David Blackburn

Labour’s gruelling task

Labour’s gruelling task
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There was a great sense of pathos after the election, when Jack Straw was the only Labour politician who could recall the shadow cabinet room’s location. It must have been surreal for those who knew only government. The loneliness of opposition would have struck at last week’s Queen’s Speech.

The party must renew whilst avoiding the internecine struggle that condemned the Tories to 13 years in opposition. Fantasy politics won’t be sufficient. Introspection must yield a coherent and credible agenda, free from the undeliverable abstractions and the oscillation between arrogance and desperation that characterised the Brown government. The leadership campaign will define Labour in opposition; Hopi Sen offers the contenders advice:

‘The hard work of developing a new set of policies is only just beginning. Here’s an uncomfortable thought: It won’t be the nice stuff that make us feel good like increasing minimum wages, overseas aid, or volunteering that decides the next election.

It will be the grit of policies on transport, industry, jobs, tax and crime. We can’t afford to ignore those issues, and neither can those who would suffer from two terms of a Labour government.

Our leadership candidates shouldn’t either. Even if it’s easier to talk about minimum wages or greedy bankers.

Leading isn’t compiling a list of adjectives that describe a popular party. It’s confronting the issues that stand in the way of building one.’