Unfortunately the speeches didn’t stop. It seems that many people had prepared lengthy, drawn out speeches about the cuts and were hell-bent on saying their piece despite being severely restricted for time.
All the speeches were pretty good but went over the same themes with perhaps a slight slant on it. This was not a rally where we were trying to put out a message to the wider public, this was supposed to be about getting organised and deciding on some action. Instead it ended up with people who see themselves as the prominent activists getting their egos massaged.
There were three things on the agenda for the meeting; a name for the group, how to structure the group and when the next meeting will be.
These three things were all decided within the last five minutes with minimal if no discussion at all.
So what have we got from the meeting? We have a name, we have everyone’s contact details, we have an unelected steering committee and a next meeting date that is so early it risks alienating many people who work past 5pm (but care was taken to make sure the steering committee could all make it).
The situation we have currently in the group is no better than we had before, we’ve still got a group of activists making all the decisions and a group of supporters responding to a call for marches, etc.
This should not, however, be a reflection on the people who put together the meeting as they did try to get some discussion going on the subject of organisational structure. The only failure on their part was allowing people to go on with their speeches and not getting through the agenda.
It is not all bad though, at least we know what went wrong and these things can be corrected.
My practical suggestions for the next meeting are:
Starting the meeting off with invited speakers only
Getting through the practical agenda of the meeting
Then having speeches from the floor if time permits.
Topics for the next agenda should include (in my opinion):
Structure of the group (preferably having a collective decision-making process with an electable and re-callable committee without decision-making powers)
Sorting out a regular meeting time suitable for the majority of members (not just committee members)
Finding out what skills people have to give the campaign (website, printing, logo making skills, etc)
Tactics (should we just have marches or should we be doing other things aswell?)
What actions do we support? (Do we support the Millbank students, for example?)
A plan of action
Hopefully what will come out of this is a democratic campaign with a lot of fighting spirit that is able to take on the cuts by going past the usual A to B marches.