Right of Reply: The General Secretary of the Labour Party responds to Ken Livingstone's charges of bias

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The Independent Culture
KEN LIVINGSTONE'S golden year was 1981. He became GLC leader, and a split Labour Party was in near-terminal decline. Once again, in The Independent, he seems to be trying to recreate the ferment.

Winning back power wasn't easy for Labour. In the Eighties, those who advocated reform or modernisation were routinely denounced as traitors. The factional politics of procedural manipulation - at which Ken has long excelled - took the place of winning over the hearts and minds of ordinary working people.

I played a part in creating that culture. The experience of Labour in government in the Seventies was often a bitter one for trade unionists representing low-paid workers. But the price we paid for continuing those battles in opposition was higher still.

Most of us realised that the destruction had to stop a long time ago. We knew that the programme of the first Labour government for 18 years would have to be rooted in the lives of ordinary people, not just in the resolutions of committees.

The Government would have to listen to the party, and the party would have to listen to the Government. That's what the partnership in power changes in this year's party conference and NEC are all about. There never was a Golden Age when party and government moved perfectly in step: Sydney Webb's 1918 Labour Party constitution explicitly recognises that no party conference could hope to write the election manifesto, never mind run a government. Our changes are honest about this, and I want the NEC to make the process work.

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