What Labour needs after UKIP

Thursday’s elections were about 4 things – distaste for the conventional political classes combined with immigration, Europe and welfare.   Nothing of course to do with local elections which they actually were.   UKIP is certainly flavour of the moment, but talk about the birth of permanent 4-party politics is almost certainly exaggerated.   This is still the mid-term arena in which fancy thinking can be indulged in and it’s also the middle of the worst economic crisis for a century which has been appallingly mishandled, so understandably people are cynical, bewildered and angry.   But whether that mood persists till the next election when UKIP policies (or rather non-policies or whatever-you-want policies) are relentlessly dissected and when serious decisions have to be taken about the long-term future of the country, is quite another matter.   The elections do however pose a significant problem for Labour.

The problem is: what does Labour stand for?   It has rightly discarded New Labour neoliberalism, but not yet put anything resonant in its place.   In one sense there are a lot of policies there already.   Labour has already promised to repeal the NHS Bill, build 125,000+ homes and regulate private rents, promote a Living Wage for public sector workers and shame the private sector into following that lead, offer a minimum 33-40% cut in tuition fees, limit rail fare increases to 1%, re-ompose the 50p rate of income tax for the super-rich, impose a mansion tax on the rich, repeat the bankers’ bonus tax, reverse the bedroom tax, scrap Workfare and replace it with a ‘compulsory’ Hobs Guarantee, offer a VAT cut or a ‘temporary’ VAT holiday, implement the High Pay Commission report in its entirety, scrap Ofgem and bring in proper energy price regulation, break up the banks and set up a National Investment Bank, and support mining communities and clean coal technology.   That’s quite a list, but it doesn’t cut the ice it should.

What is missing is not more policy, but two or three key exciting ideas which really resonate with the public and set the pulse racing a bit.   I would suggest three which are inter-connected.   The first is: we will end austerity.   Endless cuts have not only failed but are now clearly counter-productive – they have driven the country into semi-permanent stagnation and the deficit is actually growing.   Instead of cutting spending, we will grow the income, kickstarting the economy by investing to put a million people back to work within two years.   How will it be funded?   Point 2 is: without any increase in public borrowing whatever, we will tax the hyper-rich.   In the last 4 years alone after the crash, the 1,000 richest Britons (those with wealth over £80m, just 0.003% of the adulot population) have increased their wealth by £190 billion.   If this were made subject to capital gains tax, it should yield £53bn, more than enough to get the country back on its feet.   Third, the biggest social problem in Britain today is lack of social housing.   We should commit to build 50,000 affordable houses in the first year, 75,000 in the second, and 100,000 in the third and thereafter.  

All that would be popular, realistic and resonant.   We should go for it.

23 thoughts on “What Labour needs after UKIP

  1. Affordable housing is a good sound-bite Michael, but that phrase in its self don’t mean a thing. What we need to hear is Labour shouting from the rooftops that it will bring back council housing, both Labour and Tory rode its demise. What’s the point of building if people cant afford to purchase or pay the crazy rents.

    We need low rents to make work pay and make our economic structures function better in this globalist rush to the bottom. We need to abolish the work program and not just call it another name. Millions of people have been bullied on those schemes under all governments since they came about. Why cant the political class see this? it cost you lots of votes. Do what you have said with your work scheme, but make the training real and abolish compulsion, or people will rightly see it as just more authoritarian bullshit.

    The media have played a disgusting role in not informing the electorate of the real policy’s of UKIP. People hate the existing party’s due to what I have just said and Labours failure to adopt the sort of sensible policy’s like Germany did with immigration from eastern Europe after the collapse of the old order.

    The cold war was won but at what cost to Europe? We need to help the old soviet nations, only then can we open the borders of Europe. Labour have to own up to this mistake, then try and repair the damage otherwise the right will win and xenophobia will be the norm. Labour must not try and match the right, it is a race to destruction. it has to clearly admit that New Labour was a mistake and those responsible will be punished and the time to return to normality has started. But what it has done so far is just reinforce the views that created the outcome this week.

  2. Just a couple of thoughts. Firstly, Labour must cut all links with Unum, Atos, and the so-called welfare policy of the past. I know Liam Byrne is married to it but it’s the worst disgrace of British politics in the 21st century and has to be scrapped. There is no place for profit-seeking private enterprises with the policy-makers of government; these firms have proved it with their determination to gain more and more influence, and increased profits, from a government department that should be helping the workless and the sick.
    Secondly, forget ‘affordable’ housing. Build COUNCIL houses and rent them out to people at a reasonable price. Let’s replace all those houses that the Blue Baroness sold off – as she should have done back in the 1980s.
    Thirdly, let’s just make sure these hyper-rich people pay up when they’re asked to do so, shall we? We need legislation to ensure there is no hiding place for them to stow their money or claim it isn’t theirs.
    Other than that, I agree completely. Very glad you made a list of Labour promises. I’ll be using that myself to fend off a few naysayers.

