The Labour Party has set up a voluntary sector policy group of MPs to play an important role in its party-wide policy review and attempt to win back the big society agenda from the government.
The group, provisionally called the Social Action Forum, will formulate the party's response to a wide range of the government's social policies. It will cover charities, social enterprise, social finance, mutuals and cooperatives.
Hazel Blears, the former Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, will tomorrow stand for election by Labour MPs as the chair of the group, which will report directly to the party leader, Ed Miliband.
She told Third Sector that some representatives of the voluntary sector would be invited to meetings, and others would be able to contribute ideas on a new website.
"The Tories have stolen this territory from us and we want it back," she said. "The Labour Party was formed from workers cooperatives and was based on collectivism. There's a dislocation between the government's big society rhetoric and the reality on the ground."
Blears said the group's work would run alongside the policy reviews being carried out for each Whitehall department. "This will be an integral part of Labour's party-wide policy review, because it will be cross-departmental," she said.
She said some key parts of the big society agenda were originally Labour ideas. "Community asset transfers, social impact bonds and social investment were all in a white paper I wrote in 2008," she said.
Miliband, a former charities minister, told Third Sector he supported the group's work. "Labour has a rich history of tackling inequality through civic engagement and social action," he said.
"I believe this group will begin to reconnect us to our traditions as a political party that is an active force for good in people's communities, and that it will help us to win back people's trust on the road back to power."
Another Labour MP, Jon Cruddas, is also understood to be standing for election to chair the group, but was unavailable to comment. A chair, deputy chair and secretary will be elected tomorrow. The group is expected to meet every three weeks, starting early next year.