Tom joined the Broxbourne Labour Party over the summer. Here's his diary of his first few months as a member.
I used to spend far too much time online, arguing with people about politics. I would get involved in twitter debates, I would retweet and share articles that made important points in an eloquent way. Most of my friends seemed to agree with me, I would get loads of 'likes', it seemed to be working.
And then election night came and went and it became clear that it hadn't worked at all. We now had a Conservative government who were determined to continue dismantling the society my grandparents fought to build. A Conservative government who want us to be a country of individuals out for ourselves, not a society that works together. A Conservative government who just don't care that there are people living in my neighbourhood who need to use foodbanks, who can't access proper physical and mental healthcare, who are struggling to make ends meet on wages that don't reflect the amount of work they are doing.
Staying in the online echo chamber listening to my own opinions reflected back at me wasn't going to help change things.
So I signed up and attended my first meeting.
My first meeting
The first meeting had a talk from Joan Ryan, MP from a neighbouring constituency. I have to admit I was a little nervous attending a meeting in a room full of strangers in a building I'd never been to before. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
Thankfully everyone was really welcoming and Joan spoke eloquently. She told us about the trade union bill that the Conservatives are pushing through, a truly draconian and unnecessary piece of legislation. We also discussed the situation in Syria. This was well before the attacks in Paris of course, but it was great to see a group of ordinary people discussing such an important issue with a sitting MP.
Also on the agenda was the then upcoming Labour party conference. We discussed our motion on the refugee crisis and how our delegate, Selina might vote if Trident was on the agenda. The debate, particularly on the last issue, was passionate, forthright but respectful of disagreement. I left the meeting feeling energised. This was clearly a group of people who cared about change as much as I did.
I've since attended a campaign group meeting, got stuck into some of the online work we're doing and have started looking at all the training materials available via the party website. I find myself brimming with ideas and, I can't believe I'm typing this, looking forward to getting out there in the cold winter air and talking to people about local issues.
I can't change the world sitting on my own in front of a computer. Maybe I can change my neighbourhood, just a little bit, by getting out of the house and working with like minded people.