Reform has to mean all parts of the party – staff too


Labour RoseBy Emma Burnell / @scarletstand

There was an important post here this weekend about one of the real uphill battle the Labour Party has to face. It’s a problem I have battled with for years. It’s a matter of our legitimacy, our ability and our credibility. And we are shying away from it.

In all the reviews of Labour’s policy making and party structures there is something missing. Any discussion of root and branch reformation of the party staff. They work long and very hard. But I am unconvinced – sceptical even – that they are led to do so in the right way with the right outcomes in mind.

Everyone has a story about the control freakery of the party. From the “lost” submissions to the press releases not viewed by candidates; from queries never answered to open derision aimed at member bodies. From the canvassing for votes and strongarming delegates at conferences at which you were supposed to listen to the will of the party to ignoring what came out of those votes when it didn’t go as planned. But few in a position to do so ever speak up further than complaining at our branch meetings.

Mostly we rightly blamed the leadership. And we will be right to do so again if Ed doesn’t get a handle on this problem. But we can’t ignore a whole aspect of the Labour culture that exists and reinforces itself among the staff.

What has happened at head office is understandable in a historical context. When Labour was tearing itself apart, an over emphasis on their role in our internal discipline wasa essential to bring us back from the brink. But what was once essential is now habit. Current and former party staffers I meet take pride in defining themselves against the members, despite the members having grown and matured away from the undisciplined rabble we once were. We don’t need a nanny anymore, and clinging to that role is making you an inadequate provider of what is needed.

The party is about to appoint a new General Secretary. I urge whoever that is to be far bolder than any person in that role has managed for years and remember why you are there. Remind the staff what they are for – not just what they define themselves against. Introduce member feedback and modern mechanisms and understanding of politics. Don’t just have a Movement For Change officer, have a genuinely changed ethos.

I want to support the staff in continuing to do the hard, hard slog of getting us back to power. All I ask, all I want is that they decide to support me and the millions like me in doing the same.

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