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Review policy but abandon soundbite pledges

It seems we’re going to get another Labour policy review. We know because Sunder Katwala, Fabian General Secretary who has his ear to the ground for these things, tells us that Liam Byrne has been asked to lead it by Leader Ed. A policy review was expected – Ed was after all the Miliband for change – but is still welcome. The question is how should it be done, by whom and over what timescale, and how it affects what we say in the meantime.

As we reported, Ed has also appointed Peter Hain to chair the national policy forum and oversee the review of the party’s policy-making structure. This will, we trust, result in democratic reforms. However, there is no reason why, in the meantime, the policy review should not proceed using the existing machinery.

Former special adviser, Paul Richards, also wrote of a policy review:

The best thing Ed can do is avoid detailed policy prescriptions until 2013 or 2014, and the most effective way to do that is to announce a policy review. This should involve the party and its affiliates, and embroil the new shadow cabinet in a whirl-wind of consultative activity. Unlike the ill-starred Labour Listens campaign in 1988, which involved shadow cabinet ministers telling small public meetings what was good for them, this time we can use the full range of consultative methods to tap into modern Britain’s concerns.

Quite so. But the spending review is upon us. Opposition to individual cuts is building even if, as yet, in the absence of Chancellor-in-waiting Balls, Labour is not making a clear case for investment in place of cuts. And it remains an embarrassment that the last Labour government laid the foundations for what is happening (including by commissioning the Browne report).

The Left didn’t want to start from here but this is where we are and, though we must argue for investment not cuts in every forum, the change in Labour’s economic stance is likely to be gradual. The pressure will come, too, from the campaignings against the cuts already taking off throughout the country and beyond.

There is one thing, however, that we should ask: we’ve had the ban on spin, so how about a ban on soundbite pledges. Like the pledge not to raise personal taxes, for example.


  1. Mark Wickham-Jones says:

    Hi Jon,

    I was trying to find the proposed changes to the standing orders of the PLP but I could not get your link to work. Any chance, please, you could send me them as an attachment.

    Best wishes


  2. Jon Lansman says:

    I’m not sure which link you mean, Mark but the PLP standing orders are not available electronically, even to MPs. They seem to be some sort of secret document.

  3. Tim Pendry says:

    Byrne and Hain … says it all: I won’t be rushing to re-join … 🙂

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