Archive for August, 2011

The personal is political: Abortion and me

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

A number of my posts over the last year have been about relating my personal experience to wider political issues. I believe the early feminists were right. The personal is political. Our experiences of power and powerlessness, separateness and community and equality and division shape the way that we think about the world around us. As a result, I have re-branded these posts and will continue this occasional theme of testimony and politics.

I’ve never had an abortion. But I might have done. There was a time, at university, when my period was several weeks late. The man I was having a rather tragic sexual relationship with was moving 5,000 miles away. We were always safe, but accidents happen.

So I went to the pub with a friend, ordered a double vodka and peed on a stick.

Thankfully, the test was negative. There but for the grace of a little blue line go I.

But if that test result had been different, I have no doubt that I would have been considering an abortion. I was poor, unqualified, immature and single. I at least had the self-knowledge to know these weren’t the best attributes for motherhood.

I’ve seen a number of my female friends go through similar experiences. Some weren’t as lucky as I was and did have to go on to make that choice. Some chose abortion, some did not. All found the choice difficult and felt scared and vulnerable while doing so.

Women like us deserve the best and most dispassionate advice about abortion available to us. We do not deserve to be treated as a political football for those who put their dogma above their ability to evaluate the evidence as Frank Field and Nadine Dorries have. They should not have anyone’s morality thrust upon them, but be given the facts and guidance to make their own moral choice.

I’ve never had an abortion because I was careful and lucky. But I simply won’t be preached to on the issue by anyone.

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Give it a Rest

Monday, August 29th, 2011

David Cameron has every right to go on holiday.

Don’t get me wrong, the inept mismanagement of having most of the top team including the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Home Secretary (surely in domestic policy terms the top three decision makers) as well as the Mayor of London away at the same time was exemplary of the slipshod approach to government by this shower.

The fact it took Cameron three days to make the very quick journey from Tuscany to London (and putting out a puff piece about tipping a waitress (something that is only news when you don’t normally do it Dave) in the meantime) once again shows up his shoddy attitude to leadership.

Cameron scurrying back to claim credit for Libya in a way he patently hadn’t from Italy to help the people of the country he’s supposed to lead was shoddy opportunism and looked like it.

These are valid criticisms that Labour can and should make of the government’s actions during August alone. There was a serious lack of leadership, of coherence and seriousness.

But as David Cameron went off to Cornwall to top up some of the holiday he’d missed there was a great deal of criticism from many Labour activists about the fact he was taking holiday at all. I think this is a mistake.

I understand the short-term wins. It does indeed show up the way in which we are certainly not “all in it together” when some can afford five holidays a year, while the rest of us struggle to afford anything at all.

Short term wins can also be important. We want to maintain both a momentum and a presence in the national conversation. But there is a bigger and more important principle at stake. 28 days statutory paid holidays for full time workers is an important victory for the labour movement and Labour Party. This right is something we should be proud of. The fact it is universally awarded, even to those who fought such measures tooth and nail is equally something we should be proud of.

For me there are far too many risks associated with attacking a hard won right for the sake of a quick win. The wins we have made on rights are fragile enough – with a vicious Tory Right  chomping at the bit to reduce them wherever possible. Look at the endless attacks on minimum wage, redundancy rights and indeed holidays from some quarters. We should not do the Tories job for them.

If we start to undermine the principle of the right to leave, our opponents will abuse this more than ever. In the name of “all in it together” we could start to see these rights eroded. We need to respect them, even if we don’t respect everyone who benefits.

Britain has a better work/life balance because of a measure brought in by the Labour Party. We should take greater pride in that fact. So off you go Mr Cameron, enjoy your statutory 28 days, safe in the knowledge that it was a Labour government that made it happen  – for you and for everyone.

 

This post first appeared on Labour List

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Words and Pictures

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

For the sake of brevity, I’m going to do something in this post that I don’t normally like to do, which is to use the shorthand terms of left and right wing interchangeably with the other axis on the political spectrum of liberal and authoritarian. Apologies, as this will rather confuse the message or previous posts where I argues that Labour should and can do no such thing. Please understand that I do so only to respond to the postings of others in kind.

First things first. The memo, the Observer is so breathless about is a “two and a half page paper…written by the head of Labour’s anti-Tory attack unit”. So the person whose job it is in the Labour Party to offer strategic ideas on how we can beat the Tories is doing so in an ideas paper yet to be discussed by shadow cabinet colleagues, never mind adopted in partial or wholesale form. For me, I wouldn’t have held the front page.

