Posts Tagged ‘policy review’

Labour needs to put families first. Here’s how.

01/11/2012, 07:00:33 AM

by Peter Watt

With years of austerity in prospect, the search is on for things to put on Labour’s famous blank piece of paper.  As health, welfare and education budgets come under pressure there is one institution above all others that a future Labour government should prioritise; the family.

The family is the best form of welfare there is from the cradle to the grave.  The family is a great place to provide a healthy environment for children and adults alike.   And a huge proportion of learning takes place in families as knowledge is passed literally from generation to generation.

Traditionally Labour family policy has focused on families who, for whatever reason, are down on their luck and who need some help with day-to-day essentials.  So the priority has been using the welfare state to target resources.  Free school meals, targeted benefits, Sure Start and so on.

But as Ed Miliband rightly points out, many other families with modest incomes have been offered little help and have been struggling.  So Labour should go into the next election with an unashamedly pro-family agenda that tries to make life a little easier for our millions of working families.  This doesn’t mean withdrawing support for some; it does though mean consciously prioritising the majority.  So here is a short list.  They should not cost much and some of them may seem small things.  Some will require us to possibly decide to stop doing something else and others may pay for themselves.  But collectively they will add up to a significant package of help.

Labour should introduce tax breaks for those with children.  It doesn’t have to be huge but as the cost of living goes up every little helps.  Increasing the tax free allowance for a nominated parent by £500 per child would make a significant difference to many household budgets.   And of course, the money would be spent by those who earned it boosting the economy.


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The blank sheet of paper that must go on and on

27/07/2011, 12:00:54 PM

by Jonathan Todd

It is acknowledged that people do not join the Labour party simply to deliver leaflets or attend uninspiring meetings. This tends to go along with support for giving members more say on policy. But parties are vehicles of change, not forums for mass therapy. Party debate is a means to the end of building the world that Labour exists to create.

As our policy review continues, it’s worth reflecting on the “built to last” exercise undertaken by David Cameron after becoming the Tory leader. His government’s programme now appears anything but. His health policy is fudged, his police promises are broken, his public service reforms are rehashed and events have rapidly exposed his defence policy.

The biggest global economic crisis since the 1930s has left almost four in ten voters able to say: “I can’t imagine I’ll ever have the money I want to meet my needs.” Notwithstanding the conflation of wants and needs in this statement, this indicts Cameron’s ability to generate any feel good factor.

Running through many of the government’s failings is a refusal or inability to acknowledge the reality of Britain’s place in the world. They will not place the economic crisis of recent years in its proper global context for fear of distorting their framing of these events as entirely Labour’s fault (and the enduring strength of this frame is one of the government’s trump cards). They will not adapt their defence review to events that the foreign secretary has compared with the fall of the Berlin wall. They will not engage in a meaningful debate about the future of our continent because they are bored by Brussels, contemptuous of Athens and scared of Bill Cash. They will not concede that the UK’s position within global labour markets makes nonsense of their commitment to reduce annual immigration to the UK from “hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands”. This will, as all realities do, catch up with them. (more…)

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Monday News Review

13/06/2011, 06:27:02 AM

Family breakdown

When he won the Labour leadership, Ed Miliband declared that Britain had not ‘heard the last’ of his older brother, from whose complacent grip he had snatched the prize. David would ‘be around in one way or another’. Well, Ed was spot on in that analysis. Today, as he prepares to deliver yet another keynote speech, desperately crafted to pump life into his flaccid leadership, brother David’s shadow looms ever larger and more threatening.Indeed, it is Louise Miliband, even more than her vanquished former Foreign Secretary husband, who harbours a deep grudge against her brother-in-law. She regards his decision to run against her husband as an unforgivable act of treachery and betrayal. ‘She was distraught and still hurts for David. It’s often the partners who take more umbrage. But it’s very hard for them both to get over it. David would have won it if Ed had not stood. And he would have won it big,’ one trusted confidante told the Daily Mail.  ‘Louise understands that and is still consumed by anger. She’s also furious with Ed’s wife because she feels she should have persuaded him not fight his own brother. The family will never get over this. Louise did not even want to go to Ed’s wedding.’ Indeed, as the new book reveals, Louise Miliband cut Ed dead when they met by accident as he headed back to his hotel room following his victory over her husband.  The brothers used to speak several times a week. Now, with the exception of occasional requests for advice from Ed, they rarely converse, reveals the book. They communicate through their offices. – Daily Mail

Ed Miliband’s wife, Justine Thornton, is said to have been deeply hurt by the frosty stance reportedly adopted by her sister-in-law Louise Miliband since his surprise decision to stand for the leadership last year. Based on interviews with close friends and colleagues of the two men, the book depicts a deep and painful rift in the Miliband family which some fear will never heal. It claims that an increasingly ill-tempered election campaign developed into a rancorous family schism, evident as much at children’s birthday parties as political meetings, to the distress of the men’s mother, Marion. Despite his disappointment at failing to secure the Labour crown last September, the former Foreign Secretary David Miliband was careful to be gracious in defeat, the book says. But as Ed walked back to his hotel room in Manchester, following the announcement the election result, his sister-in-law was less forgiving and “cut him dead”, the book claims. It was, the authors – the Labour-friendly journalists Mehdi Hasan and James Macintyre – claim, “the start of a breakdown in the family”. – Daily Telegraph

Ed tries to bounce back with policy offensive

Ed Miliband will attempt to fight back against his internal Labour critics today by unveiling new policies demanding more “responsibility” from the highest paid people and welfare claimants. On the eve of his long-awaited policy offensive, Mr Miliband was hit by claims that his relationship with his brother David was still in the deep freeze eight months after he defeated him to win the Labour leadership. A new book by journalists Mehdi Hassan and James Macintyre claims that Ed spent years plotting to beat his brother and that David now thinks he is taking the party “in the wrong direction.” The Labour leader will try to turn a tide of negative publicity about what critics see as his lacklustre performance by turning the spotlight to one of his big policy ideas. He will promise a “revolution in the boardroom”, saying a Labour Government would make companies publish the ratio between their highest earners and the average pay level. In a long-planned speech in London, Mr Miliband will admit that the last Labour Government was too relaxed about bankers who caused the financial crisis and benefit claimants who abused the system. “We will be a party that supports the real boardroom accountability that rewards wealth creation, not failure,” he will say. “At the bottom of society, we will be a party that rewards contribution, not worklessness.” – the Independent

Plans to make unemployed benefit claimants work harder to find a job will be unveiled by Labour‘s policy review chief, Liam Byrne, on Monday. The shadow work and pensions secretary will also set out new ideas, drawn from the Australian prime minister Julia Gillard, requiring long-term workless households with pre-school children to attend compulsory employment workshops in return for childcare costs. The proposals chime with Ed Miliband’s proposals, unveiled on Monday, which will emphasise responsibility, rewarding those on the council house queue who are in jobs or doing voluntary work. Byrne will map out how far the party has drifted from mainstream public opinion, saying: “There is one sentiment that really shines through. People are angry about the state we face and they believe a new politics of responsibility is the answer. There’s a sense of too many great sins: wealth without work; commerce without morality; politics without principle.” – the Guardian

People in work, volunteers and foster carers will be able to jump council house queues, Ed Miliband will pledge today. “Rather than looking solely at need, priority is also given to those who contribute – who give something back. It’s fairer and it also encourages the kind of responsible behaviour that makes our communities stronger,” he will say. Labour is also looking at cutting benefits for young jobless people in workless households. And it is considering forcing the unemployed to sign on weekly and give higher dole payments for those who were in work and then lost their job. Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Liam Byrne will set out the controversial plans tonight, saying: “Welfare reform is one of the policy areas where Labour needs to win back trust.” – Daily Mirror

