The Purple Book is from Progress: The “New Labour” think-tank. Its authors are a variety of Labour party MPs(present and past), Lords and thinkers.
The Purple Book has one thread running through it: localism. By devolving power to local-government levels, public services (and power generally) becomes immediately accessible and immediately accountable to all people. That is essence of the Purple Book.
The Purple Book was advertised as Purple because it is where Red (Left) and Blue (Right) meet, and so Purple is the colour of the centre-ground of British politics, and is/was the colour of New Labour. However I didn’t feel this was quite the case with the Purple Book. It was far more red than blue, seemingly abandoning cosmopolitanism (which surely was a key-point of New Labour) completely in favour of communitarianism. The Purple Book rescues socialism from the cancers of Marx, but it is not the centre ground.
Having read The Orange Book (Liberal Democrats) over the summer, The Purple Book had quite a lot to live up to. The Orange Book is a fantastic book: it is meticulously detailed, intellectually stimulating and radical, and the next evolution of New Labour and Blairite ethos. The Orange Book read like a manifesto-in-waiting.
Despite the passion with which the Purple Book is written it is not a manifesto-in-waiting. There are some sensible ideas in here, well developed. But The Purple Book seems to reflect the Labour Party generally – in need of direction, and looking at its history to decide its future.
Despite this identity crisis facing the party, the future leaders of the party revealed themselves: Douglas Alexander, Rachel Reeves, Tessa Jowell, and Stephen Twigg wrote excellently, with clear vision. My bet is on Rachel Reeves as Labour leader and Prime Minister by 2025, which isn’t so long away!
Paul Richards wrote exceptionally well, laying out the history of the Labour party and the story of British socialism.
Titans from the New Labour government: Peter Mandelson, Alan Milburn and Andrew Adonis write magnificently, and the book is worth reading for their contributions alone. Adonis in particular suggests the direct election of City Mayors beyond London, an idea which will hopefully come into effect soon!
The Purple Book’s advocacy of localism and mutualism is consistent. But it is not a book of the centre ground. It is heavily communitarian and socialist. Despite not being anti-business or anti-enterprise, it is not pro-business or pro-enterprise. How would an economy of mutualised firms grow? Would competition disappear? It is hard to think of how this sort of economy would allow inequality to exist, but it is also hard to think of how this would promote innovation.
Thankfully The Purple Book takes socialism from the clutch of Marxism and nationalisation: replacing the state with community. But community very much has a dominant role over the individual: a chilling prospect for liberals. More the Maroon Book than the Purple Book....Continua