by Tom Keeley
This weekend Ed Miliband launched a major policy review. Starting with a blank piece of paper, the big thinkers in the party will now take two years coordinating the biggest review of policy since 1994. The party needs it.
The 2010 general election showed a party which had stopped thinking, stopped improving and had little to say. If it had not been for the economic crisis, the dividing lines between us and the Tories would have been slight. When a Labour party can’t state a long list of differences with the Tories, you know there is trouble.
This review needs to put Labour back as the progressive party in this country. A party to ensure that liberty is not at the cost of security. To ensure the poor provision of housing never again fuels racial tensions. A party to champion schools that serve the poorest, health care that heals the sickest and social security that treats the most unfortunate in our society with respect and deference. This will serve the electorate well in two years time. They will have the choice to elect a truly progressive party.
However, the Labour party has a more immediate responsibility. Opposition. While Miliband described opposition as “crap” (and he might be right), it is the most important job in the country at the moment. This government is rolling out the most regressive series of policies and doing it early in the anticipation that the electorate will forget by 2015. Frontline police are being cut. The NHS is being turned upside down. And, soon, teachers will be let go, when the economic independence that came with the academies bill, turns out to be a noose around the necks of the schools.
The press will report numbers: the manpower lost, the waiting lists and the crime stats. But the Labour party should remember that this is about people’s lives. This is about another generation of children growing up in homes where no parent works and young people going to school in classrooms that are falling apart. It is about families breaking under the stress of mortgage repayments and lost incomes; about people dying on the waiting list for cancer treatments. The Labour party has a responsibility to stand up for these lives now, not in two years time. The most important job in the country is the opposition of this government’s policies.
While the policy review is vital for our party, a responsible, rigorous and careful opposition is vital for the country. If we fail to provide this now, the electorate will look back on these years and see an indulgent, introspective party. A party that failed them. Until the policy review is complete, our priority must be coherent and effective opposition.
Tom Keeley is a member of Birmingham Edgbaston CLP.