Letter: Labour's challenge: to win power and keep faith with the poor

Policy makers
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The Independent Online
Sir: The article by John Rentoul ("Brown talks tough on tax", 24 April) perhaps accidentally underlines the foolishness of most contemporary attitudes towards politics and politicians. Far from sympathising with the leaders of the two current largest parties, an averagely intelligent reader can have nothing but scorn for the assumptions made.

Firstly, who makes policy? A political party is not, contrary to increasing assumptions, a business with a managing director. It is an organisation of fairly like minded people combining in association to promote their ideas; it is not a tribe, to gather behind a "leader" and obey on a "keep quiet or be banished" basis.

This happened during the 1980s to the Tory party under the leadership of Margaret Thatcher to the private dismay of several Conservative associates of mine. Now identically, Labour friends are being forced to be quiet and prevented at a local and national level from raising genuine questions of great importance.

Of course Clare Short is right to raise the question of taxes for the higher paid. Of course, equally, so is Kenneth Clarke right to make the question of Europe central to our country's future.

Why do we allow our appointed representatives to be subjected to the absurd control of the whips. If we the voters are not allowed to have our chosen representatives dare to discuss the things such as taxation, education, the health service, the Common Market - of great importance to us - what value is there in Parliament?

It is highly unlikely that some 250 MPs are going to think in an identical way. The diversity should be gloried in - as enriching the national stock of political ideas. Policy needs to be decided by the will of the majority - not by "think tanks" or "kitchen cabinets".

Mrs Thatcher destroyed many good Conservative thinkers in the 1980s, as well as much of the real economic and social life of the country. Why should we, the public, stand by and see either Tony Blair or John Major do likewise in the 1990s?

David Palmer