Archive for the 'policy' Category

29
Jun
12

Not popular, but important

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Last month I attended the 2012 young Labour conference. I spoke at the podium once, in favour of only one motion. This was the only motion (to my knowledge) which was voted down. But it was close…

69 members voted for the motion that “prisoners should have the right to vote”, with 71 voting against.This overly-simplistic motion is full of holes, I know. It’s also not massively important how a young labour conference votes (however much we kid ourselves), I know. It is the principle that needs to be carefully considered and we must realise that, however unpopular this may, as a matter of human rights, some prisoners should be given voting rights, for a number of reasons.

I don’t see this as merely a detached argument about rights that may or my not be fundamental in the case of prisoners who have been convicted of less serious crimes, but as a practical one regarding the rehabilitation of prisoners towards being citizens within a positive society.
If you are seeking to aid someone on the path to rehabilitation through education, training and substance cessation, there is a definite aim for this process. The aim is that a prisoner should enter the world at the end of their sentence and from that time on function as positive members of the societies they re-enter. I am not a vindictive, swivelled-eyed right winger who believes in punishment purely for the sake of it. Punishment should have a clear purpose and stopping prisoners re-offending should be one the main ones.

Another (and less popular) argument is that we should take the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights. If I get comments on this post that the ECHR is a “foreign court” and should be ignored I will have to have a very very long lie down in a dark room. Britain and its European compatriots set up this court and the European Convention on Human Rights in order to further and protect Human Rights in the whole of wider Europe. After using the court as powerful tool in bringing other countries up to better standards, why should we be immune from its rulings when we are found to be wanting?

If I were to commit a crime and go into prison just as an election is called, why should I not be allowed to vote against a government who would plunge the country into a second recessional dip and cause myself and my family pain once I am figuratively purified by my rightful punishment and looking to give back to the community I have harmed.

It is clear that those who commit violent, disgusting or dishonesty crimes should be barred from voting and judges could also pay attention to this when sentencing those convicted, however we should not stop all prisoners in all circumstances from voting.

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09
May
12

The Living Wage needs to be a central plank of Labour’s economic narrative- Darrell Goodliffe

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Labour needs a strong and coherent economic narrative which tells a story of a new economy, one built out of the ashes of austerity and the financial crash. Of course, it is not enough to string pretty words together, we must practically show how we will do this through eye-catching policies which encapsulate and embody the vision we want to put to the electorate. If you look at the French election, Francois Hollande did this well by pushing the 75% top-rate of tax on earnings over  1 million euros. This embodied his insistence that the rich shoulder the burden of rebuilding France’s shattered national economy.

Ed Miliband has already expressed the view that it is the toiling mass of people who are society’s real wealth creators and therefore they are the ones who should be most rewarded. Ed is correct in this point of view but he has yet to substantiate it with a policy that makes his point in a clear and unequivocal way. However, the living wage fits the bill perfectly, coupled with real controls on top incomes it would send a clear signal that Ed is prepared to back his fine words with equally as fine deeds.

We will be assailed with all the traditional arguments against, ‘it will lead to unemployment, it would be bad for business’, etc, etc. However, put lightly, these arguments are economic hokum. J K Galbraith deals with some of the arguments here in a US context:

Would prices go up? Some would. But rich people can afford it — and workers would have extra income to pay the higher prices, so most of them would come out ahead. Women in particular would benefit because they tend to work for lower wages. With more family income, some people would choose to retire, go back to school, or have children, making it easier for others who need jobs to find them. Working families would have more time for community life, including politics; Americans would start to reclaim the middle-class political organization that they once had. Because payroll- and income-tax revenues would rise, the federal deficit would come down. Social Security worries would fade.

Not only that, but households would be able to, slowly but surely be able to make headway into the personal debt mountain which blights our economy; here Ed will need to offer other support, like the extension of Debt Relief Orders and action against high prices (something he has already muted). However, a living wage would be a huge boost to struggling households and therefore to our flagging economy.

Up to this point, Ed has only mooted a ‘voluntary’ living wage (in return for which companies would receive tax incentives) however, this is pointless and misguided. If it is voluntary it would introduce two-tier wage system (with a clear division between companies that only offer minimum wage and those that offer a living wage)  which would run the risk of increasing rather than tackling social inequality. Also, the benefit to the state would be limited because it would be paying out money to the private sector in the form of tax breaks (as well as presumably footing the bill of increased public sector wages).

