Your Britain is our website – and the good news is the Party think so too

22nd November, 2012 9:39 am

It’s very easy to be cynical about the Labour Party’s policy making process. My God is it easy.

In fact I’d go so far as to say that it’s not just easy, but the rational thing to do. If we take Einstein’s definition of insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. “ then cynicism as Labour launch their latest way of involving members in the policy making process is probably the sanest mindset possible.

But here’s the problem. If those who – like me – have urged the Party for years to open up our policy making processes, to trust members and to allow an open and frank conversation to take place approach this latest initiative with disengaged cynicism it will fail – but this time, it will be our fault.

I spend a great deal of my time talking about how the Party must open up policy making to members. Having been given a preview of the Your Britain website last week as a member of the National Policy Forum; and having talked to the policy team whose job it is to shepherd the website into existence and then develop it as it grows organically, I believe that the Party is making a genuine attempt to do just that.

There is a new spirit of transparency in the air at Brewers Green that I’ve not encountered before. It must be all those windows. There’s also a sense of adventure that is new and tangible; A can-do, let’s-give-it-a-whirl attitude that is about doing and learning from doing, not about over-cautious not doing.  The feeling I got, is that the staff are up for it.

That presents cynics like me with a challenge. We’re being given a real chance to prove ourselves. We’ve got a real chance to give Party members a voice. But it will need champions.

It is so much harder to be a champion than a cynic. You have to encourage people through the lean beginnings when there isn’t much content. You have to take part, put yourself out there and get involved. If we want to convince our leaders there is an appetite for policy discussion in the Party, we need to start by getting involved in that discussion, and getting others involved too.

If we don’t; if we start by believing it won’t work so why bother, we prove those who don’t trust us with the policy process right. We’ll have nothing to show for our lack of efforts except the truth that this time we will have failed our Party – not the other way around.

Let’s not let that happen. Let’s go out to our Constituency and Branch meetings armed with publically published policy papers for discussion. Let’s note those discussions and feed them back into the process through the website (where you can post as a branch or Constituency if you so choose). Let’s comment on each other’s ideas. Let’s encourage others to comment on ours.

The first few weeks of the website will be a precarious time. As the Labour Party is being completely open, they are open to abuse. With anyone allowed to comment, at first anyone will. People who exist only to be unpleasant will have a field day. If those of us who  are enthusiastic about member engagement don’t get involved in equal measure, we abandon the field to them. That’s no way to win a campaign.

If we can garner genuine member enthusiasm – the way we did with some of the responses to the Refounding Labour process – and couple that with the genuine desire of the staff and of the Chair of the NPF Angela Eagle to make this work, this has a chance. If we can make this the go to place for Labour policy discussion, the Shadow Cabinet will have little choice but to engage. They need to know what’s going on after all.

Things happen in the Labour Party all too frequently that activate my over-developed cynicism gland. But I’ll be damned if I let that natural reaction lose me the chance to champion the one thing I’ve been urging the Party to develop right from the start: an open, interactive policy process.

Three cheers say I, until I am proved otherwise.

Latest

  • Comment Featured We will always be Labour – but the debate about our future must also be allowed to flourish

    We will always be Labour – but the debate about our future must also be allowed to flourish

    In the coming weeks I expect these pages will see numerous appeals for unity, respect and humility. This process is natural and right. Though an inevitable consequence of an open democratic process, airing our dirtiest laundry in public has probably not helped the party’s short-term standing. But as we turn our attention once more to the common enemy we must shelve any lingering grievances. Further education colleges are being decimated, Sure Start provision dismantled; climate change dismissed, trade unions attacked, charities […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Uncategorized Tristram Hunt: There will be no Labour split

    Tristram Hunt: There will be no Labour split

    The Labour Party will not split if Jeremy Corbyn becomes leader, Tristram Hunt will declare today. The Shadow Education will say that the party’s history has been marked by two splits, both originating from the right of the party, and both leading to long periods of Conservative Government. Speaking at today’s Progress West Midlands conference, Hunt plans to say that while the Labour leadership election is “far from over”, all of the party must accept the result and “stay loyal […]

    Read more →
  • News Uncategorized Yvette Cooper says UK must still do more to take in refugees

    Yvette Cooper says UK must still do more to take in refugees

    Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper has praised the swell of public pressure for pushing David Cameron into making this morning’s announcement that the UK will provide “resettlement for thousands more Syrian refugees”. But she also says that more needs to be done to help those who have fled conflict and are already in Europe. Cooper says that the Britain could potentially house tens of thousands of refugees, and that “Cameron must still do more to respond to this humanitarian crisis”. The Labour […]

    Read more →
  • Comment 10 reasons to be wary of assisted dying

    10 reasons to be wary of assisted dying

    1. Assisted suicide is almost certainly not as popular as its supporters claim. Dignity In Dying claim that 82% of British people support assisted suicide, based on an online survey by the polling organisation Populus. This oft-repeated figure is a very bold claim, and so deserves to be subjected to some severe critical scrutiny (and even if it is accurate, it would not clinch the argument: sometimes we need to protect minorities regardless of majority feeling). So should we trust […]

    Read more →
  • News Is Ed Miliband going to rule out a return to frontline politics?

    Is Ed Miliband going to rule out a return to frontline politics?

    Ed Miliband could publicly rule out a return to frontline politics next week, according to this morning’s Times. The move would mean ruling himself out of a Shadow Cabinet position under Labour’s new leader. The paper reports that Miliband wants a break after spending five years as Leader of the Opposition. It is common for Labour leaders to step back from the frontbenches after leaving the role, with most never returning to a prominent role in the Commons. However, Miliband’s relative […]

    Read more →
Share with your friends










Submit