Having spent a couple of days reflecting on the result, on Loz's resignation as leader (https://pirateparty.org.uk/blogs/loz-kaye/moving) and Andy's comments (https://pirateparty.org.uk/blogs/andy-halsall/fight-your-rights-and-party) about stepping back further I offer the following for the party as a whole. Thoughts and suggestions on three areas where I think that the next leadership would do well to focus on:
Whilst I believe that Loz has been a good 'external' leader - both locally on the ground in Manchester and in trying to raise the party profile nationally - I would suggest that this has been at the cost of 'internal' leadership. What I mean by this is that there is shockingly little engagement and communication to existing members. By way of example - even Loz's retirement blog is just a blogpost on the website which has been linked to on Twitter - it really should be sent by email to every member so that they know what is going on. If the NEC is not engaging with members, then members will not engage back again - leaving a very small group doing too much work and burning out whilst struggling to run campaigns in a focused and long-term manner.
As an organisation we need to encourage and support people who want to help and volunteer - and there are such people, but we need engage and not ignore them, even if they want to do things differently to the way in which you would do them yourself. Yes, running things using volunteer's is messy and sometimes things will get dropped - but that's why you need internal leadership - to support and encourage, to focus and follow-up. When people get more involved, they start to get a sense of ownership - they are then more willing to talk about the party with friends and family rather than being a slightly guilty pleasure that no-one knows about. This starts by being very open and positive about all the things that are being done - about the way in which people can get involved, and by communicating with them.
Focus - Are we a political party, or a campaign group?
I believe that we need to focus ruthlessly on elections and have a 5 year plan - not starting in September to think about a General Election in May. There should be a reason that we are a political party and not just another 'Open Rights Group'. As an aside, I also think that the GE is not the right election for the party to focus on in any way - the national profile and First Past the Post system absolutely kills smaller parties (even UKIP - who "won" the European elections a year ago only got 1 seat and even that was only on Carswell's personal vote in Clacton). As such I believe that the party should have a strong and solid 4 year plan leading up to the European Elections in 2019 - given the link with other Pirate Parties across Europe, and the fact that our key issues (Mass Surveillance, Copyright Reform, Digital Rights) are best solved internationally, that should be by far our most attractive election.
Everything prior to that should be done on the basis of building to that point. We have 4 years to build the profile, status, finances and membership of the party such that we can credibly run in every region in 2019, and have a genuine chance at a potential seat in at least one or two of the larger regions. (I would suggest London and/or the North-West as the most likely candidates based on demographics, size and history). We need to arrive at that point with everyone in the country being able to answer 'Who are the Pirate Party and what do they care about?'. In the same way as everyone 'thinks' that they know what UKIP are for (anti-EU) and the Greens (Environment). I would be tempted to suggest a new tag-line going forward which we keep for 4 years - at the point at which we are utterly, utterly bored by it, it might just about be reaching out into the public consciousness. Something like 'Pirate Party - because Digital Rights ARE Human Rights' (clearly could do with improvement, but you get the idea).
As a minimum that means people running in parliamentary by-elections as and when they come up, even if they are not that 'local'. It means running in the London and Welsh (? and Scottish) Assembly elections in May next year, it means building credible branch organisations across the country within a working organisational structure with people willing and able to compete in local elections as well.
Policy vs Process
As a party we need to solve the inherent contradiction between 'Evidence Based Policy' and 'Public / Member chosen Policy'. We currently have some policies that have absolutely no evidence base behind them, but were voted on by the membership. There is also the danger with 'member voted policy' that you end up with a large bunch of spending commitments, and no matching tax-raising commitments to pay for them. Given this, it is easy to see why as a party we have started to get pigeon-holed as 'another party of the left' - which personally I find very difficult - economically I am instinctively not of 'the left'.
If we keep to the principle of 'Evidence Based Policy' (which I believe that we should do) then we need to find a way of measuring policies against that benchmark, and getting rid of them if they don't measure up - even if they are popular. Equally, I believe that we need to focus more on 'Core' Policies, and focus relentlessly on them. We need to get much better at explaining to people why they should care about copyright reform, about digital rights and Mass Surveillance - about why it matters to them, and more importantly - how dealing with them would make a tangible and positive difference to their lives.
The above may sound like a manifesto for a leadership bid - but it is not. I don't have the time at present to put myself forward for any of the NEC positions and so will not be doing so. Whilst I could probably do 'a job', I would not be able to do it to the degree that I would want to do so given my existing personal commitments.
I do think that the party has a really important role to play in society and the political arena and that it has the opportunity over the next 4 years to do amazing things with the right leadership, focus and desire. My thoughts on some of the ways that the party should move forward are above, but I am sure that others will have different views that are equally valid - as a party we should not be afraid of an open and honest discussion on this and I welcome and encourage that.
For the moment, using a cricketing analogy, I will sit back in the pavilion for a short while, recharging my batteries and watching on - ready to step back into the fray again at some point in the future depending on the direction that the party has taken.
I will also put this out there - whoever takes on the leadership of the party, I am willing to offer myself as a sounding board and mentor. It appears that historically the 'Urgent' has been the enemy of the 'Important' - that is that people get so distracted and focused on fighting small fires immediately in front of them that they miss the opportunities to deal with the bigger picture and the longer term. If I can help people to maintain focus, to guide and support where needed so that the party is able to take the big steps forward that it needs to over the next 4 years, then that is something which I believe I have the skills for, and is something I am willing to do if requested.
To Loz, Andy, Ed and all the others - Thank You for all your hard work and dedication over the years.
To whoever comes next - Good Luck! Keep in touch, and please put forward your own thoughts and plans for the future of the party for others to engage with and get on board with.
201* Refers to the number of votes I recieved in the election.