“Please Ed, can we have Warwick III?”

I haven’t noticed any discussion anywhere else – not even among the usual suspects – about Labour’s last official chance before the next election to give its grassroots a say in the manifesto. I wrote about it in Tribune this week, focusing on the Local Government Association Labour group’s manifesto.

The manifesto has already been reported on elsewhere recently, but what reports tended to ignore was the anoraky bit, i.e. the context of Labour’s much-vexed policymaking process. But this is important because it’s all up in the air at the moment. The so-called second Warwick agreement on policy was thrashed out at a three-day meeting of the national policy forum, made up of 184 MPs, MEPS, councillors, union officials and constituency representatives.

It was widely expected that there’d be another national policy forum meeting in a matter of months.  In fact, I began writing my story with the words “expected in February”. But by the time I’d finished, I’d had to cut them out.

Who knows when the next NPF will be? The constituency reps,who like to fret over such matters, don’t know. The unions, whom the constituency reps fondly or not so fondly believe to be pulling all the strings, don’t know either. This leads me to a conclusion: nobody knows.

Ed Miliband, writer of the election manifesto and believed to have a say, is not thought to have expressed a view. Miliband is currently collecting responses to a policy document he put out at conference time. But he hasn’t said what the deadline for responses is. Mystery.

Meanwhile time is running out. There’s a meeting of the national executive committee this coming weekend where the subject is bound to arise. Someone recently suggested having an NPF on 5 December, but that would lead to an absurdly short time to prepare and gather views from the grassroots.

It’s not just the grassroots who want to know, it’s the unions too. As far as they’re concerned, Warwick II is unfinished business and they were always promised another bite at the policy cherry before polling day. They want plenty of things. In fact the all-seeing Jim Pickard’s take on the subject last September is looking very prescient. The manifesto may well be wrapped up only in the last six months – or even less.

This isn’t just about having a manifesto to win the election, of course. It’s also about positioning Labour for after that election if (or as increasing numbers of activists says, when) they lose. Whether or not it’s fair to characterise this as a lefty-activists-vs-centre-right-government battle, the current atmosphere seems to be one of standoff.

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2 Responses to ““Please Ed, can we have Warwick III?””

  1. Peter Kenyon Says:

    Dear Rene

    You might be looking in the wrong place. Try here:

    http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=566700626&ref=profile

    • lastreporter Says:

      Dear Peter,

      Thanks for the link to your wall, though for the record I think you posted that note on the policy documents after I blogged. Be interesting to see what happens there!

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