Reaction has been predictable. Labour’s 1992 brigade have been doing their usual Chicken Licken routine. So much so in fact that one starts to wonder how and why this fairly innocuous document came to be sold to the Observer as a game-changer in the first place. Perhaps someone, somewhere wanted to kick off a pre-conference anti-Ed frisson. Or force him into a corner on response to the riots, clearly the most contentious aspect of attacking Cameron’s “rightward shift”, though significantly that appears to be acknowledged in the document.

I haven’t read the document. I’d like to as I really can’t judge its content or aims without doing so. All I can do is discuss more generally, where I think Labour can and should land some blows on Cameron and the Tories. Equally, while Conor Pope is right that people aren’t that interested in what a lot of us activists and strategists mistake for politics, we shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking they don’t care about the effect of policy on their lives. So yes, talking horse-trading and inside baseball while canvassing doesn’t work. Simply referring to the Tories as “right wing” doesn’t work. But that’s not to say that we can’t go a long way to re-toxifying their brand, by highlighting broken promises on the NHS, on the environment and on their their bizarre leadership combination of the louche and the incompetent. We just need to do so in a way that makes it clear why that matters to voters, not why it matters to Labour.

The most obvious, yet most shied away from place where Labour could attack the Tories from the left is on taxation policy. This has the advantage of being both good for us in short term tactics while also supporting a longer term narrative. My contention would be that Labour can make the following promises at the next election:

“the average family in Britain will pay no more tax in real terms under a Labour Government than they do now”.

That’s simple and direct. But we will want to do more, because we believe in funding state programmes. So here’s another promise for those whose wealth and income are well above average:

“A Labour Government will not raise your taxes beyond that you paid in 2010. But My God we will collect them.”

This leaves us room to reinstate the 50p tax rate, to move VAT and to do what works with Corporation taxes, encouraging small businesses and start ups while ensuring that monoliths pay to retain their advantages. We should ensure that Osborne doesn’t get away with his “find the lady” trick over the Swiss banks, but answers for his major role in the scuppering of the European Union Saving Tax Directive which would have been far more effective on an ongoing basis at tackling tax havens.

This position also speaks to Labour focusing our efforts on making sure the fortunate pay their fair share. Not raising their taxes, but bloody well paying them. Like everyone else has to.

Recent polling shows that measures like the 50% tax and a mansion tax (this year’s stage managed coalition bust-up) have support across the political spectrum. Labour can use the stage managed bust-up to their advantage by saying that both are good policy, as long as they run along side measures to support the lives of the squeezed middle. We can take the pre-agreed argument between the Lib Dems and Tories and show how we both agree and differ setting out a radical agenda that puts us on the side of the public and paints them again as out of touch and on the side of the aloof.

On the other hand, we will need to be very sensitive when it comes to dealing with crime in the aftermath of the riots. We can’t be simplistic and blame the cuts and we can’t ignore the effect that the cutting of youth services, the loss of jobs and the spluttering of our economy means for people on the ground. But those people were more often the victims than the perpetrators of the crimes we saw in early August, and we have to represent them too. We need to be clear that we support swift but measured justice, but that we also want to really be open to innovative ways to change behaviour too. We will be open to ideas from wherever they come from if they can be proved both to work, and not to cause longer term damage, as I discussed last week.

Labour don’t have to run to the left to define themselves against what is a pretty right wing Government. We can occupy a broad spectrum of the centre ground while also retaining our leftist principles. But one thing we can’t do is run to this coalition’s right – there’s no room there for a centre ground victory.

One thing we shouldn’t do is discuss this publicly in terms of left and right. Because that again is where the public don’t care. Nail Cameron on his incompetence. Nail him on his broken promises. Nail him on his louche attitude and failing leadership abilities. We can paint a vivid picture of this Government’s failings on thier own terms and on the public’s. We won’t win just by calling them Tories, but by showing why Toryism is so damaging.

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A Colourful Vision for Labour: Civil Liberties and Crime

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

In 2014/15 (and, despite recent speculation, almost certainly not before) Labour are going to go to the voters of Britain with a vision for Government. This is my third in an occasional series where I give my best attempts to think about what I’d like to see articulated in that vision. These are not policy ideas, though I will offer those elsewhere, but principles that should form the basis of Labour’s policy making. Here I will be posing questions that should help Labour to establish how we move the arguments for Socialism forward and make it relevant to the 21st century and it’s new challenges. I will also start to offer my answers to those questions.

