Friday, 27 May 2011

A Lost Labour Leadership struggles to Found itself

The thing about Blair-Brown, in those early years of government, was that – whether it was actually true or not and whatever you thought about them – they gave the impression of efficiency, of knowing what they were about.
They had the ‘mark of government’ on them.

After 13 months out of power the question we need to ask about the present Labour leadership is whether we have descended to shambles.

Peter Hain is leading the consultation which is meant to 'Refound' us on our path.

The first thing I received was an email directing me to a multi-questioned and word-heavy online questionnaire. A facebook colleague has delivered his damning verdict on that: ‘far too long winded and far too complicated’! Apparently, I am told, it asks 66 questions, yet it has just four boxes to answer them in. He is correct – it was a questionnaire aimed at intelligentsia, not at the normal member.

Next, I received an invitation to attend a Refounding Labour event. More than 50 of us turned up.

Don’t get me wrong, the people who organised and led the event were lovely, genuine people. The people who were there were dedicated, motivated, and seeking leadership.

It was the consultation tool they were given to work with that was useless.

First, I was given the full Refounding Labour document – a glossy 22-page A4 pamphlet. Wordy. Muddled. Repetitive. Unstructured. Expensive. Our leaders have had 13 months to develop this; if this is the best they can do, then we need to sack the lot of them.

I managed to read to page 12 before the meeting began.

We were organised into five discussion groups. The five topics considered by the groups did not match the four areas in the booklet/online questionnaire.

Judging from the feedback, all the groups – whatever their set topic – said much the same thing. Members feel divorced, disdained, estranged, lacking direction, lacking policies. The party seems to be led by a small group of ‘up-theres’ and their post-grad advisers. Instructions come down from on high which members hadn’t helped to formulate. Policies were made and passed with which they didn’t agree, and had never been asked about. Conference is a managed rally not a policy-making body. There is no accountability; no one ever gets back to you.

There were lots of good ideas shared about what to do about this, but it was all very random, inchoate and undeveloped. What struck me most forcefully was that everything was (necessarily, in the time available) barely-scratch-the-surface superficial.

The meeting lasted an hour. We were assured that our wonderful ideas would be typed up and sent off for the end of the consultation on 24 June.

And then?

I find from the booklet that, out of the consultation, proposals for change will be put to the NEC, for a decision at Conference THIS SEPTEMBER!

I was left wondering how – and by whom – this huge mass of chaotic comment was going to be sorted, analysed and used. So many of the issues raised should have formed the basis for a subsequent conference of their own. They needed to be drilled down into, agonised over, thought about…

This one-hour demi-rant was useless as a vehicle for informing change.

And what about the Branches – the real home of Labour’s rank-and-file?

Nothing has been produced for them – no discussion materials. It might be possible to use the consultation guide for the leaders of the conference I attended, perhaps simplified, but nothing has been passed out to the Branches.

Our branch certainly hasn’t discussed the matter.

When the consultation reaches its end in June, one thing it won’t have done – even tried to do – will have been to find out the feelings and ideas of the mass of loyal, rank-and-file Labour branch members

Instead has this ‘consultation’ merely been a very expensive process, which has given handfuls of self-selected activists, and the emailing computer-literate, the opportunity to have a bit of a belly-ache?

On the basis of which, proposals for change are going to be approved.

Has this been a meaningful consultation, or have the outcomes already been agreed? Is there any way that something meaningful could possibly come from such a superficial, trite exercise?

I wonder which bin our comments are going to be filed in?

No comments:

Post a Comment