Sunday, 1 November 2009

Signs of life

Posted on This is My Truth on 1 November

For me the interesting feature of the leadership election is not the coded attacks, though there are plenty of them, but the early signs of policy innovation.

Labour has struggled to develop policy in Wales. Partly because the culture and structure of the Party has not been geared towards developing separate policy for Wales, and partly because the leading players have been engaged in Governing. New policy has been developed in a hurried, and often shockingly casual way, in the immediate build-up to an election.

The Leadership election is forcing the Labour Party to think about new Welsh policies in the middle of the electoral cycle. And there are encouraging signs.

Dave Hagendyk is right to say that the ideas of Huw Lewis will feature in the next manifesto. So too will the ideas of the other candidates.

Here are three suggestions that caught my eye which I believe deserve a place in Labour’s programme in 2011 – I’ve chosen one from each of the candidates and I’ll let you guess which candidate came up with them:

•Set up a Leadership Academy for public service leaders and managers to promote innovation and spread best practice
•“immersion placements” for students from every school in Wales in Welsh-speaking communities to develop a positive interest in Welsh as a living language.
•A co-ordinated government plan to support looked-after children, putting energies into engaging directly with children affected, reducing educational disruption, enhancing independent advocacy and providing a personal support plan for children leaving care;

Ok, these aren’t exactly radical. But in fairness to all the candidates it is not easy to come up with proposals when the winner will be tied into an already agreed coalition programme for the next two years, and against the backdrop of painful budgets cuts.

Whoever is named Labour leader on December 1st needs to ensure that the process of gathering ideas is not restricted to the periods around elections. It is an essential part of rebuilding the party.

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