Christmas 2017, I went to my first Labour Party event.
I joined the Labour Party in the summer of 2017, whilst in my home town of Swindon. The only difference to me and thousands of other people was, my first Labour meetings wasn’t in my home town, it wasn’t in my university city or in London where I had previously lived. It was in Spain’s capital: Madrid.
Prior to my first meeting I had lived in Madrid for a year. I had searched for something to do but couldn’t find much more that language exchanges or book clubs that read boring novels that I had little interest in. In short, I was bored.
Returning to the motherland
The first summer back in Swindon working as a substitute nurse, to help retain my registration, I became angry at the state of the NHS and decided to join the Labour Party. Previously, whilst living in London I had been less supportive of Jeremy Corbyn but had always voted Labour.
I have a clear memory of two years before, sitting in the dark tourist riddled pub opposite Big Ben chatting with a friend, around the time of the first leadership election. I remember not knowing who to support, but thinking that Corbyn looked unelectable. I’m glad to say that in the coming years I was proven wrong and became strong admirer of Jeremy Corbyn.
Back to the heat
I returned back to Madrid, after the summer, and followed the Labour Party from a far, I was signed up to The Swindon Labour Party Constituency. I knew nothing of Labour supports abroad. After spending a number of months getting used to my new job, I decided to google Labour supporters in Madrid. I was pleasantly surprised come across the international wing of the Labour Party: Labour International.
Labour International is a constituency party within the Labour Party. The only difference is it doesn’t have an MP and its boundary is anywhere outside the UK. Originally it was more of a social club, however since the boom in membership it has gained many members. Its membership now stands at roughly 3600 members, all over the world.
Labour International also has the right to put delegates for at conference, as well as motions. This year they have submitted a real change motion for open selection (a.k.a. mandatory reselection)
I found many Labour International Facebook pages with a whole community of people coming together to discuss the Labour Party from various countries around the world. This ranges from the right and the left wings of the party.
Meeting people for real
After contacting a few people, I went to a small gathering of around seven Labour party supporters. This was in a typical no-frills bar, where we perched on low stools and spoke about why we joined the Labour Party. We came to the consensus is that we would like to build a branch if we had enough people. This was the start of my Labour journey abroad.
After my first meeting in December, I attended the next Labour Party meeting, we had around 11 participants! Most people were concerned with Brexit, but also people just wanted to get involved with politics in the United Kingdom. There was a wide range of people of different views and intentions. We have said
I was unsure if I would become frustrated with the limitations of how much you can do from a foreign country for a political party. However, we have persisted. Meeting like-minded people to discuss and debate the state of politics in both Spain and the UK has been a great success.
Being politically active from aboard is rather difficult but possible.
To have an impact we have formed an official Labour Party branch. With this we can pass motions, campaign together to get British immigrants to vote and we can network within the local community. Labour International is becoming more democratic and politically active within the party. This is a very exciting time to be part of this process.
Forming the branch also gives a focal point for Labour supporters abroad, and the ability to socialise, discuss political issues in the UK and become politically active. We also enjoy a good British past time. A beer and criticising the Tories.
So far, we have had a pub quiz team, a picnic in memory of Jo Cox, an informal and business meeting every month and we have even had speakers at our meetings.
At our meetings we have engaging debate on things like British politics, the state of Spain. We also discuss broader topics such as feminism and the current situation of Lavapies.
Hopefully in the future telephone banking, online campaigning and engaging in conversation with local British immigrants, will help the Labour cause too.
So as you can see there are plenty of reasons to be involved.
If you would like to join the Madrid branch, please follow the link.
If I don’t live in Madrid?
Furthermore, if you have the benefit of living in another country, that is not the UK, you can look for your local Labour International branch. They have been springing up everywhere as we have been using Zoom (better than Skype) to set up meetings. Even the Canary Islands has a branch!
At this moment branches are being formed in parts of Africa, Eastern Europe, France, Germany, South of Spain, USA and in Australia. Some have the added advantage of being able to meet face-to-face and many others meet over the Internet.