Monday 28 July 2008

Sorry but Warwick 2 will not be Enough to Save Labour

I read Jackie Ashley's column in the Guardian this morning and couldn't find the apology anywhere.

Only twelve months ago she headed up the media dinner party circuit that urged upon the Labour party the strategy of "the smooth transfer of power" from Blair to Brown. Ms. Ashley and vitually all the other media commentators arrogantly dismissed a leadership election enabling ordinary party members to engage in an honest political debate about the future of Labour as just a distraction.

This morning she urges the party to dump Gordon Brown and states that "the party desperately needs a debate about its future direction."

Just as Ms. Ashley and other media commentators were part of the process last year of preventing party members having a say over the leadership of the party now their articles over the last few days are already trying to limit that debate and limit the participants in the debate.

Already elements in the media have selected for us ordinary party members and trade unionists who will be on the shortlist for any future leadership election. The range of potential candidates has already been restricted by these media commentators to those, who like them, supported Gordon Brown and the thrust of New Labour policies over the last decade. The media is reducing the most important debate about Labour's future into the equivalent of a political fashion show catwalk for the sole enjoyment of the gliterati of central London.

What this fails to appreciate is that the vast majority of party members understand that it is a radical change of politics that is needed and not just a new face. Labour Party members must not allow the debate about the future of our party to be dictated by the small clique of media commentators.

That is why the discussion of Warwick 2 is critical. From what we now know about this weekend's agreement, Warwick 2 may contain some very limited advances in the preparation of a policy agenda that could limit the damage to our party at the next election but it is equally clear that it does not go anywhere near enough. Indeed in some areas such as the endorsement of the Government's reactionary welfare reform programme and support for academies it is a retrograde step towards the loss of even more of our supporters.

Over the coming months in the run up to the LRC's confrence in November my role will be to promote a rank and file discussion about the future political direction of the Labour party. This will be led by members not the media. If that discussion leads us to the conclusion that the debate about the future of our party should include a change of leader that that decision will not be determined by media commentators but by ordinary members of our party and our trade union supporters.