OPINION: Shift to left opens new doors

Lisa Harker, deputy director of the Institute for Public Policy Research

Harold Wilson famously noted that a week is a long time in politics.

The twists and turns of Westminster life can appear to take place at double-quick speed.

When political change starts to accelerate, the journalists that follow events in Westminster achieve renewed status because they provide bite-sized interpretations of a rapidly-changing environment that help us try to make sense of it all.

So it is perhaps significant that there is a notable air of excitement among political journalists. It is not the fall of Baghdad that is most eagerly anticipated. Rather, it is the prospect of a very different political landscape that may emerge in the UK after the war is over.

Some are arguing that New Labour is about to change its course. Given the scale of the opposition to the war, Blair needs to make peace with his own backbenchers and some believe that, as a result, the centre of gravity of New Labour is about to shift to the left. Suddenly, there is talk of a more ambitious political agenda, one that many among the party's grassroots have long dreamed of.

The certainties of a few months ago are being called into question and issues hitherto remote from the Government's agenda now seem to be on the horizon, albeit distant. Will we see a change in antipathy towards an overt commitment to the redistribution of income and wealth? Is there hope for more radical reform of political institutions?

Charity campaign strategists need to take note: new opportunities for policy changes may be about to open up. Those who have buried themselves in painstaking preparations for policy and campaign work should take stock.

The changing political landscape may call for a rethink.

Sophisticated though many charity campaigns are these days, they are not renowned for being nimble in the face of political change. Elaborate campaigns can involve months, if not years, of preparation. But failing to take account of a rapidly changing political environment can turn out to be costly in terms of missed opportunities.

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