  3. Oh, and has Labour really discarded Neoliberalism? Many people have doubts, and the leadership needs to put clear water between its policies and that failed doctrine.

  4. Sounds good to me. It’s just the sort of thing that might convince me to vote Labour again after becoming so thoroughly disenchanted with you at the last election. Not very impressed so far at your opposition or lack of it to the coalitions dismantling the welfare state under the guise of austerity and noticing that it was you under Blair that brought the private sector into Education and the NHS and laid the groundwork for what the Coalition is doing now towards privatisation. I want to hear that you’ll reverse that if we put you back in as well as what you have said here.

  5. Well just as I as a disabled person was losing hope this from a labour MP has restored my faith a bit….. If Labour move with these type of policies they could win the next election……….. reach out to the working classes the poor the sick the disabled the single mums and the workers…….. if they do that even i would consider helping them during the election campagin…….

  6. A new leader that is for sure. Ed Miliband is spineless and undecisive and his one nation speech is more of a joke than anything else especially when he lives in luxury himself. How can a party trying to attract voters have Ed Balls as possible Chancellor when he is more clueless than Osborne. Soo many fundamentals that are wrong about Labour and the most important one is that MP’s like yourself who I call old school wont be in a important job if Labour get elected. The reason your old school is not about age but because you care about the people of your constituency and the people of this country. The majority of MP’s see it as a free ride to have their mortgage paid and get money off the tax payer to pay expenses etc.

  7. It’s difficult to believe Labour is now post-neoliberal when Liam Byrne’s still a prominent member. Actually, it’s impossible.

  8. Labour were quoted in the week that they will not repeal the benefits Reform bill this is driving the poorest and the most vulnerable into poverty I know it will mean the loss of my home considering you have been championing our stories I feel failed I did send my own to you like you requested but your assistant said I was not from your constiuency problem is David Lidington is my MP so no help there. Seriously you would need to address the loophole of unfit people being put in WRAG like me, it is only meant for people that can realistically go back to work within 3-6 months I am crippled with back pain so now they don’t have to pay me anything I have to appeal to go in the Support Group as I did not get enough points at appeal even though I won it needs to be addressed else it will cost thousands of votes.

  9. Mr. Meacher. You are one of a very few Mainstream Politicians I still have any respect for. I have been a Labour supporter and voter for almost 40 years. However I recently vowed never to vote Labour again in a General Election. This decision mainly being due to what I see as labours continued renaging on it’s left wing ideals and the people those ideals represent. The common man of this nation. Ideals that built the NHS and the Welfare State. And rightly so.

    However, I am greatly heartened to see the policies identified here. What I now need, as do many thousands like me, is that these policies are ‘shouted from the rooftops’. By people like yourself and more importantly by the likes of Mr. Milliband. I have no further interest in supporting a party that chases populist agenda’s merely to gain then retain power. I need a party that I can feel will fight for me and mine, with my support, to build a better and fairer society for all.

    I agree you do as a party need two or three rallying call ideas for the rest of us to rally around. I agree the policies you mention in your blog are what are needed. But without real enthusiasm, and consistent publicising and promulgation of those policies, between NOW and the next elections, I will be keeping my vote for anyone from the fledgeling Left unity organisation.

    Please help me to come back into my political home, as a proud Labour supporter. Please encourage the likes of Mr. Milliband to have the courage to put forward this alternative to the destructive rhetoric and policies of the Conservatives. Please remember, that there are many thousands of us ordinary people that are totally disenchanted with the neo-liberal stance that Labour has followed, and that with no real public discussion otherwise, still appears to most of us, to follow.

    Give us back a Labour Party that accepts and celebrates the fact that ordinary people have aspirations for a decent life, that most on benefits would prefer to work, that we are not here merely to keep politicians in work. Try to encourage your Party colleagues to challenge the rhetoric and propaganda that is dividing this nation at every chance they get with facts and figures that are checkable and provable.

    Only after all this is done will you win back those of us who are sadly taking our support away from a Party that for the most part seems to have abandoned us.

