Martin Bright

How New Labour Policy Making Works

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The best New Labour policies have always been designed for sale to liberals and reactionaries at the same time. When I was on The Observer I always made a point of asking for the Mail on Sunday half of the story whenever I was pitched a Sunday trail for a policy launch during the week ahead. Of course this briefing of journalists in advance of a government launch will no longer happen in the new era of parliamentary propriety (until the next time). But its worth applying this to the latest Gordon Brown policy document: Building Britain's Future.

Some of this policy fits the model perfectly. The  employment "guarantee" for under 25s out of work for more than a year, which sounded like a liberal measure when it was launched in the budget, has turned into a punitive threat to remove benefits from the young long-term unemployed.

Some, however, is pure populism. The pledge to give "local people" preference in social housing is a direct appeal to Labour's white working class heartlands. How it would work in practice is difficult to imagine. Will the voters who switched from Labour to BNP applaud when when third generation British Asians get housed in preference to first generation Polish immigrants?

There is much to salute in Building Britain's Future. But you have to wonder why it wasn't possible to publish these proposals a year ago or even two.