Saturday, December 18, 2021

On Electability

Yes of course it's all about presenting credible plans to the electorate - but if they don't like our plans, or they don't trust us to deliver against them, we can't just wait for a new more supportive electorate to come along.

Only three Labour leaders have ever won a majority in a General Election to become Prime Minister - and only one of those was born in the last 100 years.

We have to learn something from our limited successes and our repeated failures.

If we acknowledge that together with social justice, we must also support individual aspiration - and together with rebuilding public services, we must work in partnership with business - then we stand a chance of being elected and making a difference to people's lives.

If we carry on banging the "Labour is only for the working class" drum, we will carry on marching on and on into obscurity, becoming more and more irrelevant every day.

Labour needs: 
  1. policies that are attractive across the country
  2. to engender a feeling of trust that we will deliver against those policies
  3. credible candidates everywhere
Keir Starmer is doing his level best on all three, under a barrage of crossfire from the left, some of whom are arguably responsible for the lack of all 3.

It's said that Labour struggle to understand why people vote Tory, and it's true. 

I was a Tory voter - read my journey - but I didn't change all that much; the parties changed. 

The Conservatives drifted ever rightwards, comfortable in their complacency, while Labour became more broad-minded - accepting that it had to attract working people not just working class people - improved its credibility, and got a whole lot better at explaining itself.

People don't move very far politically, but an awful lot of them really don't need to move very far.  Our enemy is the Tory Party - not Tory voters. 

The one nation conservative myth exploded a couple of decades ago, but many perfectly reasonable Tory voters near the centre ground of politics didn't feel the rug move under them, until now. 

Monday, September 27, 2021

David Lammy on Justice

Conservative Problems

Since 2010, the Tories have closed 295 courts. The Crown Court backlog is now at an all-time high of 60,000 cases. Victims are giving up on the criminal justice system altogether. They are not being given court dates until up to four years later – if they get one at all.
Prosecutions and convictions for rape are at an all-time low. The government is now desperately setting up temporary ‘Nightingale courts’ to deal with the backlog they created. But just 30 nightingale courts are open, a fraction of the hundreds of permanent courts this government closed.
It is a classic example of Conservative false economy. Cutting infrastructure over a decade. Now having to pay more to Sellotape the broken parts together again.
We are proud of the legal aid system that was created by Clement Attlee’s Labour government in 1949. Its purpose is to provide legal advice for those who cannot afford it. But since 2010, the Conservatives have cut legal aid by 38%.
Under the Conservatives, everything in the justice system that is meant to be up is down and everything that is meant to be down is up. Anti-social behavior is up, convictions are down, the court backlog is up, rehabilitation is down, racial unfairness is up, access to justice is down.

Labour Solutions

Labour will strengthen your Human Rights, unlike this Conservative government which wants to water them down. Labour will legislate to bring The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child into domestic law. 
Labour wants women to feel safe on our streets, and will put ending violence against women and girls at the very top of our agenda. We will fast-track rape and sexual assault cases in our courts, increase minimum sentences for rapists, create a new offence for street harassment, ensure victims of domestic abuse get the legal aid they need, and make misogyny a hate crime.
Labour will put victims first. The Tories have promised a Victims’ Bill in several Queens’ speeches but never delivered. Labour have produced legislation that would enshrine victims’ rights in law. It has been published. Introduced to Parliament. It is ready to go.
Labour recognises the importance of the private sector working in partnership with the public sector. That’s why today we are announcing that a Labour government would support the introduction of a new national pro-bono service. With binding pro bono targets to support those who can’t afford legal advice and are ineligible for legal aid.
Labour will introduce targets to bring in more women and more ethnic minorities to the most senior positions in our courts. We will reform the judiciary so that judges look more like the people they judge.

David Lammy MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Justice
27 September 2021

Friday, September 3, 2021

Rebuilding Labour and The Nation

Does Labour have a chance at the next general election? Where do voters like the party’s offer and where does it need to strengthen it’s message?

