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Labour members’ incomprehensible non-involvement in the policy process

Policy review graphicNormally we expect people who make the effort of writing their thoughts down to be giving us the benefit of their efforts to understand something. The purpose of this note is to describe something which I do not understand. I do not understand the almost complete non-response of the media, Labour-supporting websites and Labour Party members to the current consultation on eight draft documents which will form the basis of the 2015 manifesto.

I am as sceptical as the next person about the genuineness of this consultation. I am as critical as the next person of the content of these documents. I am even inclined to the view that in any sort of well-informed debate they would be regarded as unamendable and in need of a completely re-writing on the basis of some clear guidelines. I haven’t read them all closely yet, but the ones I have read are full of the sort of thing that would make one hand back an essay to a 15-year old saying “You need to think about this a bit more, focus on clear ideas and cut out the waffle”.

But, even given all that, this is a process that will have outcomes. It may or may not be a sham for which those outcomes are decided in advance but if the left is to be in a position to comment on the final result then surely it should not turn down the opportunity to say what changes it believes are required at the consultation stage (even if this amounts to a near total replacement). There is no limit, that I know of, on the size of the amendments that can be submitted.

All Labour Party members should have received notification of the eight consultative documents but given the extraordinary lack of response here is the information again (taken from an email from Angela Eagle to members):

We’ve just published our final year policy consultation, a set of eight papers that will provide the foundation of our One Nation manifesto. Now it’s over to you.

A One Nation manifesto will be written from the grassroots up, not the top down — so your input is vital. These papers — produced by the National Policy Forum (NPF) — represent what we’ve learned from talking to members, supporters, affiliates, businesses and charities over the last three years, as well as the input of the Shadow Cabinet Policy Review.

Now we want you and your CLP to debate the priorities, ideas and policies set out in these papers, and put forward your own ideas.

Choose any issue that interests you, and let us know what you think:

  1. Stability and Prosperity
    Our policy on the economy — from growth and the economic recovery, to public spending, taxation and how we can reduce the deficit in a fair way.
  2. Work and Business
    Our thinking on how the UK can compete in a global economy, including how we can support business, rights at work, fair pay and the future of pensions.
  3. Living Standards and Sustainability
    Issues affecting quality of life in Britain, the cost of living, and our environment. Key topics include energy, climate change, food, rural affairs and transport.
  4. Stronger, Safer Communities
    How we rebuild our communities and create a society in which everyone plays their part — including community safety, housing, local government and immigration.
  5. Education and Children
    Our childcare plans, and thinking on young people’s wellbeing and learning — from early years through to further and higher education and apprenticeships.
  6. Health and Care
    Our plans for the NHS, health and social care — and how we’ll bring about a new focus on whole person care.
  7. Better Politics
    How we can build a One Nation politics — looking at engagement, equality, civil society and the change our political system needs.
  8. Britain’s Global Role
    Britain’s role within the global community — including foreign policy, international development and defence.

So you know our timeline: the deadline for you to submit your comments is 13 June.

Every CLP is entitled to propose up to ten amendments, which National Policy Forum representatives can then choose to bring forward to a meeting of the NPF in July. The final papers will then be adopted by Annual Conference in September as our official policy programme ahead of the election next year.

There have been a few responses on the Your Britain website but, if the ones I have read are anything to go by, they do not amount to a significant response to the documents. If the Left is not to be a dumb (both senses) spectator of this process then it needs to speak up rather quickly.

4 Comments

  1. David Ellis says:

    I would suggest that instead of engaging with this sham process that the left, in or out of Labour, puts forward and promotes its own manifesto and that that manifesto be the product of a coherent analytical method which addresses the most immediate and objective interests of the working class and which points the way to the transition to socialism as opposed to the eclectic pointless mess offered by New Labour’s so-called `policy’ process so that it can be ignored.

    End the bail out, full-employment by sharing the work, worker-elected management, socialisation of profiteering corporations, cartels and monopolies, defence of all necessary and desirable public and welfare spending paid for by sufficient taxation, federal britain to replace the union, EU based on socialist principles such as EU-wide living wage and full employment.

  2. David Pavett says:

    @David Ellis

    I am all for the left, in or out of Labour, working on its own manifesto and for this to be based on an analysis of the class nature of capitalist society with a clear explanation of the socialist alternatives. But if we have ideas that are fit for purpose then it seems to me that those who are in the Labour Party should use consultation (sham or not) as a test bed for their ideas. Among other things this would be away of putting those ideas into circulation. Sites like this one can be used to draw attention to a left critique of Labour policy as I and Peter Rowlands have been trying to do on Left Futures.

    My own central policy interest is education and I can tell you that it is a subject on which the left generally does not have a great deal to say. I guess this is not only true of education.

    I suggest that we should participate in every forum where there is an invitation to do so.

    P.S. I think that you will find that Tories could support “defence of all necessary and desirable public and welfare spending paid for by sufficient taxation”. It’s just that they may have different ideas about what is “necessary”, “desirable” and “sufficient”.

  3. David Ellis says:

    Yes I agree with the participation where possible to get our ideas a hearing. The only thing to try to avoid getting sucked into is demagoguery which is a danger when policies are disconnected and eclectic.

    No doubt the Tories ideas would be entirely different as to what is necessary and desirable public and welfare spending to those of the labour movement. I hope so anyway.

    By the way thanks for responding.

  4. Robert says:

    Seems not since labour are backing the Tories cap on welfare, today Miliband office stated that labour will back the cap on welfare which is basically for the disabled and sick since we will not have a cap on pensions or JSA.

    Miliband was glad to report that he and labour had put forward the cap

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