Labour is neither a liberal nor an authoritarian party. That’s not to say that all members of the Party don’t have views on these issues. They do, and some are held very strongly. But even more than disagreement over economic drivers (which largely exist over strategic political differences rather than fundamental policy differences) we are not of one view on this topic. Because Labour exists fundamentally to deal with issues on the Left/Right axis and not the Liberal/Authoritarian axis, we have an extremely broad range of viewpoints within the Party, all held firmly, with the conviction that theirs is the view that truly matches the Party’s Socialist ideals.

Even though I myself have pretty strong convictions on liberalism I don’t try to sell these as vote winners (or allow a false understanding that they are vote losers). I am neither a natural libertarian nor authoritarian. What I want is  to protect communities using methods that work. Sometimes that will be by taking a strong line on deterrent measures. Sometimes by investing more in rehabilitation rather than punitive punishment.

But what I think Labour has to stop trying to do, is tie itself in knots trying to please extreme ends of an ideological spectrum that does not relate to our core values. Because Lib/Auth values don’t always have a natural place in a Party with Left/Right values, we often have a failure in our politics.  Too often we have tried to be bold with initiatives that have little or no chance of succeeding in their stated aim and then get surprised when people accuse of of having other motives. Partly this is a presentational issue. We feel the need to be doing something, anything, so favour hasty action over well thought through action. Largely though it is this political failure to make the case for not having a designated place on the Lib/Auth spectrum, but being in favour of taking each case on its merits and the impact on and value to the communities we serve.

As Socialists we have the strength of believing in the state as a positive actor. The state can and should be a framework that enables people to achieve. It should not be a straight jacket nor should it be too distant from our lives. We have this great tool at our disposal. But like any tool, it’s how we wield it that counts. We shouldn’t be concerned with ideological liberty but with the genuine safety, comfort and heath of the people of our country and internationally. We shouldn’t be lulled into a false sense of security by shiny technologies that do little more than add a sticking plaster to a gaping wound and simply allow us to say we have acted.

Once established that Labour cannot and should not have a fixed view on liberal and authoritarian issues, for me, the key questions are: Is there really a problem that needs fixing? Does this solution work? Will it keep working or will it eventually exacerbate the problem? What are the real drawbacks when you remove the ideological objections? Are these negatives a price worth paying? If they are not, what do we do instead? Does that work better or have worse impacts?

Removing ideology from the equation either way should help to answer these key policy questions. But there are other aspects that need to be dealt with.

Much of the problem we have in deciding on liberties and our outlook to them is the fact that it is often needed in reaction to the fast way in which technologies which either give us new liberties or new ways to express them are developing, and the corollary of new technologies for curbing liberties. For example registering a citizen’s DNA could be seen as simple an extension of other items keeping account of our citizenry, such as the census, electoral roll and the registration of births marriages and death. It is only scary and new because it is a new thing that will be counted and registered. Looked at ideologically, the retention of DNA from citizens accused and acquitted of a crime is a strike against an innocent person’s liberty. Taking ideology out of the equation, the retention of the DNA has literally no effect on that citizen. Unless they happen to later commit a crime that this retention later helps to solve. This seems to me to be to be luddism dressed up as civil liberties. A rejection of progress dressed up as a civil liberties issue. Unless you are a pure Libertarian, you accept that the state is entitled to keep certain records. The keeping of the records is not – from a non-ideological perspective – an abuse of liberty. It’s what you do with the information that counts.

Equally from the oppositve perspective, ID cards were proved before the idea had got out of the Home Office door to be utterly useless at dealing with the crime of identity theft. The technology used by the criminals was much more agile than any Government system could ever be. The Government got caught up in its excitement over a technology and ignored the fact that the answer to question one was no, it won’t work.

If Labour can move to a properly understood middle ground on Civil Liberties, we could undo a lot of the damage that is done when our factions cry “woolly liberal” or “fascist” at each other. We can accept that we are not a Party with a settled view, and while continuing to argue over the specifics, lose the tag of class-traitor that both sides attache to the other. We can also be better understanding of the actions of our Governments when they try to act in the interests of society one way or the other. Equally we can have a strong line to take on doing the right, not the expedient, thing one way or the other.

