We should all feel comradely concern for Iain McNicol. For those who don’t recognise the name he is the General Secretary of the Labour Party, an organisation that appears to be hurtling towards some sort of breakdown. Let me illustrate the size of the problem he now faces by bringing together two topics that I have already discussed in these blogs: entryism and technology.
Part of Ed Miliband’s disastrous legacy was the new process for electing a Labour Party Leader. Anyone who is prepared to pay £3, and will state that they support Labour’s aims and values and are not a supporter of an opposing organisation, may register and vote. Membership is rocketing and the supposition must be that they are mainly supporters of the retro-left candidate Jeremy Corbyn. Local Parties have been given a list of these registered supporters and Iain McNicol has told us by e-mail to ‘check that there aren’t any people who you know are members of other parties, or do not support the Labour Party’. Well Iain I’ve looked at the 50 or so names and recognise only two, both of whom live in my small parish in North Norfolk. One of them steadfastly refused to sign my nomination papers as a Labour Candidate for the local council three months ago; I haven’t a clue about the rest. Basically anyone can vote and there is no way of checking who they are.
While this goes on I continue to receive getting regular technology updates from the Party Headquarters. One offered me the chance to participate in a webinar broadcast on July 22nd. This was entitled ‘welcoming new members and supporter top tips’. I was unable to join on this date so have tried to access a recording on the Labour Party’s MembersNet. I located it, on the Webinar Library page, and saw that it lasts 50 minutes and covers: ‘with so many people joining or supporting the Labour Party – we need to ensure that every new member or supporter has a fantastic introduction to their local Labour Party. Join the team as we share top tips and best practice’. I dutifully logged in and enjoyed ten minutes looking at a screen entitled ‘Starting WebEx’ and seeing a wheel going round and round to no good purpose. It may be that I am committing the cardinal sin, in the Party’s eyes, of using an Apple Mac computer
I know I am being unnecessarily hard on the Party’s technology team. They are under-resourced and probably under-managed. Morale must be at rock bottom. However this is simply not good enough for any organisation seeking to operate and be taken seriously in the 21st century.
This brings me back to why we should feel sorry for Iain McNicol. If, as seems likely at the time of writing, Jeremy Corbyn wins the Leadership contest all the attention will be on the traumatic political consequences. The organisational consequences will be ignored. I knew Jeremy Corbyn in his Haringey and early Islington days. Unless he has changed, he will not have the slightest interest in getting things done and how organisations can deliver what is needed. The technology wheel will continue to go round and round to no good purpose.