Ed Miliband’s team was so out of touch that it struggled to find a single person earning the minimum wage to appear at a campaign event as the party geared up for the general election, a former senior adviser has revealed.
In an article for the website Labour List, Arnie Graf – a US community organiser who was a mentor to Barack Obama and advised Labour between 2011 and 2013 – says he was enlisted to help find a minimum wage worker to speak to the former Labour leader at an event that the media had been invited to in autumn 2013.
“The point of the conversation was to show how difficult it was for a minimum wage worker to get on in life,” Graf writes. “There was only one problem. No one had been able to locate a minimum wage worker for Ed to talk with.
“I felt this awful feeling in the pit of my stomach. How could it be that the Labour party, supposedly the party of working people, was not in relationship with a single minimum wage worker? It was stunning!”
Graf concludes that Labour needs to re-establish meaningful contact between the party’s leaders and its regional organisers.
“The organisers are not expected or assigned to grow the party,” writes Graf. “They have no time to develop meaningful relationships with people in the communities where they are assigned to work; therefore, the party remains out of touch with the vast majority of people throughout the country.”
He likens the Labour party’s structure to that of the international courier company FedEx: “The corporate leadership make all of the important decisions for the company. The truck drivers deliver the goods with almost no input into the decisions made. The organisers are the men and women truck drivers for the party.
“The leadership and the party staff reside in separate quarters physically and mentally. Policies and major campaigns are developed with little or no input from the staff in the field. This leads to a lot mistakes and resentments.”
Graf recommends that the party’s leadership should have regular meetings with its regional directors and organisers. “The national staff may have some intellectual knowledge, but they do not have the social knowledge that resides with the staff in the field,” he adds. He also suggests that at least one half of all the organisers should be freed up to spend the bulk of their time building relationships with leaders in the communities they are assigned to.
Graf was brought in by Ed Miliband in 2011 to conduct a review of Labour’s organisation and campaign structures. In March 2014, Labour’s 2015 election campaign co-ordinator and former shadow foreign secretary, Douglas Alexander, denied that the party had fired Graf from his role.
This article was written by Frances Perraudin, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 4th August 2015 12.47 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010