  10. Well done and I agree entirely with Majid the so-called ‘old school’ of MPs must be promoted to the shadow cabinet as these people show that they are in touch and care for peoples concerns. Also the MP Tom Watson would make a brilliant Justice Secretary. The working class just don’t really trust the ‘oxbridge’ brigade any more seeing people like Stephen Timms as a tory in all but name only. And as for the house building programme keep it nationalised run by the government of the people for the people. Building Social housing is not that expensive, the main expense comes in when buying up land to build on and paying for the contractors , take away the cost of paying contractors, build on government land, and if you then employ your own labour through the promised compulsory jobs Guarantee, then the actual price along with the building materials and modern building techniques you could massively save on costs of the building programme. This would virtually pay for it’s self in a few years!!! But most of all listen to the actual people who vote and support the various parties take on what they have to say and then react accordingly. People want a government that listens to their concerns, their hopes,their fears and wishes for the future. Help them to achieve what they can and explain when you can’t. Don’t just pretend to listen and fob people off with sound bites.

  11. A half step in the right direction.
    Labour need to reclaim the left of centre ground .. put the social back into socialism. While UKIP and the Tories bicker over the far right, the time is ideal build momentum behind progressive socialist policies. Oh and how about a legally binding promise on those policies ?. This is what the electorate want. With so many broken promises(or lies)the public trusts no one at Westminster. If for instance a leader say “no top down reorganisation of the NHS” They should be doing time for breaking that promise

  12. I wrote a blog article (on my website) based on this information, and the comments make extremely interesting reading. There is an awful lot of scepticism out there that needs to be tackled. I think a visit to the site to see what they’re saying (59 comments so far, including my replies) might provide insight into possibilities for future campaigns.

  13. Think I want to expand my thoughts regarding the closing of borders in my last comment and a few more words on housing.

    I truly wish the world was a better place. I hate the idea of closed borders. But in the system we have, we have to protect the things we have got through struggle. After the war our part of Europe was rebuilt and invested in. Think part of the cold war strategy by the West was to show how our system was best, so they let us have a few crumbs:) it was never perfect here, but we did have a welfare state and that sort of got copied by other member states in the European Community.

    The old soviet block also had a version of welfare, but it never got to the level we had due to the cost of the cold war. After the fall of that empire we had a chance to set the world right, but we did not even attempt such a thing, as that was never the intention. I remember the time I watched Blair enjoy his first mass destruction. I watched in horror as we led NATO in the destruction of what was Yugoslavia. The cold war was won for the capitalist class, they now had new areas to exploit and exploit they did via the balkanisation of the old empire.The destruction these polices created made the conditions we see in Places like Poland and the former soviet states. We should have helped rebuild those places but we did not.

    I feel that this was the start of the claw-back of rights for the population in western capitalist states, the freedoms and prosperity we used to taunt the people behind the curtain was no longer needed. Ever since then we have seen wealth go to the rich and the re-emergence of the poor.

    We do not have a decent world, humanity is as savage now as it was a thousand years ago, until we find a way to create a real world of fairness and transparent democracy, all we have is what we can change in our own locality’s. As much as this goes against every feeling I have of decency, it means we have to look after what we have and try and change the external as best we can, its a pragmatic approach that is far from ideal, but we are not in control, the world is not ideal. It is in that spirit that I reluctantly advocate tighter control of borders with the eastern European states.

    A long term goal would be to create a world in which this was unnecessary. But that is for now a dream we have to fight for. I do not advocate forced repatriation, just tighter controls on new entry. If we do not address this issue in a realistic and honest fashion, then those on the right will use the discontentment of certain sections of our populations to rush to what can only be describe as fascism in new rags, the rise of UKIP and worse.

    It is important to push a line that the people are innocent lambs in a global game, we must never scapegoat individuals for trying to better the life of its family. When we point out past mistakes we have to show people that governments are at fault with failed policy. Its going to be hard to try and take us back to more civil times, especially with our nasty nationalistic and dividing media, but we must address these issues or the result will be more racism and delusion in our communities.

    Phew, hope that clarifies my position on the borders issue. I would hate people to think I was promoting something that could be used to further harm the good people that have settled here:)

    Now Housing. Think I am starting to see why Labour pushed the housing associations. If my assumption are correct I think it was a move to take social housing away from the councils so that if government changed it would be harder to destroy what is left of public stock. Of course being an old worn out idealist, I would still want the people that makes choices about the roof over my head to be accountable, but guess we are where we are.

