As well as the vote for leadership and deputy my Labour Party ballot paper included a choice for Regional Representatives for the National Policy Forum. As an aside I wonder if the ballot papers for £3 registered supporters gave them the opportunity to vote for these positions. What other body would give you the opportunity to determine their future direction for such a small amount?
The candidates for the National Policy Forum (NPF) seemed to consist of two groups: an ultra-left slate and the politically ambitious who are anxious not to offend. I voted for the latter but wonder what on earth that body is supposed to do. As far as I can see it has never made any worthwhile contribution nor is ever likely to do so.
The formal position, according to the Labour Party’s website is that:
The NPF meets several times a year to make sure that the direction of our policy reflects the broad consensus in the party. Between meetings, the representatives that make up the body liaise with the members, supporters and public who submit to Your Britain. NPF representatives will respond to submissions made, ask questions and engage in on-going debate about the issues that matter to you, feeding them back when the NPF meets to move our policy forward.
The first thing to be said it that it is the height of naivety to talk of broad consensus in an organisation that is about to divide into two competing camps. The second is that our previous leader, Ed Miliband, found his own route to policy perdition and only listened to a handful of people who told him what he wanted to hear. For example the headline in the 2015 Manifesto was ‘The Budget Responsibility Lock’. This was a bundle of proposals designed to portray the Party as fiscally responsible. There may or may not be merit in this idea but the point is that it came out of the blue from Ed Miliband’s office. An ongoing policy review led by MP John Cruddas was totally ignored.
Now in fairness to Jeremy Corbyn he does appear to have sparked some sort of policy debate. I also believe that he is genuine in wanting more activism and involvement in the Party. However it is hard to see that a National Policy Forum has any point or purpose. Should he become leader he, like all others, will take counsel from those he trusts and who share his ideology. With a bit of luck he’ll abolish the NPF in what, I believe, will be he his very short period in office. This is not how policy will or should be made.