Neal Lawson’s powerful pitch in the Guardian today that Labour can still create and a period of prolonged change is a good place to begin the debate as nominations for the Labour leadership close later today.
“Labour itself did not become the nasty party, but it did become lumbering and arrogant. And much worse than its presentational problems, it became plain wrong. Wrong on the relationship between the market and society, wrong on pluralism and democracy, wrong on Iraq, and wrong on this being a Conservative country. It ended with no vision of the good society and what we value. Aspiration was purely material. New Labour simply dried up and gave up.”
There were, of course, further such disappointments with the last government – the 10p tax rate, civil liberties abuses, the Ghurkas – even in the last few years. But Lawson’s intervention today is important because it talks about the soul of the party and the country, not just the minutiae that make up policy.
Organisationally, too, Labour needs to improve and become embedded in communities, as I wrote last week. As Lawson says, the test for Labour now is whether it can become “stronger as a movement – of the party, the unions, local government and civil society.”
But I agree with Neal: Labour should have the confidence and belief in whichever new leader it chooses to inspire the party to win the big arguments of the future: on universal free school meals, on improved regulation of the markets, on the revolution in housing that’s needed. That means we also need a leader who will talk about the big picture, the type of society we want to be and the type of nation we are.