Thursday, November 07, 2013
Wednesday, November 06, 2013
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
It took the Conservative party two lost elections before enough people were willing to back meaningful change. If Labour really is serious about getting swiftly back into government then it cannot afford to go through a long, painful and potentially damaging process of internal dissension. The truth is that many Labour members and supporters have opposing interpretations of why we lost in 2010 or about the direction we now need to take if we are to regain much of our lost support. Some will want the party to be more passionately principled whilst others will stress the need for sensible pragmatism.
There will be calls for the party to champion the state whilst at the same time allowing market forces to operate with minimal impunity; to attack the causes of poverty but to also be the party that promotes aspiration. The longer these conflicting priorities are debated and discussed the longer we are likely to spend in opposition. Our core message should be simple and unambiguous: our values have not changed and our mission as a party is a clear today as it was a century ago – we really are stronger as a nation when we come together than we can ever be apart. Therefore Labour’s next manifesto should only propose change for a purpose and that purpose should centre on renewing the party's policies, its systems and structures in order to ensure that we are properly equipped to exploit the opportunities to reconnect with our traditional supporters and with the millions of voters who feel so badly let down by the duplicitous Liberal Democrats.
If Labour is to learn from this defeat then it will need to be more proactive in its consultation and dialogue. For too long ordinary party members have felt ignored and removed from the leadership. The new leader should recognise that members want to be heard and they want to be listened to. Perhaps even more important though is the need for the party to be more proactive in consulting and engaging local communities. It is only when local parties reach out and get involved in their communities that people will see Labour politics as a way of helping them deal with their problems and realising their hopes for a better future. A renewed Labour party should be the natural place for people to turn to when they want to change things because a party that gets things done locally – and nationally – is a party that will keep winning elections. A renewed Labour party will need to reflect the aspirations of ordinary people but it will also need to be realistic about the challenges that lie ahead. The forces of conservatism are not confined to our new coalition government, they exist within our own party and it will be up to those of us who believe passionately in the core values of our movement to take on the cynics and the pessimists within our own ranks, to become the change we want to see – be it in our party or in our country.
Who we are is who we were. Labour's core values can and must inform any future 'rebranding' of the party but we should not be afraid to do things differently. New Labour may well be over but Labour renewed is alive with possibility.
Saturday, June 15, 2013
When Labour took office in 1997, Britain was suffering from what Tony Blair later described as a "progressive deficit". What he meant was that Britain was far from being a modern social democratic nation. The constitution was failing, with Scotland and Wales denied proper government and hereditary privilege still the foundation of the House of Lords. Unlike many of our European neighbours, Britain lacked quality childcare and universal nursery provision or schools and hospitals with proper equipment and enough well-paid staff. In the years up to 1997, Britain was a country that had spent billions of pounds keeping able-bodied people idle because of boom and bust, where unemployment often exceeded three million, and where the absence of a national minimum wage condemned millions to poverty pay.
In its first few years in office Labour made significant headway in addressing this progressive deficit. On the constitution, Britain is now a much more pluralist democracy with devolution for Scotland and Wales, Mayors for London and others cities, House of Lords reform, freedom of information and the Human Rights Act. For working people, Labour delivered progressive rights that many other countries took for granted - a minimum wage, four weeks paid holiday, better maternity and paternity rights, the basic right to join a trade union. For communities and families torn apart by crime, anti-social behaviour, racial intolerance and drugs, Labour established major programmes of inner city regeneration, Sure Start, and additional investment in youth and sport facilities.
The truth is that many of the changes Labour made in 13 years of government - on the constitution, economic policy, the minimum wage and public services - are likely to last. The challenge for Ed Miliband will be to secure a progressive consensus around the further changes and improvements that need to be made whilst at the same time challenging and exposing the Tory party’s obvious, ideologically driven desire to reduce the size of the state which will result in more charging, less investment, good services for the well-off and second-class services for the rest.
The difficulty that Ed Miliband faces however, the real challenge to progressive politics will come not only from the Cameron led, ‘Thatcherite’ dominated Tory party but from some of the pessimists and cynics that exist within the ranks of his own movement. Miliband’s new generation politics needs to frame political debate in terms of progress versus conservatism and the world not in terms of right and left, but right and wrong. Throughout his campaign for the leadership Ed Miliband spoke about how all too often political debate seems irrelevant to the reality of ordinary peoples’ lives. He understands that too many voters feel that politics is too polarised, that parties and politicians portray their opponents as either pro-business or pro-unions, pro-growth or pro-environment, for civil liberties or against them, as progressives or dinosaurs.
