2020 double vision

Drat and double drat. I’d wanted to attend the launch of Charles and Alan’s website, 2020vision.org. It was Mrs Watson’s birthday yesterday and for the first time in years, we went dancing. It was great fun but made the website launch a less than attractive proposition this morning.

What do I think about it?

1. Great idea if they’re serious about an online debate. You have to take the rough with the smooth with blog-style discussions and I hope they don’t moderate the thing to death.
2. It might have been better to run the debate through an existing think tank. I’m sure that Progress would have done it.
3. They are totally right about the Labour Party having to discuss it’s future. They should encourage the deputy leadership contenders to enter the debate. Now that the national Labour Party has foolishly failed to listen to John Spellar, who wants to abolish the job of deputy leader, there is no point in beating about the bush. The candidates should be prepared to enter into a debate and win some hearts and minds.

Peter Hain, Jon Cruddas and Harriet Harman are prepared to speak out about their policy ideas and aspirations when they address local party meetings. Alan Johnson and Hilary Benn are not doing so at present. It’s too early to tell how Hazel Blears is going to play things.

4. Colleagues tell me that only about a dozen MPs attended the launch. I’m pretty certain that this was becasue most MPs are suspicious that Alan Milburn is mischief making. I think that this is the wrong analysis and an unfair view of Alan’s motives. He’s been talking about this debate for a good 18 months and he’s right to do so. There’s no point in conducting a proxy debate through deniable news stories in Sunday papers. Lets just get on with it and have the discussion.

Alan Milburn and Charles Clarke

I’m sure Alan and Charles, in the spirit of open debate, would not mind me reproducing the text of their latest email.

Dear Colleague

As we all know the coming months are critical for Labour’s future. After ten years in office we will need to demonstrate that we have the vision and the policies to successfully meet the future challenges faced by our country and the wider world. Like many others in the PLP and the wider Party we believe that requires an open participatory debate.

There are some welcome signs that the debate is beginning to happen within Government, in various think-tanks and in contributions made by a range of colleagues. From our discussions with fellow MPs and Party members, however, we believe there is an enormous appetite for the debate to be taken forward and given more focus. There will, of course, be many different points of view about the future direction we should take as a Party but we believe the critical thing is to develop an open process for ideas and views to be aired. Many colleagues have suggested that such a process would provide the opportunity not just of addressing the Party – important though that is – but of engaging with the wider public.

To that end we have decided to launch a new initiative to promote debate in what we hope and intend will be an open and participative way. We are inviting all Labour MPs to the launch event which will take place at 10.30am on Wednesday 28th February in the Tweed and Ness rooms at the City Inn, 30 John Islip Street, London, SW1P 4DD (map attached)

All Labour colleagues from both the Commons and the Lords are most welcome to attend.


Charles Clarke MP and Alan Milburn MP