Labour’s economic policy – a lingering attachment to austerity

Ed-Balls-008There was nothing subtle about economic policy under New Labour. ‘We are getting into bed with business‘. Fingers to the hoi polloi. ‘You’ve got nowhere else to go‘. People in their millions voted blindly for it in 1997. A significant proportion got wise by 2001 and placed their ‘X’ elsewhere or decided ‘None of the above‘. The message ‘politicians – they are all the same‘ went viral. Labour’s vote dropped from 12 million to 8 million. Another million walked away in 2010.

By then it was clear the New Labour policy was bust. Greed and criminality at the heart of the world’s banking system plunged the global economy into recession. But five years on that New Labour lust to remain close to business lingers, contaminating the Labour offer under party leader Ed Miliband. Continue reading

Ann Black reports on Labour’s national policy forum

NPF reportMilton Keynes, 18/20 July 2014

Like the last pre-election Forum in 2008 this was held on the hottest weekend of the year, but there the similarities ceased, and not just with the move from Warwick University to Milton Keynes.  For the most part constructive dialogue and willingness to compromise outweighed arm- twisting, and all sections of the movement could co-operate instead of being played off against each other.

The Chair Angela Eagle opened by invoking the spirit of 1945 and Labour’s manifesto “Let us Face the Future”, committed to decent housing, jobs for all, and an end to want and poverty.  Now, with a million people dependent on foodbanks, the most vulnerable hit hardest by the Tories and the NHS under threat, we had to translate our timeless values into today’s political situation.  Money would be short after the general election, but social justice could be achieved by big reforms rather than big spending. Continue reading

Trade unions vote against ending austerity in 2015

Ed Balls addressing Labour NPF 2014The climax of Labour’s formal policy process this weekend which had involved 1,300 amendments from local parties to eight policy documents, filtered down and composited by 77 regional representatives, was a debate on austerity. That’s fitting given that it is the foundation of the Coalition’s disastrous economic policy and, unfortunately, in a lighter version, of Ed Balls’s approach too.

What was less fitting, indeed shocking, was that it was a debate in which George McManus, the Yorkshire constituency representative moving the amendment, was given just one minute to speak, and Ed Balls the same. George made a great speech which you can read below. Ed’s speech consisted of a list of those who had withdrawn their amendments in favour of the “consensus wording” as if that was a sufficient argument for the perpetuation of austerity (and he ran over his time). There were no other speakers. The vote was 127 to 14 against the proposal that Labour’s policy be amended to read:

We recognise that the cost of living crisis is inextricably linked to government’s self-defeating austerity agenda. That is why we will introduce an emergency budget in 2015 to reject Tory spending plans for 2015-16 and beyond and set out how we will pursue a policy of investment for jobs and growth.”

Those voting against included some people representing the seven CLPs and numerous NPF members who had submitted almost identical wording and many more who essentially agreed with the amendment including representatives of all major trade unions (I’m told media and entertainment union BECTU voted for). After the vote, some of them, including leading MPs and trade unionists admitted their continuing support. They nevertheless felt compelled to vote against their own preferences and the policies of their unions. Continue reading

Labour’s policy process: Ed’s five mistakes and the “dead hand” of central control

Sunday Times dead hand Miliband blasted by top adviserThis weekend, the Sunday Times front-page (£) splashed details of what Labour’s so-called ‘policy coordinator’, Jon Cruddas said at a Compass gathering last weekend: that Ed Miliband’s inner circle are wielding a “profound dead hand at the centre” to stop the party adopting bold policies. Wide-ranging imaginitive initiatives proposed by Cruddas’s policy review groups and external think tanks like the IPPR are “parked” by the leadership, and replaced with “cynical nuggets of policy to chime with our focus groups and press strategy” like the “cynical and punitive” benefit cut for school leavers.

Mark Ferguson at LabourList responds by criticising Cruddas who he says “needs to get it moving, not trash it“. Neal Lawson, chair of Compass, whinges at the Guardian whinges that it was a private meeting it shouldn’t have been reported because that will mean that “politicians won’t attend events, or they will be so guarded, so cautious and so robotic that their appearance won’t have been worth it.” Neither are right. The Sunday Times may well be out to damage Labour, but what it reported was clearly newsworthy, even a week later.

The problem is that without a legitimate democratic process for agreeing policies, even shadow cabinet members given responsibility for making policy have no option but to speak out or privately brief in order to influence the outcome. Continue reading

Time to get your amendments in to the policy process

manifesto-for-labour-growthYou have only a few days in which to get your policy amendments in to Labour’s policy process – they must be submitted by constituency party secretaries through the Your Britain website by 13 June. Two weeks later your regional representatives on the national policy forum meet to decide which CLP proposals they wish to take forward to their crucial meeting in Milton Keynes on 18/20 July. Anything agreed at that meeting, together with any minority positions which receive the support of a quarter of the forum will go forward to Labour’s Autumn conference in Manchester.

The Labour Assembly against Austerity have produced 26 model amendments across seven policy areas which you may find useful, and which together constitute a Manifesto for Labour Growth (which you can download here and print for distribution, or just cut and paste the ones you wish to move in your local party). Continue reading