The local election results were bad for Labour and all progressives. Coming third, way behind the Tories, spells potential disaster at the next election. Natural Labour supporters found it impossible to back the Party. Many members refused to campaign. After the problems experienced at the Home Office and in Health the competence of the Government has been brought into question.
The commercialisation of public services and an overly close proximity to big business on issue like peerages and academies makes it impossible to gain the active support of nurses, teachers and other public sector works. The flawed Education Bill serves as a reminder of the wrong policies being pursued against the wishes of all but a few in the Party. More of the same, which the reshuffle has embedded, is not the answer.
Labour is in a hole and must stop digging. The renewal of the Party and the Government must start now. The change of direction the Party and the country needs demands clarity over leadership – otherwise the drift and demoralisation will only benefit our enemies.
The world has moved on since 1997. Now green issues, democratic renewal, well being and work life balance are at the forefront of voter’s minds. New times demand a new direction.
A change of leader is a necessary but insufficient step. A new sense of purpose cannot be achieved at the tail end of the third term, by then it will be too late. Paralysis and confusion at the top of the Party are the direct consequence of the announcement by Tony Blair that he would be standing down. Eighteen months on the Prime Minster must now tell the Party exactly when he intends to stand down within a timescale that enables his successor to take on the task of rebuilding the Party and reconnecting with both our traditional supporters, and those who joined us for the first time in 1997.
This can still happen in a dignified and orderly fashion. We should celebrate the historic achievements secured by this Government. Record levels of investment in our public services, a living wage for all, an unprecedented period of economic stability; radical reform and devolution of our national institutions; these all serve as a fitting testament to Blair’s leadership. But remaining in post with policies that have got us in to this mess cannot be allowed to continue.
In consultation with the NEC the Prime Minster must signal his intention to step aside within a timescale that enables his successor to change the direction of government based on a re-modernised party true to its core values of equality, liberty and solidarity.
By Neal Lawson, Chair of Compass