Labouring over the past
With just weeks until the local elections Starmer and the right of the party are playing down expectations.
National polls put Labour behind the Tories and Starmer is seen as a mystery to voters.
The burning question of Starmer is what does he stand for? Well, the Labour Group in Sheffield has taken his lead and is standing on a manifesto rooted firmly in the past.
A simple Google search for the Sheffield Labour manifesto for 2021 yields only a reference to the 2019 manifesto – Forging Fairer Futures – which itself was a rehash of 2018’s offering.
Some will argue that manifestos are not important when a party’s policies are clear – but most Labour members in Sheffield would struggle to set out the top five policy ambitions going into the vital last few weeks before May 6th.
One aspect of the poll in Sheffield will be the delayed referendum on whether to move from a cabinet system to a committee structure in the town hall.
It is easy to see what an own goal this is – offering the Greens and Lib Dems the opportunity to claim Labour is undemocratic in wanting to maintain power in so few hands at the top.
The Labour Group’s response to all this is to herald Local Area Committees (LACs) as the solution to bringing greater democracy to the Council – but continue by default with a Cabinet model.
A gift to It’s Our City with their simple criticism that 10 rather 84 councillors decide what happens in the city.
So Labour not only has little positive to say about how society needs to recover from Covid, the continuing disaster of austerity in local government, rising unemployment, a housing crisis, an NHS on its knees or a social care system about to collapse.
But in Sheffield it hopes to persist with a cabinet system which looks distinctly undemocratic. A committee system won’t solve all the problems facing Sheffield and experts will tell you that it isn’t that simple – but in today’s politics, messages matter and, on this issue, the messenger – Sheffield’s ruling Labour Group – has once again gone missing.
Bob Johnson was anointed to replace Julie Dore with a promise to do things his way – it remains to be seen if this ends up being on the opposition benches. If so, you can bet Jeremy Corbyn will get the blame.