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Coffee House

Labour’s localist lurch

24 March 2014

1:48 PM

24 March 2014

1:48 PM

One of the other things worth noting from this morning’s letter from the ‘members of the progressive community’ who are anxious that Labour isn’t attempting to make a big offer in 2015 is that the alliance of groups and figures from the left and right of the party back decentralisation. The letter calls for:

‘Devolution of state institutions, by giving away power and resources to our nations, regions, cities, localities and, where possible, directly to the people.’

As I explained in my Telegraph column last week, a battle in the shadow cabinet has resulted in a surprise victory for Hilary Benn and Jon Cruddas, who had been pushing for a Labourish sort of localism. We saw some of the outworkings of that in Ed Miliband’s Hugo Young lecture. There were even plans afoot at one stage to rename localism, but that seems to have run aground for the time being at least. The Tories, though, are worried that Labour could outflank them on this issue, which would be a very curious thing if an instinctively centralising party goes into the general election telling voters that it’s better at handing them power than the Tories.

P.S. This letter is being read as a blow to Miliband because it showed how widespread the doubt is across all wings of his party. But perhaps the authors are still crediting the Labour leader with too much power. They also demand ‘prevention of the causes of our social, environmental, physical and mental health problems, which requires a holistic and long-term approach to governance’. They’re clearly talking about underlying issues in society that lead to poor health and the like. But it does sound rather as though they think the Labour policy review could concoct the elixir of life. Cruddas will have to set up another working group.

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