Over the next few days, Labour members will be receiving their ballot papers for elections to the National Executive Committee and National Policy Forum. Both are important bodies and indeed I have been very happy, as a candidate for the former, to receive e-mails asking a variety of questions. It’s great to see Labour members actively engaged with these elections and questioning people who want to represent them.
Internal elections are an opportunity for a little bit of soul-searching. When we face the public and ask them to elect us we should puff out our plumage, so to speak, and assert ourselves collectively. However, internal elections are an opportunity to collectively ask ourselves a few searching questions and this is a necessary and healthy thing. So, rather than pitch for your vote, i’d like to pitch some proposals about the kind of questions we need to be asking ourselves when we cast our vote.
1) How do we reconnect with our fundamental, core values? Some people will argue this takes the naval-gazing too far, that the real question is how do we re-connect with the voting public. I, however, would argue that any entity not in touch with itself is unlikely to be able to connect with others outside of itself; fundamental to this is the understanding of the simple fact that we lost office because we lost our way and that Labour, being true to itself, is the way to win back government.
2) Have we become ‘addicted to fixing’ and if so, what can be done about it? Mark Ferguson makes a spirited case on LabourList that we have become addicted to fixing as a Party and I think, sadly, he is probably right. This is indicative of a political mindset and culture which values form over process. Refounding Labour has made changes but surely those are mostly to our organisational forms with little impact on reconnecting with our essential animus.
3) What can we do to make Labour a more effective, cohesive, whole? Here I think much of the onus is on the leadership to start trusting the membership again. Ever since 1983, Labour members have been made to feel bad, like they are an albatross around the neck of the Party and that the leadership has to move mountains to effectively ‘save’ the Party from the ‘worst excesses’ of its own members. Rather than being treasured and valued, and that being reflected in our processes and internal democracy, I think members and activists are treated with cold disdain by the Party machine. How best can we repair this breach between the different parts of our collective organisation?
I think, whether it be me, or any of the other fine candidates, Labour members should let the answers to those questions guide them in how they vote and that they should vote for the people they think best placed to answer them and take our Party forward, back to its rightful place as a tribune of the British people.