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

November 22, 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 However MPs voted on airstrikes – they must now hold the government to account

    However MPs voted on airstrikes – they must now hold the government to account

    Britain is now at war with ISIL. At some point over the weekend that will cease to be a technical statement and become an on-the-ground reality. RAF jets will take part in airstrikes against the so-called Islamic State. In concert with the Iraqi army and Kurdish forces they will attempt to damage and drive back ISIL, stopping their otherwise relentless military gains. It is a tough but necessary task. The vote in the Commons today was not a close one. […]

    Read more →
  • Featured The 24 Labour MPs who opposed airstrikes against ISIL

    The 24 Labour MPs who opposed airstrikes against ISIL

    The vast majority of Labour MPs (and MPs from across the Commons) voted in favour of airstrikes against ISIL in Iraq today, but 24 Labour MPs voted against the party whip and opposed airstrikes. One of them (Rushanara Ali) resigned as a Shadow Education Minister as a result of a “formal abstention”. Here’s the full list of Labour’s 24 rebels: Diane Abbott Graham Allen Anne Begg Ronnie Campbell Martin Caton Katy Clark Ian Davidson Paul Flynn Stephen Hepburn Kate Hoey Kelvin Hopkins […]

    Read more →
  • News Rushanara Ali resigns as Shadow Education Minister over Iraq vote

    Rushanara Ali resigns as Shadow Education Minister over Iraq vote

    The Commons has voted for air strikes against ISIL in Iraq. There were 24 Labour rebels but there has been one Shadow Ministerial resignation – Rushanara Ali has resigned as Shadow Education Minister after refusing to vote with the party whip on the vote. Ali abstained. Shadow Defence Secretary Vernon Coaker’s PPS Iain McKenzie was sacked for his No vote. Ali is the MP for Bethnal Green and Bow. The last Labour MP for that seat – Oona King – lost […]

    Read more →
  • News Video “This is the hardest test, but the aim is clear” – Watch Ed Miliband’s Iraq statement

    “This is the hardest test, but the aim is clear” – Watch Ed Miliband’s Iraq statement

    Ed Miliband this morning spoke in favour of UK involvement in airstrikes on ISIL in Iraq. He said: “ISIL’s ideology has nothing to do with the peaceful religion practised by people across the world and by millions of our fellow citizens, who are appalled by what we see. And it is not simply that ISIL is a murderous organisation, it has ambitions for a state of its own – a Caliphate across the Middle East, run according to their horrific […]

    Read more →
  • News The one picture that sums up UKIP Conference

    The one picture that sums up UKIP Conference

    “More Tory than the Tories” say Labour. “I am a Thatcherite” says Nigel Farage. Via Buzzfeed.

    Read more →
7ads6x98y