Sunday 1 February 2015

Policy Plea


Gerald Kaufman described our 1983 manifesto as the "longest suicide note in history" This year's won't drive anyone to suicide because it's the most soporific in history. Anyone contemplating suicide will find it difficult to stay awake.

A winning manifesto should inspire hope and excitement: "we fight elections in poetry but govern in prose".We've decided to fight in fudge. Renationalise the railways as the public wants? Well we might allow public sector bids which aren't likely to win against big foreign railways. End student fees?  No but we'll give them a third off-not even a two degrees for the price of one offer.

No populism.We love business even as it overcharges chisels and cheats.No class war. Mustn't frighten the middle classes. No nationalism- Couldn't fit that in among all the Euro-enthusiasm But there'll probable be a pledge card commitment to balance the budget.That should bring em thronging out to vote for us.

It's all a bit disappointing. John Cruddas in charge of policy is an interesting original thinker strong on issues like decentralisation and bringing power down to the people. We've had a long and earnest policy review. The policy forum was a good idea to take it out of the dead brains of the NEC. The mountains have laboured but only a ridiculous mouse has been born.

There's a lot of rethinking to do after the failure of financial capitalism in 2008, the failure of neo-liberalism  and the failure of austerity. But no Crosland to do it. The effort to shape socialism to the new society has begun, but too late in the day to give us an inspiring manifesto. Michael Meacher's book last year and another collective effort on policy coming soon. Peter Hain's future of socialism revisited.  Kelvin Hopkins' pamphlet onEurope, and next month Bryan Gould and John Mills on running a competitive economy for growth, but none of this has been heeded

We're right to fight on the NHS and to attack the damage done by Osborne's cuts  and to urge investment and higher wages to boost demand but we also need to offer an exciting alternative to the combination of low wages, minimal state and Klepto-capitalism the Tories are building. Labour is about hope and betterment or it fails.

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