In the past political parties brought together their supporters to debate, discuss and decide the policies which were then drafted into a manifesto and placed before the electorate. If there was sufficient support for the policies and the party was elected, new ministers would arrive into office with civil servants waiting with advice on how to implement the policy programme. The battle for an incoming Labour government was with the vested interests of the status quo which had largely permeated government and all its departments.
Trade unions need to forget this archaeological exhibit of constitutional theory. The modern reality is that policy may still be debated within the Labour party but this policy debate and even decision making is rarely translated into the manifesto which is drafted internally by the Prime Minister’s closest aides. Once in office ministers responsible for policy implementation are now surrounded by a policy network dominated by advisers drawn from or even directly representing private sector interests. Dominating centralised control means that no policy which contradicts the core ideology of the government is allowed to surface.
The core ideology is shared by both main political parties. That is why Gordon Brown has found it so easy to appoint Tories to be part of his government. Both parties share a neo liberal ideology which believes that the market must be given free reign and as a result will produce the optimum solution in virtually every instance. Consequently both share an evangelical zeal for flexible labour, privatisation, low corporate taxation and corporate driven globalisation.
And a little something for Brown's Stalinisation of the party:
First, trade unions need to ensure that what limited opportunities for influencing policy debate within the Labour party still exist are maintained by rejecting at this year’s Labour Party conference the imposition of the Brown proposals to undermine Labour Party conference policy making powers.
Second we mobilise immediately a new alliance across the unions, constituency Labour Parties, affiliates and linking with supporters within the Parliamentary Labour Party to reassert democracy within the Labour Party at every level.