In this report, Opinium pollster Chris Curtis sets out the challenge and the potential for Labour. He finds that Labour has closed the gap on the Conservatives since 2019 but must do more to show it has changed and inspire confidence with voters – especially those who switched to the Conservatives for the first time that year.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Fit For The Future

Labour In Communications today released Fit for The Future - their report outlining practical, tactical steps Labour can take to build the best platform to communicate its vision for the future of Britain.

Published by Labour in Communications, a group made up of Labour supporters working in communications, Fit for The Future makes several recommendations on how the party can regain power at the next election, including simplicity of messaging, and offering a more positive and emotive vision that connects with voters and focuses on the issues that they care about. It argues that benefits of policies are often lost in the tone of messaging and there is a need to convey passion and emotion for what Labour are advocating.

I'd strongly recommend it.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

My Politics

consider myself a moderate on the centre-left of UK politics, which means I occupy a relatively mainstream position, rejecting radical or extreme views and major social and economic upheaval.

The left – the democratic socialists – still want to abolish capitalism and replace it with a socialist economy as prescribed by Marx in the latter part of the 19th century, organised around common ownership of the means of production. 

I’ve worked in the private sector technology industry all of my working life, and as a result I’m well aware that competitive markets are massive and generally efficient generators of economic wealth. 

I therefore support the centre-left concept of supporting a competitive economy while advancing the overriding imperative - the true, ethical goal of socialism - of a just and fair society. 

Some say that means I’m not really a socialist, and have no place in the Labour Party: those views are, of course, completely wrong.

My political views make me an ethical socialist, otherwise known as a social democrat, on the revisionist - and for more than half a century, the mainstream - wing of the Labour Party.

Revisionist thinking insists on the necessity of a market-oriented mixed economy with a central role for capitalism and entrepreneurship generating wealth, but with public ownership and control of those public services where the public good dictates there should be no market at all.

Its focus is less on ownership and more on control – controlling via regulation, rather than replacing, the capitalist free market.

This means an extensive set of regulatory policies including a national minimum wage, health and safety legislation, anti-discrimination laws, employment tribunals, paid maternity leave and meaningful negotiations between unions and management over pay and conditions.

This combination of policies and regulations are intended ensure that the owners of capital cannot exploit those who work for them, particularly when the power of the trade unions is strengthened via collective bargaining.

Revisionism started as a powerful ideological tendency within the Labour Party in the 1950s and 1960s, taking intellectual sustenance from the book “The Future of Socialism”, one of the most influential books in post-war British Labour Party thinking, written in 1956 by Labour MP Anthony Crosland.

An Oxford University academic before entering Parliament, Crosland had lost his seat in the 1955 general election, and so was able to finish the book he had been working on for several years, seeking to offer a new argument for social democracy in the context of the new political and economic consensus introduced by the 1945–1951 Clement Attlee governments.

The goal of the book was to reformulate socialist principles, and bring the Labour Party policies up to date with the changing British society and economy. 

A central argument in the book is Crosland's distinction between 'means' and 'ends'. 

Crosland argued that post-war capitalism had fundamentally changed, and that the Marxist claim that it was not possible to pursue equality in a capitalist economy was no longer true. He argued therefore that a definition of socialism founded on nationalisation and public ownership is mistaken, since these are simply one possible means to an end. 

For Crosland, the defining goal of the left should be more social equality, based on political values focused on personal liberty, social welfare, and equality. 

Themes of destroying or overthrowing the rich and elite were therefore downplayed in favour of policies of progressive taxation, more widespread educational opportunity, and expanded social services. 

Crosland’s work has continued to be a reference point for intellectual debates within the Labour Party and the centre-left in succeeding generations, including the SDP-Labour split in 1981, the modernisation of Labour under Neil Kinnock, and the rise of New Labour under Tony Blair.

