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.