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…. «()

Latest

  • Comment Defeat doesn’t make us defunct

    Defeat doesn’t make us defunct

    It’s frustrating when protests and demonstrations are shrugged of as a meaningless waste of time and those who pick up a placard and participate are faced with accusations of ‘disillusionment’ and of being ‘sore losers’. The thousands of people who took to the streets of London (and in cities across the country) on June 20th had every right to do so. Yes, Labour suffered a cataclysmic defeat at the ballot box resulting in the Conservatives prevailing as the ‘winning’ party […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured The EU Referendum could do to Labour in England what the independence referendum did in Scotland

    The EU Referendum could do to Labour in England what the independence referendum did in Scotland

    The issue of Europe rarely stirs Labour’s soul. The current attitude of ‘we’re moderately pro mainly because the antis come across as a bunch of swivel-eyed fruitcakes’, has not served Labour badly, partly because it chimes with the majority view. Despite two decades of daily derision and drip-feed EU hostility from a small group of mostly foreign media-owning billionaires, poll after poll has shown a majority in favour of staying. But while leadership contenders tiptoe cautiously round this subject, in […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Yvette Cooper launches child poverty petition

    Yvette Cooper launches child poverty petition

    Yvette Cooper is launching a child poverty petition, which calls on the government to rethink plans to cut tax credits. She says these plans will push thousands more children into poverty. Cooper is one of four people in the running to be Labour’s next leader. Today at a leadership hustings in Swindon she will say 4 million children are living in poverty in the UK, 500,000 more than when David Cameron first became Prime Minister. She will point out that in the […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured Cutting the public health grant would be a cut to the NHS

    Cutting the public health grant would be a cut to the NHS

    Amidst the chaos of the coalition’s NHS reforms a few years ago responsibility for public health services moved from primary care trusts to local authorities. Credit where it is due, this is the one move of those controversial reforms that presented a positive opportunity. Public health’s relationship with local government is a historic one and many in local government stood ready to drive forward a progressive public health agenda once again, aiming to tackle alarming health trends and health inequalities. […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Scotland Scotland has a housing crisis and it demands radical solutions

    Scotland has a housing crisis and it demands radical solutions

    It’s vital that Scottish Labour goes into next year’s Holyrood elections with a bold and ambitious manifesto. Few issues need ambition more in Scotland than housing. With 150,000 people currently on waiting lists and private landlords pocketing more than £450m in housing benefit, there is a housing crisis. This week I was inspired on a visit to the West Whitlawburn Housing Cooperative in South Lanarkshire. Approaching its 25th birthday, the Coop provides over 600 properties and has transformed a community. […]

    Read more →
Share with your friends










Submit