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How ideas are made: Labour

A key plank of Ed Miliband’s 2010 leadership campaign concerned reaching out beyond Labour’s membership and involving civil society and the wider public in Labour’s ‘new politics.’ Agenda 2015, Labour’s policy process ultimately leading to the 2015 manifesto, reflects Miliband’s commitment to opening the party’s policy process to the wider public, while also maintaining the formal channels of input from trade unions and members of other affiliates.

Agenda 2015 

Labour’s 2012 Annual Conference approved a package of proposals and priorities which begin to define the party’s manifesto process in the run up to the next General Election. This new system most notably includes mechanisms for the general public to participate directly in policy making.

November 2012 saw the first manifestation of Agenda 2015 with the publication of a series of short ‘challenge papers’, which set out key questions for Party members, affiliates and the wider public to respond to. The responses will guide Labour’s Policy Commissions in drafting a set of proposed policy documents, which will be put out for public consultation before being considered by the National Policy Forum (NPF) in spring 2013. The NPF will produce a policy suite for 2013’s Annual Conference, which will be voted on, setting the direction for the ‘final year’ policy cycle, which essentially repeats the 2012/13 process. This process will result in the NPF submitting a final ‘policy programme’ to the 2014 Annual Conference. Once approved by Conference, the final stage is the formal adoption of the manifesto programme by the entire party membership in a ‘Clause V’ vote, to take place once the General Election is called.

 

The Policy Review

Labour’s Policy Review was initially led by Blairite Liam Byrne but was handed to Blue Labour advocate Jon Cruddas in May 2012. Cruddas streamlined the review into three over-arching themes: One Nation Economy, One Nation Society and One Nation Politics. Billed as a comprehensive discussion of all aspects of Labour’s policy, the review charges members of the Shadow Cabinet with looking at how the party can achieve the changes needed in the economy and society to achieve fairness in an era of constrained public spending.

Less systematic and more issues-focused than the Policy Commissions, to date the review has published a range of documents from the case for a British investment bank to energy market reform and reform of private rented housing. In reality, the review output has reflected the areas of interest that Shadow Cabinet teams have been discussing since 2010.

The policy documents from the policy review will be forwarded to the National Policy Forum and the Policy Commissions for further consideration, reflecting their status as early discussion pieces.

 

Policy Commissions

Labour has established eight Policy Commissions, whose members are drawn from the National Policy Forum, Shadow Cabinet and the National Executive Committee. The Commissions are charged with developing policy ideas, producing challenge papers and publishing policy documents.

The Commissions are grouped into the overarching themes of economy, society, politics and international.

The Policy Commissions will produce draft policy proposals which could ultimately appear in Labour’s 2015 manifesto.

Economy: 

Stability and Prosperity | Work and Business | Living Standards and Sustainability | Society

Society:

Stronger | Safer Communities | Education and Children | Health and Care

Politics:

Better Politics

International:

Britain’s Global Role

 

Key players

Maurice Glasman

Lord Glasman is an English academic, social thinker and Labour life peer. Prior to his elevation to the House of Lords he worked for ten years with London Citizens and developed an expertise in community organising.

He is best known as the originator of Blue Labour, a term he coined in 2009 – defined by Glasman as a small-c conservative form of socialism which advocates a return to the roots of the pre-1945 Labour Party by encouraging the political involvement of voluntary groups from trade unions through churches to football clubs.

His political philosophy of local activism is being touted by some as Labour’s answer to David Cameron’s “big society”. He is scornful of Cameron’s vision, claiming the Prime Minister is in thrall to a free-market philosophy that leaves communities and individuals at the mercy of forces that respect profit far more than tradition, custom and a sense of place.

 

Torsten Bell

Torsten Bell’s role will see him work with the leadership, shadow cabinet and all parts of the Party, to co-ordinate and implement a winning policy agenda to lead into the next general election. The challenge he faces is to provide strategic leadership in developing the Party’s policy development process, establishment of a Rapid Rebuttal Unit, and an effective horizon-scanning operation.

Until the 2010 General Election he worked for Alistair Darling as a member of the Council of Economic Advisers in HM Treasury, advising the Chancellor on the economy and public finances.

 

Jon Cruddas

Jon Cruddas is viewed as one of the most ideological figures in the Labour party and his appointment as Policy Review

Co-ordinator was seen by some to be a gamble. His challenge will be to remain true enough to the Labour grassroots to inspire the campaign, while centrist enough to appear credible to the country as a whole.

A Member of Parliament since 2001, Dr Cruddas was hailed as the champion of the radical centre-left during his bid for the deputy leadership in 2007, in which he was eliminated in the penultimate round of the contest. After his campaign, he was offered a position in the Cabinet by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, which he turned down. He then ruled himself out of the 2010 leadership election, preferring to influence policy.

His dedication to reviewing policy may be more ideological than specific. Only a week before his appointment he said in a speech: “What interests me is not policy as such, rather the search for political sentiment, voice and language; of general definition with a national story.”

 

Key audiences

Ed Miliband will be keen to target a broad base of voters in order to deliver a Labour majority government or, crucially, a coalition. The party will craft its message around Miliband’s emerging One Nation theme. Much has been made of the 5 million voters ‘lost’ by Labour between 1997 and 2010. Supporters of the Blue Labour creed of community, social bonds and gradual change will argue these lost voters form part of Labour’s traditional core vote. Equally, reformers will argue these voters are the group attracted to the New Labour project by Tony Blair and who had left Labour by 2012.

Miliband’s ‘squeezed middle’ philosophy aims to target all those who feel that, despite hard work, they are not realising the progress that had been experienced in previous decades. An amorphous group spanning modest earners to professional families, Miliband will hope Labour can attract them to the ballot box by promising to challenge vested interests in the society and the economy and by convincing them that Labour is the party of aspiration.

A key challenge for Ed Miliband will be striking a balance between ‘rebalancing the economy in favour of lower earners’ whilst not scaring the middle classes into believing Labour will overtax and overspend.

 

Labour’s agenda 2015

Labour's agenda 2015