As LFIG grows in membership and influence its views on policy are ever more widely sought. This is a sign of success as LFIG is able to draw more and more upon an increasingly expert network of specialists.
As evidence of this, the LFIF paper on Takeovers was taken up by the authoritative Policy Network and published widely as a compelling piece of work.
We are hopeful that this will form part of the Party’s platform of business policies at the next election, winning broad support from the front bench, the TUC and other socialist societies. One could predict a steady stream of such policy proposals over the coming months.
So far, so good. As a voluntary organisation LFIG can be proud of its progress. But, as a recently selected parliamentary candidate, I would like to throw down a fresh challenge to LFIG; one that I’m sure it will rise to. In fact it’s a challenge to all groups aiming to develop and promulgate Labour policy ahead of 2015.
The world feels different when you’re out on the doorstep. People don’t have time or often the inclination to digest a policy with complex objectives and mechanisms. Candidates need policies that speak directly to bread and butter issues, that they can articulate in unambiguous and compelling language.
This isn’t a plea for Daily Mail populism in the UKIP mould but there’s no doubt that clarity works. Anyone who’s discussed the energy prices freeze on the doorstep will know that it cut straight through the debate on the cost of living squeeze. By staking out clear territory on an issue close to every family’s life Labour achieved two things: we sharpened our identity as a party on the side of the hard pressed and forced the government to reconsider its own position. This is great politics.
I believe something similar can be achieved by Ed’s commitment to a market share based review of the structure of the retail banking market. Those who have dismissed the proposal out of hand have in my view badly underestimated the degree of distrust the public have in the main financial institutions. Just as with energy prices, let’s see whether and how the government is forced to respond.
LFIG has already started down this road. Take takeovers for example. Of course, the LFIG paper on takeovers contained technical and complex pieces of analysis but it is nonetheless possible to describe its purpose in clear and human terms. Whilst I haven’t had call to use it on the Twickenham doorstep it would play wonderfully well in another constituency I know well – North East Somerset. In that seat the notorious Cadbury-Kraft takeover was allowed to go through on the understanding that the local factory would be retained.
As the people of Keynsham found out to their cost, the assurances given pre-merger turned out to be of little worth once the deal had been completed. In this context a policy proposal that would require the government of the day to take into account the wider public interest – including for example, the damage that might be done to local community cohesion – will grab attention on the doorstep.
So my challenge is this – let’s make sure that all policy initiatives have a human face. By this I mean that all proposals should set out the following clear, summary features in their first paragraph:
1. a purpose and a mechanism for delivery that can be captured simply, perhaps in one sentence (e.g. “This policy will …….. It will do this by ……….”);
2. an identifiable group that will benefit;
3. a straightforward costing and where the money will come from;
4. a short human story to illustrate the reason for the policy.
Not an easy task of course. But in a complex world, and one where voters are too often disengaged from political ideas, think how empowering this Policy Precis would be for candidates out on the front line. Special pleading perhaps but, after all, 326 of us need to win if Britain is to get the new leadership it needs.
Nick Grant is Labour PPC for Twickenham and vice Chair of LFIG