Ed Miliband is seeking to use the LabourSpace website, as well as the network of Constituency Labour Parties, socialist societies and others, to invite a new round of ideas this Autumn for the election manifesto itself.
He writes in his preface that:
Our task is to shape the future around a modern progressive agenda. It is about driving forward reforms, building lasting change - and a better society - on the foundations so carefully laid over the last decade. As the Labour Party, we are restless for change. We want Britain by 2015 to be even fairer, greener, more prosperous and democratic.
Following the National Policy Forum programme agreed at Conference, we want to debate the dramatic changes taking place in the world. Our proposals are being sent to every constituency party in the country. This dialogue will help to frame the thinking for the next manifesto.
All responses will be fed into the NPF and will be used to help shape Labour’s ideas. The entire party will have a say when our programme is endorsed early next year. We want to know your views on the way forward for Britain.
Tell me what you think, let me know your ideas and let’s build a manifesto that speaks to the lives of people throughout this country. Together we can make change happen .
This is a good idea. Miliband argues that this is "the first election of a new economic era shaped by the three crises of our time: the global financial crisis, the post-expenses political crisis, and the climate crisis".
The party has found it rather difficult to work out how its opaque and clunky policy-making structures can adapt to the particular challenges of such world-changing events, and give members and supporters a real sense that their voice counts in policy-making. Most people believe the 'new' policy structures of the 1990s are now rather outmoded as Anne Campbell has argued previously, though there is less agreement on what might replace it. (The Guardian ran a good pre-conference editorial on the somewhat nuanced debate between Compass' emphasis on decision-making power, and the argument for a focus on member voice in the Fabian Facing Out research).
Those are longer-term debates. The priority now must be on manifesto content. Ed Miliband has done a good deal to try to encourage as open a process as possible within those constraints.
So rhe LabourSpace initiative is very much the right sort of idea. I am not sure that it has yet taken off as an active space of discussion and policy engagement - but this does depend on how many people engage in it.
The party will be encouraging constituencies, party members, trade unions, socialist societies and others to put forward ideas. And this seems to me a good moment for ourselves in the Fabians and Young Fabians - who have recently published manifesto ideas from their own policy forums - groups like LabourList, Progress, Compass, individual bloggers and others who have been putting forward ideas to try plugging a few of these into the LabourSpace debate, as one way to try to encourage more participation in these new experiments in engagement with party members and supporters.
I would be interested to hear ideas about what others are promoting.
This is partly an issue of communication too. I don't think I have myself yet come across anything about this around the Labour blogosphere so far. I suspect that is partly because very few people who are not conference delegates are yet aware of this, so it might be a good idea for others to also help to spread the word.