Monday, 4 July 2022

What must Labour do to win?


So, Keir Starmer made it crystal clear today that a Labour Party government under his prime ministership will not attempt any significant changes to the Tory Brexit deal.

Under a Labour government, there will be no rejoining the EU, or the Single Market, or the customs union, or resuming free movement of people.

Is that a winning strategy? I don’t think so.

Almost half of Britons (45%) now think that Brexit has made their daily life worse, a new poll from Ipsos UK has indicated. Fewer than one person in five (17%) thinks it has made daily life better.

  • Why is Labour backing Brexit when Brexit is so clearly hurting the country and its citizens? 
  • Why is Labour saying it can ‘Make Brexit Work’ when life in Britain outside the EU or its Single Market is only going to get worse?

Another problem for Labour is that we only know about their blunt, pro-Brexit policy.

But what are the party’s key proposals for the future of Britain that will impress and excite the electorate? 

We don’t know, they haven’t told us. 

With our antiquated voting system of first-past-the-post, only the Tories or Labour can become the next UK government. 

There is no chance of a third or new party achieving that, although of course a third party could hold the balance of power and agree an arrangement or a coalition with the Tories or Labour.

There is every chance that the Tories will ditch Johnson before the next election and woo the country with a new leader.

So, what must Labour do to win?

The Tory party has been the dominant party in power for over a century. Only three Labour leaders have ever won general elections – Clement Attlee, Harold Wilson, and Tony Blair. 

Since 1900 – when Labour was formed – the party has only won eight out of 32 general elections.  

The Conservatives are the world’s most successful political party because they know how to cling on to power, despite scandalous, corrupt, and sleazy behaviour that has blighted so many of their administrations.

The current Tory government, however, and its Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, are considered by many - including me - to be the worst we have ever known.

So, why isn’t Labour doing better? 

On the BBC Radio 4 Today programme in May, Keir Starmer said that Labour would announce - and cost - its policies closer to the general election.

That’s not good enough, especially as the next general election could be any time between now and May 2024 (because the Tories recently, and quietly, scrapped the Fixed Term Parliament Act).

Labour’s landslide winning 1997 manifesto – including policies that were considered radical at the time, such as a statutory minimum wage – were announced, explained, and promoted well in advance of the general election. 

We need Labour to offer bold and brave policies NOW that both excite and appeal to a broad section of the country, including those who don’t usually vote Labour. 

So, what could be Labour's winning policies? Here are ten suggestions to get the debate rolling.

They are not all my ideas; most have already been put forward by others. 

But, in my view, policies such as these – or other policies equally adventurous – need to be announced by Labour without delay.

① A universal basic income for everyone. Yes, everyone would have enough; an essential income for all. For anyone to live in poverty in the UK – especially children – is shocking and unacceptable in the modern age.

② Truly green public transport. People are getting excited about electric cars, but that won’t be enough to tackle climate change. The issue is not so much what fuels the cars, but who owns them.

We need excellent, reliable, green public transport that’s so inexpensive, most of us won’t want or need to own our own car anymore. Who’ll pay for that? To start with, those who insist on car ownership for private use only.

Free higher education for all, and lifetime learning for everyone: subsidised by the businesses who need clever people to work for them. Education is an investment in the future and wealth of the whole nation and provides huge returns.

If Britain wants a world class workforce – and it does – then the government, not just businesses, needs to be an “Investor in People”.

④ A massive investment in green farming across the UK. Our government must do much more to help our farmers to enable Britain to be more successful and sustainable in feeding its people.

⑤ A new system of voting; proportional representation, that most countries in Europe have now adopted. Our current system of first-past-the-post means that governments get into power that most people have not voted for.

Most people did not vote for the Tories in the 2019 general election, and yet they achieved an 80-seat majority with only 1% more votes than they got in the 2017 general election, in which they lost their majority entirely. That cannot be right.

⑥ The United Kingdom to be an equal partnership of its four members – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

That’d mean the UK becomes a true union of four sovereign states (if that’s what they want) acting on a similar model to the EU’s 27 nations. It’s just not acceptable or sustainable for England to be superior to the other three.

⑦ Closer relations with the EU: leading over time to negotiating and applying to rejoin. That will likely take some time, because the relationship has been so damaged.

The first step could be to rejoin the Single Market and bring back free movement of people (that the country needs to resolve our chronic shortage of workers).

⑧ Subsidised fast internet broadband for everyone: paid for by the businesses who make billions out of us being on the internet, and whose business models simply couldn’t work without it.

⑨ A true commitment to green energy to quickly resolve the country’s energy crisis. Let’s have wind turbines across Britain and offer farmers financial incentives to site them. Let’s offer proper help for households to install solar panels and insulation.

This is much better than the government’s plans to build more nuclear power stations. The Tories say wind turbines are a blight on the countryside, but I love them, and they are better than nuclear power that will blight the planet for hundreds of years.

⑩ Roll back the privatisation of the NHS: rebuild it with a full-blooded commitment to Nye Bevan’s original vision for the NHS.

So, these are some initial 'bold' ideas, but of course they are not nearly enough.
The debate about what country we want Britain to be, and the polices to take us there, needs to take place well in advance of a general election, not just weeks before one takes place.
Labour should now be leading that debate with panache and passion, offering us dazzling solutions to the country’s deep-seated problems.

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