It can be hard after 10 years of Tory rule but we need to keep dreaming that we can do better. We need to keep dreaming big and work to make our dreams a reality. I am standing for the Open Labour National Committee because I want to contribute to that work.
Over the last 5 years, Open Labour has made a huge contribution to the Labour Party and Labour movement. It has not only promoted transformative, left-wing politics but shown that this can be done in an inclusive way that values a pluralistic Labour Party. I enjoy Open Labour events because of their vibrant and comradely nature.
I am standing for the Open Labour National Committee to help Open Labour do even more in future, building on the good work that has already been done. I have set out below the key areas where I would like to see Open Labour leading the debate. I am planning to write a separate piece on organisational aspects of Open Labour.
I would be grateful for feedback and comments, whether on something you think I have not got right, missed out or otherwise. You can contact me here.
1. Covid-19 – putting people first
We must be clear that in responding to Covid-19 we must put people’s wellbeing first before business and economic considerations. That means not easing the lockdown until it is genuinely safe to do so and there is a proper track and tracing system in place. Of course, health and care workers should be supplied with the PPE they need and there should be stronger safeguards to ensure all workers are as safe as possible. We must stand with trade unions as they fight to protect their members.
Economic considerations should of course be taken into account to the extent that they impact wellbeing, but they should not be the basis of decision-making. We also need to make sure that those who are facing economic hardship get the support they need, for example through rent cancellations.
Covid-19 is disproportionately impacting BAME people and we must put in place measures to address this. Victims of domestic violence are also at considerable risk as a result of the lock-down and better support needs to be provided for them.
The government is developing a tracing app to help with combatting Covid-19. New legislation is needed to protect the data collected by it and maximise the chances of the public trusting the app, as suggested by the Joint Committee on Human Rights.
2. Build back better
After the Covid-19 pandemic is over, we cannot just go back to business as usual. We should ensure that we build a more equal and closer-knit society after this crisis. No one should earn less than the living wage and our public service workers should get the pay they deserve, not year after year of wage freezes. It is appalling that the government is already ending help that was put in place for rough sleepers earlier in the Covid-19 crisis.
We need to put in place a centrally funded National Care Service that provides high quality care for our elderly, as well as decent pay and working conditions for staff.
Already, the right is arguing that after the Covid-19 crisis is over fresh round of austerity is needed. Open Labour needs to be at the forefront of developing a political strategy and communications to make the case for building back better to a more equitable society.
3. A good wage economy
A core priority for Labour must be secure jobs with good wages. Wages in the UK have stagnated since the 2007-8 financial crisis. To address this we need to increase productivity, for example through investment in education and infrastructure, while also ensuring that workers get a fair share of productivity increases. We also need to improve employment protections and to move away from a long-hours economy.
I would like to see Open Labour lead the debate on how to bring about the changes we need to make to the economy.
4. Properly funded public services
Our public services have suffered from a decade of austerity and the impact is showing. We need to ensure public services are properly funded. For example, over the past decade, as part of austerity, money that was meant to be spent on NHS equipment and buildings was diverted by the government to be used for day-to-day running costs. There is a £6.5 billion maintenance backlog, £3.4 billion of which presents a high or significant risk to patients and staff. I set up the Rebuild Our Health Service to fight for the funding that the NHS needs for new buildings and equipment.
5. International solidarity
I am proud of Labour’s internationalism and will always defend it, whether that is welcoming refugees or supporting a close relationship with the EU. I was strongly opposed to Brexit and campaigned for a referendum on the Brexit deal. As I argue in this article, we should not give into nativist forces but rather find socialist responses.
We need an extension to the transition period to stop a no-deal Brexit and to fight for as close a relationship to the EU as possible.
6. Defending and extending human rights
When the Supreme Court ruled that the prorogation of Parliament was not legal, the Tories vowed to get revenge. They want to reduce the independence of the judiciary, weaken the ability of the public to challenge government through judicial review and undermine or even scrap the Human Rights Act. At the same time, legal aid has been slashed, depriving people of vital legal support in areas such as housing and employment. Open Labour should be at the forefront of defending human rights and extending human rights protections to include economic and social rights.
7. Benefits with dignity not stigma
Those receiving benefits are some of the most vulnerable in society. Labour has pledged to scrap universal credit but we need to replace it with a new system that treats benefit recipients with dignity and gives them the help they need. We need to substantially increase benefit levels as well as radically improving the support that is offered, whether that be with job seeking, training or to address health problems. I would like to see Open Labour developing ideas and policies in this area, looking at good practice from around the world.
8. Popularising a green new deal
Labour had great policies for a Green New Deal in our last manifesto but somehow the idea did not cut through with the public. I would like to see Open Labour work on how we can communicate policies in this area better, as the climate emergency cannot wait.
9. Fighting discrimination
Labour stands for nothing if it does not stand for equality for all. As a member of the Open Labour National Committee, I will fight racism, sexism, antisemitism, transphobia and every form of discrimination.
Labour cannot tackle discrimination in society unless it deals with it within the party. Labour prided itself as a party of anti-racism, feminism and decency but this reputation has been tarnished in recent year. We need to take decisive action to ensure that decency prevails in the Labour Party, that we foster a culture of inclusion and respect, and drive antisemites, islamophobes, racists, misogynists, harassers, trolls and their ilk from the Labour Party.
I have drafted a “plan for decency in the Labour Party”, which has been published by Open Labour, with a detailed plan to fight discrimination and harassment in the Labour Party.
10. Improving Labour’s culture
Like every Labour Party member, I was disappointed to read the recent reports of the behaviour of senior Labour Party officials and failures to deal with antisemitism. However, like many members, I was not surprised. It has been clear for some time that the behaviour of many in the Labour Party and the culture that has developed is not in keeping with Labour’s ideals.
I think Open Labour’s response to the leaked report was excellent. As a member of the Open Labour National Committee I would like to help contribute to these kinds of thoughtful and clear contributions to the debate within the Labour Party. I have written for LabourList on how Labour’s internal culture could be improved and am proud the Open Labour has set such a good example for the rest of the party.