Take responsibility for the power of words
by Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner
It’s no secret that this election is a very difficult one for the Jewish community, with deep concerns over anti-Semitism dominating the discourse. However, this election comes at an important time for our country and we should consider all the issues that are at stake before casting our vote. I have worked alongside a number of other progressive rabbis to create the Reform Judaism manifesto for this general election. We explore what we believe to be eight key issues, from LGBT+ welfare to homelessness and intolerance, and consider the Jewish values that underpin our concern. Two particular focuses are the climate crisis and our worsening political culture.
It is said in Genesis that God granted humans “stewardship” over the Earth – we have a responsibility for its long-term good. In this election, I want to see credible plans proposed from all parties detailing what they would do to help to reduce the impact of the climate crisis. This is perhaps the biggest issue we face as humanity and it must not be forgotten about in and among everything else. This election can provide an opportunity for us to change our approach. We must respond to the causes of climate change appropriately – emphasising the role of certain large corporations and not just consumer choice. Everyone has a role to play in the protection of our planet.
The Torah tells us that God created the world through words. Jewish tradition attaches deep importance to the power and use of words; they can be used for the good of creation, but for destruction as well.
Our political discourse has deteriorated, with hate, abuse and threats used as tools to intimidate elected representatives, sometimes into leaving politics altogether. The toxicity in our political culture has a tangible impact on minority groups, with the number of hate crimes spiking after certain utterances.
At this election, I want political parties to recognise the corrosive nature of this on our politics and the impact this has on vulnerable people in our society.
In this election, I want to see the building of a consensus in which we take responsibility for the power of our words and the consequences of our actions. There is so much at stake.
End the Eton mess and start again
by Melvyn Bragg
You only have to look at the British politicians of the past ten years to see why.
Read Melvyn’s piece in full here.
Labour needs to reclaim the mantle of insurgency
by Paul Mason
What I want most of all in this election is an end to fatalism and hopelessness. You see it on the doorstep: people who believe nothing about their lives can change. I meet people who don’t want to talk – and not because they don’t have any strong opinions about Labour or the Tories, but because they can’t think of any way the government could possibly make their lives better.
What people crave is for someone to come along and break all the constraints: to do something exciting, even if they themselves only get to be the passive onlookers.
That was supposed to be Jeremy Corbyn, but his style – and the political priorities of the trade union leaders who support him – have militated against the emergence of a true left populism. So to win, Labour needs to reclaim the mantle of insurgency.
Its core message – real change and a country fair to all – resonates strongly and emotively on the doorstep. But real change doesn’t often come simply through the ballot box. History reminds us it has to be fought for.
If Boris Johnson wins this election he will, finally, deliver the objective that has become the talisman of the right: the departure of Britain from the EU – and a lurch to permanent crisis amid a disintegrating world order. All the momentum and agency will be with an authoritarian nationalist government.
To fire the promises in the Labour manifesto into the public imagination, Corbyn needs to show in practice the real changes the party would make to family budgets in the week before Christmas, and to the budgets of schools and councils, and to people’s take-home pay.
Such are the forces stacked up against an incoming left-wing Labour government – not least a minority of its own parliamentary group – that to stand any chance of making its programme work, it will need people on the streets.
In France in 1936 the election of a left government sparked a factory occupation movement before any laws were passed. Likewise, anything short of an outright Tory victory on 12 December should be the trigger for action “from below”.
I was sceptical about the decision to accede to Johnson’s demand for an election. But I could sense people getting sicker and sicker at the indecision of parliament. Better now to break the logjam, dispel the fatalism and put agency in the hands of the people, win or lose.
A hung parliament
by Helen Lewis
Neither Boris Johnson nor Jeremy Corbyn deserves to win the general election.
Read Helen’s piece in full here.
Credit: Ben Jennings
The left must finish what was started in 2017
by Richard Seymour
I want Labour to win and finish the unfinished revolution. In 2017, we saw, fleetingly, the birth pangs of another, better country. The old nation, of red-top tabloids, the Lynton Crosby spin machine, deference to authority, property porn, reflex monarchy worship and hatred of immigrants, still existed. It had been galvanised by the Brexit vote and by fear of Jeremy Corbyn. And it was expected to romp home, claiming Labour’s rust-belt seats, marching into Wales, taking over the West Midlands. Theresa May was lionised by Tory activists, regarded as an adamantine successor to Margaret Thatcher.
Against all expectations, though, 40 per cent of voters opted for Labour’s agenda. What Labour was offering was not, in historic terms, radical. The economic agenda, pivoted on investments in high-tech industry through public promotional banks, had a distinct whiff of Harold Wilson’s “white heat of technology” speech of 1963. But in tying this growth strategy to higher public spending, an end to austerity, improved workers’ rights and free education, it linked an economic upgrade to a social upgrade. That was enough to destroy May’s majority and finish off a few hopeful Labour leadership candidates for good. But it wasn’t enough to win.
