A simple plan to get Labour back on track

Harriet Harman: Will the acting leader of the Labour Party listen to pleas from the grassroots to get Labour back on track?

Harriet Harman: Will the acting leader of the Labour Party listen to pleas from the grassroots to get Labour back on track?

If the Labour Party is to regain the confidence it has lost, it needs to re-state its identity with a core message of purpose – one that not only encapsulates what Labour is about, but also what it opposes.

That is what was missing from Labour’s general election campaign, and is as much a reason for Ed Miliband’s defeat as the Conservative campaign, which was not based on objective facts but on political spin.

In a nutshell, it is time to remind the voters and the public that Labour is the enabling party. This creates a clear contrast with the Conservatives – the party of restriction.

So, for example, with the National Health Service, Labour should support a service available to everyonefree. That means no private involvement. With the Tory privatisation in full swing, funds are being restricted and so are services. The NHS is now a postcode lottery, with care allocated on the basis of profitability. That’s not good enough; the privateers must be told to jog on.

Education must also be available to everybody, up to the level each person can achieve (or wants to). Again, this means there should be no charge for state-provided services. A state school system has no place for privately-owned ‘academies’ or ‘free schools’. These are Tory devices; the private sector will, by its nature, restrict access in order to extract a profit. It also means no tuition fees for students in further/higher education.

Labour should be helping anyone who wants to start a business, by ensuring there are as few obstacles in the way as possible; it must be the enabling party. That means, for example, a graded taxation system, with lower business rates and taxes for start-ups, progressing to a higher rate for medium-sized enterprises, and a highest rate for multinationals – who should be taxed on all takings made in the UK; no excuses.

Another part of the enabling agenda must be ensuring that people can pay a minimum price for things we cannot live without: Accommodation, services, utilities.

There is now an appalling shortage of appropriate housing for many people – mostly because the Tories sold off so many council houses and did not replace them. This is why the Tories were able to impose the Bedroom Tax on so many innocent people – a restrictive idea, intended to push people out of some areas and into others; shifting Labour voters out of places the Tories didn’t think they should have to share with the riff-raff, you see – a gerrymandering tactic to make those constituencies easier to win in elections. The solution is simple: Build council houses again.

When the utility companies – gas, water and electricity suppliers – were privatised, we were all promised that household bills would be kept down by more efficient private-sector business models and private investment. That has not happened. Instead, consumers have been held to ransom by a small cabal of corporations who have been able to charge rip-off prices. Remember the electricity price scandal of 2013? Who told those firms to quit their restrictive practices and cut bills? Labour. The enabling party. The fear of a Labour government imposing new rules in the consumer’s favour helped hold the greedy private bosses in check for a while, but now we have a Conservative government. How long do you think it will be before prices soar? This Writer reckons they’ll take the first opportunity. Even now, after Labour managed to secure price cuts, the poorest families still have to choose between heating and eating during the winter (the phrase has been used so often it is now a modern cliché). This must not be allowed to continue and the solution is clear: Re-nationalise. There are even two bonus factors in such a plan: Firstly, as many of these utilities are owned – or part-owned – by firms or governments based abroad, it will ensure that our bills pay people in the UK rather than boosting foreign economies at the expense of our own and, secondly, takings will help the UK Treasury balance the books.

There is at least one other privatised service that could also be re-nationalised: The railway system. Prices have rocketed while government subsidies have also soared, since the system was turned over to private hands in the early 1990s. This is madness; it is a huge drain on resources and must not be allowed to continue. We should re-nationalise and follow the example of Northern Ireland, where the service was never privatised and where any profit is ploughed into improvements, not profit.

Then there is our grocery bill, which keeps escalating. This is a particularly thorny subject as, for example, farmers are being ripped off by supermarkets over the price of milk, but the same corporations will happily send apples to the other side of the world and back, just to have them polished. It’s time to straighten out that system as well – although it will take a while.

So this is how Labour should frame its arguments from now on: Labour enables; the Tories restrict.

It should be stressed that the themes raised above are just starting-points which occurred to This Writer while considering the issue last night. The above is not an exhaustive list. Undoubtedly there are many more.

Your comments are invited.

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10 thoughts on “A simple plan to get Labour back on track

  1. bookmanwales

    The Labour party does not have to become more right wing or left wing in order to win back voters. All voters want is a fair crack of the whip, whether you be a millionaire or a benefit claimant.

    Tarring any group all with the same brush is counterproductive, whether benefit claimant or millionare there are good and bad.

    Dividing people has been done by both parties each alienating their chosen targets for political gain rather than concentrating on the good of the country as a whole.
    Whats needed is a comprehensive plan that will benefit all sections of society whether rich or poor, fact is some people are going to become rich no matter what you do and some people are going to stay poor, it’s human nature.
    The Labour party failed on every level to give any reason for any section of society to vote for them whilst the conservatives at least managed to persuade working people it was on their side ( not that most of us believe that !)

    A coherent policy that brings together all of society is the only thing that can make things better and if the Labour party can achieve this then they will be a shoo in for the next election.

  2. Rupert Mitchell (@rupert_rrl)

    II totally agree with your points Mike and I also agree with Sandra McCorkell but then I have said that before. Pity you can’t get out there, but your wise and proportioned views are greatly appreciated and, indeed, the Labour Party needs you more than anyone else I can think of. Of course we must promote enterprise and entrepreneurs and adjust taxation according, as without them there would be no employment. What we need is a better approach to make certain that wealth is spread more evenly and respect and assistance is given to those who need and deserve it rather that making it a priority to further enrich those who already have so much and prefer to dictate and dominate to us for their own ends which is not beneficial to the country as a whole.

  3. itsalllies994

    The enabling idea is a good start! Maybe Labour could exploit the free market idea (which Tories should be?) and apply it to the financial sector, in particular the housing market and banks.
    Just remove the props and support.

    You’d have the housing market in free fall and seek logic prices, and the insolvent banks would become what they should be. Insolvent.
    Tories then have to skirt around the fact that they actually don’t believe in the free market and support crony capitalism. It could be quite entertaining.

  4. NMac

    For too long the Tories have been able to get away with the myth that a radical Labour Party is the “Nanny State”.

  5. Michele Witchy Eve

    Mike, I may be just mis-reading but shouldn’t – ” . . .a minimum price for things we cannot live without . . . ” be “maximum price”? Otherwise we would have a minimum below which we will not pay but maximum above which we could be made to pay (like now). (Not for ‘comment’ unless I’ve mis-understood what you’re saying.)

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Perhaps I did phrase it badly. The point I was trying to make is that ordinary people are being priced out of the things they need, and some of that is due to privatisation – of council houses and utility services. Government needs to take back responsibility for these things and ensure they are provided at affordable rates – the minimum that can be charged while still making it possible to run the services effectively.

      1. Michele Witchy Eve

        Thank you, Mike. Another senior moment this end. That makes sense when you say it like that.

Comments are closed.