The stepping down of Loz and Ed might seem like some to be the end of the Pirate Party. They couldn’t be further from the truth. While both Ed and Loz have been valuable members of the executive team, to say they’re indispensable, and of critical importance to the party is not only being overly dramatic, but also insulting and demeaning to the many other people involved at all levels of the party.
Loz is not vanishing, riding off into the sunset, never to be seen again, so it’s far from the doom and gloom that you might think. He’s stepping back, recharging his batteries batteries, focusing on his own local area, and letting someone else refocus things.
In a lot of ways, it’s actually a good thing. While Loz’s leadership has been stable, and allowed us to grow, it’s also been very much Loz’s leadership. his habits and practices could quite easily take on a form of tradition, which would be harder to break later on. We’re also a party that thrives on fact and evidence. We’ve tried the Loz way, and it’s given slow-but-steady growth which is great, but can anther way give us better growth? The only way to know is to experiment with different leaders, and if they end up worse, They’re still there – we didn’t make them walk the plank.
Moving on, however, the wider question is what next?
There are three clear areas of concern right now, that I feel we should be focusing our efforts on.
The Human Rights Act and the attempts to weaken it.
The Snoopers Charter
There’s also the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Treaty, but that’s a somewhat distant 4th place behind these three big, current and incredibly important issues. This treaty has been ongoing a while, and will take place on an international timescale, and have multiple players, so it’s not something that can only be dealt with by us, but will be addressed in participating countries in Europe and the Americas.
I will address these issues in their own posts in the future.
There are also some internal (party-focused) issues we need to be better on.
We need to grow our membership. From comparing 2009’s membership figures (590) to 2014 (684), they’re not all that different. Sure we’ve had high times, and low times (which were actually consecutive years) but we need more growth. This is important for both of the next two reasons, as well as for its own obvious one.
We need more volunteers. it’s sad to say that the majority of the work of the party is carried out by less than two-dozen individuals. It can lead to burn-out (as with Loz, Ed and Andy) plus it centralises failure points. If I get sick, that’s something like 4-5% of our volunteer base unavailable (side note, I have been very sick since late march, but have still tried to do what I can – the election Liveblog was almost powered by the pretty much the maximum legal doses of pain, cold, flu, cough, and allergy medication; because our volunteer ranks are so low) and that harms us at times of great importance, for both the party and this country, times like now. Unfortunately, the low numbers means that when people do step up, they’re may find a bunch of work suddenly dumped on them, which discourages them, and they walk away.
It’s not that much work. The job of a governor for instance, mostly entails checking your email once a day, and attending an online meeting (which lasts about an hour) once a month (with perhaps a few other things that come up every now and then). An hour a week (even spread out over the week) from 10 people would make a massive difference to many of our volunteer teams. And it’s not like there are not benefits to you. It can help teach you a new skill, or hone an interest you’ve always had, so it’s not only a chance to help the party, it’s a good way to expand your own skill base (which is extremely valuable in the modern economy) with things you can add to your CV.
We also need to make more noise. more members does this, but I also hope that we can start being more outgoing. It’s often joked that we’re the party of shut-ins, hiding behind a computer screen, bashing out blog posts and sharing memes on social media. The reality is we’re often not even doing that. We need to speak out more, collectively. The party website includes a blog system, but often people don’t use it. Sure, not every piece is front-page worthy, but it’s a good way to start a conversation. I gave a list of the 3 topics I believe to be the most important for the party (and the country) above. I ask that any member reading this just gives it a try, just one blog post on any of those topics (you can do more, of course, or if you think there’s a more important topic, write about that). It doesn’t have to be long, it doesn’t have to be meticulously researched, just your thoughts on the topic, so we can have a conversation, a discussion, some ideas, and some thoughts. As the saying goes ‘think for yourself, it’s not illegal yet’, a thought uncommunicated never has a chance to blossom.
