Its about time Labour members were treated with respect….
Last night my Twitterstream was alive with recriminations about remarks David Miliband made at the Hay Festival. I have to confess to having not read them, context and all, so I wont rush to a judgement. Having said that the fact that the controversial aspects seem to pot-shots at the Labour membership, I do feel moved to speak out on this issue. Time and time again its made perfectly clear by those higher up the Labour food chain that the membership is seen privately as a burden, not a blessing. Riding roughshod over the membership is almost like a rite of passage for any aspiring Labour leader/politician.
Leaderships always have a fractious relationship with their supporters *but* all leaderships since the 1980s, without exception, display signs of deeply mistrusting the membership and implicitly blaming us for the electoral exile of the 1980s and bitter factional struggles of that and the preceding period. This a-historical nonsense is made even more absurd by the fact that obviously a significant portion of Labours current members were barely a twinkle in the eye in the 80s.
People who protest this should consider why, if the leadership trust us, is our conference a glorified political beauty pageant and not the central policy making authority? The obvious answer is that they dont and there is an unwritten view is that the membership is like a problem child which needs to be kept away from the adult business of real politics. We are undervalued and under appreciated and this is at the heart of so many problems that we have as a Party. Apart from the fact that listening to the membership and giving it a say would have steered Labour in government much closer to the electorate than the fabled focus groups it also sends a signal to the wider public they are similarly likely to be held in contempt. A problem to be managed, not people who are looking to be governed by people in tune with them.
We, the members, are not some ‘freaks of nature’, we are the actual living link to the electorate. We have the most contact with them and are, of course, voters ourselves. Its high time our leadership realised this and started treating the Labour membership with the respect and deference it is due from the people who make it what it is. If it doesn’t then I think, for all the current polls, it will struggle to ever find its way into government again.