Harriet Harman addresses the press. Photo:Getty Images
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Labour must ensure the widest possible debate, or the party will lose again

Labour avoided the wide-ranging debate it should have had in 2010. If it does the same in 2015, it will be defeated again.

Harriet Harman, Labour’s acting leader has, not for the first time, risen to the occasion. Allaying the concerns of many, that we might rush to judgement, close down the debate and not allow enough time for the candidates to become better known, we are now having a longer leadership contest that will be “open and inclusive”.

It is vital, as Harriet says, that the wider Labour family and the public are “let in on the conversion”. If Labour wants to win again, let alone as soon as 2020, we must choose a leader, not because he or she pushes our buttons, but because he or she has the greatest potential to attract people who don’t vote Labour, or, at least, haven’t for some time.

There was a danger, a week ago, that we would be seen to be closing down the debate and rushing to install a new leader quickly, because the priority was to provide firm opposition to the Government as soon as possible. But we can provide an effective opposition in Parliament and outside, at the same time as the Party more widely has an open and civilised debate about our future.

If we’re serious about having an “open and inclusive” process, it would look terrible if we ended up with only two names on the leadership and deputy leadership ballots. It is not the job of the MPs to appoint the next leader, any more than it is the job of trade union leaders.

Yes, I have an interest to declare. I am running for the deputy leadership. Without a strong, regional bloc behind me (there are only 12 Labour MPs outside London south of the Bristol Channel/Wash line) it will be a challenge to get the nominations I need to get on the ballot. But that is exactly one of the reasons I’m running – the areas where Labour needs to attract the most new voters are the areas where we have the least parliamentary representation.

Labour did badly across the whole south of England. Despite some great candidates who ran excellent local campaigns we failed to win seats in places like Reading, Swindon and Norwich where Labour has to win if we are to form the next government. In 2010, after what was then a crushing defeat, the Party didn’t have the debate it should have had.

The challenge we face in 2020 is even great than we faced in 2015. Party members are entitled to a proper debate and a genuine choice of candidates from across the party and across the country.

Ben Bradshaw is the Labour MP for Exeter. He sits on the Commons Select Committee for Culture, Media and Sport, and tweets @BenPBradshaw.

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There's nothing Luddite about banning zero-hours contracts

The TUC general secretary responds to the Taylor Review. 

Unions have been criticised over the past week for our lukewarm response to the Taylor Review. According to the report’s author we were wrong to expect “quick fixes”, when “gradual change” is the order of the day. “Why aren’t you celebrating the new ‘flexibility’ the gig economy has unleashed?” others have complained.

Our response to these arguments is clear. Unions are not Luddites, and we recognise that the world of work is changing. But to understand these changes, we need to recognise that we’ve seen shifts in the balance of power in the workplace that go well beyond the replacement of a paper schedule with an app.

Years of attacks on trade unions have reduced workers’ bargaining power. This is key to understanding today’s world of work. Economic theory says that the near full employment rates should enable workers to ask for higher pay – but we’re still in the middle of the longest pay squeeze for 150 years.

And while fears of mass unemployment didn’t materialise after the economic crisis, we saw working people increasingly forced to accept jobs with less security, be it zero-hours contracts, agency work, or low-paid self-employment.

The key test for us is not whether new laws respond to new technology. It’s whether they harness it to make the world of work better, and give working people the confidence they need to negotiate better rights.

Don’t get me wrong. Matthew Taylor’s review is not without merit. We support his call for the abolishment of the Swedish Derogation – a loophole that has allowed employers to get away with paying agency workers less, even when they are doing the same job as their permanent colleagues.

Guaranteeing all workers the right to sick pay would make a real difference, as would asking employers to pay a higher rate for non-contracted hours. Payment for when shifts are cancelled at the last minute, as is now increasingly the case in the United States, was a key ask in our submission to the review.

But where the report falls short is not taking power seriously. 

The proposed new "dependent contractor status" carries real risks of downgrading people’s ability to receive a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. Here new technology isn’t creating new risks – it’s exacerbating old ones that we have fought to eradicate.

It’s no surprise that we are nervous about the return of "piece rates" or payment for tasks completed, rather than hours worked. Our experience of these has been in sectors like contract cleaning and hotels, where they’re used to set unreasonable targets, and drive down pay. Forgive us for being sceptical about Uber’s record of following the letter of the law.

Taylor’s proposals on zero-hours contracts also miss the point. Those on zero hours contracts – working in low paid sectors like hospitality, caring, and retail - are dependent on their boss for the hours they need to pay their bills. A "right to request" guaranteed hours from an exploitative boss is no right at all for many workers. Those in insecure jobs are in constant fear of having their hours cut if they speak up at work. Will the "right to request" really change this?

Tilting the balance of power back towards workers is what the trade union movement exists for. But it’s also vital to delivering the better productivity and growth Britain so sorely needs.

There is plenty of evidence from across the UK and the wider world that workplaces with good terms and conditions, pay and worker voice are more productive. That’s why the OECD (hardly a left-wing mouth piece) has called for a new debate about how collective bargaining can deliver more equality, more inclusion and better jobs all round.

We know as a union movement that we have to up our game. And part of that thinking must include how trade unions can take advantage of new technologies to organise workers.

We are ready for this challenge. Our role isn’t to stop changes in technology. It’s to make sure technology is used to make working people’s lives better, and to make sure any gains are fairly shared.

Frances O'Grady is the General Secretary of the TUC.