3 March 2008

The Labour party in Cornwall has published its platform. It’s online here.

This is the first platform/manifesto from the three main parties and Labour has shown commendable industry in getting this far in its thinking. When will the Libdems and Conservatives catch up?

Yes, like all manifestos it has glittering generalities and the audacity of cliches to uplift us. It also has some sensible and progressive ideas for making Cornwall a better place for its people.

A party has three tasks in this work: to identify the problems and possibilities, to explain its ideas for tackling those and building Jerusalem, and to explain how it will bring its ideas to realisation. The Cornwall Labour platform does the first two well but the third element is missing.

It rightly draws attention to the minimum wage, Sure Start, and rising employment as examples of Labour national policies helping make life better for many people here. These are real-life achievements that have made a significant difference and suggest powerfully what we can expect of Labour at its best. They are a persuasive advertisement for what people in Cornwall can gain from a Labour government – which is part of the manifesto’s purpose. Odd, isn’t it, that these progressive achievements don’t get a mention among the prattle in nationalism about London parties and Westminster government ?

The section on the economy is representative of the platform in its ideas and flaws. There is a realistic assessment of Cornwall’s economic position, realistic and desirable aspirations for improvement, but few practical policies of realisation. Of course local wages are too low, we all know that, but saying they “need to be brought closer to national average levels” is an inadequate response. How can this be done? Similarly, Labour says we need in Cornwall more jobs of higher quality. Yes, yes, but how do we get them? How do we get the money, the “large-scale capital funding,” to expand Newquay airport?

The other sections are similarly large on aspiration. There is much on this needs to be done but where is the indication of how Cornwall Labour will try to make it happen? Labour has talked the talk and must now walk the walk.

Labour has a serious problem. It is unlikely to have a surfeit of councillors (or MPs) in Cornwall, in the immediate future at any rate, and locally is not going to be able to vote its ideas into practice. In any case many of the aspirations depend upon action by central government. Cornwall Labour therefore needs to work out how its ideas can be realised from a position of relative powerlessness. If the platform isn’t just a long wish list, the missing third element needs to be put up soon.