I AM WRITING THIS BEFORE THE RESULT of the leadership election is announced and despite my adherence to historical materialism I am also deeply superstitious when it comes to predicting election results. Having lost in my home constituency of Hayes and Harlington by 54 votes in 1992 after four recounts I take no election for granted.
However I still believe in the need for planning for whatever outcome. So if Jeremy wins we need a clear plan of action to put in place the initiatives we will want to take and to address the immediate issues that will face us.
A first step will be to appoint a new ministerial team. The current Shadow Cabinet has proved to be effective, principled and loyal. There will be some vacancies to fill as some members move on to other positions and other elected roles. This will give people the opportunity to come forward and offer their services, including some who resigned earlier this year. This will enable Jeremy to have the Shadow Cabinet he has always aspired to that reflects the range of opinion in the Party and the PLP.
There are many PLP members in the second and third tier of the ministerial teams who didn’t resign and others who did. The message coming back during the summer is that most just want to get back to work developing Labour’s policies and continuing to oppose the Tories. That’s exactly what our party members and supporters want and the message that they have sent us all. As a result we have the potential for a strong, creative team emerging.
I believe that the leadership election was a classic attempt at a coup, promoted by a small group that from the outset could not come to terms with Jeremy’s election and would not accept his mandate and the wishes of our membership. The vast bulk of the PLP are not in that camp and I believe will work constructively with us if Jeremy is re-elected.
The interesting feature of the leadership election campaign and debates was that there didn’t seem to be any major policy differences between the candidates. The most common expression we heard was “I agree with Jeremy but...”. Apart from the issue of Trident the left agenda Jeremy had been putting forward was accepted by MPs campaigning for the other candidate. However if there is to be a comradely spirit of give and take after the leadership election the criticisms levelled at Jeremy and our administration have to be addressed.
The question of competence came up several times. That means we have to address this firmly. We have to demonstrate that we are a government in waiting. I have argued for some time that we should structure and resource our operation in opposition on the same lines as if we were in government now. That means appointing a shadow professional team to advise on, develop and implement the policies we wish to bring together to campaign on in opposition and prepare for enactment when we enter into government.
We should appoint a shadow team of civil service type Permanent Secretaries, each one attached to each Shadow Cabinet team - and alongside them establish for each department a shadow policy advisory group drawn from experts and practitioners in each of the policy fields.
This will demonstrate in practical terms that we are ready to move into office at a moment’s notice.
To develop our ideas and policies we need to maintain the enthusiasm that has been generated by the leadership campaigns and immediately organise a series of policy conferences and seminars all round the country bringing together party members, trade unionists, policy experts, campaigning organisations and partners in civil society organisations. This will help feed in the vast expertise of our members and supporters into our policy making process.
We also need to establish the campaigning organisation that we need to win us the next election based on the social movement that is now the Labour Party. That means providing our members with the resources and developing their campaigning skills that will enable them to communicate our ideas. We need to create both a mass prominent involvement of party members in every aspect of community life and also create our own media via the new technology at our disposal.
We have in prospect the most exciting period in our party’s recent history. Let’s seize it with both hands. Summer Dean
Shadow Chancellor, MP for Hayes and Harlington, Chair of the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs and Chair of the Labour Representation Committee. John has been involved in Labour Briefing since the early years.