Posts Tagged ‘social justice’

Labour should use the language of social justice and ambition to connect with voters

30/05/2014, 12:51:29 PM

by Glenn Edwards

It’s less than a year till the general election and there’s been a lot of talk about Labour alienating itself from business interests and lurching too far to the left. But even if Labour hasn’t been effective in courting corporate leaders this doesn’t mean that it is anti-ambition. Current policies actually seem to have a lot in common with Tony Blair’s once cherished idea of combining social justice with ambition, even if they differ from the ‘third way’ in practice. We just need to start thinking about ambition in a much broader light and therein could lie a key part of the Party’s message over the next year.

Labour is pursuing a political approach that views everyone as potential success stories and not just winners or losers, as people pursuing their own human development and not just static stereotypes and as having a stake in this economy rather than just being compensated for their loss. We need a country that doesn’t wield clout in the world simply through a privileged elite in London but on the backs of a vast army of clever and confident people. Labour’s aim to redirect the economy towards high-skill jobs and create a world-class workforce is a policy example par excellence.

There is a feeling that many politicians, particularly on the right, are pandering to the short term interests of a wealthy few at the expense of the long term prosperity of the nation. In no clearer way is this expressed than the political divide over the treatment of the banks. Labour’s policy of taxing banker’s bonuses in order to create jobs for the long term unemployed isn’t a tax on ambition, it’s a tax on greed. It’s a sensible way of bringing back confidence and self esteem to those who lost it so long ago whilst simultaneously helping expand business.


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Life, love and loyalty: in defence of nepotism

06/08/2011, 11:00:13 AM

by Michael Merrick

Relationships are a good thing. Even disciples of Hobbes and Rousseau will admit as much. The social sphere is, by its very nature, social. That is, it depends on relationships. And the more vibrant and diverse the relationships, the more vibrant and diverse the social sphere.

The more positive and virtuous those relationships, the more positive and virtuous the social sphere. This means that any resurrection of the social sphere as a safe and positive place of interaction (which includes economic interaction) must in some sense build upon an appraisal of the relationships we share with one another.

Nepotism is an important part of this drama.

Yet whenever the issue is discussed, particularly by those who place themselves on the left of the political spectrum, we are given naught but murky tales of powerful upper-class types jealously seeking to protect their social and professional circles from penetration by working-class oiks, often by treacherously bestowing opportunity and privilege solely upon their unworthy and less than capable nice-but-dim nephews and nieces.

Understandably enough we consider this an injustice. We shout loudly, we hold our banners and hone our slogans, we turn the pursuit into one of universal social justice for the working classes and wrench up the rhetoric against these evil nepotistic enemies of the people.

And in so doing, we get it entirely wrong. We get our accounts of human relationships wrong, we get our account of society wrong, and we get our account of nepotism itself wrong. We deny what is good and to be cherished in human relationships, in preference of a cold atomism only possible within a sanitised concept of the social sphere.

For nepotism is the natural by-product of healthy relationships. It is the urge and instinct toward fraternity. It is the outward manifestation of solidarity, the mortar that binds society together as a complex construction of personal and social relationships.  It is the external expression of love and loyalty, the social and filial fulfilment of duty and responsibility.  It spreads opportunity horizontally and vertically and it strengthens bonds of friendship, family and community.

Camaraderie spreads through it, comradeship flourishes within it, solidarity courses through its veins. (more…)

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Pub quiz question: who is the leader of the Labour party?

30/06/2011, 08:42:14 AM

by Peter Watt

I don’t know what’s wrong with me this week. I just feel miserable. I have even got to the point that I can barely be bothered to tweet, and that really is a bad sign. But why am I feeling flat now? I mean, for months now, I have been worried about what seemed to be the direction of travel of the party with dog whistles to the left. For months I have worried that the outcomes of the party reform debate would be a damp squib. And for months I have worried that we seemed to be all but leaderless.

So on that basis, surely in the last few weeks things have started to look up? Ed has begun to define himself and his philosophy of “social justice with a hard edge” and an end to the “take what you can culture”. And he has shown real leadership on party reform by demanding an end to elections to the shadow cabinet and hinting at reforming the relationship with the trade unions. For me, these still don’t go far enough and probably could have, and should have, been said months ago. And, crucially, we still have little or no credibility on the economy.