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A Plea for Nuance

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

When I first started blogging I was given some excellent advice by veteran Lib Dem blogger Mark Thompson. He told me to keep a list of possible topics that occur to me when I don’t have the time to blog so I can return to them when inspiration and not having to do real work happen at the same time. A week ago I added to my list the phrase “whatever happened to nuance?” This was before the riots. Then it was a concern about the way we engage in public discourse. About the way the most extreme viewpoints always get a hearing and the way rhetoricians rise to the top while the more considered struggle to get a hearing. Now it is an urgent and serious matter. Our lack of ability to use nuance in public rhetoric could jeopardise a proper public response to what has happened.

With the demise of deference in politics the rush to create more interesting media events from politics became ever greater. It was once believed that the rightful loss of deference would lead to a media that sought to better inform us of the behaviour, thoughts, theories, concepts and policies of those who represent us. Sadly it has led instead to anti-deference, where the behaviours of both media and political elites has become a sideshow of sparring and retort. Thoughts, theories, concepts have to arrive fully formed to receive an airing, and their proponents must show no doubt, no room for manoeuvre no ability to be persuaded from their one true path.

Television journalism has become little but a search for the “Gotcha” moment. Documentaries jostle for space and ratings with polemics from the left and right and no distinction is given between them. In the press, we have columnists whose sole role is to ensure they are talked about, clicked through to on the website. Good or bad doesn’t matter, it’s the hit rate alone that counts.

We are likely to enter into a time where nuance is both needed more than ever and is more lacking than ever. When people are angry and frightened they lash out. We have all been angry and frightened over the last few days. We all want to strike back hard, even if that would make things worse. It’s a natural impulse. That doesn’t make it the right thing to do.

There isn’t one cause of these riots. There are no magic wands or simplistic policies that will change either what happened or what caused it to happen. A range of different public policy options will be available to the current and future governments to see what works. A mixture of deterrents from those who see this as simply a criminal justice issue and social and economic drivers from those who believe the causes to be more worthy of investigation than the stemming of the effects.

All sides must respond to this with clear heads and long term visions. Those visions will differ, we can argue about that. But we need to be clear that we do so not based on dogma. We need what works. We need to know what works. We need to be able to make mistakes as it’s the only way to get things right in the end. I will tell the Tory government when I think they are getting it wrong. That’s democracy. I will expect to be listened to if I can back up my gut instinct with facts. That’s good public policy. If I’m proved wrong I will say so. That’s good manners. But I won’t scream and shout. I won’t riot. I won’t write blogs specifically intended to rile people up and get myself noticed. I’ll put some ideas out there and look to see if the reaction brings anything interesting.

There has rightly been criticism of the way politicians have handled this situation. But we need to look not just at the brutalised culture of those who are rioting but also the coarsened and desensitized way in which we talk about them and about each other. We need not a return to deference, but a new age of nuance. We need it now.

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I Love London

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

I was born in Lewisham, I grew up in Hackney, I’ve lived in Tottenham and in Walthamstow and in Southwark I now live in Lambeth. Over the last few days I’ve been frightened for myself, and for my family and I’ve been desperate to be at home, safely, with the door closed to the turmoil outside. But despite all of that, most of all I’ve been determined. Determined not to lose sight of why I love my city.

I went to a school at which there were over 60 Languages spoken, from Guajarati to Finnish. Despite that, we all spoke to each other in English and helped newly arrived people to do so too. An abiding memory of my school years is the spontaneous round of applause given to a classmate who – just a few months before had fled violence in former Yugoslavia and was unable to speak a word of English – took his turn to read a verse of poetry and did so perfectly.

I’m proud of the influence that growing up in this City has had on me. From my accent and range of language (in my very English family, my Mum has a Turkish nickname, my sister can speak fluent Jamaican patois all of us overuse the term “innit”) to the education value of being surrounded by so much music, art, theatre and cultural opportunities to experience all that the world has to offer on my doorstep.

If there is a War on Christmas anywhere (and I strongly doubt there is) then there certainly isn’t in London. We just love an excuse for a good knees-up is all. So we celebrate Christmas but also Diwali, Eid, Hannakuh, St Patrick’s Day and New Year (British and Chinese). That’s often a war on sleep, for some less devout revellers it can be a war on our livers, some might consider it a covert action in the war on mono-culturalism. Myself I just consider it one of the great perks of living in one of the biggest and most diverse cities in the World.

There will be many responses to what has happened in the last few days.

