The Rhetorical Radicals….
One of the things you notice about the Labour leadership contest is the fact its awash with radical, lefty-sounding rhetoric (except on immigration). No doubt the politically savvy pretenders to the throne are not unaware of the constituency they are appealing too. So, fear not, this in most cases does not represent a genuine shift in the centre of the Labour Party’s political landscape. However, as always the devil will be in the detail and the question will be how the gap between rhetoric and action is filled.
A good example of how wide that gap can be are David Miliband’s proposals, launched today, to build a ‘movement for change’. If by this David had actually said ‘ I will tinker a bit at the edges to make the Labour Party appear more democratic’ then he would have won full marks for his candour. Let’s look at the concrete proposals. Number 1 is ‘a debate’ on having an elected chair. Now, before you hail this as an amazing innovation you have to ask yourself this core question. How much power does the Labour chair actually have? Can they advocate openly and independently for the party membership, for example? The answer surely has to be no; they can appear on the imprint of our election material which is hardly an awe-inspiring superpower is it?
The other proposal is to free-up money to train ‘future leaders’; this is a horrific idea to my mind. Are these people going to be trained to be fiercely free-thinking individuals or in fact are they going to be given a leg-up on the Labour Party career greasy poll in exchange for a stunning ability to channel the voice of the leadership and specifically David Miliband at any given moment? I sadly suspect the answer is the latter.
Now, how about something really radical? For one thing Conference which has been neutered time and time again needs some of its power restoring. It’s embarrassing that the leadership so distrusts the membership that it can’t let it have a say. Bodies like the NEC and NPF need to be empowered and if necessary restructured. If one of the leadership candidates was to put forward a program change along those lines then I think they would be rightly hailed as much more than just a rhetorical radical.