Blair referenced the work of LSE Director and eminent sociologist Anthony Giddens in refining and redefining social democracy as the “Third Way” - in favour of growth, entrepreneurship, enterprise and wealth creation but also in favour of greater social justice, seeing the state playing a major role in bringing this about.

Blair claimed that the socialism he advocated was different from traditional conceptions of socialism and said: "My kind of socialism is a set of values based around notions of social justice. Socialism as a rigid form of economic determinism has ended, and rightly". 

In the words of Giddens, the Third Way rejects top down socialism just as it rejects traditional neoliberalism.

Blair wasn’t alone in advocating the Third Way; Bill Clinton in the USA, Kevin Rudd, Bob Hawke and Paul Keating in Australia, Romano Prodi and Matteo Renzi in Italy, and Emanuel Macron in France are Third Way advocates.

Ed Miliband’s One Nation Labour was also a derivative from the revisionist / social democratic / Third Way thinking, even if he did take Disraeli’s One Nation prefix as his own. One Nation Conservatism had been Tory leader Benjamin Disraeli’s antidote to the fact the early 20th century Labour Party were increasingly appealing to workers, and threatening Conservative supremacy.

Despite claims to the contrary from the left, modern Labour Party centre-left thinking is not neoliberal - it is a repudiation of Thatcherism and its derivatives represented by the 21st century Conservative Party. 

Neoliberalism involves unconstrained and unregulated free markets operating disaster capitalism at its worst - look at how many Conservative cronies made millions by creating opportunistic business on-the-fly, supplying cheaply made, inferior Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) during the Covid pandemic.

Everyone in the Labour Party wants the same end goals - the “ends”, as identified by Crosland - of a just and fair society based on equal opportunities and the absence of discrimination, where workers are not exploited. 

We only disagree on how we should get there - the “means”: do we replace capitalism, or do we control it?

Provided we all vote Labour - whether or not we agree with the leadership of the day, or with the chosen route to our goal - then we can and will beat the Conservatives.

Monday, April 19, 2021

My Journey

I was born in a working class community in a Northern mill town in Lancashire, which would nowadays be described as part of the "red wall" - and yet the very thought of voting Labour in my teenage years was alien to me. 

I wanted to make a good life for myself, and in those days Labour just seemed to stand for the opposite of aspiration. 

After leaving my Comprehensive school with a surprisingly good bunch of 'O' and 'A' levels, I was the first member of my family to go to University, and studied for an Electrical and Electronic Engineering degree - paid for by the state. I was lucky to get a great job in the private sector, and went on to work for several world leading technology companies, building a successful career in engineering management. 

As a result I proudly and willingly paid high rate tax for decades. 

I didn't need to, or want to, join a trade union - but I respected those who did. 

The older I got the more I learned about the unfairness "baked in" to our society. Discrimination was endemic. Not everyone had the opportunities I'd had; not everyone felt secure in their work or safe in their home. I've always believed in having excellent public services and welfare state; when I learned about social justice I realised that a fair society free of discrimination was exactly what I believed in.

So I firmly believe that the Labour Party is not "just" about the working class - it's about delivering its core goal of a fair society - it's about the values, ideals and vision described in why Labour and Labour vision.

It's not "only" for the votes of the least well off in society, even if they undoubtedly have the most to benefit - you'd be surprised how many people are actually happy and proud to contribute.

If anyone feels that I don't belong then I'd like to politely but firmly explain to them that they are wrong. 

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Labour Vision

The Labour Party vision is a fair society driven by Labour values.

Our aim is to build a society which is fair and just, which is free of discrimination, in which there is equality of opportunity, and in which those who can contribute to society, do so, for the benefit of society. 

Those who need support receive help; publicly provided health care, social care and education are available to all, free at the point of use. There is plentiful employment, there are affordable homes and affordable transport. 

