A curmudgeon writes

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8 years ago, when I was elected sabbatical Communications Officer of LDYS, one of my first acts was to scrap the “agony aunt” column. Now I see it is back again.

The good news is that, being written by Lord Bonkers, it is less likely to descend into a series of in-jokes that only certain members of the executive could possibly get or find funny, but I can’t help but wander how on earth LDYS can justify spending what little income it receives on such things.

Back when LDYS still took even a mild amount of interest in what I have to say, I would attempt to plead with them to scrap Free Rad. I’ll say it again here: it doesn’t particularly achieve anything, is a pain to produce and costs too much. The organisation’s lively web forum replaced Free Rad’s role as a platform for debating issues long ago. And frankly, all too often it has served to portray an image of the organisation as a bunch of precocious Oxbridge students with their heads in the clouds and very little interest in actual politics.

The opportunity is now there for LDYS to go the next step and develop a community website along the lines of LabourHome. The good news is, it would cost them very little to do, what with software such as elgg.net readily available.

Come on, you young whippersnappers, get with the 21st century! Use the money you have to spend on targeted mailings to improve attendence at conferences and training events like Activate.

4 thoughts on “A curmudgeon writes

  1. In defence of Free Rad – it’s really pretty chock full of campaigning information (this one contains advice on building branch websites, reports back on overseas trips taken by members representing the organisation, tips for student societies, details of plans to re-junivate LDYS in Scotland and details of upcoming events) as well as discussion pieces. We do also run the forums (which have over 800 members) and send out eNews to well over 2000 members every single week, which I think is pretty handy. I happen to think that the forums as they stand (though they could be improved) are infinitely better than LabourHome at getting member interested, discussing and then hopefully (and if they want to) involved. Free Rad plugs the forums, which plugs eNews and so on, using different form of media is more effective than investing entirely in one. Incidentally, in this edition, we do discuss using the web more (we’re revamping our site), using SMS polls, podcasts, etc.

    Having been an armchair member (of LDYS, active in the ‘grown up party’) it was an edition of Free Rad a couple of years ago which prompted me to get active, and so I’ve always thought it was pretty worthwhile. We also always forget that lots of our members do not want to deliver leaflets, will never deliver leaflets and just want to receive a decent service from a membership organisation. The idea that the only people who matter are those who want to be turned into dedicated footsoldiers is unhealthy. Last year we (finally) surveyed all our members, and found that Free Rad was one of the few areas of LDYS that members were overwhelmingly happy with.

    Not that I would ever consider reading the damned thing, but I understand LDYS is obliged by its constitution to send 4 member mailings per year anyway, and since the cost of producing Free Rad is not enormous, and it is usually combined with a conference mailing, it might as well be readable, rather than just democrat sans trash.

  2. I should have made clear that I haven’t seen a copy of Free Radical for a year since the organisation kicked me off its Friends scheme for making unhelpful comments about the previous chair, and so if it does contain campaigning material in it I’m delighted to hear it: that’s a change from 12 months ago. But I’m not convinced that the fact a survey you put out with Free Rad showed that Free Rad was popular actually means anything since the Free Rad readers would have responded disproportionately. What was done to maximise responses from the silent majority.

    Incidently, I wasn’t calling for the forums to be axed, far from it. What I was proposing (which it would appear that Rob Fenwick is setting up anyway) would have been an extra, not a replacement.

  3. Fair enough, I didn’t know anything about your history with LDYS. On the idea of an equivelant to ConHome and Labour Home, I thought perhaps Liberal Review was heading that way, but I’d be interested to see more about what Rob Fenwick is thinking of. I stand by Free Rad though!

  4. When I was an armchair member, Free Rad was pretty much the only thing I received. I’d question, though, whether it’s that cheap. It certainly used to be the case that it was a significant financial burden. Of the various activities aimed at LDYS members, it was the most expensive, eating up the majority of the membership fee of anyone paying the minimum sub.

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