On 18 June 2015, the Young Fabians hosted ‘What is the path to renewal?’ in the House of Commons to discuss the future of the Labour Party. The member-led discussion sought to be broad and inclusive by drawing on the views and experiences of ordinary members.
To that end, the event was designed to represent the breadth and depth of the broach church of the Labour Party: speakers Diane Abbott MP (MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington), Wes Streeting MP (new MP for Ilford North), Sarah Sackman (former PPC for Finchley and Golders Green) and Ade Adeyemi (Vice-Chair of the Young Fabians) were joined by a packed room of both new and old Young Fabians. Though the speeches by experienced panellists provoked some extremely insightful debates, great emphasis was put on making the discussion member-driven. Avoiding didacticism, the event aimed to reinforce the Fabian Society’s tradition as an ‘idea factory’, allowing members to generate discussion in a safe environment.
The discussion examined Labour's loss in the general election before moving onto the lessons that could be learnt from the defeat, covering other topics such as the mansion tax and Scotland. Labour’s lack of engagement with ordinary members was discussed, with Diane Abbott questioning what she saw as a narrow political clique. Sarah Sackman emphasised the importance of discovering and speaking in a new political language which could help to engage members of the public, as well as for the necessity of finding a new big idea as part of this process of engagement. This sentiment was built on by Wes Streeting, who called for Labour to reengage with its ‘modernising’ tradition, as typified by Atlee, Wilson and Blair.
Although many members expressed different views, and the event raised even existential questions about the Labour – ‘If the purpose of the Labour Party’s existence is to win, then what are its parameters?’ – there was a general consensus that Labour's process of renewal was an opportunity for it to re-engage with its members. This collaborative, inclusive and bottom-up event aimed to participate in that process.
Jun Bo (Jumbo) Chan (Secretary of the Young Fabians Education Network) was Chair of ‘What is the path to renewal?’