Political Promise

Labour needs all these leaders

In Jonny Roberts on July 6, 2010 at 11:52 pm

By Jonny Roberts

I decided I was backing Ed Miliband in the Labour leadership campaign a few weeks ago, since then i’ve thankfully been reassured by his performances in the media and hustings. I’ll explain more on why I think Ed is the right man to sit atop the party pyramid later but for now I want to share a thought that dawned upon me in the past few days – Labour doesn’t need just one of these five, it needs all of them.

Whoever wins I hope they are wise enough to offer a place in their shadow cabinet to the other contenders (and I hope they are humble enough to accept). After a opening few weeks that were, frankly, as dull as watching people watching paint dry, the campaign for leadership seems to have sprung to something resembling lively as the candidates appear to have realised that just as ‘I agree with Nick’ didn’t work for Gordon, ‘I didn’t agree with Gordon’ wasn’t a particularly great line for them to each spew out. Suddenly policy has become the subject of the leadership race, each contender sharing their core ideas across a variety of subject areas.

Now at this point I should say I believe the greatest leaders listen to the ideas of their teams and create a shared vision of what their party stands for and where it should go rather than relentlessly pushing their one-man (or more commonly one man and his ‘special advisors’) agenda. So it is with great caution I welcome the frank discussions on future potential party policy. The reason I believe this is valuable is two-fold; firstly it gives a broader idea of what each candidates values are about, far more than any outdated tags – if even the Tories are claiming to be progressive surely its time to retire the phrase. The second reason is that it opens up the debate on policy amongst all of its membership – societies, unions plus the student and youth wings.

Each potential leader has outlined a series of proposals in the past two weeks many of which would be great in the next Labour Party manifesto. The next leader, whoever he/she may be should welcome their current rivals into a strong new shadow cabinet to develop these ideas, float them across the membership and push forward in challenging the ConDem government with these great, brave and radical proposals.

Here’s my collection of top ideas from the leaders so far:

Ed Balls / Ed Miliband: Graduate tax instead of tuition fees

David Miliband: Scrap GCSEs and A-Levels in favour of a completely different system of secondary learning that encompasses vocational and academic and is based on compulsory education to 18.

Ed Miliband: Push for companies to pay a Living Wage (I wish this was more radical and just called for the minimum wage to be raised to £7.10)

Andy Burnham/Dianne Abbot: More social housing

Andy Burnham: 10% Inheritence Tax to pay for a National Care Service that would ensure everyone has access to free care in the old age

Ed Miliband: Everyone has the right to flexible working

Andy Burnham: Employers have to advertise work experience (not sure this is definitely the right policy but certainly something has to be done about unpaid internships so its a step in the right direction)

Andy Burnham: Extend student loans to allow students to use them to pay for a year of volunteering or travelling

Ed Miliband: Devolve policy making in Scottish Labour to Scottish Labour!

To strike straight back and form the next government the Labour empire must unite behind a strong set of common ideas and these won’t come from just one man, even my preferred candidate Ed Miliband, it will come from all of these potential leaders and many more. Talented new MPs, old wise heads like Straw and Mandelson, Union leaders, councillors, AM’s, MSP’s, left-wing think tanks and societies and ordinary party members must all be drawn upon for their talent and ideas to drive forward a radical agenda. That will take a while, a wise first step for the next leader would be to look at the people who have sat beside him or her for what seems like 700 hustings across the country. The ideas are there, Labour (as ever) just needs to stay together.


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