Jon Cruddas and John Harris are set to launch a new pamphlet this weekend – Fit for Purpose: a programme for Labour Party renewal. The Daily has acquired a copy, which we review today.
In the pamphlet, Cruddas and Harris set out just how far the party has collapsed at the local level and how we lost over 200,000 members in nine years:
“A decade ago, senior figures were dreamily talking about the prospect of a ‘million member party’, and membership numbers had reached a high of 400,000; now, the figure is less than half that, and the organisation that remains on the ground is often moribund and broken. Some of this is unquestionably down to ill-advised policy decisions, compounded by the Blair government’s regrettable behavioural tic whereby it recurrently defines itself against party opinion. Equally important, however, is the sense that the party’s culture and organisation are out of kilter with modern needs.”
Their solution, that the party must reconnect with its base, is well argued:
“An active, engaged, socially rooted party is one of the key means by which Labour can ensure its own legitimacy, rooting itself in the communities that it purports to serve, and ensuring that its political approach chimes with the outlook of its supporters.”
To do this, Cruddas argues that the party needs a new modernisation:
“We argue, essentially, for a New 1906: a moment in Labour’s history in which the party reaches out and re-establishes itself as an immovable part of Britain’s society and culture.”
The writers propose a range of practical measures to create a party rooted in the local community, a more effective campaigning machine and a more democratic vehicle for its members.
They hope to see Labour’s activity re-focused on community politics and local organisation, while at a national level the party is reformed to revitalise the union link and ensure members are represented. They also reject the language of “renewal” that focuses on disenfranchising the membership even further with US-style primaries.
There are a few questionable proposals, as is inevitable in such a wide-ranging document, but some exciting new ideas and good answers to debates like state funding and the supporters’ network.
This is exactly the kind of positive contribution we hope to see more of in the near future and we recommend the pamphlet, which should be available from Compass as of Sunday evening.