This appeared in the Morning Star 22 November 2019
A LABOUR victory on December 12 means Christmas has come early. A Labour government is a gift we give to ourselves.
Labour aims to “kick start a housing revolution.” Its pledge to build hundreds of thousands of council homes is a keystone policy and sets the tone for much of the manifesto. A construction programme on this scale not only offers hope to hundreds of thousands of people in housing need but it also boosts the building industry, drives consumer confidence and empowers local authorities while the rents become an income stream for further construction.
If ever a country needed a government that was intent on “future proofing” the economy and the environment then Britain is that country.
Our country’s post-war economy has been characterised by low levels of industrial investment with a capitalist class that was content to let productivity slide while they exported capital abroad in industrial quantities rather than modernising.
A combination of criminal neglect followed by a disastrous Thatcherite unbalancing of the economy which privileged speculative financial operation over the making of useful things is the heritage which Labour needs to tackle.
Raising labour productivity is the key to a modern economy and Labour’s plan to offer every adult free education for six years is part of that.
Instead of a low-wage service economy based — for millions of workers — on unending hours of insecure toil under punishing surveillance regimes, a rebalancing of the economy will drive the reskilling of the working class.
Higher productivity is the fruit of capital investment combined with investment in the human beings who transform that investment into useful production.
Britain needs a labour force tooled up for the future. This is where the plan to initiate 320,000 climate-change apprenticeships signals a change of emphasis. Everyone talks about a new green economic strategy. Labour sees this as a root-and-branch operation that cannot convincingly be brought about by relying on the private sector.
Transformative change requires state intervention. But ownership is critical. If the private sector could be relied on to constantly modernise, innovate and invest we would already be living in a country half way to the future. Instead Britain is behind the curve with elements of a 21st century economy combined with hangovers from the 19th.
Creating a low carbon economy with real jobs is itself a significant job. The green industrial revolution rests on a plan to create one million jobs.
Ambition on this scale means the state taking responsibility. Taking the basic utilities, gas, water, electricity and rail into public ownership gives us real leverage but this can only be a start.
To raise the kinds of sums needed for such a project is a big ask. As far as the rich are concerned Labour isn’t asking, it is telling them that they are going to pay more in income tax, squirrel away less in inheritance windfalls and forfeit a bigger slice of corporation tax.
The rich don’t get rich except by our work and the thresholds for Labour’s bid to recover the fruits of our labour are very high. Rich individuals need to be harvesting an awful lot of money before they are going pay just a little bit more.
Labour’s programme is ambitious, transformative and entirely necessary. As it proceeds it will meet all kinds of obstacles that cannot overcome without decisive popular support and continuous activity.
A Labour victory means a big boost to the confidence of the working class and the organised Labour movement. It means a change in the balance of power in the workplace. It isn’t socialism but it is a start.