Today is the deadline for Labour Party National Executive Committee candidates to confirm their willingness to stand for election in 2010 and submit a pic and 250-word statement. Mine was submitted yesterday - Special Delivery - so Billy (Hayes) I'm depending on your members to make sure my papers arrive before the deadline at 1700 Friday 6 August.
Two years ago I was a member of a slate mobilised by the Centre Left Grassroots Alliance (CLGA). Then the CLGA was effectively run by two organisations, Save the Labour Party (StLP) and the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (CLPD). StLP has never seen itself as a mass-membership organisation. That was and remains one of its ambitions for the Labour Party. Hail the day, when the Labour Party itself is an ethical, solvent, democratically-run, mass membership body. StLP actively campaigned to create the widest possible base on the centre-left of the Labour Party from which to draw candidates for the NEC. Compass was wooed. As was the Labour Representation Committee. It has proved a step too far in 2010. There is no Centre Left Grassroots Alliance slate. Achieving a consensus proved impossible at a meeting in central London on Wednesday night.
I hope, foolishly no doubt, that there not be any point scoring from the right wing slate - Labour First. It would be reminiscent of General Alexander Haig's likening of the Falklands War in 1982 between the United Kingdom and Argentina to "two bald men fighting over a comb".
There is some very serious political thinking, campaigning and lobbying to be undertaken between now and Labour's Annual Conference at the end of September. In the first instance, there is Conference itself - another rally or a rekindling of political debate?
Then there are the questions of debate about what? Yesterday the New Statesman's Staggers blog trumpeted 'Labour will have just 13 days to decide its deficit policy' highlighting the time between the election/appointment of the new Leader's Shadow Cabinet and the Comprehensive Spending Review planned for 20 October. That is what every Labour Party member is up against: Westminster village commentators trying to set the agenda, when it is ours for the grasping. Conference should decide Labour's policies, including that for tackling the budget deficit. Labour ministers demonstrated their inadequacies deciding policies over the last 13 years. We don't want to run the risk of repeat mistakes in opposition.
What better opportunity for the Leadership candidates to draw a line under the past than by encouraging and enabling the Labour Party through its members and branches to get to grips with shaping the future at its annual 'parliament'? If they can't be bothered, be assured I will spend August doing my bit by hewing the words of contemporary issues/resolutions. They will be offered via this blog for contempt and derision, cutting and pasting, honing and polishing ready for that torturous journey of consideration, debate and amendment through branches, constituency parties to the Conference Arrangements Committee. At Conference itself delegates will take part in a Priorities Ballot to settle the subjects for debate, those chosen then involve compositing of the resolutions ruled in order. Then on to the Conference floor for debate and votes.
So you could say that Labour has 50 days between now and the start of Conference to learn how to address the key issues facing the country. Conference can decide future direction That would leave the new Leader those 13 days after the Shadow Cabinet elections to shape a team to implement Labour Party policies.
It would be in very sharp contrast to the Conferences of our political opponents this year as their Leaders struggle to sell their Faustian pact to their increasingly restless members.
For Labour, the offer of a showcase of a new Leader listening and learning to inclusive, but outward looking debates both for opposition in Westminster and readiness for future government in Edinburgh and Cardiff, and hopefully Westminster sooner rather than later, really would be 'new politics', game on.