Forest of Dean & Wye Valley

LABOUR’S ELECTION POLICIES: The writing’s on the wall

In Guest Feature on March 5, 2015 at 7:36 pm

An assessment by HARRY BARNES former Labour MP for North East Derbyshire, and is a member of the ILP. 

With a speech in Manchester just after the New Year, Ed Miliband launched Labour’s General Election campaign.  Yet we may not know the full thrust of Labour’s policy proposals until those are confirmed in the final publication of the General Election manifesto.  There are, however, plenty of writings on the wall to examine.

These can be found in a series of eight substantial policy documents which were endorsed at the Party’s 2014 conference, under the National Policy Forum procedure.  Given the centralised control which now operates  within the Labour Party, it is inconceivable that the proposals  they contain  don’t have the general backing of the party’s leadership. Or at least of its leader.  Especially as afterwards, a 52 page document was published entitled Changing Britain Together which contains 114 bullet points drawn from the agreed Policy Documents. This is a summary which has the full endorsement of Ed Miliband and starts with his words, “My mission is to make Britain work for everyone, not just for a privileged few”.

THE CENTRE GROUND?

The problem with lengthy sets of proposals is that people can draw selected material from them to fit in with their own interests and viewpoints. When Ed Balls says that Labour still occupies the “centre ground” in British politics (as if we were still in the days of New Labour!), then it is an interpretation he is  keen to push at the heart of the Labour Party. But my own interpretation of the central thrust of Labour’s policies and of what Ed Miliband’s position would be if he was to find himself elected Prime Minister, differs from that of Ed Balls. But beware. Perhaps I am just being as selective in a counter direction. And I don’t have any clout at all, but Ed Balls still does.

OR PERHAPS NOT?

I am not claiming that Labour’s documents reveal that we are heading significantly to the left in some democratic socialist direction. But they do seem to offer a programme which seeks  a) to regulate the current crude role of capitalism and b) produce a more equitable society. If so, this approach is at least Labourite, if not fully Socialist. And it could open up a voice for the left in the Labour Party which it has not enjoyed over the past two decades. In my experience, we could at least get listened to and have some influence at the margins as in the days of John Smith.

I give below some snippets in only one of the categories which can be drawn from Labour’s National Policy Forum report.  Such proposals need to be pressed, to ensure that they finally appear in Labour’s election manifesto. If we win, these items will need to be on the agenda of a Labour Chancellor of the  Exchequer – whoever that might happen to be.

On Improving Wages and Working Conditions:

Strengthen the National Minimum Wage. Expand the Living Wage. Advance the role of Pay Review bodies. Stamp out “Zero Hours” abuse. Review TUPE’s rules to avoid a race to the bottom on pay. Pursue equal pay for equal work. Expand the work of the Low Pay Commission to tackle in-work poverty.  Ensure that there is an employee representative on re-numeration committees. Support flexible working for parents. Provide proper health and safety in the workplace. Ensure that self–employed workers are protected. Use a European Court of Justice’s ruling to assist in calculating holiday pay.

All this covers only one area of what is proposed for Labour’s likely manifesto. There are also important commitments  made for young people, education, energy, climate change, transport, the NHS, disability, pensions, policing, security, Europe, immigration, our global role, an equitable tax structure and fair and sustainable forms of economic growth.

Summaries of all these additional areas and more can be found on a blog “Three Score Years And Ten”. It has been running for over eight years, since my 70th birthday!

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