In our vision of society, employees are protected from unethical or abusive employers by workers rights legislation; consumers are protected from unethical manufacturers and suppliers by consumer legislation; citizens breathe clean air, drink fresh water and swim in rivers and beaches free from pollution due to environmental legislation.

We want our descendants to look forward to a future where responsible government action now has protected them from the worst-case forecasts of nightmare scenarios caused by man-made climate change.

The ethical and subjective judgement that individuals owe a duty to one another and to a broader society, is the Labour Party view of citizenship. Individuals’ interests are advanced by society as a whole recognising this interdependence and acting upon it.

In contrast, the Conservative Party’s vision sets out the interests of the individual as separate from the interests of society. By directly appealing to net contributors, it seeks to persuade them they will be better off under Conservative rule; they will be able to make less contribution. 

In their version of society, individual contributors pay for the level of education, health and social care they require. Public services wither and become second rate, only suitable for the poorest in society - who they don’t care about, because they won’t vote Tory anyway.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Why Labour

Why do I vote Labour?

Well, I haven’t always - and there’s a lot more about that in My Journey.

I have, though, always believed in the spirit of free enterprise and aspiration - where the bright and talented can flourish, creating wealth for themselves and for society, by paying taxes and creating jobs.

I also believe that some of the wealth generated by a strong, economically efficient private sector should be channelled into delivering high quality public services, so that everyone can benefit from a good education system capable of delivering the doctors, scientists and engineers of tomorrow; be looked after by a world class health service, live in a society where crime is dealt with by an effective justice system, and be cared for in their old age.

In other words, I believe in the Labour Vision of a fair society.

When someone asked me, “what have the Labour Party ever done for the UK?”, I made this short video below which explores some of the ways the Labour Party has changed peoples' lives for the better.

As you would expect from a political party named after the workforce, the Labour Party is, and always has been, about people.

It was formed to give ordinary people a voice in the British Parliament - until then, entirely the preserve of the wealthy elite - in order to improve the lives of ordinary people.

In every general election in the last hundred years, Labour has either been the governing party, or the official opposition. 

Labour Achievements

The first Labour Government, in the 1920s, passed legislation to improve housing, education and social insurance; the second was dominated by the global economic crisis, and focused on tackling the resulting mass unemployment.

For generation after generation, Labour men and women have led the way in modernising and reforming Britain to improve the lives of millions of people.

Their achievements have made and continue to make a lasting difference to the lives of people across our country, and include:

  • creating the National Health Service, removing the anxiety of illness from millions of families who couldn't afford a doctor
  • introducing Social Security
  • major programmes of house building, providing safe and secure homes
  • bringing key industries back into public ownership
  • the permanent ending of the death penalty
  • the decriminalisation of homosexuality
  • legislation to outlaw racial discrimination
  • the establishment of the Open University
  • the Equal Pay Act
  • the introduction of the National Minimum Wage 
  • the New Deal
  • devolution for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland put power in people’s hands 
  • peace in Northern Ireland through the landmark Good Friday Agreement
  • introducing Civil Partnerships
  • the Equality Act legislating for equality of opportunity for all
  • the Human Rights Act 
  • cancelling up to 100 per cent of debt for the world’s poorest countries
  • bringing about the world’s first Climate Change Act

The work of the Labour Party has changed Britain - and the world - for the better, through the most progressive governments in our country’s history, putting into practice the party's core values of equality and social justice, equality of worth of citizens, equality of opportunity, and community.

Friday, March 5, 2021

The West of England needs a new Metro Mayor

Hands up if you know what WECA stands for.

No? – well, I didn’t either until recently. It’s the West of England Combined Authority, comprising two cities (Bristol and Bath), four universities, numerous towns and hundreds of smaller villages. In Bristol alone, it includes some of the least well-off council wards in the country and some of the wealthiest.

Of the nine Parliamentary constituencies in WECA, Labour holds four – all the Bristol seats. The Tories hold the outer Bristol seats of Filton and Bradley Stoke, Kingswood and rural North East Somerset – and the Lib Dems retook Bath in 2017.

