Tribune leader, 1 January 1993

There is never a year that a political party can afford to waste – but 1993 is going to be particularly important for Labour. What the party does in the next 12 months will determine whether it has a hope of winning the next election.
What Labour doesn’t need is a year of wrangling over its trade union link: no one outside the party cares about it, and a workable compromise between the one-member-one-vote brigade and the rest can be easily negotiated. With an election probably four years away (and who knows what state the economy will be in then?), there is also no point in getting bogged down in the minute detail of poli­cy. That was one of the main mistakes last time around: Labour fought an elec­tion in the depths of recession on policies developed at the height of a boom.
On the other hand, Labour does need to work out its broad approach to the next election – and it cannot be content to leave things be and hope that the Tories will continue to self-destruct. “One more heave” is not enough; nor is tepid right-wing revisionism masquerading as “mod­ernisation”. Labour must develop a radi­cal populist vision of the Britain it wants.
The first task is to sort out economic policy. There is nothing wrong with being committed to redistribution of income and wealth from rich to poor: indeed, such a commitment should remain at the heart of Labour’s appeal. But Labour came across in 1992 as the party of redis­tribution and nothing else – and that is not enough.
The party desperately needs an eco­nomic policy to persuade voters that a Labour government really would reduce unemployment. The next year must be used to develop precisely such a policy. A central economic policy role for measures to combat homelessness and underinvest­ment in transport should be a prominent feature. So should emphasis on the need for intervention to cope with the post-cold-war collapse of the defence indus­tries and for Europe-wide strategies for growth.
The second key area for policy develop­ment is the political side of European union. Labour has to recognise that it is now inevitable that the Maastricht BUI will be passed whatever the party does. The party’s priorities, rather than line-by-line examination of the Bill’s contents, should be to get Maastricht out of the way as soon as possible and then to re­place the current European policy fudge. Labour should rid itself of the last ves­tiges of its historic anti-Europeanism, making the core of its European policy calls for a massive increase in the powers of the European Parliament and for the creation of a democratically accountable European federal executive.
Thirdly, the party needs to address the question of democratising the British state. The Plant commission on electoral systems win finalise its recommendations early this year. Labour should reject con­servative arguments for the status quo and go wholeheartedly for the German additional member system for the House of Commons. The introduction of regional assemblies and Scottish and Welsh parlia­ments, also elected by AMS, should be giv­en a high priority, as should the replace­ment of the House of Lords with a second chamber composed of representatives of Scotland, Wales and the regions.
In line with developing a commitment to democratisation of the state, Labour should be pushing the case for empower­ment of ordinary people through the democratisation of everyday life. Giving people a greater say at work – with a pro­gramme to encourage rapid growth of producer co-operatives and democratic employee share-ownership schemes, and commitments to a “co-determination” model of industrial relations and positive rights for trade unions – are essential.
The fifth crucial area for immediate action is environment policy. An un­equivocal embrace of radical environ­mentalist policies, particularly on energy and transport, is long overdue.
Finally, Labour has to make sure that its Commis­sion on Social Justice does not simply be­come a vehicle for right-wing ideas for getting rid of universal child benefits or pensions. If the commission really is to be a “new Beveridge”, it must look at the whole of the welfare state rather than just tax and benefits, and must be pre­pared to take seriously such radical ideas as the basic income guarantee.

Perhaps this is too long a list of tasks for a single year – but unless Labour takes on at least a substantial part of it, it will be difficult to avoid the conclusion that the party’s appearance of drift over the past six months signifies something much worse than the inevitable lull after an election defeat and change of leader­ship.
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