    Housing is the key to everything that makes life better. if you can not afford your rent or mortgage, life can be terrible and make you ill. Also the cost of housing effects work in a big way, it decides what type of job you do. back when the cost was a lot less, if you wanted to work outside of the box, become independent, work in small groups, have a shop, low cost of roofs made this possible. Now the only choice for many is to work in a large firm and feel due to ones weakness in the current dynamic, exploited. We have to offer our young real life choices and not just one of being factory fodder.

    House prices rises really did change everything and more importantly no one except the bankers benefited. People that purchased a place for £20,000 not so long ago are now sitting on something valued at £200,000. This is a crazy place to be, no one benefits. Most people that did buy brought only one home. If they move the extra cash they earned means nothing as they will have to pay the new price for the new home. So people are sitting on vast amounts of wealth that does no one any good, but the harm to the next generation is massive. Our young can no longer plan on a good life, they can not see a end at the tunnel just gloom and doom. It is in this context that I say we need to set things right. We must build,build and build some more, lots of cheap rents, this will force down the artificial value that is doing so much harm. We need to set up New Town Commissions like we did in the past. We need to tell the existing providers of social housing that the role they play is providing security for our communities, this does not mean charging market rents, what sort of perverse policy was that. if they don’t, we take the property back into democratic control via the new housing commissions or councils, depending of what policy is created to get us out of this impossible situation we are in now.

    OK, thanks for putting up with my occasion rant:) Despite my words I agree that Labour is the best option at the next election, just that we need to do a bit more work. Pity the party was not full of people like yourself Michael, must be a lonely place for you in the house these past few years:)

  14. Sustainable common wealth wellbeing?

    Fill the output gap with a full employment universal transitional decent civilised living wage job education training income guarantee, this targets aggregate money demand circulation to where it’s spatially and geographically most needed and most effectively.

  15. Mr Meacher,I am glad to see your comments on public sector pay. As a HMRC worker, an equivalent job in the private sector would net at least £35K that is £7K more than I am currently paid. Public sector workers were always prepared to take a hit on their pay on the grounds that they could look forward to a decent pension. However, due to the changes to the civil service pension, I will be lucky to receive £8K per annum upon retirement and that’s after 30 years of service.
    Civil servants are particularly concerned about the ill thought out Universal Credit and the bringing together of 3 VERY different IT systems (HMRC/DWP/Local authority) they are also concerned about the creeping privitisation of debt management and banking and tax credits which pilot studies have shown can be done better and cheaper by existing civil servants.
    But I think the worst thing that this government is allowing is the closure of all 240 enquiry centres which they reckon will be plugged by the voluntary sector but with no training and minimal government funding (£165K)
    Will labour be doing anything about any of this? If they do then they’ve got my vote!

  16. Glynis Millward raises excellent points, especially about WHY people in public sector jobs accept the conditions they do. If the government is reneging on a deal (to provide higher pensions in exchange for paying less during a public sector worker’s employment) then this is an industrial dispute that requires proper mediation and settlement. It is just unfortunate that unions’ power has been so badly eroded and (the useful parts of it) never restored.

    The fears about Universal Credit are, well, universal – as far as I can see. The sooner it is abandoned, the better, and this is something to which Labour should commit, the day after it is returned to office. Civil servants can do MOST public sector work better and cheaper than private organisations.

    Replacing professionals with untrained volunteers (the enquiry centres) is a Big Society blunder that will end up costing the people of the UK millions, if not billions. The trouble is, it won’t cost anything to the RICH of this country, so the Coalition won’t care. For that reason alone, Labour should change the decision.

  17. I’m a bit disappointed with your 3 headline ideas to get across to the electorate, Michael. What about the argument of kick-starting the economy with the green agenda of building sustainable jobs in innovative green technologies. What about building transport systems in our cites that create green jobs by building our own trams; making it mandatory to have green energy systems such as solar panels on all new build houses and developing a motivating level of tariffs for this etc. Having been a Labour member since 1973 it is sad that Labour is still unable to see that ecological policies are essential prerequisites for socialist change

  18. EM needs to sign up to an EU Referendum as a Manifesto commitment. What is he afraid of? It would be awful if Labour were the ONLY national Party not to commit to one.

  19. Be wary of using figures from the Sunday Times Rich List. They are valuing the assumed assets of the individual at current market prices. That may reflect a change in the valuation of the assets, rather than an accumulation of additional assets, and never result in an actual capital gain.

    I do think it is ludicrous that capital gains have such a preferential tax rate, compared to earned income. Perhaps we could treat dividends – actual payments of accumulated profits – differently from gains that occur due to revaluation of existing assets (e.g. share price increases)?

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