We must inspire our party members, says Labour chairman

Click to follow
Indy Politics

Labour cannot afford to be "complacent" about forming the government after the next election and must be "hungry for a win" , Ian McCartney, the party chairman, has warned.

Labour cannot afford to be "complacent" about forming the government after the next election and must be "hungry for a win" , Ian McCartney, the party chairman, has warned.

Mr McCartney says Labour must produce a radical manifesto that will "enthuse" party members and the wider electorate, while reflecting core Labour values.

In a rallying cry tomorrow to the Labour party faithful, Mr McCartney will call on the Government to "inspire" its membership by "talking about things that matter to them".

"Activists need to be activated. You don't win elections on what you have done," he said. "You win them because you persuade people of what you are going to do in the next term, which is relevant to them, their family and their community."

Mr McCartney denied it was "panic" to warn the party against complacency, and said Labour needed to reconnect with and revitalise its membership and core supporters

"You only win elections if you are hungry for the win. If you are going to enthuse the electorate you have to be enthused yourself," he said.

He added that the blueprint for Labour's election manifesto, to be voted on next week by party members, would be a "doorstep manifesto" that would "inspire party members and supporters". But he warned the Government against using bureaucratic language that ordinary people would find difficult to understand.

Mr McCartney's remarks will be seen by some as a veiled criticism of Alan Milburn, the new election campaign co- ordinator, who, while he was health secretary was known for using technocratic terms.

In the recent reshuffle, Mr Milburn was given a key election role including over the manifesto, which was widely regarded as his opportunity to enforce a Blairite agenda.

Mr McCartney, who is chairman of Labour's national policy forum, said there would be no tension in the relationship between him and Mr Milburn.

Following suggestions that Mr Milburn, not the party chairman, will be the face of Labour at the election, Mr McCartney said pointedly: "The face of Labour is multi-faced. We have a multiplicity of skills and talents. We have a lot of good communicators. But it's no good just being a good communicator, you have to have a good policy to communicate."

For months before the reshuffle there was speculation that Mr McCartney would be replaced by Mr Milburn. But there was an outcry from throughout the Labour Party and the union movement at the prospect of his removal. John Prescott is said to have personally weighed in to warn that Labour members would be furious if Mr McCartney was moved, while ethnic minority organisations and women's and pensioners' groups spoke out in support of Mr McCartney, who has championed their causes.

But, in his Whitehall office surrounded by pictures of his grandchildren, he admits that the months of talk about his future was a source of strain.

"In government somebody has to leave to give somebody else a chance," he says.

"I have a very realistic view of this. When you are in government you make the best of the job. You have an ambition for the job not yourself. But at some point a government has to refresh and at some point I will have to leave the Government. And you leave the Government in a dignified way. And it is important that happens."

But he adds that he has a lot more to achieve as party chairman, including speaking up about the concerns of ordinary Labour members.

"I am not ready to leave government, I have too much to do yet," he said.

"From the moment I became party chairman I made it clear I had to be a bridgehead between the party and government and the party and the country. I have always seen my role as explaining what party members are thinking."

The blueprint for the manifesto, he says, is "very much rooted in the aspirations of the party rank and file" .

However, he wants to reform and update the system of consultation with party members on matters of policy, not only ahead of a possible fourth term in office, but while Labour is in government.

Mr McCartney will this week push through a rule change to allow ethnic minorities to organise themselves into groups - similar to the women's organisation within Labour.