I first set up Labourhome with Jag Singh and Mark Hanson and it was developed on Scoop, an almost ideal content management system. In terms of our vision, it allowed a highly democratic, user generated site to operate with absolute minimum editorial interference. The only flaw was that it tended to crash the server twice each day leading to some very expensive maintenance.
Eventually we moved to WordPress and then to WordPressMu but never really got back that user-led feel. It was also much harder to moderate and ultimately it drowned in blogspam. Until today, Labourhome has effectively been offline for nearly two years.
Yet Labour online has thrived. Labourlist is better than ever, Left Foot Forward and Labour Uncut are going strong and we’ve seen the birth of the entertaining and informative Labourhame. Even the party’s official efforts are much improved. There are just too many labour bloggers and tweeters to mention and in that sense our original vision has been achieved. There is a diverse flora of Labour opinion, news and debate easily accessible to all, and crucially, the Labour Party has given up trying to control it.
It’s reasonable to ask then why bother to reboot Labourhome. In fact it’s a vision quite contradictory to the original desire to stimulate broad debate. What frustrated me about the Labour Party under Blair was the phrase “You’re comparing the Labour government we have with the perfect Labour government, but the alternative that’s available isn’t the perfect government, it’s a Tory Government.”
It’s a seductive logic but – bite me if I’m wrong – I do want the perfect Labour government. The argument for middle of the road, managerialistic government is what let us lose direction, ambition and radicalism when we were in government.
So instead of reflecting the breadth of the party as it is, this is a challenge to identify how we build the party, the government and the nation as we want it to be. In writing down my thoughts on this below, I have tried to compile a set of values that we couldn’t take for granted from a Labour Party in government even if we would like to. It’s not a manifesto, just a starting point for a conversation.
Part of what drove me into rebooting Labourhome was the AV referendum. I was shocked not so much by the opposition to the admittedly flawed AV system of voting, but by the shameless defence of First Past The Post by senior and respected Labour figures; people who in the past have done so much to break divisions in this society pulled out the stops to defend a system of poorly accountable elitism and self interest. So it seems to me that democracy is the place to start.
Democracy and power
Labour should always seek to improve democratic representation in its internal structures, among its partner organisations and in wider society. Labour should seek to provide systems of accountability that reflect the structures of power as closely as possible.
Labour should support markets when they are the best way of achieving the desired social and economic goals but we should not support markets dogmatically when other tools work better.
We should be a party that supports and defends civil liberties. We recognise the benefits of a strong, nurturing and empowering state can only be achieved when people own the state, trust the state, and can hold it properly to account.
We should be a party that is visibly distinguishable from other parties by it’s ambition. Our drive towards a good society should be radical and the public should be aware of it. We should never be merely an alternative set of managers of government.
In supporting the fulfilment of individuals’ ambitions, we recognise that those who are discriminated against need disproportionate support in doing so. Such positive discrimination on the basis of race, sex, disability, sexuality or economic status is not a goal in itself but a sticking plaster until we have stamped out discrimination.
Labour should be a long term, big picture party, never afraid to tackle the big issues. The sustainability of our environment, economy, social cohesion and security should never be compromised for short term benefits.
Solidarity and internationalism
We should never be ashamed to respect collective actions, for example by trade unions, even when we openly disagree with the details. Labour should have a vision of a single, cohesive society where we do stand together, for each other, and until it is achieved we should encourage solidarity with and between those people and groups who are left behind.
Our solidarity should not end at our own borders and we should be a force for liberty, equality and prosperity worldwide.
Policy making should be founded on evidence and be consistent. We should never be afraid to challenge ill founded opinions with scientific evidence and we should never take ignorant position on important issues simply because it’s more difficult to explain facts.
Leadership, fairness, comradeship and decency should be the character of the Labour Party. We should not be trapped following public opinion on issues where we should be leading it and we should provide that leadership by winning the people’s trust. We can only do this if they see us as a decent party in our dealings with each other and the manner in which we govern at any level.
This is by no means complete, but it’s a view and I’d be interested in your thoughts. Just leave a comment, or if you want to write articles yourself, pop me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll sort you out with a username and password.
The internet has won Labour thinkers the right to debate the nature of our politics openly. Now we have to use that space to come up with the answers our party and the country need.