In May, people across South Gloucestershire, Bristol, Bath and North East Somerset have an opportunity to elect a metro mayor for the West of England (WECA).

Ooh, how new and exciting! – except.. er.. it isn’t new (although it is still exciting).

It isn’t new because – drum roll – WE ALREADY HAVE a Metro Mayor!

Hands up if you know their name!

No? – well, I didn’t either, until recently. Apparently he represents the Conservatives, and apart from being really good at keeping secrets – not least his name, or what WECA stands for – he doesn’t seem to have done very much at all.

In 2017, the current Tory metro mayor won by a very small margin of just 4,377 votes of nearly 200,000 cast. Since then, he’s been largely invisible at a time when people in similar positions elsewhere, like Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram, have taken on national profiles.

We really need someone who will stand up for the West of England.

Going back a few years, Jacob Rees-Mogg’s North East Somerset seat was won in 1997, and held in 2001 and 2005, by Labour’s Dan Norris under its previous configuration of Wansdyke. Dan is the only person to ever win the area comprising North East Somerset for Labour.

Dan Norris is now Labour candidate for metro mayor. He knows the area, and he’s ready to tackle the challenges that come with the job.

The metro mayor has control over housing, planning, transport and skills for post-16 education. These issues have never been more important than right now.

Environmental issues underpin everything the metro mayor does, from reducing CO2 emissions to improving biodiversity.

Due to Dan’s background as an environment minister in the last Labour government, he is fully prepared to lead on our region’s responsibilities to cut emissions by 2030.

The metro mayor also has significant soft power to bring about positive change in the region, such as closing gender and disability pay gaps, ensuring much better support and opportunities for those who provide vital child and elder care essential, and helping build a genuinely fairer society in the West of England.

So, all I ask is that everyone locally should think about who they would like to represent them as OUR metro mayor. Do your research, talk to your friends and family, work out whether you think things are just fine right now – or, whether you’d like to use YOUR vote to bring about change.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Sunak buries £30bn cut to Health and Social Care budget

The Chancellor promised to be “open and honest” with the British public, but buried in budget documents is a planned cut in day to day spending in the Department of Health and Social Care of £30.1 billion from April this year. The Budget also contained no additional funding for social care or public health.

Jonathan Ashworth MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, said:

“Rishi Sunak promised to be ‘open and honest’ with the British public. But buried in the small print of his Budget is a cut to frontline NHS services that will increase pressure on staff and do nothing for patients stuck on growing waiting lists.

“This Budget papered over the cracks rather than rebuilding the foundations of our country.”

Starmer response to the Sunak Budget

Keir Starmer MP, Leader of the Labour Party, responding to the Budget, said:

After 11 months in this job it’s nice finally to be standing opposite the person actually making decisions in this Government.

The trouble is, it’s those decisions that have left us with the mess we find today. The worst economic crisis of any major economy in the last 12 months, unemployment at five per cent and as the Chancellor said, forecast to rise to 6.5 per cent, debt at over £2 trillion.

This week’s PR video cost the taxpayer so much, I was half expecting to see a line in the OBR forecast for it.

But even the Chancellor’s film crew will struggle to put a positive spin on this. After the decisions of the last year and the decade of neglect, we needed a Budget to fix the foundations of our economy, to reward our key workers, to protect the NHS and to build a more secure and prosperous economy for the future.

Instead, what we got was a Budget that papered over the cracks, rather than rebuilding the foundations. A Budget that shows the Government doesn’t understand what went wrong in the last decade or what’s needed in the next.

The Chancellor may think that this is the time for a victory lap but I’m afraid this Budget won’t feel so good for the millions of key workers who are having their pay frozen, for the businesses swamped by debt and the families paying more in council tax and the millions of people who are out of work or worried about losing their job.

