A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Refounding Labour

There was a little outburst of August hysteria yesterday with accusations flying about on Labourlist (http://www.labourlist.org/what-on-earth-is-going-on-with-refounding-labour ) about the non-publication of submissions to the Refounding Labour consultation on Party structures.

This all came as news to me as a member of Labour's NEC - I hadn't known there was a timetable to publish the submissions yesterday so the first I heard about it was the allegation that it was being delayed.

My summer advice to Labourlist would be to chill out a bit.

There are a lot of political issues in the UK today worth getting excited about. The timing of the publication of reams of technical submissions to an internal review of Party structures is not one of them.

Ed Miliband made a public commitment to publishing the submissions. He is going to stick to that.

But this is actually quite a mammoth logistical exercise.

The people who sent in submissions have to be notified that these will be made public and the submissions, which run to thousands of pages in total, have to be put into a format suitable for being posted online.

Anyone who is desperate for their submission to be public in a hurry only has to post it online themselves or send it to Labourlist.

And the timing of publication relative to publication of the NEC's recommendations is highly politically sensitive.

As NEC members we are only part of the way through the process of agreeing recommendations to go before Conference (there are two more formal meetings - an Organisation Committee and a full NEC meeting where this will be discussed) and there ongoing informal discussions with stakeholders to try to reach a consensus on some of the key issues.

I would be unhappy if the politics of those discussions was jeopardised by a rushed putting of the views of some stakeholders in the public domain during these discussions.

It's the end product which is important here - getting a set of proposals that improve Labour's policy-making, internal democracy and campaigning, and that have broad buy-in across the Party. Getting there may be a messy process if previous Labour history is anything to go by and having the whole of that process conducted publicly might not be in the Party's interests - if we do manage to get a consensus hammered out that sails through conference, why would we want the media and our political opponents to have access to initial submissions from months ago that they can analyse and quote from to highlight differences of opinion which may get reconciled during the run-up to Conference?

Thus far, aside from a couple of mischievous articles the Refounding Labour process has been conducted without grandstanding or public bickering. People have strong views about the issues but are not rushing to broadcast their differences but rather trying to find a consensus way forward. I think that's rather better than the highly public infighting that accompanied every previous review of Labour's structures.


Blogger Vincenzo Rampulla said...

I think that kind of sense and sensibility towards is right in the main Luke.

But I don't think it is a case of most people really caring about seeing their submission on another website or wanting to rush the process - I actually think that the problem is that Party is being a bit haphazard in explaining what's going on.

Part of the beauty of the Refounding Labour consultation was that it was open, inclusive and nothing was off-limits. So members could trust that the Party and the Leadership (not often the same thing) wanted a full and frank discussion.

That kind of enthusiasm has raised expectations and isn't going to die down just because the consultation has ended. People are now keen to see what changes will actually happen. If the implementation and decision making process isn't shown to be just as full, frank and open then of course people will be sceptical.

If you look at the way the Conservatives managed their reform agenda post-1997, their failure in successfully implementing change was predominately down to not taking members along with them. So they didn't buy what the Party was selling.

You're involved in the really important part of the process but it feels like it is being down in a hermetically-sealed political box. Refounding Labour needs that a human face, who'll give clarity to and explain what decisions are being made, why they're being made and how they're being implemented.

If you're not the one doing the talking then you can't really blame people talking amongst themselves.

11:11 am, August 18, 2011

Anonymous Stuart Bruce said...

Luke, on most issues - except your new employer :-) - we come from very much the same place in the Labour Party, but I think you're missing the point on Refounding Labour. Personally, I'm likely to be more than happy with what actually happens as a result. I'm a loyalist by nature. But the problem with the process - and your post compounds it - is that from start to finish it's given the impression of being a crude stitch-up. I'm not even opposed to stitch-ups per se, but if you're going to do them then don't do them badly, which is what this looks like. And yes there are more pressing political issues, but to tackle them we need an effective, modernised party and this process doesn't feel like the way to get there.

5:50 pm, August 18, 2011


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