Now that the Labour Party leadership contest is over, it will be interesting to observe the process of regeneration that the party goes through.
I would like to see many things change in the Labour Party and I do hope that Ed Miliband will bring lots of change, not only for the sake of the party but for the democratic system as a whole. Real discussions should take place on sensitive issues that have been stifled in the past. A more democratic and accountable party should be created. Labour should think less in terms of spin and more in terms of substance. It is also time for the party to find its real position in the left-right pendulum by adopting truly progressive, centre-left positions.
While in government, the Labour Party adopted a wishy-washy position on many issues. Europe was one of them. Although the victorious 1997 party manifesto aimed at putting Europe on the agenda the issue was never developed to the full. Apart from a very short-lived era of cautious EU-phoria during the first years of Labour government, the question of Europe was widely neglected. Such absence of debate allowed Eurosceptic/extremist elements to manipulate the public debate towards an inward-looking position.
I know that many will be interested in the Labour Party’s ideas on tackling the debt and facing the budget cuts. For all social-democratic parties, health, education and welfare are always on the top of the agenda. Nevertheless, one should not forget the important impact of foreign policies. In the end, Blair and the Labour Party did pay a heavy price for Iraq.
Many in continental Europe want to see the UK lead in the EU. There would be an added value for both the EU and the UK from an active UK participation in finance, economy and foreign policy. There will also be a positive mentality impact on the bureaucratic EU mechanism, since we admire UK officials for their efficiency, flexibility and imaginative solutions.
No country can stand on her own; alliances are necessary. In Europe, the UK can lead. It cannot lead in the rest of the world, on a level with other global/emerging powers such as the USA and China. A partnership cannot really be established on an unequal footing: a small country cannot be hand in hand with the world’s superpower (e.g., USA and the UK). However, the UK can lead in a group of middle-power states which form the European Union.
If the Labour Party will speak the voice of truth on Europe, there is a hope that the public debate will gradually shift to more logical positions. This is by no means an easy task, since large sections of the British media are Eurosceptic. However, one should make an effort in order to put the Europhile argument forward. This cannot just start to happen at the crucial time of elections – by then it will be too late. It has to be cultivated much earlier. It is time for the Labour Party to start speaking the truth on Europe.