Why Opposition is like a road trip

Are we there yet?

I spent yesterday at the Fabian Society's New Year conference.  As usual it was a pretty thought-provoking and a good opportunity to test the temperature of Labour members and supporters after an 'interesting' week for the Party.  Our leader has come under fire in the media, but meanwhile there have been a series of announcements eg on spending decisions which have not received so much coverage.

It left me thinking that Opposition is a bit like a road trip where we're still studying and even writing the map as we go along (our policy review).  We know our destination - we are heading towards a fairer society, in which everyone matters and not just a privileged few.  But how we get there is not always clear in detail.  As we go along, we identify some key milestones (Ed Balls' speech to the Fabians yesterday was one for example, as was Ed Miliband's speech on the economy a few days previously) and even travel along some familiar roads.

And on the way, the passengers (eg Labour members such as me) occasionally ask ' Are we there yet?' which can't be much fun for the driver but doesn't actually change the destination.  And perhaps along the way (ok, stretching the analogy a bit) onlookers (media) are asking 'why haven't they arrived yet?'.  It's not surprising that people sometimes get tempted to focus on the driving rather than the route.  Though it doesn't always make things easy for the driver.

The point is we will get there and when we do we'll most likely have picked up quite a few more passengers along the way.  But Opposition is a task that takes months and years not days and weeks.    So the current debates about the leadership etc need to be got into perspective.  What really matters is that we continue doing what we're doing ie talk about what we stand for and continue to put the pieces in place to write the next manifesto and fight the next election.

Stephen Beer, 15/01/2012

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