Friday, 9 October 2015

My Free press column in full.

Abraham Lincoln famously wrote in his Gettysburg address that his hope was “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Much has been written about the Labour Party over the years revisiting the question of the Labours purpose and values. Such questions have tended to produce polarised views. Whether the Labour party is about principle or pragmatism, protest or government, left wing or moderate, right or left. Our election defeat, coupled with Jeremy Corbyn's election victory has led to a reinvigorated Labour Party with incredible increases in membership - people wanting to debate these deep fundamental questions. Jeremy's stunning rise, his open agenda and an end to business as usual is a breath of fresh air to the stale politics of Westminster. However, during the summer it became clear to me that my perspective on this differed to Jeremy Corby's; how we take that reinvigoration of politics beyond the Labour Party and into daily life?


I've had the hard left declare I am a Blairite. As an Ed Miliband supporter I am viewed by Blairites as 'not from the right'. The truth is I never been left or right. I have never been characterised as either New Labour nor old Labour for both make a similar centrist argument of the state being the distributor of equality. The people of Haslingden and Hyndburn and the wider country believe the state has a role to play but that it is better when people organise their own lives, make their own choices and determine their own relationships, not the state. The community Interest Company set up to re-open Haslingden pool with just £25,000 a great demonstration of the value of community ownership. Of mutuality and fraternity. The value of common bonds. Crucially, they say that too.

For the Labour Party nationally mutualism, co-operatism, subsidiarity and crucially fraternity should be the pillars of radical thinking. Decision making of the people, by the people, for the people - at the lowest local level. Not the centrist politics of Westminster to which it has to be said the Tories, old Labour and New Labour have veered to too easily. A fraternalism that places more emphasis on responsibilities to each other rather than on rights conferred by government. That fairness is a two-way street.

The welfare state should return to its original Beveridge principle of social insurance, there should be a contributions based element to it. It is mutualised risk - just like old aged pensions are now. If you choose to pay less in - less than the 35 years, you are choosing to take less out. Socially mutualised to maximise benefits for all, not privately mutualised for the benefit of shareholders and profit.

On immigration that mutualised risk means new migrants to the UK should not be automatically entitled to full universal benefits, but that fraternally they should earn and accrue those rights as a matter of choice; a matter of responsibilities first. The fraternal sharing of risk and equally the fraternal sharing of help is a process that builds up common fraternal bonds. The centrists do risk alienating the public with automatic universal benefits. The post war social contract and social consensus was based entirely on the Beveridge principle of paying in during the good times and taking out in times of need.

The belief that there should be automatic rights with significantly less responsibility is corroding the public's faith in a fraternal welfare state and they are reluctantly turning to the Tories as better arbiters of fairness. The Labour Party has to face up to the fact that there must be a fairness to those paying in as well those in need. Our universal welfare system is broken because it is no longer fraternal, it is imposed.

Family, neighbours, communities, local organisations, community associations, regions and nations are important. Relationships are important. They are a mutualisation of fraternal interest that drive progress and happiness. We all subscribe to this in our daily lives as members of one proud organisation or another striving for a mutual solution.

The left need to be more accepting of the distinction between community and nationalism. Flag, family and faith are important social traits in Britain and we should wrestle them from the far right rather than allow the left to hand them over.

In practice all these differing philosophical viewpoints come together to shape policy but I don't believe these traditional, historic values of working people that pre-date the industrial revolution, that stood unchanged through time should be sidelined by the centrist left or a centrist right. Traditions built up during the industrial revolution and the increasing necessity to organise ones own life in association with those of a common interest, not a benign populace and benevolent controlling state in the centre.

These are not Tory ideas but they should terrify the Tories to the core for many of their voters and supporters share these values only lending their vote to the Tories because Labour has too often strayed from these traditional roots.

Lets be clear: The Tories are totally opposed to mutualism, co-operativism and fraternity. This is not a Tory agenda and never can be. You only have to see their centrist top down legislation attacking trade unions, attacking charities that speak on sensitive issues - for theirs is not a government of the people, by the people, for the people. The Thatcherite dream is of isolating individuals as powerless consumers and employees devoid of a collective social consciousness or collective economic co-operation. Disempowerment.

The reality in seeking the next Labour government is to accept that this is where the vast majority of the British public are. They are not conservatives but they place a high value on responsibility and being empowered and see the Tories as the reluctant option.

We do need a new politics and for that Jeremy Corbyn should be heralded by all. However the political answers need to reflect people's political realities. Government of the people, by the people, for the people. The theories of old Labour and new Labour have both been rejected by the public over the last 30 years and it’s time to think again and think radical.

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