The 2010 election was a tale of two campaigns. On the one hand there were member-led innovations like Mob Monday and #Labourdoorstep which got activists targeting their support and pooling their resources.
Sadly, the campaign at the top seemed unable to capture this spirit and equally unable to really give the activists the space they deserved to lead the campaigns. The one opportunity I remember where this was attempted was the dreadful, disastrous “Fire up the Quattro” poster. When one considers how many people that went through for approval, it is astonishing that not one of them had the gumption to wonder about the public attitude to this pop culture figure. While one poster is not all that important in the grand scheme of things, this was emblematic of how distanced from the public and the lived experience of ordinary people.
To be a properly campaigning Party, we need to be a better disciplined Party. The astonishing situation we find ourselves in today is in many ways a mirror inversion of the situation of the 1980s. Party members – as a whole – are disciplined and focused on defeating the Tory-led government at every level. The staff and PLP are undisciplined, briefing anonymously, undermining the leader and therefore the members and defeating Labour in the public arena with scant attention to the feelings and needs of those they are supposed to serve.
I have already discussed issues around the staff. I believe it is also inherent that we change the way the PLP is organised and run. I believe that the events of the last few months have shown that it is essential that the Leader appoint his own shadow cabinet. As far as I can see it is the only way to restore some discipline into the PLP. While I supported Ed for leader, if any other candidate had won, and Ed supporter were behaving in the way some have done over the last 6 months I would be saying exactly the same. My loyalty is to the people of Britain and to offering them an electable Labour government.
Again I think that MPs need to have a contract with their CLP outlining what is expected of them as representatives.
In the 2010 Manifesto, we said:
“We will ban MPs from working for generic lobbying companies and require those
who want to take up paid outside appointments to seek approval from an independent
body to avoid jobs that conflict with their responsibilities to the public.”
I believe it is essential that we retain this rule while out of office and implement the lobbyist register as soon as we are returned to Government. We can never again be the Party where behaviour like that of Stephen Byers, Patricia Hewitt and Geoff Hoon is allowed to take place.
Equally we must be a united force against the coalition. Any MP or Peer working for this Government in a formal capacity, as John Hutton and Frank Field have done, should have the whip removed from them. There should be no question of Alan Milburn getting a peerage.
The selection process should be better staggered over the life of a Parliament. I think the Island seats are a great idea, and selecting early in this way will have a positive effect on our chances of winning these seats. I realise that the boundary review is going to make other early selections difficult, but there should be a timetable rolled out for seats after that. A constant drumbeat of selections will help Labour to campaign long term.
We need to encourage MPs who want to stand down to announce that they are doing so as soon as possible. At present this is difficult as MPs fear they will lose power and status. I propose that MPs who announce early that they are going to step down should form an emeritus committee to consult on manifesto issues and processes, essentially formalising their role as Party grandees. I believe that this committee should have access to the manifesto process, but that retiring MPs should not be part of the Clause 5 process, as there is too strong a chance of a potential conflict of interest.