Purple Book Released - What People Are Saying
The Purple Book - essays written by the so-called 'progressive' wing of the Labour Party - hits the bookshelves today. It's a long-awaited anthology with contributions by current shadow cabinet members Ed Miliband and Douglas Alexander, among others. There are also essays from former Labour big-hitters like Peter Mandelson, Jacqui Smith and Lord Adonis.
The book aims to reposition Labour as a party capable of winning the next General Election, and has been widely viewed as an alternative school of thought to the Blue Labour movement, which argues that Labour needs to re-connect with its working class roots.
In his foreword to the collection, Labour leader Ed Miliband writes: "You may not agree with all the views expressed in this book. Nor do I. But I believe strongly that a vibrant debate across the party, in all its colours, is a necessary condition of renewal and returning to power."
Very few people appear to have seen the book in advance, but even before its release the Purple Book was making waves within Labour, with accusations of anonymous briefings against it by the left of the party. Sources told The Observer the contents of the book were 'lazy and idiotic'.
Guido Fawkes' first comment on the book was to sieze on a quote Peter Mandelson, who writes that some within Labour are "prone to clutch at straws and grab at any passing fad."
The problem with killing off New Labour and putting nothing in its place is that it leads us to clutch at straws and grab at any passing sentiment. This is what has happened with blue Labour, which seeks to reconnect the party with its old, post-war, apparently white and male, industrial working-class base. These people have moved on, to other jobs, to other aspirations and, in the main, to an entirely different identity
Writing at Labour Uncut, Anthony Painter also finds Peter Mandleson's essay to be one of the highlights, where the former Business Secretary argues Labour lost the election in 2010 “not because of our record…but because voters weren’t convinced we were the right choice for the future”.
In his essay the former Hartlepool MP delivers a riposte to Blue Labour, arguing:
Now some suggest we should look elsewhere for electoral support by proposing reconnection with (what is left of ) the traditional working class on the basis of a nostalgic longing for a lost communitarian past. I doubt if my former supporters on the Hartlepool estates would understand what they are on about and, if they did, they would reject such patronising assumptions about their aspirations and ambitions.
Whiile broadly welcoming the book as a whole, Painter feels there is one crucial essay missing, arguing: "The collection as a whole misses an additional essay on the economic future. Co-operatism is everywhere, as you’d expect. But that is only part of the new economic future."
The Guardian's political editor Patrick Wintour writes of the Purple Book: "Overall, the book tries to avoid reheated Blairism since it accepts the Brown and Blair governments both placed too much faith in the value of a globalised market, misread the signals on the squeeze on living standards and offered a top-heavy state that disenfranchised too many communities."
Those wanting to read the Labour MP Tristram Hunt's contribution to the Purple Book without buying the whole thing can download his essay from his website [pdf].
Hunt describes the Big Society as the "most audacious of Cameroonian land grabs", and argues:
Electoral success is based on two factors: economic competence and the ability to communicate a compelling vision of a future society. Without a clear strategy for deficit reduction, Labour will fall at the first of these two hurdles. Embracing more democratic models of ownership can help to communicate the vision of society and our values of solidarity, cooperation, reciprocity and community empowerment in ways that the public can understand.