And although the Chancellor spoke for almost an hour, we heard nothing about a long-term plan to fix social care.

The Chancellor might have forgotten about it, but the Labour Party never will.

The British people will rightly ask: why has Britain suffered a worse economic crisis than any major economy? The answer is staring us in the face.

First, the Chancellor’s decisions in the last year.

This is the Chancellor who blocked a circuit break in September, ignoring the science he told the British people to “live with coronavirus and live without fear.”

A few weeks later, we were forced into an even longer and more painful lockdown. Whatever spin the Chancellor tries to put on the figures today, as a result of his decisions, we’ve suffered deeper economic damage and much worse outcomes.

That is nothing compared with a decade of political choices that meant Britain went into this crisis with an economy built on insecurity and inequality.

The Chancellor referred to the last 10 years, we’ve got an economy as a result of those 10 years with 3.6 million people in insecure work; where wages stagnated for a decade; over four million children living in poverty and, critically, we went into this crisis with 100,000 unfilled posts in the NHS and where social care was ignored and underfunded for a decade. Members Opposite voted for all of that. Today’s Budget doesn’t even recognise that – let alone rectify it.

It’s clear that the Chancellor is now betting on a recovery fuelled by a consumer spending blitz.

In fairness, if my next door neighbour was spending tens of thousands of pounds redecorating their flat, I’d probably do the same.

But the central problem in our economy is a deep-rooted insecurity and inequality and this Budget isn’t the answer to that. The Chancellor barely mentioned inequality – let alone tried to address it.

So rather than the big, transformative Budget we needed this Budget simply papers over the cracks. If this had been a Budget for the long-term it would have had a plan.

A plan to protect our NHS, a plan to fix social care.

But I can tell you this, a Labour Budget would have had the NHS and care homes front and centre.

But this Budget is almost silent on those questions.

If this had been a Budget to rebuild the foundations, it would have fixed our broken social security system.

Instead, the Chancellor has been dragged – kicking and screaming – to extend the £20 uplift in Universal Credit – but only for a few months.

Once again deferring the problem. As a result, insecurity and the threat of losing £1,000 a year still hang over six million families.
They ask what would we do, we would keep the uplift until a new, fairer system can be put in place.

If this Budget was serious about rebuilding our shattered economy, it would have included a credible plan to tackle unemployment.

The Chancellor said very little about the Kickstart scheme that’s no doubt because the Kickstart is only helping one in every 100 eligible young people.

In six months it supported just 2,000 young people, yet youth unemployment is set to reach one million. Like so much of this Budget – the Chancellor’s offer is nowhere near the scale of the task.
And of course the biggest challenge to this country is the climate emergency.

The Chancellor just talked up his green credentials, but his Budget stops way short of what was needed or what’s happening in other countries.

This Budget should have included a major green stimulus – bringing forward billions of pounds of investment to create new jobs and new green infrastructure.
Instead, the Government is trying to build a new coal mine which we now learn might not even work for British steel. If anything sums up this Government’s commitment to a green recovery and jobs of the future, it’s building a coal mine we can’t even use.

If the Government was serious about tackling insecurity and those most at risk from Covid, this Budget would have fixed the broken system of statutory sick pay and at the very least filled the glaring holes in isolation payments.

This isn’t difficult to fix – the Government should just make the £500 isolation payment available to everyone who needs it. That would be money well spent. And a year into the pandemic, it’s a disgrace that it’s not.

If the Government were serious about fixing the broken housing market, it would have announced plans for a new generation of genuinely affordable council houses.

Instead, 230,000 council homes have been lost since 2010.

Yet the Chancellor focused today on returning to subsiding 95 per cent mortgages.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, I’ve heard that somewhere before. I’ve heard that somewhere before. Maybe it was because the Prime Minister announced it five months ago in his conference speech.

No, I don’t think anybody heard that. I remember now, I remember now – it’s what Osborne and Cameron came up with in 2013. And what did that do? What did that do?

