We need a culture of constant policy creation

7th March, 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…. «()


  • Comment Featured Osborne’s Northern Powerhouse risks being all fur coat

    Osborne’s Northern Powerhouse risks being all fur coat

    It’s a movement that shows no sign of slowing down. As cities and counties line up for devolution, the Chancellor is casting himself in the role of Commander in Chief. It took the Labour Party too long to recognise that after years of debate about Scottish independence and Welsh devolved government those of us who remain might rightly ask as well, what about us? Whatever your political view it is hard not to credit Mr Osborne and the many local leaders […]

    Read more →
  • Comment The Tories aren’t evil – and it’s not helpful to think of them so

    The Tories aren’t evil – and it’s not helpful to think of them so

    I am a Labour voter.  I am in fact a Labour member as of about 6 weeks ago.  Despite the best attempts of the triumphant ideologues of the far left who are have taken over the party, I have as much right to be in this party as they do (and potentially more given that so many of them have supported far-left anti-Labour parties such as the Greens and Trade Union and Socialist Coalition). As such, I’m not particularly fond […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Dinner snatchers: Are cuts to infant school dinners the dish of the day?

    Dinner snatchers: Are cuts to infant school dinners the dish of the day?

    With November’s Comprehensive Spending Review fast approaching, what is and isn’t mentioned in ministerial speeches at Conservative Party Conference should be taken as an indication of what is and isn’t up for grabs. Having been a general election commitment is no guarantee. The media coverage of Nicky Morgan’s speech today is likely to touch on her newly acquired status as an ‘outsider’ for next Tory leader. She is speaking on the same day as other higher profile pretenders to the […]

    Read more →
  • News Video “I never want to be remembered particularly” – Denis Healey’s final interview

    “I never want to be remembered particularly” – Denis Healey’s final interview

    Last night Newsnight aired the final broadcast interview that Denis Healey took part in before his death at the age of 98 this weekend. Filmed just a few weeks ago, the former Chancellor is asked how he would like to be remembered, replying modestly that “I never want to be remembered particularly.” He also says that he had entered politics in the 1940s because he wanted “to change the world”, but would probably not do so anymore “because the class […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured 5 things you need to know about the Tories’ energy and climate policies

    5 things you need to know about the Tories’ energy and climate policies

    1. The Tories’ energy and climate agenda is in a mess – and yesterday it got worse At their conference in Manchester the Tories desperately needed to re-set their approach to energy and climate change. Since the election the government has cut, delayed and scrapped multiple energy schemes putting jobs and investment at risk, setting back our efforts to tackle climate change. Before yesterday everyone knew the Tories’ green agenda was a mess, but in their speeches George Osborne and […]

    Read more →
Share with your friends