What Labour can learn from the Liberal Democrats

November 15, 2010 10:04 am

Lib dem logoBy Emma Burnell / @scarletstand

The Labour Party are in the long running process of reviewing it’s Partnership into Power process, the way in which policy is decided by the party as a whole, by the National Policy Forum and by members. This will be a long and exhaustive process, and at the end of it, we will need to have a robust process where policy is discussed and debated and that we see our ability to do so as a credit to us, not a discomfiture to the leadership.

Many Lib Dems I know are rightly pleased with their internal policy making process, feeling a real democratic buy in. Sadly this is now being stretched to the limit by the difference between Lib Dem policy, and the actions taken by Lib Dem ministers and MPs in government. There seems to be little point in having policies you won’t enact. The public simply won’t believe you if you campaign on them having done the opposite in government.

So Labour need to find a way to square these tensions. That way cannot be the top down policy imposition of the past, but neither can it be the case that policy cannot change as circumstances do. We need to learn both the positive and negative from the Lib Dems current circumstances.

My own idea would involve both expanding and strengthening the National Policy Forum (disclosure: I have recently been elected for the first time to the NPF). At present, I don’t think it’s too controversial to say that the NPF is not taken very seriously by the party machine, and this needs to change. It is the voice of the members in policy making and needs to be given the status that deserves.

But the NPF needs to be a more able body to make that kind of policy. It needs far greater representation from all parts of the party and debates need to be facilitated online between the sporadic meetings. There ought to be special conferences of the NPF called when the leadership feel the need to change policy from the decided course and – like the coalition agreement was to the Lib Dem members – the membership must decide if it is the right course. I have a great deal of faith in our current leadership to be persuasive if a change is required.

I want us to be an attractive party for both former Lib Dem voters and activists (we can teach them how bar charts work), and in order to do so, we need to give them what they thought they had in the Lib Dems until sold out by their leadership.

More than this though, I want us to be a mass membership party with a voice in every community. We won’t do this until the voices we have are being heard at all levels of the party.

Emma Burnell also blogs here.

Comments are closed

Latest

  • News Photo: Miliband meets Obama at the White House

    Photo: Miliband meets Obama at the White House

    Here’s the official White House photo of Miliband’s meeting with president Obama at the White House earlier today. Far from a “brush-past”, it looks (from this photo at least) like the two had a serious sit down meeting. As for the imagery – Miliband and his team will be pleased this is what the White House have put out, with the President reaching out a hand to the Labour leader: You can read what the two men talked about here.

    Read more →
  • Featured What Miliband and Obama talked about at the White House

    What Miliband and Obama talked about at the White House

    Ed Miliband got his meeting with President Obama this evening (afternoon East Coast time). It lasted just short of half an hour, when Obama joined a meeting with National Security Adviser Susan Rice. There’s also a photo of Miliband and Obama – but (interestingly, as it means Obama and his team are “owning” the visit, it’s being sent out by the White House). Here’s what a Miliband spokesperson said the two men talked about: Ed Miliband today met President Barack Obama for […]

    Read more →
  • News Photo: Miliband at the White House

    Photo: Miliband at the White House

    Update: Miliband did get his meeting with Obama, it lasted half an hour and included discussion on Ukraine, Gaza and the “cost of living crisis”. More details (and a photo) when we have it.  Update: The Obama Miliband photo exists – it’s being issued by the White House… Ed Miliband is meeting the US National Security Adviser Susan Rice (and…maybe someone else) this evening. Here’s Miliband arriving at the White House (photo courtesy of @edstradling): And here’s Miliband and Douglas […]

    Read more →
  • News Tory MP criticises Cameron, saying it’s “tokenism” that got women into the cabinet

    Tory MP criticises Cameron, saying it’s “tokenism” that got women into the cabinet

    Richard Drax, Conservative MP for South Dorset, has said that David Cameron’s decision to promote more women MPs (but remember, with some demotions, on our count there are only 2 more women in the Cabinet than prior to the reshuffle) to the Cabinet is tokenism. On his website, Drax said that he didn’t oppose women “getting the top jobs” but said they “like their male counterparts” must “get their on merit and not just because they are women and a […]

    Read more →
  • News Polling Labour move to 8 point lead in Lord Ashcroft poll

    Labour move to 8 point lead in Lord Ashcroft poll

    Often a Cabinet reshuffle will see a polling boost for the party in question – but not for David Cameron. Over the course of the last week, the Tories have dropped five points, according to the latest Lord Ashcroft poll, with Labour taking an eight point lead. The results are: Labour 35%, Tories 27%, UKIP 17%, Lib Dems 7%, Greens 7% Since beginning his weekly polls in May, Ashcroft’s results have been notoriously volatile, often appearing to be the most extreme […]

    Read more →