At the very end of a rather long and wonkish fringe about Labour’s policy review last night, Angela Eagle started describing what she called an ‘electronic town square’. She’d already told the audience about Star Trek salutes, so this town square, which sounded rather like Labour’s answer to Trumpton, was quite in keeping with the slightly quirky discussion. But the electronic town square is even more interesting than Star Trek because it’s an example of how the party is trying to update the way it creates policy and engages with its members and members of the public.
Sadly, you won’t find Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble, or Grub in Angela Eagle’s town square: it’s actually a website which offers anyone interested the opportunity to pitch policy ideas for Labour members to vote on which then go forward into the formal policymaking process.
The plan is that the square will bring in a much bigger pool of ideas from a far wider pool of people than the old National Policy Forum allowed. It means charities and ‘normal’ people can have their say on what Labour should be including in its manifesto. It also saves a lot of time: people can submit terrible, unworkable ideas if they want which will never go forward into the formal policymaking process, but at least Labour has given them the opportunity to have their say. This is important: the first question at last night’s fringe was from the leader of the No to HS2 campaign (which was amusing as Lord Adonis had just minutes before complained about the party’s decision to give the No to HS2 campaign such prominence in the exhibition) who complained that she was finding it impossible to secure meetings with MPs to get her campaign’s point across.
Eagle wasn’t fully confident that Labour’s policy Trumpton was going to become an overnight sensation, though. She told the fringe that her greatest worry was that no-one was going to put anything into the system, rather than the party being inundated with ideas.Tags: Angela Eagle, Labour, Labour conference 2012, UK politics