Tessa Jowell: Greater openness must be central to the clean-up of our politics

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The Independent Online

I remain optimistic about the future of progressive politics in this country but we must react with energy and ideas. A fearful retreat into inertia would condemn Labour to being seen as a conservative party, the defenders of the status quo. Our goals must always be higher than that: whether that status quo is an indefensible, secretive system of parliamentary allowances, or public services which fail to keep pace with people's rising aspirations.

So our first task is to end the closed, exclusive politics that so offend people. As Tony Blair said, left and right still matter but increasingly "the divide is between open and closed." In our open society information flows ever more freely, the barriers to association dissolve by the day, and identity is ours to choose. Contrast that with our closed politics where power, debate, information and decision-making are hoarded at the centre, and where the urge to control is ever-present.

Last week voters told us that they will no longer tolerate our political closed shop. Barack Obama's election showed that when an open society and an open politics combine, new and unexpected doors will open for progressive politics.

Fittingly, it was this government's move towards greater openness through the historic Freedom of Information laws that exposed the horrific excess of a political system that had been allowed to police itself behind closed doors for too long – and against which voters have recoiled.

That it is why it is so vital that a commitment to greater openness is made central to the clean-up of our politics that we are now taking forward.

An open politics means that power rests with people and not institutions. That means our political parties should be open to those who share our values but do not wish to join; companies should be open to the involvement of their employees; and public services should be owned by the people through a new conception of public ownership. That is the very essence of progressive Labourism.

Taken from a speech by the Cabinet Office Minister, published by Demos; www.demos.co.uk