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
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.
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.
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.
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.