Simply raising the minimum wage to the level of the living wage, which is what Galbraith advocates, therefore is more economically sensible and beneficial all round as opposed to a half-baked voluntary scheme. Ed needs to be brave and not fight shy of the ideologically motivated but economically illiterate opponents of a living wage; he needs to take them head-on and make the living wage a central plank of Labour’s narrative which espouses a bold and radical vision of a new economy created out of the ashes of the old.

Darrell is an ex-intern and Labour activist and blogger and a candidate for NEC.

26
Apr
12

Stealing a March on the Green Agenda – Guest Post, Alex Hylan

A friend recently told me how, now that the local elections are fast approaching, the Green Party have suddenly reawaken from their slumber and started leafleting him again. Presumably the Greens, like the flower, only blossom when the bees come out to play.

I’ve always found the Green Party quite curious because, like the Labour party, they identify with the centre-left and it’s messages of sustainability, investment and fairness, but yet seem occupied with attacking Labour in the many leaflets that, wastefully, tumble through letterboxes up and down Britain every election time.

But despite this I’ve always had a lot of sympathy with the party. I think they’ve got a really good message and I do worry that the politics of the 21st Century are becoming the politics of maintenance; an accusation that is frequently levelled at the three main parties. Whatever you think of the Green Party, you can’t say that they lack a compelling vision for the future.

The fact is that sooner or later our existing sources of energy are going to run out, and when this starts looming on the horizon it’s going to become increasingly economically viable to pursue green sources of energy. But these changes don’t just happen; their needs to be strong political leadership to make the brave decision to invest in these new technologies.

This is where the Labour party comes in, a party with a track record of striving towards a sustainable economy for the future, not just for now. With today’s figures showing our economy tumbling back in to recession it is clear that we are crying out for investment; to get people back in to work, to readdress the way we harness our energy and to build for the future. This could be the first step in building a new, high-tech green economy that will help to secure our future. It’s just a dream, but maybe one day soon we can stop burying our heads in the sands of Saudi Arabia and work to secure our own energy security. Sure it would cost money, but don’t tell me there’s no money when you’re able to give a tax cut to millionaires.

There has always been an ethical argument for the green agenda, but increasingly there’s an economic argument too. Why can’t Labour be the party that brings that change to the mainstream?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alex is a 19 year old Labour party activist and member of Sheffield Labour Students; studying Politics & Sociology at the University of Sheffield.

10
Apr
12

“What’s your policy?”: Max Bell-The nationalisation of the Utilities

I can hear the ghost of Michael Foot’s donkey jacket screaming in delight in the background….

In all seriousness – with half of Britons anticipated to be in fuel poverty by 2022, it is absolutely scandalous to envision an expansion of the current situation whereby pensioners, young mothers and the just plain working poor are forced to select between eating & heating.

Only with the re-nationalisation of all those who pump the simple elements into our homes – heat, water, light, power, electricity, gas – can we truly decide once and for all that people are more important than profit.

British Gas & the other “Big 6”, (*expletive deleted*), pushing another billion or so here and there on to their profit accounts make me sheet-white with anger considering the pain they force literally millions and millions of Britons into.

The idea that this magically restricts growth is an illusion: and the model of nationalisations provided by the post-WWII Clement Attlee Labour governments is the perfect model, irrespective of economic libertarianism bleating. Nationalisation occurred along side, and was a key player in, the longest period of growth that Britain has ever seen. The Victorians can eat their heart out.

Post the traumatic event of the Second World War, society came together and universally decided that “Never Again” would the ravages of the market be directed at the weakest, as the political class turned its nose in disgust. See parallels on how we must react to the financial crisis perhaps then?

This clichéd choice agenda being pushed by the bastardised hostages that is neo-liberal fortune, is completely and utterly flawed. This is not the phone market, or indeed: the airlines – no wide scale infrastructure investment ever occurs without the government deciding once and for all that the electorate are too important to throw under a capitalist bus.

There is no low-cost, low-carbon agenda from any big energy supplier. Re-nationalisation would be the perfect catalyst for that.

Thus, only when the Government takes control of the industries – which web together poisonously as a plague on all our houses and our governing class’ consciousness. We can set the price structure depending on who & where you are. Enforce energy efficiency standards nation-wide, and improve infrastructure: all without the need for a profit.

And as we place money back into the pockets of our nation – just think of the growth.

We owe re-nationalisation to our children, and their children – and history will judge us all the poorer if we chicken out now.

Max Bell is a Proud working class socialist and Northern political nerd. Currently reading Law at University of Sheffield whilst being an active member of Sheffield Labour Students. He is also, probably, Scunthorpe United’s most obsessive fan.

If you could choose one policy to implement now if you could, what would it be? get in touch and we will post your ideas!