It fuelled a housing bubble, it pushed up prices, and made owning a home more difficult.

So much for “generation buy.”

I’ve been saying for weeks that this budget will go back.

I didn’t expect the Chancellor to lift a failed policy from eight years ago. This Budget fell far short of the transformative change we needed to turbocharge our recovery for the decades to come.
There was no credible plan to ease the burden of debt hanging over so many businesses. This is estimated at £70bn.

This Budget asks businesses to start paying this money back whether they’re profitable or not.

That affects millions of businesses, it will hold back growth because businesses will have to pay back money they never wanted to borrow instead of being able to invest in their futures and create jobs in their local areas.

It’s both unfair and economically illiterate.

This Budget also fell far short of what was needed to support the self-employed and freelancers, unless, of course, you’re one of the Chancellor’s photographers.

After a year of inaction, we’ll look at the details of what the Chancellor announced, but it certainly looks like, from the figure of 600,000 that he mentioned, that millions will still be left out in the cold.

The Chancellor’s one nominally long-term policy was his references to “levelling up.”

But what does this actually look like? It’s not the transformative shift in power, wealth and resources we need to rebalance our economy.

It’s not the bold, long-term plan we need to upskill our economy, to tackle educational attainment or to raise life-expectancy.

It certainly isn’t a plan to focus government’s resources on preventative services and early years. For the Chancellor “levelling up” seems to mean moving some parts of the Treasury to Darlington, creating a few freeports and re-announcing funding.
That isn’t levelling up: it’s giving up.

And instead of putting blind faith in freeports, the Chancellor would be better served making sure the Government’s Brexit deal actually works for Britain’s manufacturers, who now face more red-tape when they were promised less.

For our financial services – still waiting for the Chancellor to make good on his promises.

For the small businesses and fishing communities whose goods and produce are now left unsold in warehouses. And for our artists and performers who just want to be able to tour.

Turning to other parts of the Statement, we’ll wait for the detail about the so-called super-deduction, but it’s unlikely to make up for the last 10 years, when the levels of private investment growth have trailed so many other countries.

Of course, we welcome the creation of a National Infrastructure Bank. Something we’ve called for, for years.

Although it would have been better if the Government hadn’t sold off the Green Investment Bank in the first place.

We also welcome the introduction of green savings bonds. I have to say: What a good idea it is to introduce a new set of recovery bonds.

The trouble is that the scale of what the Chancellor announced today is nowhere near ambitious enough.

And the long-overdue commitments to extend furlough, business rate relief and the VAT cut on hospitality are welcome. But there is no excuse for holding the announcement of this support back until today – and, of course, we will look at the detail.

But there are very few silver linings in this Budget.

The IMF and the OECD have said now isn’t the time for tax rises. We’re in the middle of a once in 300-year crisis. Our economy is still shut. Our businesses are on life-support.

So it’s right that corporation tax isn’t rising this year or next.

Of course, in the long-run corporation tax should go up.

The decade long corporation tax experiment by this government has failed.

But no taxes should have been raised in the teeth of this economic crisis.

So it’s extraordinary that the Chancellor is ploughing ahead with the £2bn council tax rise – affecting households across the country.

So why is he doing that? Why is he doing that when every economist would tell him not to do it.

Perhaps we find an answer in this weekend’s Sunday Times: “Rishi’s argument was, ‘Let’s do all this now as far away from the election as possible.’”

Or the Telegraph on 27 January: “Raising taxes now means they can be reduced ahead of the next election, Sunak tells MPs.”

Or the Mail in September: “Sunak to hike taxes and lower them before the election.”

Let me be crystal clear. The proper basis for making tax decisions is the economic cycle, not the electoral cycle.

Behind the spin, the videos and the photo ops, we all know the Chancellor doesn’t believe in an active and enterprising government.

We know, we know he’s itching to get back to his free market principles and to pull away support as quickly as he can.

