this allows us to get our message out to people and to test narratives we are developing. And the response has been positive. People we meet seem to like to find an organisation which discusses actual issues in a European context, not the EU or its structure as the main topic of conversation. People are interested in employment legislation, financial services regulation, the environment – and our activities in the last year have focused on talking to them about these things, and not spending our time on a pro-or-anti-Europe discussion which doesn’t lead anywhere.
I do not want to bore you with details of all the events we participated in, but I want to highlight that cooperation with other organisations has been key to our strategy. We co-organised a fringe-event with Labour Friends of Turkey at Labour Conference, cross-promoted the launch of Labour Friends of France, and Labour Friends of Germany, had a joint event with Labour Friends of Italy, and developed our links with Social Europe Journal, and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation further.
There is still a way to go in terms of working closer with organisations like SERA, the Co-operative Party and the Unions, but we’re well on the way now.
Special thanks to Lynda McDermott, Martin Philipps, Richard Young, Lazzaro Pietragnoli, Chris Maddox, Jon Worth, Susanne Kendler, Brian Duggan, Nilgun Canver, Linda Gilroy, Glyn Ford, Kevin Peel and Theresa Griffin who helped organise and promote LME at events and conferences this year.
- The Future of Social Europe
I think you have all seen that it has been quite a busy year. The global financial crisis, and in recent months the problems this has brought on the Eurozone, did distract to a degree from our plan to start a discussion about what a future social model can look like in Europe.
But we managed to do some work, especially in the publication of some articles both by me, and LME member Julian Priestley, which have raised the key points about the role and value of a European social model, both in the context of the world economic crisis, and in the context of the British EU referendum debate. My thanks go to Julian Priestley, and also our member Henning Meyer, who as editor of Social Europe Journal has brought many interesting thought pieces to our attention, which we shared with members in tweets and by syndicating on the website.
So much for all we have done to fulfil what we set out to do a year ago.
Let me briefly look at two more points
- Things which concern LME as an organisation
- Things we need to tackle in the coming year
Organisationally we have made major strides in affiliating to the Labour Party as socialist society. Thanks to Brian Duggan for taking ownership of this project together with Martin Philips.
We have also built bridges outside the UK, building a relationship with Brussels Labour and Labour International and with the PES through playing an active part in the PES activists network. Thanks to our main contacts Keir Fitch at Brussels Labour and Frazer Clarke at Labour International.
Very special thanks go to Linda Gilroy, who has been a solid support to the Executive, and who showed much initiative by single-handedly organising a ‘Meet the LME’ drop-in in Parliament for us in June. This was a really useful first step in our plan to form a new Westminster Group as part of LME in the coming year.
Finally, a very quick outlook for the 2012:
A key development area for 2012 will be that we need to improve and update our membership database, so we can run a proper membership drive alongside our planned campaigning and policy work, so we will have the means to do even more work.
We have identified areas for development in the LME constitution, and we will do some work on this in the coming year, so our constitution supports our work as well as possible.
Over one million non-British-EU-citizens will be eligible to vote Ken back in as London Mayor in May 2012 and to vote in the 2014 European Elections. We need to build our campaigning capacity further to have a solid impact in this.
We aim to make the Westminster Group happen in 2012, and also look into establishing a Brussels Group.
We will speak more, publish more, invite more people to contribute to our website, and in general build on the good start we have made in modernising the LME in 2011.
In the very near future – in 5 days – we will see proof of how the LME’s partnership working mantra is showing results J. Our Christmas Social Drinks on December 12 are co-organised and promoted by a record number of sister parties and Labour Friends of Groups, including French, German, Italian, Dutch, Irish, Cypriot, Romanian, Portuguese and Turkish Socialists and Social Democrats in London and by PES Activists.
Finally, I want to thank all my colleagues on the Executive for the work they put in, I want to thank Richard Corbett for all he has done for LME whilst he was an MEP, as chair of the LME in 2010 and also in 2011 on the executive. His role in Herman van Rompuy’s cabinet is impossible to combine with a pro-active role on LME executive. With a heavy heart I accepted his decision not to stand again for the executive, however, he assured me that he will remain a good friend to the LME. I also wanted to thank a long standing member of the Executive Lynda McDermott, who after countless years of service on the executive, has decided not to stand this year to take care of things needing taking care of. But watch this space, I am sure she will be back. Not on the executive in 2011 but also a former chair of LME I would like to thank former Shadow Europe-minister Wayne David for his support and insightful suggestions for the work of LME. We will be hearing from the new Shadow Europe Minister Emma Reynolds shortly, and I am looking forward to working closely with Emma to help the Labour Party develop a new winning narrative, which includes global and European dimensions at its core.