by Ryan Carter
A referendum and 2 by-elections that brought a Tory to the house under a UKIP banner, and a close second in a Labour seat just shows politics needs to change anti-politics is still the talk of the town. The message from the doorstep that politics is not offering hope, it is not listening, it is not speaking like the average person like you or me needs, this to be challenged.
During conference season no party produced much hope despite some good policy announcements it was apparent that Ed was not offering promises for day one of government. Speaking of the future, a vision is good but there were no eye catching, bold or energising short term policies to really catch the public’s attention. No urgency offered to those who need the change now. People are crying out for the alternative now not at some point in the future. The closest to an eye catching policy was the introduction of a Mansion tax, levies on Tobacco firms and closing tax loopholes on hedge funds to protect and improve the NHS.
The Tories came closest to an eye catching policy in between their obsession on Europe and a crackdown on civil liberties, with £7bn in Tax cuts and a cut in the welfare budget. This is not receiving the response they would have liked because when there are warnings from the NHS of charging for a bed, the Tories appear to have no answer to the urgent need for funding.
It was estimated Labours new levies would bring in £2.5 billion which would go a long way it is not an overly huge commitment for spending. While all part of Andy Burnham’s ‘Whole person care’ of social, mental and physical health ending the fragmentation and creating the ‘Time to care’ fund that would mean 3,000 more midwives, 5,000 more care workers, 8,000 more GPs, 20,000 more nurses. Added to welcome moves on Apprenticeships add to a few months ago on technical degrees. One such proposal was the quadrupling of people going into Apprentices and the forcing of companies who receive over a million of government funds to offer apprenticeships. Proposals Hampshire & Isle of Wight Young Labour and myself have been calling for over a prolonged period of time.
The £8 minimum wage pledge made me ecstatic, Ed was bold, responded to a problem with urgency, only to find out this is a plan to be rolled out over 5 years. This is important as for many of those who voted for UKIP would have been in the low income households and seen their wages decrease. Important also because we are relying on increased wages to drive down the welfare budget and ending ‘reverse fiscal drag’ which is effectively a recovery that the treasury has not benefited from as lagging wages is also hitting tax revenue.
The NHS is likely to be the big issue in the run up to the next election, but no party has offered anywhere enough money to plus the £30bn black hole even if Labour are going to integrate social care and health care budgets, put an end to fragmentation and spend an extra £2.5 billion, this is marginal and is not bold enough, it does not resonate with the electorate because it doesn’t sound urgent.
The Freeze on Energy bills resonated with people who were scared of an increase in price and tapped into people’s anger over spiralling prices. It offered the hope and the boldness we need to get people out to vote for us, if we are to beat the anti-politics mood it is by tackling the issues perceived as untouchable by the elite in Westminster, from bills to low wages and the distribution of taxes.
Ed was right when highlighting the need to break from Blair, we needed to break from Thatcherite and neo-liberal policies, it means being bold and standing up to the orthodoxies, and not in 5 years but on day one of the next government. The people are crying out for a change, a bold collection of policies, be it low wages, bills, rents, be it on the cost of transport affecting the access to work or public services. Labour has identified the issues but only have a feeble response. So why are we not running away in the polls, in part because of our perceived history in government and because we have not been bold enough to win back the trust of the nation, inspire or agitate those who feel politics is not for them. So lets be bold and start now!