But it absolutely has to be welcomed, and with four years to go until the next general election it is a start. Despite some people feeling uncomfortable about the new approach, on the whole the party seems buoyed after a difficult few months. David Cameron has looked rattled at PMQs and the U-turn taunts hurt because they reflect a very real problem for him and his government. We can probably relax just a bit until conference season. The beach beckons. (more…)

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Our new leader will need to ‘fess up, stop spinning and start inspiring, says Sally Bercow

20/08/2010, 11:30:10 AM

At a drinks party recently, I got chatting to someone who said that if Labour is to win the next election, it needs ‘rebranding’. This chap did something in marketing, so he would say that wouldn’t he. Nevertheless, it was rather depressing to hear, and in my view it is wrong to boot. Our party is not a packet of sweets or a jar of coffee awaiting new packaging; in fact that is precisely where the last Labour government went wrong – by substituting idealism and vision with spin. Our new leader must break decisively from the past; he (for it will be a he) cannot simply change the advertising agency (although he should definitely look at that), rehash what’s gone before and embark on a rebranding exercise.

Encouragingly, all five Labour leader candidates seem to appreciate this – at the moment. However, the persuasiveness of the spin doctors, advisers and pollsters that will flock around our newly elected leader should not be underestimated. They will bandy about empty phrases like ‘progressive centre left’ whilst arguing that Britain is fundamentally a deeply conservative country and so Labour dare not move more than a milimetre to the left of the Coalition. As a result, the temptation will be to tinker at the edges and carry on much as before, banking largely on the Con-Libs becoming increasingly unpopular. This will not wash. It does not, however, mean lurching drastically to the left on every issue. What it does mean is fashioning a new approach based on three concepts.

First, if Labour is to start to regain the public’s trust we have to be brutally honest about where we got it wrong and (dare I say it) where the coalition might be right. ‘Fessing up to a few oversights; even ones as significant as being too soft on the bankers and allowing the state to become too controlling, will not cut it. Our new leader should own up lock, stock and barrel – even though they might find it a bit awkward because they sat in cabinet at the time. With a bit of luck, the new leader will admit to Labour’s mistakes in areas including civil liberties, ID cards, prisons, housing (or more accurately the desperate lack of it) and the digital economy, then duly consign those policies to the scrapheap.

Simultaneously, and this does not come naturally to the more tribal amongst us, we will earn the public’s respect if we stop trying to score points for the sake of it and actually admit it if the Coalition has a case. It is simply not credible for the new leader to roundly condemn every single one of the coalition’s policies and planned cuts.

Second, on the back of such unflinching honesty, our new leader can go into battle. He must defend the last Labour government, who left a better, fairer, more tolerant country with transformed public services and an economy saved from depression. He must expose the chronic iniquity and manic ideology of the coalition’s policies and seek to thwart or temper them. And, most importantly of all, he must set out a clear, attractive and viable alternative.

Third, beyond adopting this new honest approach, Labour needs to develop a new programme. This should be done not by pandering to media prejudice, by shifting according to fluctuating opinion polls or by becoming overly cautious. Instead, we must craft an inspiring credo, driven by progressive Labour values, which has the potential to improve the lives of the mainstream majority in a way and on a scale that this right-wing government cannot imagine, let alone deliver.

It is time to rediscover our principles, our values and our idealism. An unerring focus on social justice – fighting for a fairer, more equal Britain – coupled with economic dynamism should be at the heart of our new programme. This focus on social justice will mean taxing the rich more, reducing the gap between the haves and the have-nots, creating more affordable housing, reducing the ugly disparities in educational achievement and thereby paving the way for a more socially mobile Britain.

Economic dynamism will mean an explanation of how we would reduce the deficit (by credible spending cuts and bold, but fair, tax rises) and over what timescale. In addition, we must develop a clear plan for growth and an active industrial policy (investing in manufacturing, green industries and apprenticeships), so that we can create a broader, more balanced economy, rather than the skewed, misshapen and city-driven creature of neo-liberal economic theory.

Labour’s new programme must not be imposed from the top but fed and informed by people in communities across the country who have something to tell us and hold our fate in their hands. Never again must we allow ourselves to become so aloof and out of touch. This means listening to and engaging with our councillors, activists, trade unionists, rank and file members and, above all, those who either deserted us in the polling booths or didn’t bother to turn out at all.

Every government runs into trouble and the coalition will be no exception. The biggest mistake would be simply to wait for them to lose the next election. Instead, Labour needs to ‘fess up, stop spinning and start inspiring millions of voters by fighting for a fairer, less divisive and more equal Britain.

Sally Bercow

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