Thursday, 15 January 2009

"NPF is out-moded beast"

Guest post
By: Anne Campbell

No-one doubts that the National Policy Forum (NPF) is infinitely preferable to the policy-making processes that went before. At the time it was proposed it was an innovative and forward-looking idea and involved Party members to an extent that had never happened before. However, it remains opaque and impenetrable to the great majority. Unless it is reformed and modernized a great opportunity to reach out to parts of the Party that other methods cannot reach will be lost forever.

The NPF is a very odd out-moded beast with no effective means of communicating. Obama’s very successful election campaign and his use of electronic communication led the way in showing what is possible. We could start by having an interactive website on the Labour Party membersnet. All that seems to be there at present is a scanned document called Dialogue, which looks as though this is the last thing it wants to encourage. A space where members can actively input their ideas, challenge draft policy documents and debate with NPF members would be one way in which ordinary LP members can get involved.

Another idea is to do a webcast of the next policy forum meeting with members being able to set out their views online or by text and to have some of these fed into the group discussions. For members to be able to see and hear NPF groups actively discussing their ideas would be a great boost to the inclusion agenda. It would also allow members to observe the actions of their own NPF representatives and to see how active and persuasive they are at representing their views.

I believe that a number of electronic interventions would lift the NPF to new heights. It could take the discussion away from the small group of insiders who are the NPF at present and give LP members a real opportunity to make the Party theirs.


petergkenyon said...

Dear Anne

The last set of NPF documents were coded so members could comment and see each others contributions.

NEC chair and 'your' representative (socialist societies section), Dianne Hayter turned the offer down!

We even ran out a press release about it to no effect. So can we count on your support for our lobby ahead of the NPF on 28 February?

Paul said...

If a fraction of the energy that Party apparatchiks put into controlling went into communicating, we might even be a half-way competent organisation.

Andy Howell said...

I sat on the NPF for a few years when it was first open to election. Is was probably the most pontless thing I have ever done in terms of political thinking and policy making.

Ultimately the NPF is another one of our beloved one-way mediums of communication. The loyal ones are there to get the message and to go forth. It's getting more and more like the old CP.

Electronic media, on the other had, can revolutionise discussion through sharing, the exloration of new ideas and so on.

You can see this happening everywhere — Save the Labour Party the Fabians, Compass, FOE and so on. the Labour Party's lack of engagement with this medium will really come home to haunt them.

We now have a group of fanatics in the Paty who think IT is about setting up a Facebook group, 'Gill Smith' for Rotten East, where all that happens is that all your mates sign up. But there is no debate. This is the IT equivalent of wearing a badge.

We desperately need an IT vision in the way we need more general visions.

Well said Anne.

Paul said...

Well said, indeed. I am little sceptical about the "IT" aspect, not that it couldn't be a lot more effective, but that the problem is really one of mind-set at the top. Your comment about the old CP seems very apposite - only apostate Tories and former CP hard men/women really seem to like this way of working.
But I am optimistic that their time is up.