Labour’s policy making process has two heads but has shown little sign of life since Ed Miliband became Leader promising to re-create a “living, breathing party“. The two heads are Peter Hain, Chair of the National Policy Forum, who theoretically oversees the policy making process, and Liam Byrne, charged with overseeing the policy review. The National Policy Forum now looks unlikely to meet until late next year, a meeting in June or July having been ruled out and any other decision postponed until March. If Peter Hain is unhappy with its total exclusion from the policy review, it’s not clear what he’s doing about it.
Liam Byrne’s review, in spite of claiming to have undertaken the party’s biggest ever excercise in “listening, talking and debating with the public“ is completely lacking structure and accountability – submissions disappear into the ether and reports appear without anyone having seen or discussed them. And now we’re being asked to repeat the pointless excercise with four documents which were distributed at the Liverpool conference without having been discussed by the NEC or NPF, and without even any indication who, besides Liam Byrne, had agreed them.
Nor are they a great tribute to the “unprecedented levels of engagement” with the public which Liam claims: take for esample the comment in Restoring Responsibility, Strengthening our Communities which is attributed to Susan of Mancherster:
We need a banking system which doesn’t give ridiculous bonuses even when banks are in debt.”
That may not be an example of “New politics, fresh ideas” to those of us who were not in the last Labour government, but we’d certainly agree with the sentiment. As does Melanie of Surrey. Because she is quoted as saying precisely the same words in Towards a New Economy. Seems a bit unlikely, though. Could this be another of Liam’s jokes? Or is there an even more worrying explanation? Labour doesn’t really do “listening”. And it’s not remotely serious about giving party members a voice? It’s all a charade. A waste of party members’ time?
If, on the other hand, Ed meant what he said… Tim Livesey needs to sort out the farce that is Labour’s policy review. We need one head not two, and we need swift action. There are almost two hundred members of the National Policy Forum keen to rise to the task.