Miliband turns to Twitter to fill in policy blank sheet
Labour leader seeks 'fresh ideas' to beat coalition
Non-party members are to be given a say in Labour's policy and leadership under radical reforms unveiled by Ed Miliband. The Labour leader warned his party that it could no longer be a closed shop of constituency members or union levy payers but had to become "rooted" in local communities. He launched a new slogan – "New politics, fresh ideas" – and urged the public to submit policy suggestions online.
A series of policy reviews will be led by members of the Shadow Cabinet, who have been ordered to leave the Westminster bubble to "immerse" themselves in community campaigns. Universities, think-tanks, charities and other independent institutions will also be asked to draw up ideas for the party's 2015 election manifesto.
Miliband told activists at the National Policy Forum in Gillingham, Kent: "Some people will want to join our party. Some people will be trade union levy payers, but there are people beyond that, too, who we need to make part of our decision-making in this country."
Aides ruled out copying the Conservatives' open primaries, which gave non-members a vote in choosing candidates. However, Miliband's decision to declare the practice of some people having multiple votes in leadership contests a "thing of the past" was hailed as being as significant as Tony Blair's overhaul of Clause 4. He wants to move towards a one-member, one-vote system for leadership contests, while stressing he would have still beaten his brother for the leadership had the rules been in place.
In his first major speech since succeeding Gordon Brown at the party's conference in September, Miliband said Labour had to be "the party of people's hopes and aspirations". While he could understand the "anger" directed at the coalition over the "broken promises" of the Tories and Lib Dems, Labour could not simply wait for the coalition to "screw up".
Repeating that he is on the side of the "squeezed middle", he accused the "arrogant" government of "widening the gap between the dreams apparently on offer in Britain today and people's chances of realising them".
The Tories claimed Labour's relaunch had "fallen flat". It had no economic plan, nor did it address the role of the trade unions.
Additional reporting by Alan McGuinness
Top tweet tips for Ed
What people were saying on Twitter last night in response to Ed Miliband's call for "#freshideas".
@AdamGraySays Remove the cap on tuition fees, privatise higher education completely and incentivise alumni to bequeath to their unis.
@sowadally Undersoil heating for every single football pitch in the land.
@rosycottage It may be a very fashionable vote winner to talk about the "squeezed middle" but what about the "squashed bottom"?
@malabushka Take VAT off ebooks. What's all that about? No VAT on dead tree books, but VAT on ebooks? Best I can do, I'm freezing here.
@ThatGeoffChap How about a govt that's green in principle & not just on paper, encouraging business to be likewise with tax breaks?
@Nataliewh The essence of leadership is that you have to have vision. You can't blow an uncertain trumpet.
@tingedfringe This may be too radical for the left and right. Pull out of Afghanistan and have a neutral foreign policy, like Switzerland.
@peregr1n Freezing earthworms makes them easier to sharpen.
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