First it will need to be stopped and there are plenty of real law and order experts who should feed into that process better than armchair Generals like me. In the longer term, there will need to be important examinations of the social and political conditions which led us here and the ways to minimise the chance of it happening again. We will need to understand, but not in any way excuse, what has happened. We will need to help communities to rebuild their looted and burnt shops, offices and homes. I hope the best minds in the country in this area are hard at work on ensuring a long term and robust response. I have my theories of course. I wouldn’t be politically interested if I didn’t believe in bettering the world and believe I understood ways of doing so. But now is not that time. Not yet.

This is not my first time living through riots in London. One of the things I remember helping the healing process last time, was the rediscovery of the joy that being a Londoner can give you. At its best, the place I grew up is the place of the Hackney Peace Carnival Mural and of this amazing and courageous woman telling it like we all felt it. We’ve seen the absolute worst of what London and Londoners can do and be. There will be a time for punishment, a time for sociology, a time for politics. All of them have to come from a rediscovering of our love for this amazing city. All of them must allow us to hope.

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You look lovely.. Have you done something with your hair (p.s. vote for me!)

Monday, August 8th, 2011
Hello,
 
May I say you’re looking particularly charming today?
 
By the way – Total Politics are having their annual political blogging awards. If any of you fancied voting for me as best individual blogger and the Scarlet Standard as best blog, I’d be most grateful!  you have to vote for at least 5 – I’ll leave the others to your brilliant discretion, though my work can also be found on Labour List and Labour Uncut!

Click here to vote in the Total Politics Blog Awards 2011 

Have you lost weight? You must be working out, you look so hawt!
 
Em.
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The left has a hero worship problem

Friday, August 5th, 2011

This week something very frightening happened. My husband was threatened, twice, with hospitalisation by a thug. The “reason”? My husband thought that the sentence given to Jonathan May-Bowles was reasonable given the circumstances and expressed this opinion in a public forum. Some of my readers may disagree with that. That’s ok, you’re entitled to your opinion. You are not – absolutely not – entitled to threaten bodily harm to a person simply because they disagree with you.

This was one small incident. It doesn’t mean much to people beyond Nik & myself. And we refuse to be silenced by violent moronic threats. I’d also like to add that I’ve been overwhelmed with the support we’ve received. But it does seem indicative of a broader pattern having a serious effect on the way the left interacts with the wider world, and perhaps even threatening our legitimacy.

Take the case of Dominique Strauss-Khan. A working class woman made a very serious accusation against a very powerful man. Yet despite this, because of his politics, there was a real charge to trumpet his potential innocence. Of course a person is innocent until proven guilty. That’s an essential part of the justice process. But that means treating them neutrally. Not championing them and turning a blind eye to the potential dark side of their personality.

Another obvious recent case is that of Julian Assange. Wikileaks was an illegal act of high bravery. The point is that it was illegal. A true martyr accepts that the punishment is worth the effects of the crime. Assange’s supporters seem to believe that the effects of the crime are worthy of the negation of the punishment. Never mind the horrific arguments that I’ve heard excusing the allegations of sexual assault. I don’t think it works that way.

A martyr can change the system but can’t negate it. Taking the decision to release classified information knowing it would potentially result in a prison sentence is more admirable than trying to have it both ways. Like Marbles, you may agree or disagree with the action taken, but the consequences are part of that decision. To deny that is to negate what makes to act heroic to so many in the first place.

Finally, and in a very different category of misdemeanour is Johann Hari. Hari is a great writer who has frequently written exceptionally well about the damage the Tories are doing locally and nationally. I have been fulsome in my praise. So his behaviour has embarrassed me. I no longer see him as a trustworthy source. I can’t use his brilliantly written polemics as evidence, because I can’t trust them. That’s a sad result, but for me, it has to be the right reaction. I don’t want to tarnish my judgement by trying to downplay his transgressions. I’m sorry for Hari personally, but I’m angry with him for thinking so little of his audience as to put us in this position.

If we continue to see those who do things we admire (which for me does not include Marbles) as one dimensional heroes, we leave ourselves open to attack on flanks we simply shouldn’t be exposing and to deserved ridicule. It affects our ability to present ourselves as critical thinkers. Capable of rational judgement. If we lose that, we lose our ability to convince people of the worth of our arguments. I’m not willing to give that up for anyone.

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The Jury’s Out

Friday, August 5th, 2011

I’m worried by the call from Compass and friends for a “public jury” to examine British public life and Public Interest tests. Not because I don’t think there is a good idea in there, but because I think participatory democracy is an important but struggling concept, and I struggle to believe that in its current inception, this campaign will be the right one to get a popular movement towards this kind of important step. I worry that this could damage the longer term prospects of adopting such techniques on a wholesale basis.

