Political meetings are dull, aren’t they? I’m not talking about conferences, or rallies, or even the worthy roundtables that think tanks are always advertising. I’m talking about the kind of political meeting that takes place in a cold and damp community centre on a weekday evening.
Such meetings exist to create a veneer of party democracy. We sit in silence as councillors explain to us the important business of planning regulations and recent council meetings. We hear MPs report back on that fascinating adjournment debate they organised. We sit through the crucial but unfathomable report about recent campaigning activity.
Many of us have tolerated such meetings – a few may even enjoy them – but on the whole they are irredeemably dull, attended only by those who feel duty bound to turn up, or those whose personal lives revolve around party politics. In both cases, neither is the kind of person who could be accurately described as either ordinary or average.
Every political party needs a democratic decision-making structure, but sometimes that can mean bureaucracy for the sake of bureaucracy.
Most political activists would be better served heading out and speaking to some of the ordinary people on whose behalf they so often claim to speak.
Imagine what might be achieved if just a fraction of the hours spent pouring over minutes of meetings was, instead, spent engaging with our communities, learning about their genuine hopes and concerns. It would be more worthwhile than setting up straw men issues that do not exist or need to be addressed.
We might even end up with a political class that was back in touch with the people. Wouldn’t that be a little more worthwhile than having meetings for meetings’ sake.
Mark Ferguson is the editor of LabourList.org