Labour campaigners are calling on all the Party’s leadership candidates to issue ‘manifestos of intent’ indicating the direction of their likely policies and putting their politics on public show for the voters’ to consider. HARRY BARNES, who has led the requests for ‘detailed and serious’ sets of proposals, explains why they are needed and calls for urgent support.
Everyone voting in the Labour leadership elections, plus many outside onlookers, would benefit if the candidates issued detailed and serious manifestos explaining what policies they would seek to pursue if they won the vote.
In order to ensure these manifestos are more than just a collection of soundbites, they should at least be 3,000 words long.
This would give us, the voters, an opportunity to decide what is the most appealing set of policies, allow us to judge the depth and interconnections (or contradictions) contained by each candidate’s proposals, and enable us to assess which significant items are missing.
Then, when the victors emerge, we will have in front of us some set of ideas which we can press them to deliver, and if there are proposals we disagree with, we can attempt to block them. All of this would add to the democratic processes inside the Labour Party.
Clarity from politicians might not be all we ask for, but it can help us to know where they are coming from.
The Dronfield Labour Party discussion group led a campaign for such manifestos of intent during the 2010 Labour leadership elections, although at the time we did not suggest a minimum length. We had a certain degree of success, but now we need a much greater and more co-ordinated effort to deliver the manifestos in time for the 2015 vote.
Ideally, we need Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) to require the candidates to produce manifestos, and some Constituency Labour Party (CLP) resolutions tot eh NEC, calling for manifestos, have been emerging. It is hoped that other CLPs will quickly follow suit.
However, other organisations, Labour members and supporters can also contact the candidates and their campaign managers themselves, asking them to produce voluntary manifestos.
So far, we have received a positive response on behalf of Jeremy Corbyn. But in order to make a fully informed decision by 12 September, we need more. So, whenever a candidate or their campaign team e-mail you for your support, why not reply, asking them to issue a manifesto of intent?
On 31 August 2010, the Guardian carried a letter which provided details of the Dronfield LP discussion group’s efforts at that time. It still provides a useful summary of what we achieved five years ago. It read:
“The ballot papers are due to go out in the Labour leadership contest (Labour contenders await Blair, 30 August). At the last minute each of the candidates has produced a manifesto, but (except in one case) these are tucked away in an obscure blog entitled Dronfield Blather, which is run by the Dronfield Labour party discussion group, which ran a three-month campaign to obtain them. It would be helpful if the voters could first see what they are voting for.
The manifestos differ considerably in style and presentation. Andy Burnham’s is entitled Aspirational Socialism and is some 9,000 words long. He is also pushing this via his own website. The others have not yet done this.
Diane Abbott and David Miliband have produced what might be called ‘minifestos’ of under 700 words each. Whilst the two Eds have come up with scissors and paste jobs taken from what they see as relevant and important past items. As quantity is not the same thing as quality, judgments of the relative merits of each of these presentation can only be determined by examining them on the Dronfield Blather website.”
Although the Guardian letter in 2010 led to our blog receiving a record number of hits, in 2015 we need others to add to the pressure on Labour’s the NEC, the candidates theselves and their campaign teams.
Your help would be greatly appreciated.
Harry Barnes is a former Labour MP for North East Derbyshire and author of the blog ‘Three score years and ten’.