AMANDA RAMSAY REFLECTS ON THE LAUNCH EVENT
12 July 2011, Committee Room 21, House of Commons
New pamphlet, Pragmatic Radicalism: Ideas from Labour’s New Generation, launched on 12 July in the House of Commons with a Q&A session hosted by shadow minister Luciana Berger MP who shared a panel with Ed Miliband’s strategic advisor Lord Stewart Wood, chaired by John Slinger, editor of the publication.
Photo: Panel – Lord Wood, John Slinger (Chair) and Luciana Berger
Designed to provide a voice for Labour thinkers and activists, Pragmatic Radicalism exists to stimulate debate inside and outside the Labour Party and will be submitted to the Labour Party’s policy review. Contributing authors were on hand to participate in a thoughtful and interesting discussion, producing reassuring comments from panellists Berger and Wood who with the Chair emphasised the need to renew and unite under Ed Miliband’s leadership.
Described in the Press as Ed Miliband’s Peter Mandelson, Lord Wood spoke of opposition being about “taking the government on with controlled belligerence.” He welcomed the fresh ideas Pragmatic Radicalism presented and insisted that the current policy review must be across the whole party: “Labour’s next manifesto must not be written purely by ‘policy wonks’ in Westminster.”
Berger reflected on how being in opposition was “dismal” yet provided a much needed opportunity for the membership to participate more and have their say with future direction of the party, while Slinger spoke of the need to have “guts and confidence to feed ideas to the top of the party, not just wait for policy ideas to come from on high.”
Richard Ascough, GMB Regional Secretary (Southern Region), spoke of his bewilderment with Labour’s last administration, pandering too much to the so-called Daily Mail agenda, while alienating Labour’s core support. He also expressed dismay that industrial relations did not improve under Labour, that protection for temporary and agency workers could have been adopted for example. The right to strike even is still not enshrined in British law; taking strike action is legally a breach of contract.
Former MP Linda Gilroy welcomed “so much fresh blood and new thinking” on Labour’s frontbenches and hoped for “Euro realistic ideas” from the policy review to tackle what she described as “Europe being such a toxic issue for Labour candidates facing election.”
Other comments from the audience included the relevance of taking ideas from Pragmatic Radicalism, which covers such a diverse and important set of policy areas, out to CLPs for discussions around essays, whilst the value of public meetings was also highlighted, not only to engage the electorate but also to “raise the political temperature.”
Photos by Dan Fox.