We need a culture of constant policy creation

March 7, 2012 2:04 pm
Mark Ferguson complains that Labour activists are being sent onto the doorstep “naked”. Thankfully, for their health, Mark is referring to our lack of substantive policy to talk about on the doorstep.He is right and I think his concern is a common-one within the Party. However, one thing concerns me about these calls for some embellishment of our policy position; while the pleas for this are correct, it neglects the membership role in substantive policy creation. It tends to amount to a rather desperate plea that Ed or A N Other say something, pretty much anything, that we feel we can sell as showing we have a distinctive agenda.
On one level however, this paucity is not that surprising given that the National Policy Forum meets about once every other blue moon. However, the problems run deeper than that – at a local level we are generally terrible at having substantive policy discussion and democratic policy-input as well. I attended one Labour meeting recently where, quite absurdly, discussion of the last meeting’s minutes took up as much time as the discussion on our manifesto for the local elections. On the flip-side, I was also involved in a working group on the self-same manifesto that brought three bright, young and talented new members into the process of policy making. Unsurprisingly, they are in politics to change our local area and indeed the world for the better and ideas and discussions about policy (and therefore political ideas) are key to that.
So, one positive and one negative experience which tell us a lot about where we need to go. If we are to encourage people to join and take an active part in this party we need to give people a democratic stake in this key area. This will not happen if our National Policy Forum does not meet, so clear and rigid guidelines need to put in place by our National Executive Committee that provide and enforce regular meetings of the NPF. However, we also need a concerted campaign to inculcate a strong culture of ever-present political discussion in our CLPs, LGCs and branches. The NEC should be leading this to ensure we have as much evenness across the Party as we can realistically expect. Of course, a certain amount of business will always have to take place in meetings to ensure local parties do not become the property of self-perpetuating cliques, but it should be kept to the minimum required to safeguard against this.
Membership input into policy making is not an academic issue or an optional extra. Members are the living link between the Westminster bubble and the currently weather-beaten doorstep. If Labour members had previously had more input into policy making, many of the mistakes we made in government simply would not have happened.
Labour urgently need some policy clothes but ultimately it should not be Ed Miliband that weaves them but every Labour member.
  • Redshift

    I think manifestos for local elections are a massive waste of time. Who the hell (except a Tory or journalist looking to discredit you) is going to bother reading it? 3 or 5 key pledges is more than enough ‘policy’ for a local election campaign. 

    That said, I don’t think you’re necessarily wrong about policy development itself. Local parties should be pinging off national/regional policy suggestions to the different levels of the party and to each other. If they have a Labour Council they should pressure them with policy ideas (Living Wages perhaps? Some have done it). 

  • Jeff_Harvey

    The past teaches us that promises in manifestos are dishonoured post-election, most notably by the Labour Party from 1997 to 2010. 

  • Pingback: Missing in action: two big ideas for Labour…. «

Latest

  • Comment Affordable housing not fox hunting

    Affordable housing not fox hunting

    Attending my first Labour Conference as a Parliamentary Candidate (PPC) was always going to be an interesting experience. And whilst Conference was rightly focusing on the strategy to win our all important key seats in seven months time, both the fringe events and policy announcements showed that there is now a clear policy platform to allow us to take our One Nation Labour Party to the doorsteps of even the most challenging seats. Having been selected for a ‘safe’ Tory […]

    Read more →
  • News TSSA union members vote to keep poitical fund

    TSSA union members vote to keep poitical fund

    Members of the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) trade union have voted to keep their political fund, which goes towards campaigning for policies to help their members, as well as reaffirming their links to the Labour Party. Unions have been required to ballot members on whether they want to keep their political fund every ten years ever since the Tories brought through the legislation in the 1980s – and since then there have been no high profile cases of members voting […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Labour and the rise of the machines

    Labour and the rise of the machines

    Technology is already transforming our homes in ways we could not have dreamed of only a few years ago, and these same technologies are altering how we work and interact. The impact of the automation of jobs and mechanisation has created increasing uncertainty surrounding the employment prospects of white-collar workers previously immune to such problems. At conference, Ed Balls was right to say that “across the developed world, rapid technological change is replacing traditional skilled jobs too – in banking […]

    Read more →
  • News Labour supporters want an EU referendum, latest poll finds

    Labour supporters want an EU referendum, latest poll finds

    A recent poll has found that 45% of Labour supporters are for a referendum on the EU, with 36% against it. The polling conducted by YouGov for think tank British Future between 14th and 15th September also found that when looked at in terms of the electorate as a whole 57%  of people are in favour of a referendum and only 23% are against. YouGov said that when asked, 52% of those who took part in the polls largely believed […]

    Read more →
  • News Are the Tories more likely to protect hedge funds than the NHS?

    Are the Tories more likely to protect hedge funds than the NHS?

    Well, yes – according to the people of Birmingham. It’s been reported that in his speech tomorrow David Cameron will attempt to claw back some legitimacy for the Tories when it comes to the NHS. But, it looks like Cameron’s latest policy announcement (where he’ll promise that by 2020 everyone in England will be able to access a GP every day of the week) will do little to undo the public’s belief that the Tories can’t be trusted with the […]

    Read more →
7ads6x98y