Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Labour Party needs to get back to core values and democratise its structures

There are certainly many questions arising for the Labour Party from the disasterous election result.

Deputy leader Harriet Harman has announced that analysis is now ongoing as to what happened. The analysis will be interesting and maybe should be made public before voting on the new leader takes place.

What was clear from this election has been the slide toward X factor come US presidential politics. Almost the entire media coverage-particularly broadcast-focused on the leaders.

The media coverage was one sided, playing a sizeable role in securing another term for the Conservatives. The constant sniping at Ed Miliband - in an often personal way - no doubt took its toll with the electorate. Miliband on the whole had a good campaign, though the tablets of stone debacle three days before people went out to vote was something that Labour could have done without.

The two areas where the Conservatives seemed to score over Labour was on management of the economy and the danger of having the SNP in government.

The economy question went back to the old claim that Labour was entirely responsible for the deficit, so could not be trusted with the economy again.

The party failed to get over the line that the global banking crisis was the major reason for the deficit. Indeed, it could have gone further, arguing that the previous Labour government actually managed the economy very well.

The ten years from 1997 to 2007 saw a booming economy, though there was a failure to redistribute wealth among the mass of people who created it. Then, when the crisis hit, the actions taken by Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling did save the situation not only here but Europe wide. Yes the banks should have been regulated more tightly but as Miliband did point out a few times, the Tories wanted even lighter regulation, so it was a bit rich their arguing things would have been different had they been in power.

The Labour team failed in the leader debates to sufficiently diffuse the economy slurs. For some reason Miliband did not have the stats available to expose the Tory lies. Stats like that the Coalition borrowed more in 5 years than Labour did in 13 years.

With hindsight Labour should also have fought the Tory lie over the economy meltdown over the past five years. Instead it was accepted because for much of that time Miliband and co were trying to put some distance between themselves and Blair and Brown’s new labour. The result a perfect storm, which enabled the Tories with the help of the compliant right wing press to make the lie stick.

On the SNP, the Labour Party stance about not doing deals and attacking the nationalists no doubt hacked off the few Scots still prepared to support the party. The message clearly seemed to be that England was more important than Scotland.

Moving forward Labour has problems. The claims of the likes of David Miliband and would be leader Chuka Umuna that the party must move more to appeal to the aspirations of middle England – the old Blairite mantra – are totally wrong. It has been this approach that has lost Labour so much of its core vote, particularly in Scotland.
How does going after the aspiring Middle England vote halt the inroads of UKIP into the core vote in places like Sunderland, Dagenham and Barking, where the far right party came second to Labour?

Labour has to win back its core vote, increasingly from UKIP in England and the SNP in Scotland. What is the strategy of Umuna to win back Labour votes where the nationalists are biting into them?

The question that Umuna and Miliband do raise in a way is how do the Labour Party deal with a media that is so blatantly right wing. The coverage of the elections shows that the media seems only likely to accept a blue or a lighter shade of blue Labour Party as a possible alternative government to the Tories in Britain.

New labour did master the media because what was being offered was a lighter shade of blue. Ed Miliband’s Labour sort to move off slightly to the left, without ever ditching the austerity element that infuriated so many people especially in Scotland.

The Labour Party needs to reform. It must re-democratise itself, giving members the power to make policy via the conference. Conference must be restored as the supreme policy making body of the party.

At present thousands of party members across the land, run around working for the election of Labour Mps. Many of the candidates come from a careerist group who have trod the path of university, researcher and/or special advisor or in popular parlance: people who have never had a proper job in their lives.

The grassroots work is accompanied by a regular email assault from the party’s organsation, generally patronising people telling them they can do more and often asking for a donation. One of the most annoying of these communicaes came in the heat of the election campaign reading Paul we’ve noticed you haven’t donated – why is this? Another in the name of Justine Miliband, the day before election day, no doubt intended for a three year old, on how she was going to vote and I should do the same thing.

Treating people like children, expecting them to give of their time, then asking for money the whole time, whilst offering no input to the policy making processes of the party, which are reserved for the elite, is no way to be running a party seriously seeking power in the 21st century.

The Party really does need to grow up regarding the way in which it treats members and their roles for the future.

So yes there are many challenges facing the party moving forward. The new leader must have a clear vision but also be able to appeal to the X factor style media circus that erupts at election time.

The Party must get back to its roots or die. How many votes did the austerity light policy cost in the final analysis? The party must also democratise itself, stop treating members like imbeciles and start listening to what they have to say.

It must stand with the trade unions, particularly in the upcoming onslaught over rights to strike etc. The days of attacking the unions in order to gain brownie points with the bosses and right wing media must be put well and truly into the past. If the Labour Party does not stand for the rights of working people then it stands for nothing.

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