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Three pillars for a Labour majority

Progress, the party-within-a-party/pressure group/think-tank ran a competition for a bursary at their policy weekend in March.  Good on them.  It was all about a 550 word essay on how to win a Labour majority.  I entered, because a) I wanted to go b) I’m too skint to pay.

I didn’t get a bursary because a) I’m not a Progress members (that wasn’t made clear at the time, but heh ho); b) my entry was deemed below the standard of other entries anyway.

Here it is, written as I thought a Progress person might write, but with stuff I could actually support.  Seems ok to me, but what do you think? Is it total bollox?

The three pillars of a Labour majority

Architectural outline

A Labour majority needs to be built on three pillars: policy, presentation, party. The pillars must be strong in themselves, but they also need to create a coherent whole. Great policy is no good if it isn’t presented to the electorate in a way that convinces. Presentation doesn’t work unless the party is effectively mustered, and the party cannot be effectively mustered to its presentation role unless it understands and ‘owns’ the local impacts of proposed policies.

But even strong pillars can fall. The outward lateral forces of any massive structure need a counterforce in the form of flying buttresses, and that may be the architectural function of Progress.

Policy

Over the last two years, Labour has established a clear policy line in two key areas: fiscal responsibility and the cost of living. Ed and the PLP team are starting to get through on the message that, far from talking about the cost of living crisis as a way to avoid having to talk about the economy, for most people the economy is the cost of living crisis.

We now need to develop a coherent menu of investments designed to improve public services and create long term savings, and to stimulate wage-led growth. The ground for this is being prepared by the Zero-based Review, which emphasises fiscal discipline around day-to-day spending in order to create room for investment.

We need to develop a set of punchy alternatives to Osborne’s cut-and-see- approach. Childcare investment is an obvious such area, and the work on growth via procurement processes is encouraging, but we will need more costed examples for the manifesto, such as a coherent early investment strategy (based both on Frontline and refocused Children’s Centres) which cuts a swathe through quasi-judicial spending on child protection whilst also stimulating local employment.

A wage-led, social investment-focused economy should be our main selling point. Even our legislative programme should be based around that e.g. adaptations to minimum wage legislation to give the OBR more influence over a less corporate-influenced Low Pay Commission.

Presentation

We need to devolve our presentation, and trust our local parties to deliver the seats we need for victory. We can be confident that the vast majority of parties, after two decades in a ‘campaigning party’, know what they’re doing, and can do it better than a central body producing ‘on-message’ but necessarily inauthentic-looking literature for the doorstep, which by its nature creates inauthentic doorstep conversations.

This is not to downplay the importance of regional and national support, including from Progress’s own resources, but we need to develop systems which respond to local demands, not ones which provide targets, incentives and monitoring.

Party

The Collins Review promises to be a landmark document for the labour movement. It will set out a coherent plan to incentivize many thousands of union members (and others) to go beyond their financial contribution to the party and become involved in a local labour movement which embraces CLP, trade union/trade council and community organising functions.

We will need to act quickly to ensure that this radical new approach (or arguably very old approach) is embedded quickly in local areas, so that come Autumn 2014 a host of new and newly energised supporters rally to the cause, now convinced that the party is serious about devolving power and resources to local level.

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  1. February 24, 2014 at 12:58 am

    The three pillars that built the Labour movement were church, family and unions all of which have been dismembered or disembowelled in one way or another. They have lost their way economically, the Balls promise to run a budget surplus guarantees a recession, and the things the public wants are not Even discussed.

    With respect, your new three pillars are simply more of the same piffling Tory lite policies that are little more than the Blairite continuation of Thatcherism. The same policies that have led to the privatisation of the NHS by stealth, have no doubt this has already happened. My suggestions for three new pillars are what the public want. Bank reform, tax off labour and an end to involuntary employment.

    That means Positive money and an end to the bankers cartel of money creation. It means Land Value Tax to make sure the wealthy pays their fair share. It means the Job Guarantee so that the state becomes employer of last resort and food banks are no longer needed.

    The public will not engage with politics because we’ve been abandoned. It’s time for truly radical reform.

  2. February 24, 2014 at 9:34 am

    So what rubbish did win as its purpose is to promote New Labour, which by the way I thought was dead.

  3. February 24, 2014 at 1:03 pm

    As I’ve said before my main problem with your All Power to the CLPs’ argument is with statements like:

    “We can be confident that the vast majority of parties, after two decades in a ‘campaigning party’, know what they’re doing”,

    Now from wherever you are sitting in West Lancs that may indeed be the case – but those of us outside of the cities and a few large towns can feel no such confidence.

    My CLP in a safe Southern Tory seat has about 200 members not many more than 20 of whom are in any sense active.

    We manage one meeting per month in one branch which by default has become an all-members meeting and have one other small discussion group instead of what used to be another branch.

    The only time we have ever had a councillor ‘elected’ at district level down here was 1973 when the Tories cocked up their nominations and only put up 2 candidates in a new 3-member ward and the Labour candidate to his surprise became a councillor without a contest.

    And we really are not atypical of I would say at least 200 CLPs including most seats in the South outside of London.

    While we are active in the sense of standing near full slates of local candidates (albeit mostly paper ones) and even leafleting hard in the three wards which if they were anywhere else other than the South would probably be Labour, in no sense are we or could we be a campaigning party and in fact the only genuinely useful thing we can do for Labour is to send carloads of our members to canvas in actual marginal seats elsewhere (of which we do have 5 within driving distance).

    So while your argument might apply for perhaps 400 CLPs it almost certainly doesn’t for 200+.

    And Labour needs to recognise that across great swathes of the country we are largely moribund at a local level and that ideas which might work for a CLP of 500 members concentrated in a relatively small urban or suburban seat are not applicable to one with only 100 or 200 members (and remember that the average CLP has 300 members) scattered across a large constituency where whole towns lack sufficient members to maintain even the most vestigial branch,

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