2018 must be the year Labour’s progressives set out their vision for Britain

by Callum Anderson

Labour’s progressives would be forgiven for feeling weary from the way British political discourse has developed over the past few years.

Having been ejected from office in 2010, we have too often been forced onto the back foot – pre-occupied with defending the last Labour government’s record from opponents on both Left and Right.

Meanwhile, Conservative-led austerity – based on a failed economic theory – neither eliminated the deficit as promised nor restructured the economy such that it was not heavily reliant on financial services.

Instead, Britain has been subjected to a lost decade resulting in stagnant wages, a significant rise in the use of food banks, as well as homelessness, child poverty and insecure work.

Yet because progressives were too occupied with defending past actions, valuable time has been lost in addressing the long-term challenges facing Britain’s economy and society, and, with it, regaining the trust of the electorate.

Moreover, opposition and suspicion as to what the new influx of members into the Labour Party has meant has given the impression – fairly or unfairly – that progressives are against a whole host of things, but not in favour of very much.

This should change.

Labour’s progressives must use 2018 to jettison its intellectual timidity and rediscover its convictions to both play a more active role in determining the party’s policy direction and help to craft an inspiring, modern vision for Britain fit for the 2020s.

It is the only path available which secures its survival in the Labour movement.

Whilst the importance of organising for internal elections (be that for places on the national executive committee or on committees of local constituency parties) should not be downplayed or denigrated, any triumph in this regard is frankly pointless if it is not accompanied by a bold, forward-looking vision for Britain’s future and supported by a portfolio of innovative policies.

Therefore Labour’s progressives have the responsibility to put forward a British Square Deal – one that both rejects the nostalgic nativism that has infected the Conservative Party, but also rejects a drift towards an ideological programme which lures Labour to its comfort zone and insufficiently address the future challenges facing Britain’s.

Any progressive programme for government must be values-driven and outcome-focussed; dogmatic ideology – regardless of how well-meaning it may be – simply has no place in the twenty-first century.

However this vision – while seeking to inspire and energise both party members and the electorate at large – must also be set within the context of the world as it is, and not how we wished it was.

Efforts must principally be dedicated to solving how to build a new economy which enables working people, communities and our environment to prosper in the years ahead. A significant challenge in this regard will be to tackle the UK economy’s stagnant productivity. Solving how to increase this productivity puzzle will ensure that the UK can continue to encourage new businesses and industrial sectors to form, grow and create jobs and wealth.

Equally, as concepts such as the fourth industrial revolution gain increasing traction, Labour must be ready to address how artificial intelligence, mobile and smart technologies, and cyber-physical systems will impact how our economy operates and, with it, how workers can be protected.

Another essential ingredient will be re-calibrating the playing field between academic and technical training. Equalising these two paths will ensure that all Britons are equipped with the skills they need to secure the jobs of the future.

Progressives must also set out the role of the British state itself – not only in terms of devolving revenue raising and spending powers to local and regional governments, but also ensuring that governments at all levels are structured in a way that facilitates innovative and efficient governance that remains accountable to citizens.

And, of course, progressives must outline confront the issue of the day – articulating how Britain maintains a close economic relationship with our EU partners.

In short, Labour’s progressives need to fully recognise that a return to ‘business as usual’ is neither an option nor desirable. A prospectus devised with 1990s New Labour tinted glasses won’t work. People have grown tired of it. Its time has passed.

So let’s get to work; our country’s future depends on it.

Callum Anderson is a Labour activist. He tweets at @Cavlar_Anderson.

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11 Responses to “2018 must be the year Labour’s progressives set out their vision for Britain”

  1. postageincluded says:

    Well one thing is certain: Baroque managerialist exhortation ornamented with mission-statements and buzz-words hasn’t gone out of fashion here at Uncut.

