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Welcome to my blog. Im always looking for new ways of bringing people together to build campaigns. Im always amazed by the energy and passion of the people I meet and the different skills they bring to making change happen - the ideas we try out, the campaigns we work on, the relationships we build together. I want to share those stories with you. I hope you enjoy them!

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Never fight the last war - never try and be like your enemies - whether by playing the “rebel” card (imitating Chirac’s behaviour of attacking your own government for electoral gain because you are too cowardly to own up to increased insecurity and national debt), the “race” card (plagiarising Le Pen’s 2002 slogans, while the anti-immigrant electorate stay with Le Pen and you ruin social cohesion), the “workers” card (citing Blum as a role-model, when Blum successfully introduced progressive rights on working time, while Sarkozy incites the working poor to work even harder, because they’re worth it, and presumably the tax exile rich to continuing paying no tax, because they’re unimportant).

As Segolene realised, learning from the 2002 election wasn’t manipulating the police to slander a colleague (Clearstream) or a rival (RG with Royal), but open democratic debate with the PS’ internal referendum and the primaries. It wasn’t copying Le Pen’s slogans that would get his voters to vote for her, it was listening to the French people of all backgrounds, involving them and valuing that involvement.

First there were criticisms - and perhaps understandably - of the PS for ignoring the manifesto that was agreed by their members. Then there were criticisms that Segolene Royal wasn’t making any proposals. Now, there are criticisms that she isn’t making any promises but instead a similar number of proposals to Mitterand - its not how many proposals, its how they can improve people’s lives. And yes, the PS do focus many proposals on young people - if us young people think we can change everything, isn’t it sensible that we are given the tools to at least try?

Indeed, expectation, doubt and hope summed up people’s minds across France as they waited for the 11th February when Segolene Royal announced the proposals scaled up from the “participative phase” . This phase encompassed 6000 participative debates, 600 000 people contributing local ideas and the 135 000 contributing online ideas during the last four months (while 2.5 million people overall contributed to Desirs d’Avenir since it was created) - less “going into a stall” and more “tour de france” of the collective intelligence of the French.

Expectation, because for once a party actively listened to their needs, their experiences, their ideas, rather than commission opinion polls (the PS know better than anyone that these are irrelevant after 2002!). We know politics is complex, that’s because people’s lives are so let’s not treat them simplistically and superficially and Desirs d’Avenir explored that complexity.

Doubt, because never had a political party (especially stereotyped for being full of intellectuals, rappers and celebs) attributed so much importance to not only listening to people but involving them in refining the manifesto. Doubt for our citizens who are so used to hollow promises, populist narratives and divisive proposals. Doubt for the PS activists themselves who were so used to single narrative, repetitive message, media-driven campaigning. Doubt for the PS barons who may feel they have given their voice away to the people they represent. Doubt for the leadership as participative debates are not soundbite friendly - the PS have lost the media campaign. Unlike Bayrou, the ultimate political bandwagon jumper - who falls in bed with the Right when they win elections and gives them vote of no-confidence when Sarkozy drops far in the polls - then uses traditional soundbite-heavy media stunts (”France profonde” backdrop with local villagers, marquee picnic in the banlieues) to declare war on the biased media, which if anything is biased towards the punch and judy soundbite and against the participative debates.

Hope, because we’ve dropped our guard, we’ve all risked our election campaign innovating to involve our citizens to shape how we reform the country, whether as activists, representatives or our leadership. We risked it for our internal referendum on Europe and even if for the leadership, this didn’t bring the Yes to the Constitution they wanted, the party was transformed for the better. Since 2004 we’ve won successive elections, taking 25/26 regions and more than doubled our membership in the space of the last year.

So what can we learn from participative campaigning?

get informed about what people think about how France should be governed through participative debates and also inform people about what the party thinks and the diversity of opinions within the party through exercises like internal referendums or primaries

get inspired about what ideas and experiences people share at these participative debates and also inspire people about what values and proposals the party believe will help transform the everyday social and democratic fabric of society

get involved where people are - campaigning in the workplace, facilitating local debates in neighbourhoods and on the web - and also involve people where they are - collaborating with unions, web and community activists

Aspiring progressive parties across Europe should learn more from each other, the French PS have a lot to learn from Labour and have indeed been inspired in Segolene's proposals (those that have been the most successful and most championed by Labour activists, although ironically not enough by the leadership). Having participated in election campaigns not only in the UK and France but also Spain and Sweden*, it is evident Labour have a lot to learn from their about winning hearts and minds - as Harriet Harman mentions, it needs to drop its guard if it wants to renew, as David Miliband argues being "bold Labour not old Labour". Segolene understood this through Desirs d'Avenir - dropping its guard does neither mean dropping our values nor dropping our activism, it means involving people in designing the party’s future - whether activists, supporters or the general public.

We have developed Desirs d'Avenir Euroregion, a cross border participative network which brings together activists across the Transmanche Euroregion (London and SE England, Paris and North of France and Belgium) to share ideas, scale up proposals for a new social Europe and participate in campaigns across Europe.

After election campaigns in Spain and Sweden, we are now going over to Paris to campaign for Segolene between 18-23 April. If you are interested in joining us please contact noel@lme-lse.org.uk.



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