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For “better politics”, Labour must start at home

One-NationI thought that the Labour party’s recent “Education and Children” document was waffle-filled, tendentious, misleading and often wholly wrong. But even that did not prepare me for Labour’s consultation document “Better Politics”, which is aimed at the 2015 manifesto (amendments to be in from constituency parties and affiliates by 13th June).

To be fair, the document contains three worthwhile proposals, which I will explore below. But it has zero analytical content and the people writing it either approached the task with great cynicism or in utter ignorance of what was required.

The opening paragraphs tell us that people have been turned off politics feeling that it is not for them. One Nation Labour, we are told, has the solution. It…

wants to build a different kind of politics, a politics which is truly rooted in every community across the country, and reaches out to people in every walk of life … real and lasting change only happens when people direct their own lives, not when things are done to them. By handing power and responsibility down from Whitehall to communities, we can empower people to solve problems themselves.

So, now you know, and it doesn’t come more vacuous than that. Why are people turned off politics? Because political parties constantly bombard with with meaningless waffle like this.

But, you may say, this is just the introduction. Aren’t the details filled out in the document? Read on.
How do we rebuild trust? Essentially, according to this document by pure waffle

We aim to increase democratic participation and engage people in our parliament, and help everyone better understand our democracy.

So, it would seem, it is not the democracy itself that is defective but just that people don’t understand it.
This same empty-headed theme continues throughout the whole document. Young people need to understand politics better and for that Labour wants to “focus on ensuring citizenship teachers are highly qualified and highly trained”. This comment exposes the shallowness of the thinking behind the document.

The idea is that getting involved in social matters can be hived off to being treated as just another subject where pupils can be bored and be put off the issues dealt with for life. In the same way pupils go into maths lessons and solve artificial problems which have no other purpose than to demonstrate that they have understood the idea just taught to them. Why are maths books not full of social maths in which pupils learn to understand the mathematical aspects of national and local politics? Such an approach would make maths less boring for those (many) who don’t see the point of abstract exercises. But of course this would mean launching into some real joined-up thinking and that is not the terrain on which this document operates.

Labour, we are solemnly informed, “will work to deepen and extend democracy so that everyone is able to influence the decisions that affect them”. Does this mean that people affected by the decisions of  foreign company to withdraw investment from a local manufacturing plant will have to take into account local people’s views? Does it mean that we can all participate in the decisions of multinational pharmaceutical companies to research into the most profitable areas for their companies as opposed to the most socially useful ones? (Or should we just assume that those two are automatically the same?). Or is this the most objectionable a-political nonsense imaginable?

Up to this point I have only covered the first couple of pages of this eight page document but the rest of it continues in the same vein. It is, frankly, political drivel.

There are three potentially good ideas in the document. First, Labour would reform the lobbying industry with a “universal register of all professional lobbyists, and a code of conduct. Second, Freedom of Information legislation would be extended to cover public services delivered by private industry. These ideas need some flesh on the bone but could be very important to the democratic process. Finally, Labour would ensure that voter registration could be made more convenient by being done in more locations and by getting town hall officials to remind people of their duty to register in their dealings with the public. These ideas could be retained and incorporated in other documents. The rest of this document should be deleted as the sort of waffle that puts people off politics.

What is needed? The very first act of Labour if it genuinely wants a new and more open and transparent participatory democracy would be to run the Labour party in an open transparent, democratic and participatory way. No one who understands the current Party processes could honestly maintain that is the case. Until the party puts its own democratic house in order all the rest is just eye wash.

2 Comments

  1. Mr jeffrey l davies says:

    labour at the moment deny they labour only blairites it seems middle class its courting not the working people using most prob think tanks who the hell needs these when all they got to do is ask their peoples its a crying shame that tony b ever got into labour has hes shown sold out his religion for cash and power it seems he too preyed to magret for that bit extra jeff3

  2. David Ellis says:

    Labour is now openly without any need for further pretence the political voice of the self-serving bureaucratic excrecense that sits atop and strangles the labour movement. That bureaucracy with its one-nation Tory outlook is the enemy of working people and a tool of the capitalist state.

    Unfortunately those who would replace them seem even less able to rise above the kind of waffle found in the above-named documents eschewing analysis and an integrated manifesto for disconnected policy forums that are no more than wish lists with nothing in them that anybody could be bothered to wish for.

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