Leading article: Radical new thinking required

Share
Related Topics

Labour's first taste of opposition in 13 years has been a bittersweet experience. Some in the party fear that it will be shut out of power for a generation. Others sense an opportunity for a rapid bounce back. But whichever analysis is closer to the truth, all logic, as far as the Labour Party is concerned, points to internal reform. If Labour is to position itself as the "progressive opposition" to the new Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, the first thing it needs to do is jettison the illiberal baggage it has accumulated through its long years in power. The party's support for ID cards, its devotion to the DNA database and all the other authoritarian nonsense it has embraced in recent years need to be ditched. A statist government is bad enough; a statist opposition would be a bad joke.

The leadership question is critical for Labour. The party needs a skilful and nimble performer if David Cameron and Nick Clegg, with their formidable presentational skills, are not to sweep all before them. And here Labour does have reason to be moderately heartened. The Blair-Brown duopoly that has dominated the party for 16 years has finally been broken. This gives a new generation of politicians room to find their own voice. David Miliband announced his candidacy for the leadership yesterday. But others, including David's brother Ed, Andy Burnham, Ed Balls and Jon Cruddas all have something to offer. As that list shows, this is not a party short on talent. And many of those senior figures have valuable government experience. An open contest for the leadership is important, ideally with as wide a field as possible. Labour made a terrible error in electing Gordon Brown by acclamation. An election would have been healthy for the party, strengthening the mandate of the victor and helping to define what the party stood for. Thankfully, Labour is not going to repeat the mistake.

Just as important as personality is policy. There is likely to be pressure for a sharp left turn, as those forces in the party that never accepted the New Labour revolution seek to reassert themselves. That represents a serious danger. There is no future for Labour as the political wing of the public services. Yet radical new thinking is certainly required. New Labour believed in the stealthy redistribution of the fruits of strong economic growth. That was an immensely successful strategy for many years. But it will not work in an era of record deficits and fragile economic growth. Labour also needs to sort out its view on Britain's proper role in the wider world if it is ever to put the debacle of Iraq behind it.

Some in Labour ranks will want to play the waiting game; to sit back and capitalise on the public discontent that will inevitably come when the new coalition begins to cut back public spending. That would be the biggest mistake of all. No one can know what the future holds for this coalition government. It may last, or it may collapse soon. But what we can be sure of is that if Labour hopes to return to power it will need to offer a positive – and rejuvenated – alternative.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 5 Teacher

£80 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Year 5 Teacher KS2 teaching job...

Software Developer

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum Pensions Scheme After 6 Months: Clearwater People So...

Systems Analyst / Business Analyst - Central London

£35000 - £37000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Busines...

Senior Change Engineer (Network, Cisco, Juniper) £30k

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: A huge step forward in medical science, but we're not all the way there yet

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
David Cameron has painted a scary picture of what life would be like under a Labour government  

You want constitutional change? Fixed-term parliaments have already done the job

Steve Richards
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Salisbury ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities

The city is home to one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, along with the world’s oldest mechanical clock
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album