Tuesday, 16 June 2015

A message to all Labour MPs

Since Jeremy Corbyn stood for the Labour leadership, there have been a lot of Labour MPs talking about being "credible" and the likelihood of Corbyn leading Labour to an election victory. I would very much like at least some of those MPs to read this.

Labour have lost the argument. We need to win it.

The other candidates so far have been falling over themselves to talk about "aspiration", being "on the side of the wealth-creators" and are desperate to be seen as pro-business. But why? The answer seems obvious to me: they think Labour lost the election because Labour were not strong enough in these areas. Why do they think that? Maybe their constituents are telling them that but why do their constituents think that? Because it's all over the majority of the media and much of what they see on tv and hear on the radio. And finally, why is that? Because the Tories and the right won the argument with the help of their media backers some time ago. Is the winner of the argument always correct? Absolutely not. It's all talk: the Tories claim to be the party of working people whilst legislating to remove the bargaining power of Unions who speak up for working people. 

It all smacks of desperation: if our business are so great, why do we need to constantly talk about being pro-business? Why do they need so much special treatment if they are truly the wealth creators? It is not true to say that our government needs to be more pro-business. The last few governments have been pro-business enough and now it is time to stand up for the vast majority of the public who don't own businesses but who support them by paying taxes and with their custom. Being excessively pro-business and shrinking the state with ever more outsourcing and privatisation has made this country what it is today: a struggling economy and one of the most unequal societies in the developed world. 

Now is the time to be pro-business and pro-public by investing in better education and better public services to keep our towns in better shape and working people in better health. 

Now is the time to invest in building council homes, which will provide work for thousands of people. The initial outlay will require borrowing but the alternative is to keep the status quo: private landlords making big profits at the expense of the renters and the taxpayer. We will benefit financially in the long run (and it probably wouldn't take long) from a big home building programme.

Now is the time to bring the railways and energy companies back into public ownership. Instead of our taxes paying for infrastructure improvements which currently helps to top up the offshore accounts of shareholders, we will see the benefits of those improvements and the profits they make can be used for further improvement and to pay back the investments we've made. That makes economic sense too. 

Now is the time to enforce a National Living Wage so that people can afford to live without government handouts and that is pro-business too: if people have more disposable income, they will spend it on products and services provided by the private sector.

These are just a few examples of the arguments that Labour needs to make. Polling has shown that the public - even Tory voters - actually want nationalised railways and energy companies so why are so few Labour MPs making this sort of case? Why did these people join Labour if not to argue for an alternative to the Tory ways of a small-state, austerity for the many and low taxes and big subsidies for the few? And tinkering around the edges with small differences that are unclear to the majority of voters will not win votes.

Only 24% of those able to vote voted Tory this year and the vast majority of those will always vote Tory. So why chase a tiny, tiny few who might switch to Labour in 2020? There are millions of disillusioned people sick of the same type of policies from clones in suits who don't seem to care about what they want or need. I think many Labour MPs are concerned about moving too far from the mainstream. But that worry fails to acknowledge how far the mainstream has moved to the right, and how it is the arguments of politicians and media commentators (often driven by the arguments given by politicians) that sets what the mainstream is. As I've already mentioned, polling shows traditionally left-wing policies are very popular with the public, so moving back into that space would do Labour no harm at all.

Jeremy Corbyn is a reluctant leadership candidate. Maybe he won't win and if he does, maybe Labour won't win the next election. But he is standing because he believes in a different way that isn't out-of-date or irrelevant in today's world that no other leadership candidate is making. Labour need to win the argument for a better society, driven by investment (investment that will pay off financially in the not-too-distant future) in public services and policies that benefit everyone in this country.

If Labour MPs are happy with a shrinking state, inequality and privatisation, they should join the Conservatives and be done with it.

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