Tim Horton, research director of the Fabian Society, writing in today's Guardian, has posed a challenge for the Labour Party:
Labour badly needs an agenda motivated by what is good about localism and mutualism, not what might be bad about the alternatives.
This goes to the heart of an official Labour Party consultation, misleadingly entitled: Refounding Labour. Is Ed Miliband, Labour's new leader proposing that the Party should be reconstituted? That's not mentioned anywhere in the 20+ page document to which he contributed the Foreword. Nor is it refered to by National Policy Forum chair Peter Hain. So we'll have to assume their intention is that the Labour Party will remain an unincorporated voluntary association. Now I know that one of my avid readers is very uncomfortable with any public discussion about this matter. Why might that be? Well in plain language being unincorporated means that each member is jointly and severally responsible for the Labour Party's finances with unlimited liability.
What would be good is that if this were more widely understood. This is not just a Labour Party thing. It is a wonderful opportunity to expand the skill pool for localism and mutuality. The minute you want to launch a campaign, set up a club, or an activity that involves money, the need to adopt a written constitution looms large. Anyone who has tried opening a bank account for a voluntary body will testify to that.
So what was the Labour Party machine under New Labour doing? Shutting down branches based on electoral ward boundaries, and plundering their bank accounts and fixed assets. With it, Labour's capacity to knock on doors and retain local council seats atrophied. The rest is history.
That will be Labour's fate if it doesn't focus on what makes localism and mutualism tick, it's the governance, stupid.