Ed has one chance left to breathe life into the party’s policy process

What makes a good policy process? A process that produces good policies, of course. Policies that are radical, innovative, resonate with our target voters and are up to dealing with the problems Labour will inherit. And Ed Miliband promised, through Refounding Labour, to give it to us – “to draw on the whole of our movement, to harness the ideas, innovation and expertise that lies within“.

But there is another aspect to a good policy process. It must energise and enthuse the membership, give them (and even activists outside the party, trade unionists, and those campaigning against NHS cuts, bedroom taxes, work capability assessments, tax avoidance and the rest) a sense of ownership, recognition that they are being heard. But we remain a long way from this — and it’s down to Ed, even though, back in his leadership campaign, he recognised how necessary it was: Continue reading

London Labour: in need of some refounding

In a packed hall a mile from London’s Olympic park, the London Labour Party’s biennial conference was in bullish mood this last weekend. In spite of the loss of last year’s mayoral election, delegates and platform alike sounded confident that London Labour is in good shape electorally, as well as determined and radical in its wide ranging policy discussions. Unfortunately the reality is that Refounding Labour passed by the London Labour Party. It’s run from HQ, and the only devolution that’s going is to town hall bosses. Continue reading

Does the leadership really believe in a genuinely democratic Labour Party?

It was never going to be easy to make Labour, what its activists and supporters have always wanted, into a truly democratic party. Blair bequeathed a party in which the Cabinet was given its orders, the PLP was ignored, the NEC was neutered, and Conference had no role except as a setting for his own speech. If Conference was insubordinate enough to come up with a different view, it was told that that was the party’s view, quite separate from the government’s view. Continue reading

Ed fails to deliver on his promise of empowering members

Where next for the party?At Labour’s national executive yesterday, Ed Miliband failed to deliver on his leadership campaign promise to give members more say in policy making. The final package of Refounding Labour measures they have agreed is shrouded in the language of empowering members, as were those introduced by Tony Blair in 1997 and Gordon Brown in 2007.

The reality, once again, will be very different. If party members want a democratic party, they will have to fashion it themselves. And if trade union members do not want their members’ interests and concerns to be ignored again, they would do well to support those efforts, starting with rule changes submitted by CLPs for debate this year. Continue reading

Labour’s policy statements published in secret, members’ opinions suppressed

The posting, sometime in the past couple of weeks, of the national policy forum annual report on membersnet, Labour members’ private intranet, reveals that little has yet changed in the way Labour makes its policy since the bad old days of New Labour. No press release, no email to members, no reason why anyone would notice and even an NEC member tells me even they haven’t seen it.

It is as if policy discussion in the party was as secret an activity as theological discussion in the medieval catholic church. Yet it is a document which could have been discussed at this month’s branch meetings, and fed into discussion about about contemporary motions and mandating delegates. It could have included options which would have given party members real choice and involvement in policy making. Continue reading