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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Mobile App/IOS Developer (C#, ASP.NET, .NET, MVC)

£50000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Mobile App/IOS...

Front End Developer-JavaScript, Angular J.S, HTML, CSS, ASP.NET

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front End Deve...

Associate CXL Consultant

£40000 - £60000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: CXL, Triple Po...

Associate CXL Consultant

£40000 - £60000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: CXL, Triple Po...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Only a game? Far from it

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi speaking at the Grand Mosque in Mosul  

The al-Baghdadi doctrine: leading British Muslims offer their response

Independent Voices
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil