It's not dark yet. But it's getting there. Photo: Getty Images
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This is the true end of New Labour

Ed Miliband's political project was to bury New Labour. Today he succeeds, but not in the way he'd have wished.

Be careful what you wish for. Ed Miliband wanted to turn the page on New Labour, and today he gets what he asked for: figures showing the first rise in poverty for a decade – part of a trajectory that the Institute for Fiscal Studies predicts will put child poverty back at the level it was in 1997.

“The era of New Labour has passed,” Miliband declared shortly after he was elected as Labour leader. How right he was. Over the last five years, the Educational Maintenance Allowance (introduced 2004, which gave 270,000 students from low income backgrounds £30 a week in sixth form) has been scrapped. The Health in Pregnancy Grant (designed to prevent malnourishment during pregnancy, introduced 2009), abolished. Building Schools for the Future (the clue is in the title, introduced 2004), mothballed.

The tide will continue to come in for New Labour over the next five years. In 1998, Tony Blair pledged to eliminate child poverty by 2020. By the time Labour left office, more than a million children had been lifted out of poverty. But, far from completing that mission in 2020, by that point, it will be as if New Labour had never existed, had never taken office. Now, tax credits – Gordon Brown’s biggest contribution to tackling the problem of working poverty – will be scaled back. SureStart (1998) may well be shuttered or, at the least, cut back to a point where it might as well never have opened to begin with.
This isn’t the prelude to one of those “the wicked Tories” articles, not least because the Internet – and, indeed, The Staggers – is well-stocked with those as it is. And if the Left proved anything over the last half-decade, it’s this: you cannot condemn your way to a parliamentary majority. Increasingly shrill warnings about the awfulness of Conservatism from Ed Miliband and Co. not only failed to prevent a Tory majority, but ushered in a defeat that has put Labour on its back, potentially at least another ten years.

It’s this: considering that today’s deprivation is largely the result in cuts to Blair-Brown era spending, perhaps those 13 years weren’t quite the busted flush that many on the Left seem to think. For all Clement Attlee lives on as the avatar of a better socialism, the British state, after a full decade of George Osborne at the Treasury, will still be significantly larger than Attlee’s. In 1951, when Attlee left office, the state consisted of a military desperately trying to secure a global status it could no longer afford, a ring-fenced NHS on the verge of crisis, and a welfare settlement that left many people, particularly women, out in the cold. Frankly, there are moderate members of David Cameron’s government who would look at the British state in 1951 and find it excessively cruel.

Does that matter? Well, as Labour is almost halfway through a debate about what it stands for and where it goes next, it’s probably worth remembering that the cuts that illustrate the consequences and the depth of its failure in May are largely to services implemented in their so-called “Tory-lite” phase.  Perhaps that should give some of the people suggesting that Liz Kendall, Yvette Cooper, or Andy Burnham “just join the Tories” pause for thought. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

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Our union backed Brexit, but that doesn't mean scrapping freedom of movement

We can only improve the lives of our members, like those planning stike action at McDonalds, through solidarity.

The campaign to defend and extend free movement – highlighted by the launch of the Labour Campaign for Free Movement this month – is being seen in some circles as a back door strategy to re-run the EU referendum. If that was truly the case, then I don't think Unions like mine (the BFAWU) would be involved, especially as we campaigned to leave the EU ourselves.

In stark contrast to the rhetoric used by many sections of the Leave campaign, our argument wasn’t driven by fear and paranoia about migrant workers. A good number of the BFAWU’s membership is made up of workers not just from the EU, but from all corners of the world. They make a positive contribution to the industry that we represent. These people make a far larger and important contribution to our society and our communities than the wealthy Brexiteers, who sought to do nothing other than de-humanise them, cheered along by a rabid, right-wing press. 

Those who are calling for end to freedom of movement fail to realise that it’s people, rather than land and borders that makes the world we live in. Division works only in the interest of those that want to hold power, control, influence and wealth. Unfortunately, despite a rich history in terms of where division leads us, a good chunk of the UK population still falls for it. We believe that those who live and work here or in other countries should have their skills recognised and enjoy the same rights as those born in that country, including the democratic right to vote. 

Workers born outside of the UK contribute more than £328 million to the UK economy every day. Our NHS depends on their labour in order to keep it running; the leisure and hospitality industries depend on them in order to function; the food industry (including farming to a degree) is often propped up by their work.

The real architects of our misery and hardship reside in Westminster. It is they who introduced legislation designed to allow bosses to act with impunity and pay poverty wages. The only way we can really improve our lives is not as some would have you believe, by blaming other poor workers from other countries, it is through standing together in solidarity. By organising and combining that we become stronger as our fabulous members are showing through their decision to ballot for strike action in McDonalds.

Our members in McDonalds are both born in the UK and outside the UK, and where the bosses have separated groups of workers by pitting certain nationalities against each other, the workers organised have stood together and fought to win change for all, even organising themed social events to welcome each other in the face of the bosses ‘attempts to create divisions in the workplace.

Our union has held the long term view that we should have a planned economy with an ability to own and control the means of production. Our members saw the EU as a gravy train, working in the interests of wealthy elites and industrial scale tax avoidance. They felt that leaving the EU would give the UK the best opportunity to renationalise our key industries and begin a programme of manufacturing on a scale that would allow us to be self-sufficient and independent while enjoying solid trading relationships with other countries. Obviously, a key component in terms of facilitating this is continued freedom of movement.

Many of our members come from communities that voted to leave the EU. They are a reflection of real life that the movers and shakers in both the Leave and Remain campaigns took for granted. We weren’t surprised by the outcome of the EU referendum; after decades of politicians heaping blame on the EU for everything from the shape of fruit to personal hardship, what else could we possibly expect? However, we cannot allow migrant labour to remain as a political football to give succour to the prejudices of the uninformed. Given the same rights and freedoms as UK citizens, foreign workers have the ability to ensure that the UK actually makes a success of Brexit, one that benefits the many, rather than the few.

Ian Hodon is President of the Bakers and Allied Food Workers Union and founding signatory of the Labour Campaign for Free Movement.