You don’t have to write though. If you are an artist, then please make some art – a political cartoon, a poster, some photography. If you’re a video person, then do a video. It doesn’t matter if it’s a quirky 15 second Vine, or a 60 minute lecture. An interpretive dance, a pop song, a sculpture, a get together, or even a conference – anything really, as long as it has the potential to engage people. All I ask is keep it sensible, family friendly (if possible), and most importantly, legal (that means no vandalising graffiti, etc.).
Our next problem is communication. As a group and a party we have to be better about communicating with each other. We’re a very open party, and overall a party with great technological literacy. Yet people aren’t leveraging that as well as they might. Even this past week, people have been hesitant to communicate with me, and that includes other party officers and volunteers, which I find… shocking and incredible. I’m perhaps the most available person there is (in most ways) – i can be reached via the party IRC, email, twitter (these are listed on my party profile), facebook, skype, pretty much any social media system, and I can even jump on the party mumble server, the only thing that’s less than optimal is that because I’m in the US, it’s a lot more expensive to telephone or SMS me (but I still provide a number, which one officer has used in the past). Even so, I’ve still had to get some information passed on second-hand. That has to change. We need to be better about talking to each other.
Finally, we need to come off our online-only bubble, and remember ‘meatspace’. Sure there’s free alternatives for just about every software package out there, thanks to FLOSS there are lots of online platforms that are also free. However, there’s a lot more that we do, and need to do that isn’t free. From hosting the website, to putting candidates on the ballot, it all costs money. It’s the lifeblood of any political party. I’m not saying you should go transfer your life-savings to the party, but we need to come up with more and better ways to fund the party. That’s everything from merchandise, to fundraising campaigns.
To put ALL these points into perspective, I give you this bit of data. The majority of the feedback I got during the election liveblog, as well as comments from people I interacted with on Twitter could be boiled down to two basic things.
First they thought we were a joke party, or were unaware of us and what we stood for until they were in the ballot box, where they were faced with the prospect of voting for a joke or unknown quality, or one they knew and agreed with somewhat. A lot of the time, it went the latter, and it wasn’t until after they voted they realised we were what they were looking for.
This is a lack of noise, and volunteers amplifying that noise, so they’re aware of us. It’s also a lack of money to finance a more substantial campaign, and volunteers to make that campaign a reality, and a lack of members to pass the message through word-of-mouth.
The other main message I got, was “I would have voted for you, but you didn’t have a candidate in my area”. While the obvious response is “well, would you be interested in being a candidate next time?“, we still need volunteers and members in the area to make that viable. Then we have the issue above, of ‘noise’ to make us electable.
Together, we can make things work, we can grow, expand and become a viable force, but it’s going to take a little effort from everyone. You wouldn’t be a member if our issues didn’t appeal and mean something to you, and perhaps it’s time we started showing others how much it means to us.
We have party elections opening at the end of the month. I will be running for a Governor slot, and I actually hope I lose. I hope I lose because enough people have decided to run, that we fill all the slots and I end up coming in 14th or something. That’s not to say I won’t be honoured if you, the members, return me as a governor, I just won’t be disappointed if I’m squeezed out by a glut of prospective governors – after 9 years in the movement, I’m not going anywhere or giving up, and I have plenty of other tasks to occupy me, such as documenting the first ten years of the Pirate movement (Jan 1 2006 – Dec 31 2015) around the world.
Most of all though, PPUK is not “My” party. Sure, I’m a member (and sometimes accused of being an incredibly influential one), but I’m no different from anyone else. Unlike the traditional and mainstream parties (Labour, Conservative, UKIP) I get no bonus points or extra influence for being white, male, or well educated, and I’m certainly not rich (I was born and raised in one of the less affluent areas of Liverpool, which is saying a lot since it’s the most economically depressed city in the UK).
Instead it’s your party, you, the members. It’s up to you as much as it is to me to help it succeed, and what’s more, I know you want to make it succeed too.
This text was originally posted on the PPUK site