Healey: party should set up its own charitable and social enterprise arms

The Labour party should look at establishing its own social enterprises and charities, according to radical new proposals being put forward by shadow health secretary, John Healey.

The plans, which Mr Healey intends to present as part of a formal submission to the Hain  task force on party re-organisation, would begin a process of “reconstructing the definition of what politics is and what it means to be a political party”.

Speaking to Uncut about his proposals, Labour’s health spokesman said, “We need to demonstrate our good values and good intentions by good actions and good works in the community. So I’d like to see political parties given a different sort of constitutional position and almost be able to set up charity or social enterprise arms. If we believe in the opportunities for sport for young people I’d like to see us sponsor junior football teams; I’d like to see us involve people in setting up junior sports clubs”.

Mr Healey insisted that he saw the direct provision of local services and community enterprises as complementing, rather than replacing, Labour’s traditional activities. “In the local party in Rotherham there are a couple of dozen people who are highly active in a range of church or charity groups for whom that type of activity, with a Labour stamp, would be something they would want to do and would do a great deal to help people see that politics isn’t disconnected from local concerns and the local community. It would also help them recognize that politics isn’t just conducted by people like me who are full time paid politicians”.

He added that he was “relaxed” about plans to involve non-party members in policy making and the election of future leaders, and said he viewed the new community organisational models being advocated by some in the Labour movement as “a great idea”.

“However community organising is done in practice, what it starts to do is push the boundaries of what constitutes and defines organising. Underpinning it is that sense of not just connecting Labour to community activism but connecting politics to communities and activism. We still have this long dark shadow of the expenses abuse that colours people’s sense of what politics and politicians are about and we need to do more to start to overcome that”.

The full interview with John Healey will appear on Uncut tomorrow.

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5 Responses to “Healey: party should set up its own charitable and social enterprise arms”

  1. Dan McCurry says:

    I don’t know who John Healey is but I think he can be very useful to this party. I’m in Tower Hamlets Labour Party and we we’ve been talking about building community to so that people get to know their neighbours again; something lost in the east end in recent decades.
    We’re talking about organising a series of street parties in the summer; one in each ward, at least.
    I look forward to hearing more from John Healey about his ideas.

  2. steve howard says:

    I absolutley support John’s assertion that we should be more engaged with real community spirited projects and charities within the community. I am a new member of labour so this may already take place but I would also like to see scholarships provided for our brightest but disenfranchised young people, giving them a head start of the road to a success. In many ways we can mirror many of what the church organisations do but under the auspices of a socialist theme. Surely efforts like this would help us as a party to recapture the Big Society from the tories and make what is in essence, for them just rhetoric, into a labour reality.

  3. Jules says:

    I think there’s a lot of potential in this idea and in the Movement for Change campaign. It won’t suit the armchair politicians though.

  4. There is a lot of danger in how Labour handles the Big Society, and it has to be absolutely honest about its intentions. Scrupiously honest, go out of your way to tell us exactly what the end result will be.

    So far the Big Society has failed on many levels. Most from the Left (including me) see it simply as a way to cut or privatise public services, but at least we have a coherent idea about what it is. Most Tories do not have a clue what it means, and very few were able to campaign on it at the election. The Big Society may well be just (in Steve Hilton’s words) “progressive nonsense” to garner votes. Who knows.

    Let’s look very carefully at the issues. The complaints about public services being “bureaucratic” and “controlled from the centre” are nothing to do with the ownership of those services. Let’s be very clear about this: you do not have to sell off public assets to make them better. Instead, you allow service providers more freedom in how they provide the service. Also, almost universally in public services you will find that “profit share” or “bonuses” are considered an anathema. If people want profit-share they would not have chosen to go into public service. Most people want an “honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work” they do not want a promise of a bonus at the end of the year based on someone else in the organisation pulling their weight (which is inevitably how profit-share works).

    The clue is in the name: serving the public, providing a *service*. Ask any public service worker what they want and they will tell you that improving the service for their patients, students or clients is top-most. Any plan to change over to a system of profit-share will fail because it is far too difficult to change the ethos of so many people. And morally, should we even try to?

    This is why we must not allow our leadership to tell us (top-down, as always) that what we want are “mutuals”. The public do not want that. Public service workers do not want that. Let’s have a clear statement that the ownership of our public services should not change, and that pay should be fair and reflect the work that the worker does. Mutuals are not the solution.

    One final point. This Conservative government (and it’s cheerleaders like Ali Parsa from Circle) are very keen on “social enterprises”. A social enterprise is an organisation that has a social purpose and is not-for-profit (surpluses are re-invested into the service). By definition, this excludes mutuals or other models that have profit share, since those models have to make a profit to share it! (This government is keen on social enterprises because they are not publicly owned – so the government gains by selling a public service asset – and the government has no responsibility for the service, to the point of allowing it to close if it fails. The free market and small state, achieved in one action.) However, when you look at *any* public service you see that they are already “social enterprises”: they have a social purpose and are not-for-profit. So the only reason that this government has for turning public services into social enterprises is to get the proceeds from the sale of the assets. Labour *must* be vocal that the Tories policy on “social enterprises” is simply privatisation.

  5. Toby Chopra says:

    I’m in the Labour Party to fight against Tories and Lib Dems in elections and win the party political power with which to advance our policies.

    I don’t need to be in the party to run a local sports team or help at the school – I do this already in my spare time and its nothing to do with politics.

    Healey seems to be proposing the abolition of politics. Its nonsense. Politics is about fighting elections and winning power. If we give up on that we may as well hand the keys over to the tories permanently.

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