One day these restrictions will end.

One day we’ll all be able to take our masks off – and so will the Chancellor.

And then you’ll see who he really is – and this Budget sets it up perfectly.

Because this is a Budget that didn’t even attempt to rebuild the foundations of our economy.

Or to secure the country’s long-term prosperity. Instead it did the job the Chancellor always intended: a quick fix.

Papering over the cracks.

The Party opposite spent a decade weakening the foundations of our economy. Now they pretend they can rebuild it.

But the truth is: they won’t confront what went wrong in the past and they have no plan for the future.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

United We Stand

Back in April 2020 – during the first national lockdown, and just before the winner of the Labour Party leadership election was announced – I wrote that, irrespective of who is leader, party members need to unify behind them if we are to stand any chance of winning power and thus improving people’s lives.

So, how’s that going?

As always, on the surface there is energetic, spirited and lively debate across the party. There are accusations of this leader being a Tory, that leader being a Marxist, you all know the score. T’was ever thus.

Let’s just take a few minutes away from the fray though, to try to focus our collective minds on what unites ALL factions of the Labour Party, rather than what divides us.

The left – the democratic socialists – want to abolish capitalism and have a socialist economy, organized around common ownership. That might mean state ownership, or it could mean cooperative ownership, or worker ownership, or citizens’ ownership.

The idea is that it’s some kind of social ownership of the means of production. It’s quite difficult to imagine exactly what that would mean in practice – at a minimum, requiring a major programme of nationalisation and upheaval – and for many people across the country that’s a scary proposition. A significant proportion of the electorate, including some traditionally described as working class, feel they may have too much to lose.

Others in the Labour Party believe in social democracy – technically still a strand of socialism, but closer to the centre of the political spectrum – which has long been the dominant trend within the Labour Party, and to a lesser extent within the wider labour movement.

Its focus is less on ownership and more on control – controlling via regulation, rather than replacing, the capitalist free market.

This means an extensive set of regulatory policies including a national minimum wage, health and safety legislation, anti-discrimination laws, employment tribunals, paid maternity leave and meaningful negotiations between unions and management over pay and conditions.

This combination of policies and regulations are intended ensure that the owners of capital cannot exploit those who work for them, particularly when the power of the trade unions is strengthened via collective bargaining.

After Labour lost the 1959 general election, party leader High Gaitskell concluded that widespread public ownership was not popular with the electorate, and so tried unsuccessfully to change Clause IV of the Labour Party Constitution to reflect this.

Decades later Tony Blair succeeded where Gaitskell had not, and the updated version of Clause IV adopted by the party at a special conference in 1995 reflected a shift towards social democracy, with:

“A dynamic economy, serving the public interest, in which the enterprise of the market and the rigour of competition are joined with the forces of partnership and co-operation to produce the wealth the nation needs and the opportunity for all to work and prosper with a thriving private sector and high-quality public services where those undertakings essential to the common good are either owned by the public or accountable to them.”

Personally, I’m happy with our Clause IV as it now stands, following the changes almost 30 years ago – whereby “pure” socialism has evolved into public ownership and control of public services, combined with private enterprise for wealth generation.

I know many on the left of the party aren’t happy with ANY private enterprise, but we ALL agree on the preservation and growth of publicly owned and controlled public services – health, emergency services, education, social care – and we ALL agree on taxing big business, and those best able to afford it.

The Tories don’t want ANY public ownership, or regulation of the free market – period. They continue to move towards privatisation of public services, and dismantling regulations.

Yet every time one of us throws an insult, grenade like, from one wing of our party to the other, we are doing the Tories’ job for them. People across the party start to get demoralised – not everyone is comfortable with the level of discourse – and some may even decide not to vote.

Through all this, we have so much in common. None of us want our country to go the way the Tories want to take it.

Surely we in the Labour Party can put aside our differences and unite in our determination to beat the Tories?

Let’s take our party and our country forward – not back!