The movement IS the policy – why changing the way the party works is bigger than Clause IV

February 7, 2013 9:04 am

Last night Jon Cruddas gave a speech at the Resolution Foundation on Labour’s Policy Review. Much of the focus has been on comments regarding the timetable of the review, and Cruddas’s argument that merely opposing the cuts isn’t enough (which should have been self-evident to anyone who has looked at Labour’s economic approval ratings).

But there was more to Jon’s speech than that – in particularly a radical idea that Cruddas himself suggested could be a modern Clause IV, but which could actually be far more significant than that. It’s almost sacrilege in the Labour Party to say that something could be bigger than Clause IV. Those who hated the change see it as a terrible loss, those who supported it see it as Blair’s defining moment in the quest for electability. Yet abolishing the clause was largely a symbolic gesture. No-one in the Labour Party seriously believed that Blair, or any other leader, planned to pursue a strategy of “common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange”. But what Cruddas is talking about changes the way in which people (rather than just politicians) interact with the state, and could fundamentally alter the way in which the Labour Party operates. Last night he said:

“The quiet revolution within the party led by Iain McNicol and Arnie Graf is perhaps the most encouraging of all the Labour stories. In that it is developing local leadership and local campaigns. It is confronting centralism and bureaucracy; remote authority and alienation within the actual Party itself. I would suggest 20 years on this could be the modern equivalent of the Party reformation supplied by Tony Blair with the changes to Clause IV.”

and:

“Overall our Party itself is the key to The Policy Review. There has been a campaigning priority given to a Living Wage and a renegotiation of energy bills through party organisation. Innovative growth partnerships are being developed in our Councils.  These deal directly with the issue of wages and debt, of earning and belonging.  They are campaigns that link up to the fundamental issues of working and family life.”

Cruddas lauded the power of local campaigns on living wages, local regulation and accreditation of landlords and high street campaigns around food, gambling and licensing to name but a few. What he’s arguing is that the street, the community, the marketplace, the factory floor and the call centre staff room must be where Labour Party policy is grounded. Campaigns coming from those places – like the Living Wage – which prove successful will gain more credit from Cruddas than well written reports. Or as he said last night – ‘Do the work don’t write a proposal’. He might also have said that listening to and encouraging active local parties whilst in government would have stopped crises like the one we’re currently facing in housing.

If done right – with a proper process for local parties to feed into the policy process – Cruddas’s plan can give a purpose to local parties that is about organising in their communities for positive change which feeds up into Labour’s legislative plan for government. That’s a change that works for and includes party activists and local communities – and helps the state encourage and focus on the priorities of those same communities – but also frees the state to focus on priorities, rather than micro-managing society. What is needed is a manifesto rooted not in the think tanks of Westminster (although there is a place for them) but in the real lives of people working long hours in difficult conditions for low pay. By building a movement that hands real power – and a real say – to people not politicians, Cruddas suggests that the movement IS the Policy Review. The false line between political campaigning and political organising is being taken down, brick by brick.

If it works, it’s not symbolism, it’s a process by which the Labour Party can change Britain for the better, alongside the British people. And that’s far a far bigger proposition than changing Clause IV ever was.

  • AlanGiles

    I’m sorry. I am quite prepared for all
    the “downs”, but does anybody find Mr Crudas’s windy verbiage in
    any way inspiring?. If so, I am astonished you find it so.

    He says so much, but says so little. He
    talks about everything and nothing. His word-spinning brings a quote
    from the bard to mind (Horatio to Hamlet):

    “These are but wild and whirling words, my lord.”

    He knows there is a problem (we all know that) but do his
    words offer any real solution – or alternative?. Got a problem?. Ask Crudas to do a three year “review” and Crudas will talk to Arnie Graf. Cameron has Crosby (Australian) and you have Graf (American).

    Perhaps we need to look nearer to home?

    Perhaps I’m taking it too seriously. I always think of
    Antonio Carlos Jobim when I read Crudas-speak (“There’s so
    many people who can talk and talk and talk and just say
    nothing…”)

    But after all this po-faced, rather pompous outpouring from
    JC, I have found you just about the cheesiest music link I can
    find to demonstrate Jobim’s words:

    • PaulHalsall

      I normally agree with you Alan, but Samba is not cheesy!

      • AlanGiles

        No I agree not the musical form (the Stan Getz/Charlie Byrd ouvre’ even led the grand old man Coleman Hawkins to follow in their footsteps “Desafinado” on the Impulse label.), and the music remains timeless (it’s 51 years now)
        It was just this particular rendition I thought was the corniest I could find. That said perhaps Jon Crudas’s more arid and lengthy speeches could be improved by getting Kate Hoey to do a little dance at the same time: or – to use another old jazz title “I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate” (Kid Ory)

  • rekrab

    For centuries the ordinary people have tried to enpower their movement for the betterment from the topuddle martyrs to the suffragettes and the yarrow marchers, in the end the fat controller at the top always won through.So I say this Jon, you want to create a more equal society, then don’t side step the pathways just drive a straight line towards the summit, for only those in power can really change the power for a more inclusive society.

    • PeterBarnard

      Not always true, Derek, (” … only those in power …”). The fall from power of the leaderships in the Iron Curtain countries in the late 1980s was accomplished by the peoples in those countries, many (most? all?) of whom are now part of the European Union, which, despite its faults and present difficulties, is largely beneficial.
      The great Labour government that was elected in 1945 drove that “straight line towards the summit” (a lovely phrase). The new Jerusalem wasn’t altogether achieved, but the country – socially, politically, economically, and in terms of human dignity – was a damn’ sight more balanced and equitable for twenty/twenty-five years after 1945 than it has ever been, both before and since. It’s a comment on our present times that the Conservative governments between 1951 and 1964 would be regarded as “left wing” these days.
      Have faith. The owners and managers of capital have been in the driving seat for the last thirty-odd years, but the pendulum will swing. Enormous progress has been made in the last two hundred (and more) years, and social justice will eventually prevail. Selfishness is, eventually, self-destructing.

      • rekrab

        Great to hear from you Peter and all the best to.

        Yeah, a truly wonderful happening, to draw back that Iron Curtain. And what a fantastic reason to express the continuity of Europe.

        I really do feel like it’s been a wilderness trek for the past 30 years and how I do yearn for another Atlee or Macmillan.

        Peter again you enthuse me, Adeste fideles!

        • AlanGiles

          To pluck one example from Mr Crudas’s verbosity: I cannot recall a time when a party in OPPOSITION has posited the idea of decentralisation, however when they get into government they like to be in control of things.
          It was ever this.
          When you win the 2015 election it will be because of the absolute crassness of the coalition and it’s intolerance and stupidity, it will have nothing to do with JCs pseudo-intellectual outpourings.

      • aracataca

        Correct Peter.
        When asked the question: ‘What do you think are the consequences of the French Revolution?’
        Chou En Lai replied ‘It’s far to early to tell’
        IMHO we are entering the end game of the neo-liberal ‘revolution’ that began around 1980 and staring at ten to fifteen years of zero growth.

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