Sunday News Review

Ed outlines reforms

One of his proposals for reform involves putting popular grassroots ideas – with demonstrable local support – before the National Policy Forum for consideration. ”Much more of our policy needs to come from the everyday experiences of people. So we do need more of a voice for party members. But those we should hear the most are those who do the most in their communities,” he said. Mr Miliband said that Labour conferences should reach out beyond the party’s rank-and-file and invite ordinary members of the public, charities, pressure groups and community organisations to attend and speak to delegates. Plans to scrap shadow cabinet elections – whereby frontbenchers are elected by fellow Labour MPs – have already been criticised this week by backbenchers who fear losing influence over the leadership. But Mr Miliband insisted they were “a huge distraction and only emphasised differences”. – the Telegraph

Ed Miliband is to loosen the grip of trade union leaders over Labourpolicy-making as part of a sweeping modernisation drive that risks confrontation with the party’s traditional paymasters. The move to change historic links with the unions and open up policy to members will alarm union bosses as they prepare this week for the first in a rolling programme of strikes against public sector cuts. Miliband, who won the leadership race against his brother David with the help of union votes, signalled the move after he refused to back a planned strike by up to 750,000 teachers, lecturers and civil servants. In a clear reference to the power that union chiefs exercise at the party’s annual conference – where they wield 50% of the vote – he said that it was time for Labour to move on from “late-night deals thrashed out in locked meeting rooms by a handful of people”. He added: “The best policy does not come from a few people locked in a room. It comes from conversations on the doorstep, at the school gate, in our workplaces.” – the Guardian

The first is that party members have got to identify with the party’s goals and in a very real sense feel ownership of the project, however little they may realise their influence can be.   That requires a reinvigoration of debate and action at constituency level which is firmly embedded in the needs and aspirations of local communities.   Why after all do people join the party in the first place?   Clearly because they want to be involved in public affairs at whatever level, local or national, and to be able through working closely with similar others to have an impact on the local scene and maybe also a cumulative and collective impact at the national level too.   That will only happen when the party gets stuck into local campaigns that matter to people and is seen to be a force actively fighting for what people really care about. That’s why Ed’s right that Labour’s National Policy Forum should debate public petitions that command the largest number of signatures and that non-party members including sympathetic NGOs should be able to speak at party conference.   It’s also vital, if party members and supporters are to feel they carry weight at the highest levels, that conference is again taken seriously not just as a place of passionate debate but as a prelude to final decision-making, where its voting authority has been restored and is fully and properly respected by the leadership. – Michael Meacher

Gove attempts to use parents to break strike

Michael Gove is encouraging parents to break this week’s mass teachers’ strike by volunteering to turn up and take lessons themselves, The Independent on Sunday has learnt. In an unprecedented step in relations between the Government and trade unions, the Secretary of State for Education said that classrooms threatened with closure could remain open if head teachers used the “wider school community” – including pupils’ parents – to teach lessons. Some head teachers have written to parents asking them to consider, if they have been vetted by the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB), volunteering to ensure lessons go ahead, Whitehall sources claimed yesterday. A spokesman for Mr Gove said the minister thought it was “great” if parents could help out with teaching. But the move triggered concern from the National Union of Teachers, whose members are among 750,000 teachers and other public sector workers walking out on Thursday in a dispute over major changes to public sector pension schemes. – the Independent

Cruddas: Labour must deal with issues on the ground

Cruddas says Labour must shed its reputation as the party of “gangs and tribes”, consumed by in-fighting between Blairites and Brownites. He supported David Miliband for the Labour leadership, but believes his brother Ed could be “just the civilising individual who could allow this poison to be cut out”. It has been reported in a new biography of Ed that Cruddas told David on his defeat: “Why don’t you fucking punch him? That’s what I’d do.” He denies saying it, claiming he and David met last week and laughed it off. “I would not say to one brother to hit the other, or use the word ‘punch’. It is just ridiculous.” As the party’s liaison with the trade unions, Cruddas was in the front row of the Blair modernisation project, from the “New Labour, New Britain” rebrand to ditching Clause 4. Even last week Tony Blair warned his party not to shift from New Labour. But Cruddas says times have changed and the former prime minister now risks advocating a “sort of New Labour cosmopolitanism of the first-class British Airways cabin, where you look down from 36,000 feet rather than deal with issues on the ground”. – the Independent

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