Posts Tagged ‘prospect’

The big ideas of 2014 and what they mean for Labour: summing up

01/01/2014, 07:16:21 PM

by Jonathan Todd

I might be perverse and deficient to have enjoyed finding time during Christmas week to assess what Prospect’s big ideas of 2014 mean for Labour. I worry, though, that this is all the time that anyone in Labour has spent on some of these ideas. Larry Summers may, for example, be asking big questions about monetary policy but Labour still has precious little to say on this economically central topic.

Labour not only needs to get our thinking caps on in 2014 but convince the electorate that we have solutions to the big challenges that will face the UK of May 2015. This is a divided electorate. Between the 99% and the 1%, global London and the provincial shires, and those that see government as the problem and those that see it as their safety net.

Another division emerges beyond some of Prospect’s ideas. Between the doers and the downers. The doers are collaboratively consuming, popping up everywhere and making new news. In other words, seizing for themselves the opportunities of our times. Public policy appears barely relevant to much of this, except perhaps to the extent that it has facilitated the digital revolution. Certainly, politics feels marginal to the doers, who are too busy doing to have much care for it.

In contrast, the downers – those fuelling the politics of rejection – are angry with politics. As they are angry with much else. As the doers grasp fresh possibilities, the downers feel all their possibilities have closed down.

Successful politicians must make themselves relevant to the doers, while pacifying the downers. These are very different people, best suited to very different messages. The doers are only interested in politicians if they can enable them to do more. Maybe extending access to devices of more measured lives, while tackling the new risks identified by cloud sceptics, are some means by which this might be done.


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The big ideas of 2014 and what they mean for Labour: international challenges

31/12/2013, 07:30:45 PM

by Jonathan Todd

Yesterday, we had a look at the Prospect big ideas for 2014 that will impact domestic policy. Today, it’s the turn of international arena; Prospect identify 3 key challenges.

1. Secular stagnation

What if Larry Summers is right? And what if he is wrong?

The global economy has, according to Gavyn Davies’ summary in Prospect of the argument recently made by the former US Treasury Secretary, been grappling with problems of excess savings and under-confidence for well over a decade, raising profound questions about monetary, fiscal and exchange rate policy in the US and the rest of the world.

In lay terms, Summers is saying that this recovery from recession is different and will not kick in as recoveries from previous recessions have done. Gloomy days are here to stay. If he’s right, it will be harder for Osborne to say in May 2015: “Haven’t I done well?” Equally, the obstacles between an incoming Miliband government and securing its economic objectives may be insurmountable. Still, if this is hand that Miliband is dealt, he should reflect how he’d play it.

Secular stagnation is a term usually associated with the 1930s depression and was revived by Summers. His argument that this is caused by a dearth of investment opportunities reminds me of the latest Robert D. Atkinson and Stephen J. Ezell book, which provides an original and convincing analysis of the failings of western capitalism.

But Summers stretches credulity in the incredibly basic sense that the 1930s ended and the post-war boom arrived. It need not take another world war for a similar cycle to occur. The digital revolution and the rise of the rest create tremendous opportunities. While they also pose challenges, their potential and inherently cyclical nature of capitalism makes Summers seem too downbeat. Labour should focus on overcoming these challenges – which may require the slaying of some Labour sacred cows – and not presume that we are stuck in an inescapable secular stagnation.

2. The new Cold War

How does Labour see the future of the Middle East?

Beyond the Arab Spring, it seems ever less likely that we shall arrive at a Middle East of liberal democracies and ever more likely that we’ll confront a region polarised between Shia Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia. This is the new cold war, which is as hot as hell in Syria. If Labour wants to confront the Middle East as it is, rather than as we would wish it, we need to think through the implications of the ever more encompassing and visceral rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia.


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The big ideas of 2014 and what they mean for Labour: domestic policy

30/12/2013, 06:21:01 PM

by Jonathan Todd

Nothing says Christmas like the Prospect feature on the big ideas of the year ahead. At least in the bedrooms of geeks. Thinking about them, especially when there is turkey to be eaten and mulled wine to be drunk, is the preserve of the pointy-heads.

At the same time, nothing says unprepared like a Labour party that hasn’t thought through the implications of these ideas. Uncut is here to help. The turkey and mulled wine were untouched for long enough for us to identify and discuss the most important question raised for Labour by the pot pourri of ideas.

Prospect’s annual feature is a bit of lugubrious beast, so we deal with them in three posts looking first at domestic challenges, then international issues and finally drawing together the conclusions for Labour next year.

