Whose policy is it anyway?

22nd August, 2013 3:14 pm
It has been with a certain detached sense of irony that I have listened to a succession of senior Labour figures, John Prescott, Jack Straw, Alistair Darling and David Blunkett criticising the strange Labour Summer offensive that wasn’t. It is not that they don’t have a point, more that they might have delivered it more effectively privately and without the aid of the media fog horn. But then another thought occurred; perhaps what they are all really asking is ‘what are Labour’s main policies and when will the rest of us get to hear about them’?
The sense of irony is derived from the fact that all must bare some responsibility for the fact that the Labour Party, the members and its affiliates have been largely deprived of any serious policy input for many years now. Under the guise of ‘Partnership in Power’, when Tony Blair was leader, the party conference, the affiliated organisations and the once powerful National Executive Committee were all largely stripped of power. Instead that power became concentrated in the office of the Leader and the Shadow Chancellor. The National Policy Forum and the even less opaque Joint Policy Commission and the various Policy Commissions supposedly took over what was left, although few took what they had to say very seriously. During that time, self- appointed ‘think tanks’ moved to fill the vacuum, accompanied by a disturbing rise in corporate lobbying, with lines becoming increasingly blurred.  What commonly distinguishes the Labour Conferences of the Blair and Brown years with the Tory conferences of today are the sheer number of lobbyists and PR people, who seem to have far greater access and are listened to more assiduously than the ordinary members.
So today, if there is a policy vacuum, it is because what policy there is, is all too often it is made on high and often on the hoof – most notably with Ed Miliband’s recent sudden decision to review the party’s relations with the trade unions. The succession of Labour front benchers, including Chris Bryant, Chukka Umuma, Jack Dromey and Liam Byrne who have over the past fortnight offered up an array of commendable critiques to the to the Coalition’s slash and burn policies have often done so without explaining what they would do instead. This, one presumes, is because policies are lacking or dependent on the agreement of the Leader and his Shadow Chancellor.
There is no better explanation of the dis-connect between the ‘command and control’ of the New Labour years, and the lack of democracy and policy making at the party grass roots. It explains why membership of the Labour Party has been declining for many years albeit with a slight increase after Ed Miliband was elected leader. The pressure from the grass roots that powerful dynamic of party members voting for policies and delegating their representatives to support them at the conference, has been replaced by the top-down contrived consensus so beloved of political establishments. It has also conspired to help drive British politics yet further to the Right, a state of affairs the media establishment in turn likes to describe as the ‘centre ground’.
There will be no meaningful return to radical left politics and a real alternative to what has become the modern consensus so long as party members remain largely impotent and declining in number. This is perhaps something that the old, New Labour guard might like to take on board before they wade in once again and make matters even more difficult for those who have followed them.

Latest

  • Comment All we want is an investigation into founding a Northern Irish Labour Party

    All we want is an investigation into founding a Northern Irish Labour Party

    “There also be institutions between both parts of Ireland and between Britain and Ireland that will also respect diversity and work the common ground. Once these institutions are in place and we begin to work together in our very substantial common interests, the real healing process will begin and we will erode the distrust and prejudices of our past and our new society will evolve, based on agreement and respect for diversity. The identities of both sections of our people […]

    Read more →
  • Comment We need a public and transparent inquiry into the scandal of blacklisting

    We need a public and transparent inquiry into the scandal of blacklisting

    Today is the sixth anniversary of the exposure of blacklisting in the construction industry. Workers had always feared that blacklisting took place but it was not until the Information Commissioners Office raided the Consulting Association that the true industrial scale of blacklisting was revealed. There were 3,123 people on the Consulting Associations blacklist and 44 major construction companies used its services. The blacklisted victims had their livelihoods and often their lives ruined. Often they were unable to find work and many […]

    Read more →
  • Comment The Tories’ plan is letting older people down – Labour have a better one 

    The Tories’ plan is letting older people down – Labour have a better one 

    This article is written by Rachel Reeves MP and Andy Burnham MP Older people have been let down by the Tories’ failing plan. Pensioners’ living standards have been hit by the Tories’ refusal to act on rip-off energy fees and pension charges, and social care funding has been slashed. No one will forget George Osborne’s ‘granny tax’, which saw 3.6 million pensioners lose an average of £68 a year. And the Tories’ have failed to come clean about the fact […]

    Read more →
  • News 12 target seats Labour are worried they might not win because of the Greens

    12 target seats Labour are worried they might not win because of the Greens

    There are 12 target seats Labour are worried that they could lose in May because of the Greens, Buzzfeed have found. These are all on Labour’s target seat list – the 106 constituencies the party think it could win back – usually Tory/Labour marginals or Lib Dem-held constituencies. However, this doesn’t mean the Greens are on the right track to win them. In the cases where they aren’t, the worry is that the Greens will split the vote on the left, […]

    Read more →
  • News Tessa Jowell still ahead in mayoral race, poll shows

    Tessa Jowell still ahead in mayoral race, poll shows

    The Evening Standard have released the results of their latest Mayoral poll, to see who Londoners would most like to be Labour’s candidate. And it’s good news for Tessa Jowell. Since YouGov last did this poll for the Standard, Margaret Hodge and Andrew Adonis have dropped out the race (the former hasn’t formally backed anyone yet, while the latter has thrown his weight behind Jowell). YouGov asked 1,011 people who they thought the best candidate would be for mayor. They […]

    Read more →
Share with your friends










Submit