The future of the left since 1884

Letting Go: How Labour can learn to stop worrying and trust the people

To create public institutions that have relationships at their centre, we need to get people talking. Instead of waiting to be elected into government, Labour should see itself as a power in the land now.


  • Letting Go
  • By Jon Wilson
  • Published 30 September 2012

If you get people in a room together, if people have the freedom to meet, talk and argue, they’ll make better decisions about the things which affect their lives than anyone else.

In ‘Letting Go: How Labour can learn to stop worrying and trust the people’, Jon Wilson argues that Labour needs to become a movement rooted in people’s experience, not be the party of the central manager. Above all, it needs to trust people again. The politician’s vocation should be to create institutions where those conversations happen, not determine what they decide.

This doesn’t mean Labour should abandon its faith in the state. Indeed, that faith needs to be renewed, because our public institutions embody Labour’s sense of the purpose of politics: to protect and care, and provide a basis for us to lead good lives together. But the argument in favour of the public sector should be an argument for local control and popular ownership.

This pamphlet is intended to incite conversation. We’d like it for Labour’s nationally elected politicians to begin to negotiate about the future of Britain’s public institutions. But it’s a conversation we can play our role in starting.

What’s your experience of our public institutions? Tell us your story, good and bad – about the way local institutions you work for or live near have nurtured a sense of public spirit and the common good, or how care and compassion have been frustrated. You don’t have to agree with the argument made here. The point is that our public institutions need to be places where people can develop a sense of the common good from argument.

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You can buy a printed copy edition of Letting Go: How Labour can learn to stop worrying and trust the people for £9.95, plus £1 p+p, by phoning the Fabian Society bookshop on 020 7227 4900, emailing us at or send a cheque payable to “The Fabian Society” to 11 Dartmouth Street, London, SW1H 9BN.

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How to purchase

Copies are available, priced £9.95, from the Fabian Society. Call 020 7227 4900, email or send a cheque payable to The Fabian Society to 61 Petty France, London, SW1H 9EU.


Jon Wilson

Jon Wilson teaches history at King's College London where he’s also academic lead for Widening Participation. He was a Labour councillor in Waltham Forest, and is active in Greenwich and Woolwich.


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