'Let's create a buzz' says Miliband

Labour to tear up its 'blank sheet of paper' policy reviews

Ed Miliband's leadership began with a blank page. But 18 months on, the Labour Party is tearing up its official policy reviews, with the Shadow Cabinet instead told to go out and create a "buzz".

Buoyed by strong local election results, Labour strategists believe the public is more responsive to one-off eye-catching proposals, rather than the process of how they fit into a formal policy-making process.

Labour frontbenchers have been told to target ITV's Daybreak and BBC Breakfast to reach voters outside the Westminster bubble. Appearances on the Today programme on Radio 4 are less effective at communicating key messages, according to a briefing given to the Shadow Cabinet.

Shortly after becoming leader, Mr Miliband attempted to draw a line under the New Labour era, declaring: "In terms of policy, but not in terms of values, we start with a blank page." But the phrase has come back to haunt him, with David Cameron taunting him for having no ideas.

To date there have been policy reviews launched into transport, defence, education, international development, creative industries, enterprise and skills, housing, anti-social behaviour, children becoming adults, talent and aspiration. In some cases well-known figures were called in to help – Mumsnet founder Justine Roberts, for example, was advising on family policy. Now, however, the party is to adopt a more campaigning approach, focusing on pensioners, commuters, rising energy bills and the cost of childcare.

"They have effectively abolished the policy review," said a Shadow Cabinet source. "People need to create a buzz, not worry about a process leading to a document. We need to just get ideas out there. The blank-page stuff has all basically been binned. It is going to quietly die a death. It was a very uneven process. What we will see instead is encouraging people to get ideas out there, to get some thinking going."

Liam Byrne, Labour's spokesman on pensions who was also head of policy, announced earlier this year that he was going to quit the Shadow Cabinet to run for mayor of Birmingham. But after the city rejected the idea of a mayor in last week's referendum, there is a question mark over his future.

Whatever happens, Mr Miliband is expected to hand the policy brief to another frontbencher, possibly Douglas Alexander, to refresh the party strategy, when he carries out a Labour reshuffle. He is expected to implement this reshuffle at the same time as Mr Cameron shakes up the Cabinet, possibly within days.

Some Labour MPs are looking across the Channel for signs of a centre-left resurgence in Europe, with socialist François Hollande expected to defeat Nicolas Sarkozy in the French presidential run-off today.

But despite the predicted outcome in Paris and the strong local election results in the UK, Mr Miliband will this week warn his Shadow Cabinet against being triumphalist. Labour gained a total of 823 new council seats, taking control of 32 extra councils, including in key swing areas such as Plymouth, Birmingham, Norwich, Reading and Harlow. The party saw off a major challenge from the Scottish National Party in Glasgow, and came from third place to win Cardiff.

Labour's inroads in the Home Counties suggest it is overcoming the "southern discomfort" problem identified during the middle of the last decade, which saw Tony Blair's progress in 1997 and 2001 recede by the 2005 election and all but disappear by 2010.

But some senior Labour figures are wary that Mr Miliband may learn the "wrong lessons" from the victories last Thursday. A senior figure said: "We cannot just count on apathy against the Tories and Lib Dems. We need to show we have a strong offer for 2015, with a credible leader, and that's not there yet.

"In the 1980s, Labour made the mistake of thinking, every time Margaret Thatcher had a crisis, the party could win the next election. But we did not have the right leader and we did not have the right policies."

In the wake of the results, Mr Miliband himself was cautious. He said: "I know we have more work to do to show we can change our country so that it works for you, for your sons and daughters who are looking for a job, for families feeling a squeeze in living standards, for everybody, rather than just a few at the top."

In the coming weeks he will step up his efforts to prove that the Labour Party is changing. A senior party source said: "The idea that this is a breakthrough is not right. We are pleased with the result, but it is a step forward on a fairly long road."

Bercow: 'Voters feel let down'

Commons Speaker John Bercow today warns that voters feel let down by mainstream political parties because they have not got what they voted for.

In an interview with Sky News's Murnaghan show, broadcast today, he says people feel disillusioned because parties are "quite similar" and there "isn't a huge choice". He adds: "To some extent, [people] are suspicious, even despairing of formal politics... They feel... 'I haven't got what I wanted'."

Mr Bercow went on to say he is not "bosom pals" with David Cameron, but has "a good, constructive relationship with him". This comes after cameras caught the PM scowling at the Speaker during his speech at the Queen's Jubilee address in Westminster Hall.

Charles Engwell

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £26,000

£14000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to continued success, this ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Design Consultant - Kitchens & Interiors

£12000 - £14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This bespoke furniture and inte...

Recruitment Genius: Solar PV Surveyor

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Corporate Security Officer

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This provider of commercial security solution...

Day In a Page

A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms
What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist? Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories

What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist?

Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories
Chinese web dissenters using coded language to dodge censorship filters and vent frustration at government

Are you a 50-center?

Decoding the Chinese web dissenters
The Beatles film Help, released 50 years ago, signalled the birth of the 'metrosexual' man

Help signalled birth of 'metrosexual' man

The Beatles' moptop haircuts and dandified fashion introduced a new style for the modern Englishman, says Martin King
Hollywood's new diet: Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?

Hollywood's new diet trends

Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?
6 best recipe files

6 best recipe files

Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
Ashes 2015: Steven Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Middlesex bowler claims Ashes hat-trick of Clarke, Voges and Marsh
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Atwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works