Guest post from Brother G
There has been growing hysteria inside and outside the Labour Party about the performance of Ed Miliband. Criticised for being ‘weak’ and a ‘ditherer’, a number of commentators and activists have been quick to attack the perceived lack of leadership coming from the top. Exhibit A amongst the evidence cited is the lack of concrete policy proposals coming from the shadow front benches.
It will come as a relief to those people then to see Ed Miliband finally make a decisive policy announcement, though not the kind his critics might have been hoping for. Because the policy is ... there is no policy. As Miliband reached his 100th day in office, he announced he will be waiting two years before establishing a complete set of policies for Labour.
This hasn’t gone down too well. Among my circle of comrades, several are frothing at the mouth and clawing at the walls in their frenzy to condemn this ill-judged descent into contemplation and self-reflection. Such an attitude is hardly surprising. For many comrades of a certain age, being a party member meant being a paid-up spokesperson for New Labour. Under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown policy was something which was dictated down to members from on high, not developed through a process of democratic negotiation.
For many who've only experienced activism under the shadow of an incumbent Labour Government, the sharp shock of being cast adrift without the safety blanket of Downing Street diktats must be a strange and unsettling experience. For 13 years discussion of, and opposition to, party policy has not only been ignored but sometimes discouraged. The result has, in too many cases, been disillusionment among more idealistic comrades and a worrying anti-intellectual streak of the many time-servers who still clutter up CLP executives up and down the country. It could well be this attitude to policy that allowed Gordon Brown to stumble through the government's twilight years with nary a hint of the radicalism which defined our movement, or that man’s own youth. They do say, after all, that in the land of the blind the one-eyed man is king.
However, those of us who've been looking for opportunities within the labour movement to encourage a return to left-wing ideas, this change of pace should be viewed as an opportunity. As someone who voted for Ed Miliband in the leadership election I can say I've got what I voted for: a chance to redefine the way policy and debate is handled within the Labour Party. Some may see this as a lack of leadership on Miliband’s part, but I ask you: in the media saturated 21st century, what could be a better example of decisive leadership than refusing to participate in the tit-for-tat policy soundbites that have pervaded our political landscape in recent years?
It is incorrect to suggest a lack of official policy proposals will hinder Labour in local elections. Such elections can only be won by reconnecting with voters, and this cannot be achieved by pulling populist policies out of a hat. It must be done by rebuilding ourselves as part of a serious mass movement, by defending the hard won victories of working people not just in words but in deeds, and by mobilising the grass roots of our party to share their time, their energy and, most importantly, their ideas.