History shows that the public trusts leaders who have the courage to lead. It is surely no coincidence that, in recent history, when governments have acted boldly on issues as varied as debt cancellation, the introduction of the congestion charge or smoking bans, public support has quickly crystallised behind it. If Labour is to win next time round then its best prospects lie not in appealing to what it has done, not in defending the status quo but rather in campaigning against ugly realities of health and education inequalities and showing why these warrant further state action.
The politics of optimism, of hope, worked for Obama and touched a chord with the mainstream in the US. Politics that seeks the liberation of people from poverty, injustice and persecution can be a powerful force for change. Ed Miliband is fast approaching the time when, as Leader, he will need to ensure that the Labour party addresses its own progressive deficit, to be clearer about who we are, who we were and whom we want to become
Friday, May 17, 2013
What if a group of like-minded people were to offer to 'donate' their points to a good cause or causes? For example I would be happy for my points/cash to go to Costa's Foundation or perhaps to a local charity linked to my local Costa.
What do you think? Do you want to help me set up such a scheme? Any advice as to how I start?
Thursday, April 05, 2012
The result in Bradford West is an illustration that after an unprecedented 13 straight years in power many of Labour’s own members are not certain what they want. Many want the party to be both passionately principled and sensibly pragmatic; to be a party that proudly honours its past while not neglecting to shape both its and the nation's future; to champion the state while being part of the market; to tackle poverty but also support aspiration. Ed Miliband stood for the leadership of the Labour party on a platform that argued that the renewal that was undertaken in order to gain power in 1997 needs to be repeated if Labour is win at the next election. In the mid-1990s Labour successfully occupied the centre ground, it modernised and reached out beyond its own activists and turned the Tories into a replica of what it itself used to be – a party with a narrow base, a party obsessed about the wrong things and a party seen as old fashioned and out of touch.
Can Labour win under Ed Miliband? Of course it can but I strongly believe - and the failure of the tactics deployed in Bradford West seem to endorse my view - that the best prospects of future success for our party lie not in the puerile tactics of the spin doctor; politics has to be about more than the desire to wrong foot your opponent. The prospects for future success for Labour lies not in defending the status quo of what is still a highly unequal Britain, rather it is in working with the British people to help rid our nation of some ugly realities such as child poverty and the still endemic inequalities in both health and education, inequalities that could well be even further entrenched once some of the savage and unnecessary cuts begin to fully impact. The politics of ambition and optimism must also be the politics of principle - we should attack our opponents for what they espouse, for their policies and not for their personal shortcomings.
In the coming weeks I hope that Ed will put the case that for a politics that seeks the liberation of people from poverty, injustice and persecution. He needs to show that a renewed Labour party will seek to better reflect the aspirations of ordinary people whilst being realistic about the challenges that lie ahead. Ambition, hope and aspiration are far more appealing than a constant reciting of the achievements of the past. Ed has been consistent about the need for the Labour party to be clearer about what we stand for as a movement and for the need for the party to reach out to the communities that it seeks to represent and support. He now needs to show how, under his leadership, our party can set about winning back the trust and confidence of the British people.
Friday, March 30, 2012
Labour took a real kicking in Bradford West not because the electorate there connected with George Galloway or with the Respect Party. It is because many traditional Labour voters are angry with us, disillusioned with our rhetoric and keen to send us a message. The summer offers a period of reflection and for me the areas that we need to urgently address are as follows:
Style and substance - we need to be careful that we don't dismiss one at the expense of the other. Good policies badly presented and badly articulated are as useless and as ineffective as poor policies that have been spun positively.
Trust and confidence - who on Labour's front bench can inspire trust and and come across as fully paid members of the human race? Answer: People like Hilary Benn, Andy Burnham and Rachel Reeves - we need to see and hear more from the likes of these.
If you are not on offence you are on defence - we must get back on the attack and create clear dividing lines between ourselves and our opponents. The Tory front bench is out of touch, aloof and obsessed with an ideology that wants to take us back to the 50s (not sure if it is the 1850s or the 1950s).
I am not ashamed to be in the Labour party and I am proud of what we have achieved when in office but I am also acutely aware that we need to reflect the wider aspirations of the people we seek to serve.