Stuart White and myself are both among the contributors, as is Fabian Executive member Jessica Asato who is acting director of Progress.
Download it all here.
Demos director Richard Reeves writes that
So what now? What can Labour do? Four themes run through much of the collection. Labour should, the contributors variously argue, be more democratic, more pluralist, more social, and more liberal. introduction
Of course the contributors also disagree about a great deal but it is striking how often those arguments are made from various directions. I argue that the scars of past civil wars have created an excessive fear of open political debate, even though there is no deep ideological rift within the Labour party today.
So I agree with Phil Collins, Chair of Demos, in his declaration that
‘there should be a moratorium on the divisions of Blairite and Brownite, Old and New Labour, left and right, individualist and collectivist. All of them replay ancient blood-feuds that don’t matter and none of them will yield anything interesting.’
Indeed Jon Cruddas for the "left" makes a similar point well in his defence of James Purnell's contribution to Labour's future ideas agenda in stressing the futility of a factional debate around the trenchlines of left and right of a generation or two ago and the need for Labour to be a broad and pluralist progressive coalition of ideas.
"I think there are people on the right and on the left in the Labour party who are almost functionally anticipating a real shakedown, a factional fight to the death, blood on the floor and all of that. I don't accept that, I think it should be incumbent on all of us after whatever happens to work out a protocol in the party that can rebuild it as a coalition.
Collins also suggests that the new debates will be more nuanced than a shorthand of pro- or anti-state would acknowledge.
‘The intriguing axis in Labour politics will be quite different. There will be, on one side of the argument, those that genuinely want to disperse power and, on the other, those that think that central government is usually the answer. The distinction is not hard and fast. Those who want to make people powerful do not want to give up the power of the state. On the contrary, left-liberals are keenly aware that the power of the state is a potent part of their armoury — It’s just not their weapon of choice.’
Richard Reeves adds on this point that:
The divide may not in fact be quite as great as it appears. Neal Lawson, who writes most fiercely against the pro-market individualism of the ‘Blairites’, also suggests that ‘social-ism should be defined as the ability of people to exert the maximum control over their lives’ — a sentiment with which radical liberals would warmly agree.
Katwala and Marquand strike a middle course between the liberal and communitarian positions, with Katwala suggesting that a focus on more equal life chances, or the ‘fight against fate’ combines liberal ends and social democrat means: ‘This argument also has the potential to fuse together liberal and social democratic agendas: if autonomy is the liberal end, then the social democratic concern is for the distribution of autonomy.’
That middle course was also a theme of the recent Collins and Reeves' own pamphlet on The Liberal Republic, as I noted in reviewing it for Liberal Conspiracy.
Labour has everything to gain and nothing to fear from a much more open debate of the party's fundamental purposes.
A lack of ideas is a much greater threat than an '80s style ideological civil war.
And, despite Collins and Reeves' earlier liberal dismissal of the Fabian tradition, I fear that any minor think-tank feud between Demos and the Fabians is firmly off too.