Saturday, June 17, 2006


And it was all so much different then.

I'm sitting here watching 'The Summer of... 1997' on BBC Two and the pictures of the Peter Snow swingometer on election night as the screen washes red has the same effect on me as watching footage of last year's Ashes victory. I can feel the hairs on the back of my neck rising (no doubt in the same way that Iain Dale's hackles rise at the thought) at the sight of Neil Hamilton getting his marching orders or Michael Portillo being unceremoniously ejected by Stephen Twigg.
Nostalgia is a wonderful thing. Can Labour rediscover that passion in time for the next election? The recent YouGov survey suggests that we need something to help us find our way out of the current doldrums. I took part in that survey and I can say that my responses seem to mirror the majority of current members - and this is the core membership who have stuck with us despite the travails of Iraq. These are the people who believe in the party and what it stands for, the members who will be involved in repairing the damage caused by the government's mistakes. They deserve to be heard and two thirds of them want Blair gone by the 2007 conference, but they don't want a nasty internal fight either. The message to the leadership and those who would be king is that there does need to be 'an orderly transition' and all sides owe it to the party to ensure that happens. By all means, let's have a contest, not a coronation, but let's not have Tony dragged kicking and screaming from Downing Street. We gave him his third victory, so he owes us that.

The poll also raises issues about internal party democracy, something that has bothered me in recent years. We need to find a happy medium between the control freakery and the unfettered membership control of policy. At worst, the controlling nature of the party machine has led to a number of activist members leaving the party - Blaenau Gwent being merely the most high-profile example. The alternative can be seen with the Liberal Democrat conferences of old, which saw some of the wackier sandalista ideas becoming party policy, sometimes to the dismay of the party leadership. We need to let our political leaders develop policy, especially in government, but we also need a genuinely influential role for the membership in both policy development and aspects of the running of their party. Ironically, this might come as a necessity. With all parties in financial difficulties and forty-six party staffers leaving this summer, the membership might be able to achieve some control.

1 comment:

Elephunt said...

Wouldn't disagree with any of that and the yougov poll certainly reflects my experience of the mood in the party.I certainly think conference alone deciding policy would be a mistake but there needs to be a way to allow members to have a say on policy and ,just as importantly, to feel that say has been listened to.It's the ONLY way to 'renew' the party.