So, first up is domestic policy, where there are 9 big ideas:

1 Rejectionist politics

How will Labour react to UKIP’s likely strong performance in 2014’s European Parliament elections? And the election to this parliament of more nationalists than ever before?

The beltway consensus is that the anti-beltway chief, Farage, will be the big winner of the 2014 European elections. It’s virtually factored into the political stock prices of 2014. The bigger doubt is whether Farage’s stock price can remain high till May 2015.

While my suspicion is that UKIP will be back around 5% by May 2015, their strong performance in the European elections will put pressure on David Cameron, as his strategy for containing UKIP will seem to be failing. Labour should note, though, that Farage is part of a broader rejectionist trend uniting UKIP with both the Tea Party in the US and populist parties of the left and right across the EU.

This trend sees all politicians as being as bad as each other and is expected to result in more nationalists than ever before ending up in the European parliament. The only way for Labour MEPs to defeat them may be to align with Conservative and Liberal MEPs – potential validation of the UKIP charge that they are all the same.

Labour needs a strategy for the EU that is both far-sighted and imbued with popular resonance. What part may be played in this by supporting an EU referendum is a related debate.

2. Beginning of the end of QE

What’s Labour’s view on monetary policy?

Quantitative Easing (QE) is “the biggest monetary policy experiment in the history of the planet,” according to Richard Lambert, a former member of the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee. It’s an unfinished experiment of central banks in the US, UK and the rest of the EU. It seems to have averted depression. But if it is withdrawn too quickly, it may trigger recession or worse, while if it is withdrawn too slowly, it may sustain destructive inflation.


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In defence of trade unions and Labour’s union link

06/04/2012, 03:42:17 PM

by Amanda Ramsay

When Ed Miliband published his list of meetings with party funders, unsurprisingly several were with Unite’s general secretary Len McCluskey.  This was widely reported in the press but in the articles there was scant mention of the myriad of sectors a huge union like Unite represents: millions of individuals, working people, 20 sectors at the last count including agricultural, health as well as industrial.

As if one meeting every year or so would be enough time to discuss the huge swathe of complex issues that unions like Unite, the GMB and Unison are dealing with on a daily basis.

The contrast with the elite vested interests of the Tory party, as personified by the  likes of Lord Ashcroft and former Conservative Party Treasurer Peter Cruddas, could not be more stark.

But it’s not just the so-called right-wing press who are complicit in the misrepresentation in the media. Last Saturday, the Independent referred to Len McCluskey donating £5million, as if it were a personal donation, like he just wrote a cheque out of his own money!

“The Labour Party has benefitted from the publicly known link to working people and their views and needs,” Esther Pickup-Keller, president of the Aspect group of the major professionals’ and managers’ union Prospect tells me. “This type of democratic channel is a long, long way from secretive private dinners and meetings with senior politicians by capital corporate interests and donors.”

It’s offensive to hard-working people that the very small amounts of money paid by individual trade union members to the political funds of our unions are portrayed as somehow wrong by certain right-wing commentators and MPs. Where’s the balance?

I’m no militant, but let’s remember what this is all really about. One of the most poignant stories to learn as a teenager, to spark my imagination and social conscience, was that of the Tolpuddle Martyrs; their story speaks about something universal, way beyond party politics – shock and awe that these men could be shipped-off to be imprisoned on the other side of the world, for standing-up for their rights in the workplace, civil rights, human rights, call it what you will.

This is still the case today, for those of us who believe in trades unionism, the relevance of trade union membership is as relevant now as it’s ever been.


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Labour must become the anti-immigration party, says David Goodhart

18/05/2010, 06:06:53 AM

The regrets and half-apologies for Labour’s mass immigration policy are starting. The Eds, Balls and Miliband, and Jon Cruddas have all accepted that too many people came in too quickly. Ed Miliband told Andrew Marr on Sunday that the costs and benefits of mass immigration were very unevenly distributed and too many of the costs fell on Labour’s core working class voters. Jon Cruddas described the policy as acting like an unforgiving incomes policy for those in the lower part of the income spectrum.

This should be just the start of a historic shift on immigration policy. Labour should become the party that is anti-mass immigration, but pro-immigrant. This would more accurately reflect the interests of its voters, both poorer whites and minority Britons.

Labour can be proud that since the 1950s it (often alone among the main parties) has championed the cause of race equality and stood up for immigrants. It should continue to do so, but not in a way that conflicts with the economic and cultural interests of the British mainstream.  The party therefore needs to re-think its commitment to the laissez-faire multiculturalism that has left many of Britain’s towns ghetto-ised and divided. (more…)

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