After the disaster for the democracy movement that was the AV referendum, I strongly felt that a period of reflection was in order from those leading the campaign. I’m very sad that so soon after the previous defeat, a new campaign has been launched (and the list of signatories to the Guardian letter launching the campaign is almost identical to the Yes to AV list) and launched in such a way that it is clear that few of the lessons of the referendum have been listened to or learned.

The democracy movement in the UK have become stultifying and self-serving. As individuals there are a great many people on that list I like and indeed admire. As a group, the must recognise that they have become the very elites they rail against. They talk to themselves in their own language about their own preoccupations at the expense of talking to and understanding the vast majority of the country. Now they are asking for public money to do more of the same.

This is the lesson that should have been learned by the movement. That when the public hear people from Unlock Democracy and Compass talking about political elites, they think it means you too. Me too. I’m a London-based, Guardian-reading, Leftie political activist. I’m not exactly what you would call representative of the Great British Public. I have to respect that when campaigning. I have to understand that I am persuading them not by automatic right of my doing things I believe to be right and democratic representing them. Sadly from the language of the petition, this does not seem to have sunk in.

I’ve witnessed participatory democracy in action and it can be truly inspiring. When a roomful of people representative of their city discuss their priorities on a focused question, the buy in for the results can transform lives. I truly believe in this process and in fact wrote about Labour policy being discussed through similar techniques in my submission to Refounding Labour. I am absolutely in favour of this kind of decision making being used well and empowering those who would not normally have a voice.

But used badly, and all it will do is spread further cynicism about electoral reform. As someone who doesn’t want to see a good method squandered by poor delivery, I have three major concerns about what Compass is proposing.

My first concern is that 1000 people is too many to examine such a complex topic thoroughly. To get a properly ramdomised and representative group of people to the point where they are well versed enough in the background of a topic to be a properly investigatory group, willing and capable of understanding, examining and critically questioning evidence is a slog. If they are a truly representative group, they will have different levels of education and therefore different aptitudes to dealing with evidence. To ensure that this doesn’t become a group of a few leaders and a great deal of followers there will have to be significant (and costly) training from an impartial source before the first evidence session can even begin to be conceived. The best examples of participatory democracy that I have seen have been on much smaller questions; singular issues where the evidence can be chewed over and understood. I admire the ambition of this project, and as I wrote just last week, ambition is important. But before anyone should fund or support this project, that ambition needs to be backed up with some real planning.

Which brings me to my second concern: The “paid secretariat with the resources to commission research and call witnesses”. Not to be facetious, but isn’t this all a bit familiar? Isn’t this what we (I worked there briefly) did at the Power Inquiry? Will the make-up of this Secretariat be drawn from new blood? Or from the people who have been doing this sort of thing over and over again since at least 1988? This is a movement crying out for new blood, for outsiders to come in as new brooms to sweep away the disaster of the AV referendum. If the same people run the secretariat, it will come to the same conclusions. The same book will be written, the same articles dusted off and placed in the same newspapers and life will go on much as before. Like so many other good ideas, a failure to let go by a power hoarding elite will stifle their ability to be passed to a new generation. That would be a real tragedy for democracy. What guarantees are there that this project will be run robustly from the start, with fresh thinking and new ideas and a sense of lessons learned in management and campaigning style from the AV referendum?

My final concern is the witness list. I strongly suspect it will look an awful lot like the signatory list. That would be a mistake. As I have said above, I admire a great deal of the people on the signatories list and agree with an awful lot of what they have to say. But for this to be a genuine investigation, all sides must be heard. There should be witnesses in support of an unelected House of Lords, against any regulation of the press and politicians. All sides of the argument must be put. Otherwise you might as well have the secretariat take the statements of the elites of the democratic movement, put them in the report and stop bothering the poor 1000 people in the middle. What processes will be put in place to ensure not just party political balance but ideological balance?

I hesitated about writing this piece. I genuinely think there is a germ of a good idea in this campaign and would like to see it flourish. I write this piece in a genuine attempt to be helpful. To be a critical friend, not just a critic. A robust process has been missing from projects like this in the past. It will be essential not just to the flourishing of this project now but also to the legitimacy of the democracy movement in years to come.

This piece was first posted on LabourList. Neal Lawson, Chair of Compass wrote a response here

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