  2. John Wall says:

    I think you’re a bit late. Thanks, largely, to Theresa May and the Conservatives Corbyn and his crew are now entrenched. It’s clear to many – and I’m nowhere near the left – that he’s on a one way trip into a dead end.

    If – and it’s not as unlikely as it once seemed – he ends up in No. 10 he wouldn’t be able to deliver as the numbers just don’t add up. Forget “fully costed” and only taxing the “few” to give goodies to the “many”, it would be a question of scaling back the programme or taxing more people.

    Looking at the first lot of opinion polls for 2018 – assuming they can be trusted – the two main parties are within a couple of points of each other and May – despite everything – leads Corbyn by about 6%. To get an overall majority requires a lead of about 5-6% – I doubt the LDs would get into bed with a Marxist, the DUP wouldn’t support a friend of the IRA and the SNP’s price would be very high.

    At the moment – and we could be four and half years away from the next election (Fixed Term Parliaments Act) – there look to be a couple of possibilities.

    It appears, to some, that Labour has become a cult – everything revolves around Corbyn and his Praetorian Guard, Momentum. So what happens when he goes? An analogy could be England after the death of Oliver Cromwell, things staggered on for a while but then there was the restoration. Time is not on Corbyn’s side.

    The first is that Corbyn doesn’t win (get an overall majority) the next election. Assuming the FTPA is still around he’d be pushing 80 by the one after so would probably go. Two failures would probably result in a power shift towards the centre.

    The second is that Corbyn wins (gets an overall majority) the next election. This would inevitably result in disaster – as I previously outlined – and the subsequent departure of Corbyn followed by a power shift.

  3. paul barker says:

    Motherhood & apple pie. All those words without saying whether Britains “Progressives” are for or against Brexit. Until Labours “Progressives” develop the courage to fight Brexit they will remain irrelevant.

  4. Mike Homfray says:

    Slogans, slogans, but so little in the way of content.
    And nothing about real policies that people are bothered about.
    Health, Housing, Education, Peace.
    This sort of programme is simply dead and buried in the Labour party. Why can’t the right wing simply grasp this?

  5. anosrep says:

    “Progressive” is not a synonym for “right-wing”.

  6. John P Reid says:

    Interesting point of Corbyn won , and wanted a policy that blairites didn’t want, thd way Roy Jenkins and Shirley Williams were opposed to the closed shop, would they be good winked into it, or could they be given conscessions , the way the Gairskrkkites were given the health and safety at work act, whrn the Bennites didn’t care, if they scrapped Ted heaths industrial relations act ,wonder if there’s a middle class liberal view on possible discrimination for women’s rights ,likf guilty till proven innocent for rape that Corbyn could keep quiet in opposing because he’d want them to vote for income tax rises? Yet he’d keep quiet in his own view of decriminalising sex workers

  7. John P Reid says:

    Yes we shouldn’t lwtthose trqsh th last governments record, but and Miliband did, and th n after he lost, as he though t he could win by doing this, Jeremy Corbyn continued Eds line,that labour lost in 2010 as we weren’t left wing enough,and ed fans feel t Jeremy was defending adds legacy by agreeing with him,but when we attack the Tories now the only record we can criticize th m in is tosay how bad it is, compared to when we were in power.

  8. John P Reid says:

    Question what’s the difference between Blairite middle class liberals telling the working class how to live their lives, without realising the working class can’t afford to live by their values and Corbynista Middle class liberals telling the working class how to live their lives without twigging the working class didn’t afford to live their lives by their values:Answer the blairites won General elections

  9. Mike Homfray says:

    That’s because they took over after 18 years of the Tories and for no other reason. At the time Blair appeared fresh and sounded convincing. Now? The most despised individual in British politics. If anyone tried that naive set of optimistic slogans they would be laughed at

  10. John PReid says:

    Tough on crime and the causes is optimistic?
    So after 18 years of the Tories ,they’d won the argument?

    Don’t think Blair is as unpopular as say George Galloway?

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