The Third Way and Labour’s review

This morning we kicked off with a fascinating talk from Progress Report author Hayden Munro about the Third Way and how we should consider it, particularly entering into the party review.

He covered the work of Al From, who in Hayden’s opinion is the most important figure on the left for the last half century.

From was very deliberate in his re-working of the Democratic Party in the US. He felt that the party organisation was essentially moribund, and made it his mission to change it. By effectively changing (traditionalists would say hijacked) the party through its own reviews and re-organisations, he was able to influence candidate selections and ultimately policy.

Hayden has promised to write a post for The Progress Report summing up his talk, so I won’t spoil the story for you.

However, Hayden’s talk set the stage very nicely for the next speaker – Labour Party President, Moira Coatsworth.

Moira spoke about the nuts and bolts of Labour’s organisational review. She set the started by stating that all organisations should be continually renewing – which was good to hear. My personal belief is that this is particularly important in politics. One of my strongest criticisms of the 5th Labour government was a failure to renew, and I’d take a stab and say that the party was even worse at this than the parliamentary wing.

The review itself is still in its very early stages. Moira took feedback from the audience on the scope and nature of the review. She wants the review to be evidence based, looking at our sister parties around the world, and using real data. Good stuff.

It looks like the scope will be signed off very soon. The project co-sponsors will be David Shearer and Moira Coatsworth. They’ll establish a project team and nationwide consultations should happen in February and early March. It’s likely we’ll see a discussion paper late April / early May, with discussions at regional conferences.

We’re starting to hear signals that the review won’t be looking under every rock. There won’t be a line-by-line review of the constitution. I expect that we’ll be looking at how our organisation failed in 2008 and 2011 and the changes we need to make to fix those problems.

I’m sure we’ll be looking at some of the bigger picture stuff – leadership selections, the policy process, candidate selections etc. Some of this will be able to be addressed through internal policy and action, but any constitutional changes will have to wait until party conference in November.

There will be some who will be disapointed by the (potentially) limited scope of the review. I guess one of the key tensions is to ensure that the review goes far enough so as to ensure the Labour Party is transformed into the 21st century vehicle for the progressive left that it needs to be, without tearing itself apart or being bogged down in constitutional remits.

Personally I’m really looking forward to both the process and the outcome. It’s a very interesting time to be a Labour Party member.

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