Peoples_Charter_logoNorth London CP hosted a start-up meeting of the People's Charter addressed by Commission member John Hendy QC in Kings Cross [21 January]. Sign the Charter. Write to receive the petition.

In a well attended meeting on a cold rainy night, John Hendy took the opportunity to lay out the opportunities, challenges and complexity of popularising the six points of the People's Charter. But he was optimistic that the Charter could serve as a rallying point for progressive opinion and millions of people, described by one attendee as, "crying out for change".



The Charter had not had a smooth passage to prominence despite its simplicity and directness. John expressed the view this was because some saw in it, the platform of a new political party to oppose New Labour. But he said, "its mission was much grander than that" and, as discussion later in the meeting showed, the real aim was to turn the tide against neo liberalism and challenge pessimism and those who thought that life could not improve.

The meeting was no talking shop and he went away with a full list of ideas. There was a volunteer journalist who would work on newsletters for the campaign, factory workers who had already collected 100 signatures at a wine festival and were arranging a meeting in Kilburn high road, and young comrades who offered to set up a Charter google group for the area.

Some wanted to write to local newspapers and others planned to leaflet high streets. John Hendy called for the flowering of local Charter groups and the suggestion was made that this could be supplemented by workplace Charter groups and even those based on companies - British Airways was one suggested where the issue of freedom and defence of jobs went hand in hand - and other groups in the major industries. The meeting heard from one participant who was working with trade unionists in the meat industry where the entire Global shop steward's committee had discussed and agreed to endorse the Charter.

A further recommendation was made for there to be a quick click download local campaign pack which any group could take direct from the Charter website - it could include artwork for the petition, the leaflet explaining the Charter aims and a poster. All that would be needed then was a paste up table and off we could go! 

The broad and inclusive nature of the Charter made this kind of activity possible with organisations retaining the integrity of their internal processes whilst working together for a common aim. One comrade from the Cypriot community said "People are frustrated and angry. They look at the bankers and say things are wrong. The Charter gives them the chance to do something about it." John Hendy emphasised that the campaign would be a success, if it went beyond current organisations to bring in new forces, communities and individuals not previously involved in campaigns, especially the young. A good proportion of those attending fitted into those categories.

A point of discussion was the media blackout and the point was put strongly that we should not just accept it. The People's Charter had an excellent website which was a form of its own media but there was a strong case for establishing formally, with the NUJ and BECTU at the core, a media worker's Charter group. This could help produce news items and work amongst media colleagues to raise awareness of the Charter. It could insist that such an important initiative be given airtime.

Finally it was noted that the discussion and support around the Charter had, so far, been within the trade union movement. Trade unionists would be able to use it to challenge candidates in the forthcoming election to support core progressive policy. But there was an opportunity for the Charter to take root in colleges and universities. Local Charter groups could easily adopt a local college or university and ask to speak at meetings or start up a group. John urged us, "Do not box in the campaign. We need to go to people who don't consider themselves on the left and get them to agree with it."

Finally John said, " The Charter starts a discussion on so many problems and there are so many things to unite us. The vast majority of people have to fight to get out of this hole of neo-liberalism, which has led to war and enrichment for some but, in fact, for the very very few. The Charter is now out there and is being supported. We need only to believe it can be done and we can achieve the six points."