Thursday, 16 October 2014

Labour`s priorities now

Despite the usual denials, it is clear the byelection results have caused some panicking in the Labour ranks, so, whilst all policies need some polishing and radicalising, all spokespersons, MPs and candidates should be aware of their priorities, and speak with one voice. With Miliband`s polling problems, a sign of firm leadership is needed, also.
  Dealing with the last point, with one report suggesting 85% of teachers against Tristram`s oath idea, a sideways move now might tick a number of boxes, and perhaps rescue Labour`s hopes of attracting the teacher vote. The oath is the most recent in a long line of gaffes by Hunt, and replacing him with someone more attune to the needs of the teaching profession would be a sensible move by a leader too often criticised for his indecision.
    First and foremost in the policy debate, Diane Abbott is right to say that Labour can "never move far enough to the right to suit Ukip voters".What are the Blairites on the right of the party thinking when they say Labour has "to be stronger about our messages on immigration"? They clearly still don`t get it! Voters will support Labour when it shows itself to be different, as Miliband once promised, and here`s Jack Straw encouraging the Toryisation of policies to be more like Ukip! The benefits immigration has brought to Britain have to be stressed, whilst insiting on no radical changes nor targetted crackdowns. 
 The young need to be persuaded by Labour that it is the only party worth voting for. The low turnout and narrow Labour victory in Heywood and Middleton suggest most of the 18-35 brigade did not bother to make it to the polling booth, so Labour`s policies have to be more in tune with their aspirations. Most live in rented accommodation , so more radical policies preventing their further exploitation by profiteering landlords are essential; the existing ones obviously do not go far enough. It`s not just in London,where exhorbitant rents are being pocketed by greedy landlords, and where these high rents are subsidised by housing benefit, and Labour would be ignoring an electoral boost if it were not to pledge "a cap on rent". It should be considering, also, a return to 2010 rent levels,whilst an Ofsted-style inspection team is set up to ensure properties are well-maintained, equipped with safety alarms and such like. Generation Rent including all students need government protection. The pledges on housing must continue but there needs to be more emphasis on social housing, and ensuring "affordable" means exactly that. Governments and councils should determine the sort of homes needed, not greedy building firms.
   Education is another area to be prioritised. Sadly, recent Tory policies about parachuting in "super teachers" were accompanied by even more ridiculous announcements from Tristram about oaths.Carpet and brush spring to mind, so that more emphasis can be placed on removing the majority of Gove`s reforms which are having the sad effect of reducing social mobility even further. Time to focus on equality of opportunity!
     The NHS, of course, must maintain its prioritised position, with better explanations of how it will be funded. Voters will love the idea of a government intent on introducing a financial transaction tax and a system of progressive income tax, which increases the amount to be paid by those who can afford it; that means everyone earning over £80K, three times the average! By doing this, and insisting at least that the living wage must become the minimum wage, and ending zero-hours contracts, Labour might actually be taken seriously in its aim to reduce inequality, especially if there was a real intent to end tax avoidance and evasion.
   Britain all too frequently goes to war to protect democracy, yet for years, governments have done nothing to achieve the real thing at home; in other words, get everyone to vote. Labour would be the party to benefit from larger turnouts, so why not advocate voting reforms? Polling booths in city centres, supermarkets, university campuses, with a commitment to investigate the possibility of electronic voting for the 2020 election. Trade unionists would welcome its immediate use in their ballots, too
   Last priority is to ensure every single voter knows and understands the implication of all Tory and Ukip policies, including shrinking the state back to 1948 levels and tax reductions for the rich. Experts know their raising the starting tax threshold has little effect on ending poverty, but do the voters?
  Hammering home these prioritised messages might just turn the tide; the right-wing vote is divided, and the emphasis of these policies on fairness is what the majority want. A "different" is one which is prepared to stand up to the City and the banks, but there`s only six months or so left to persuade the electorate!

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