“The Labour Party is a democratic socialist party. It believes that by the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more than we achieve alone so as to create for each other the means to realise our true potential and for all of us a community in which power wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many not the few…”
This is the resounding replacement for the old clause 4 on the back of our membership card.
So are we implementing this vision? Have we lost working class support or are we fooled by the ‘we are all middle class now’ pundits. Do we represent those who suffer the inequalities in our society? Or do we really show more support for those who own so much suffer so little and apparently don’t recognise the disparities.
From the invasion of Iraq through tuition fees, ID cards, Trident missile renewal, privatisation within education and health we have lost increment by increment the backing of our traditional supporters as well as the 1992-97 converts.
We have lost the sympathy and support of trade unionists and we have depended on Tory votes (with a minor lapse on tuition fees) to saddle the public with our policy.
So as the prime minister returns from Suffolk to address the current problems (he should try the poor railway service from Norwich to Liverpool Street) what advice can I as a mere backbencher give?
I deplore the anonymous briefers the faceless plotters those who are too cowardly to set out their own stall publicly. They know their ultra-Blairite vision of co-payments, partial privatisation of schools and segments of the NHS are unpopular and punitive of those who cannot afford to pay. More of their idle thinking will be dangerous to the future prospects of the Labour party.
Change is necessary but only if it delivers better services for all and is based on the innovation and skills of those in a particular industry. We never wish to see a USA-style health system or education based on what you can pay. These solutions are out of touch with the current mood of what the Labour party stands for. Look at what our membership card says and take steps to eliminate the huge disparities in lifestyles, economic wealth and influence and our social, political and cultural lives. We are many they are few, all policies must now be enacted to restore equality and social justice in the society dominated by the few sharks and vultures .
With Brown as leader we need I believe five pledges. They must be communicated as an illustration of what we stand for, who we represent and they must demonstrate at every opportunity how Tory announcements always leave the door open for ‘Thatcher-like’ policies. As with the Greens, when you press them for concrete proposals there is silence or evasion.
Rejuvenation will mean a selection of deliverable issues which reignite our roots and capture the imagination of other groups. For example addressing the cost of care for the elderly, improvements in public transport, progressive taxation, a real and urgent move on climate change, troop withdrawal from Iraq, and abandonment of the ID card scheme and a genuine way of creating affordable housing for those who need it. We need to put forward bold policies not confusing contradictions.
We have nothing to lose and the prime minister will I hope fight back with real policies which re-connect us with our trade union base and our traditional supporters which will give us political stability.
These core supporters have not left us for the Tories but they cannot bring themselves to vote for Labour in its current state. They will come back if we can show them real change. For too long we have been shoulder to shoulder with our enemies. It’s time for a change of direction in policy. Let’s be ‘aving you!! Oh yes and I am not running for leader!!
Dr Ian Gibson is MP for Norwich North