D-Day for NHS reforms

Experts are to unveil recommendations on the Government’s plans for the NHS after Nick Clegg claimed victory for the Liberal Democrats in the spat over the reforms. The NHS Future Forum will publish its report setting out proposed amendments to the Health and Social Care Bill, which is currently on hold on its passage through Parliament. The Bill has attracted widespread criticism from the medical profession and unions, particularly over its aim to increase competition between the NHS and private companies. Last week, Prime Minister David Cameron outlined “real changes” to the reforms – pre-empting the content of today’s report. Aides to the Prime Minister have insisted he was the driving force behind the policy rethink, but many Tory backbenchers are furious that Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has been “hung out to dry” to appease Lib Dems. – Sky News

In the face of Liberal Democrat opposition to his proposed shake-up of the NHS, the Prime Minister ordered a time-out so the views of doctors and nurses could be heard. Today, a report by the group NHS Future Forum, led by former chairman of the Royal College of GPs Prof Steve Field, will be published and is expected to recommend a string of changes. The Liberal Democrats claimed yesterday that the concessions they had demanded had been achieved, while backbench Tories were warning that Mr Cameron had given too much away. Mark Pritchard MP, secretary of the 1922 committee of backbench Tory MPs, suggested that the changes would lose the Tories votes. He told The Daily Telegraph: “History may judge this moment as a lost golden opportunity to make the NHS fit for the 21st century.“  Mr Cameron has called an emergency meeting of all 143 Tories who joined the Commons at last year’s election. It is being interpreted in Westminster as an attempt to ensure Mr Cameron has enough support to see off opposition from “old guard” MPs, who have been angered at concessions to the Tories’ Coalition partners and perceived “gloating” from Lib Dems. – Daily Telegraph

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We need to oppose, as well as to review

28/11/2010, 12:00:05 PM

by Tom Keeley

This weekend Ed Miliband launched a major policy review. Starting with a blank piece of paper, the big thinkers in the party will now take two years coordinating the biggest review of policy since 1994. The party needs it.

The 2010 general election showed a party which had stopped thinking, stopped improving and had little to say. If it had not been for the economic crisis, the dividing lines between us and the Tories would have been slight. When a Labour party can’t state a long list of differences with the Tories, you know there is trouble.

This review needs to put Labour back as the progressive party in this country. A party to ensure that liberty is not at the cost of security. To ensure the poor provision of housing never again fuels racial tensions. A party to champion schools that serve the poorest, health care that heals the sickest and social security that treats the most unfortunate in our society with respect and deference. This will serve the electorate well in two years time. They will have the choice to elect a truly progressive party.

However, the Labour party has a more immediate responsibility. Opposition. While Miliband described opposition as “crap” (and he might be right), it is the most important job in the country at the moment. This government is rolling out the most regressive series of policies and doing it early in the anticipation that the electorate will forget by 2015. Frontline police are being cut. The NHS is being turned upside down. And, soon, teachers will be let go, when the economic independence that came with the academies bill, turns out to be a noose around the necks of the schools.

The press will report numbers: the manpower lost, the waiting lists and the crime stats. But the Labour party should remember that this is about people’s lives. This is about another generation of children growing up in homes where no parent works and young people going to school in classrooms that are falling apart. It is about families breaking under the stress of mortgage repayments and lost incomes; about people dying on the waiting list for cancer treatments. The Labour party has a responsibility to stand up for these lives now, not in two years time. The most important job in the country is the opposition of this government’s policies.

While the policy review is vital for our party, a responsible, rigorous and careful opposition is vital for the country. If we fail to provide this now, the electorate will look back on these years and see an indulgent, introspective party. A party that failed them. Until the policy review is complete, our priority must be coherent and effective opposition.

Tom Keeley is a member of Birmingham Edgbaston CLP.

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