Why I am standing to be Chair of Cambridge Constituency Labour Party

A statement by Steven Watson, July 2017

After a general election result that shocked supporters as well as pundits, British politics is in an unprecedented period of change. In Cambridge, we increased Daniel Zeichner’s majority to nearly 15,000 and this in itself is representative of that change. We are on the edge of achieving something great for the Labour Party and to do this we have to keep the initiative of the last election alive and ensure that all factions of the party start to work together. In short, we have to adapt and to do so in such a way that members do not feel excluded as we adapt to the changes that have taken place. This includes selling our manifesto and to do this by keeping the thousands of activists and even more of our new members active. It is against this backdrop that I have decided to stand for election as Chair of Cambridge Constituency Labour Party.

Ralph Miliband, in Parliamentary Socialism (1961), recognised that an effective Labour Party had to be an alliance of parliamentarians with grassroots movement politics. Indeed our first MP and party founder recognised this too.

“People want more picturesqueness, more of the embodiment of the old rebellious spirit of revolt, more fighting which will quicken the pulse in connection with the work of the Party in Parliament.” This was a feeling with which he could “most heartily sympathize.” But the Party needed more than this; it must prove to the nation that its members could be “statesman as well as agitators.” (Hardie, My Confession of the Faith in the Labour Alliance, 1910, cited in Miliband, Parliamentary Socialism, 1961. p. 28).

This challenge has never really gone away from the Labour Party. We now have a passionate mass movement. We now must be statespeople and agitators. And we can work at this challenge locally and pragmatically.

I want to see Cambridge CLP respond to the challenge and opportunities of a growing membership while maintaining and sustaining existing knowledge and skills. In these unpredictable times, the Labour party must provide a platform for deliberative democracy, allowing as broad a group as is possible to discuss and debate politics, economics, social issues and policy. While we must respect the work and contribution of members who have sustained the party locally and nationally in past years, it is imperative that we reach out and motivate new members to get involved and participate. But, most of all, we must build on our existing capacities as an effective campaigning organisation. My role as chair will, therefore, involve two major tasks

  1. The re-election of our MP Daniel Zeichner and our city and county councillors. I know our campaigning machine is well honed and effective, and I would not want to change that but I pledge to work with the campaign committee to maintain that situation.
  2. Bringing our party together to represent the wishes of the members.

I have always been a labour voter but never been inspired to join the Labour Party until in June 2015 Jeremy Corbyn arrived. As such I represent a new group of members but I am also aware of the need to maintain and respect the huge number of members who have been in the party for most of their adult lives.

By day I work as a Lecturer in Education at Cambridge University. I live in Cherry Hinton where I am currently Chair of Cherry Hinton Labour Party and delegate on the CLP Executive Committee. I am also active in the University and College Union, Unite Community and Cambridge Area Momentum. My Curriculum Vitae is here, you can contact me via email here.


About Steven Watson

Education research, critical maths, education policy, economics and politics @steve.watson10
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