Living in North Norfolk you inevitably feel isolated. Our constituency is half way to Lithuania; getting as far as Norwich is an effort. I was therefore not able to attend the regional Labour Leadership hustings that were held in Harlow, Essex – they might just as well have been in Truro. In making my choice I have had to reply on what I pick up from the media coupled with the incessant bombardment of marketing e-mails that I and other Labour Party Members receive from the candidates. These are competing for space in my inbox with special offers for the Rugby World Cup. Both sets of e-mails are well presented but are equally lacking in substance.
Accordingly, on 13th July, I sent all nine Leadership and Deputy Leadership Candidates the following e-mail:
In my view the major task facing our new Leader and Deputy is the formulation of a coherent over-arching policy narrative for Labour in the 21st century, which, in co-operation with others, can be translated in to vision that inspires. What is required is a clear statement of how modern global capitalism can be organised to deliver growth without producing obscene levels of inequality, and how that growth can be harnessed to fund a well-managed welfare state. Are you able to direct me to any of your thinking and writing on this topic? I look forward to hearing from you.
I expected nothing back. Understandably all the candidates are on transmit rather than receive. Their declarations that they are seeking members’ view should be treated as token window-dressing: if they hadn’t by now made up their mind on what needs to be done they shouldn’t be standing for the position.
I sent my e-mail to the House of Commons addresses and received a number of perfectly reasonable automated responses describing their policy on responding to unsolicited e-mails. That’s understandable given the pressures and their primary obligation to their constituents. To my surprise I did, however, receive three replies. The first was impressive under these circumstances: Tom Watson responded immediately by acknowledging the importance of the question and referring me to a thoughtful article he had written on the effect of technology on jobs. It contained the phrase ‘Reforming socialists have always believed change can be harnessed so that is produces better outcomes for everyone’ and went on to talk about how this can be implemented in the digital age.
I also received a fuller e-mail from someone in Yvette Cooper’s office. This was a cut and paste job evidently based on previous e-mails sent for other purposes. In no way did it answer my question but 6 out of the 22 sentences included had some vague relevance to what I asked (the others, for example, concerned house building and child poverty).
Given this I must award Yvette’s campaign good marks for effort if poor marks for answering the question – 4 out of 10 overall. This does however put her slightly ahead of Andy Burnham in my estimation. His team replied on 10 August. They told me that Andy would ‘bring forward a balanced Labour plan for a sustainable economy, based on growth and investment, fair pay, a re-balanced tax system and a labour market that works for all’. Fine, but how will he deal with modern global capitalism?
In my next two blogs I will Jeremy Corbyn’s views.
On 21st August I will be publishing a short e-book: Labour’s failure and my small part in it: a memoir for my grandchildren. It will be made available free of charge as a download on this site and my personal website http://www.martynsloman.co.uk.