This year, Labour had no choice but to go big, or go home. It wouldn’t have been sufficient to come back with the 2017 offer. Austerity, despite what some journalists assume, is not “over”. It is an ongoing crisis. However, there is also a bigger crisis afoot. The entire energetic basis for modern capitalism has to be uprooted and transformed in just over a decade. If that were to be done in a way that hurt living standards, it would never get anywhere. But equally, if it isn’t done at all, the chaos and shortages of climate catastrophe will birth new forms of fascism. The only game in town in 2019 is the Green New Deal: decarbonising while creating well-paid jobs, modernising infrastructure and putting some of it under public control.
This is the policy that coheres everything else Labour is offering in this election. If you’re going to spend more, you have to say how you’re going to generate wealth without adding to the planetary crisis. The Green New Deal is the right answer.
Beyond this, and despite a lot of commentary, Labour isn’t offering “giveaways” with policies such as the abolition of tuition fees and free broadband. This isn’t a retail offer. Everything Labour is offering demonstrates ways in which life could be improved if it were not so ubiquitously commodified. In other words, it’s not about “free stuff”, it’s about a better quality of life.
Wanted: grown-up, authentic politicians
by Rowan Williams
So much of this election isn’t about politics at all. It’s about two tight-knit groups of (mostly male) professional public speakers and image managers.
Read Rowan’s piece in full here.
Labour must lose heavily for civility to return
by Vernon Bogdanor
What I want to see from the election is a resurrection of social democracy so that there can be, once again, a genuine political debate between conservatives, liberals and social democrats. That resurrection requires the Labour Party to be heavily defeated.
Jeremy Corbyn has made 2019 a landmark election. It is the first in our history in which a major party finds itself accused of breaking the law. In May, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) instituted a statutory investigation, since it “suspects that the Labour Party… may have committed unlawful acts”, in relation to anti-Semitism. The only party previously investigated by the EHRC was the British National Party (BNP), although Margaret Hodge, a Labour MP, has said she faced “much much” more anti-Semitism in the Labour Party than when she was campaigning against the BNP in her Barking constituency. The Labour Party is suspected, therefore, of having become an institutionally racist party.
But 2019 is a landmark election for another reason. It is the first in our history in which a major party leader has been repudiated by his own MPs. In June 2016, a motion of no confidence in Corbyn was passed by a vote of 172 to 40. Most of these MPs are still in the Commons. They have probably not changed their minds.
If most Labour MPs believe that Corbyn is unfit to be leader of the Labour Party, he is, presumably, also unfit to be the leader of the country. Yet most of the 172 are asking the voters to put him into Downing Street. For, whatever their private reservations, any Labour MP who fails to support a Corbyn government would be deprived of the whip. Those MPs, such as Ian Austin and Chuka Umunna, who have left Labour do not have different views from most of those who remain. Where they differ is in their integrity.
Social democracy depends upon leaders of courage and integrity, prepared to utter uncomfortable truths, such as Clement Attlee and Hugh Gaitskell. Neither of them would have had any truck with anti-Semitism or racism of any sort, let alone allow the party to be accused of a “lack of… human decency”, in the words of Andrew Fisher, Labour’s director of policy, when he resigned earlier this year. But Labour MPs, and especially members of the shadow cabinet – collectively responsible for Labour’s stance – seem to have had a decency bypass. How can people of education and refinement such as Keir Starmer, a former director of public prosecutions, and Shami Chakrabrati, a former directory of the human rights organisation Liberty, ask voters to elect someone tainted with the accusation of institutional racism. They are giving legitimacy to something new and nasty in British politics.
It needs a decisive repudiation of the Corbyn leadership to make civilised politics in Britain possible again.
The future of politics is local
by Rory Stewart
We don’t want politicians talking in highfalutin language; we want a sense of the changes they would bring.
Read Rory’s piece in full here.
Credit: Will Sanders/ The Image Bank/ Getty
This is our last chance to confront the climate crisis
by Grace Blakeley
Labour’s Green Industrial Revolution (GIR) offers the UK the chance to decarbonise ahead of many other advanced economies, rebalance the economy away from finance in London, and absorb the impact of the coming recession.
The political geography of this election says a lot about the challenges the British economy faces. Support for Labour is concentrated in the cities, while the Tories are doing well in the regions, where the vote to leave the EU was strongest. The economic divides between these areas are stark – the UK is the most regionally unequal country in Europe.
This inequality is no accident. Over the last 40 years, the regions have been actively underdeveloped by a state focused on promoting the interests of the finance sector, centred in the City. The resulting shift towards financial and professional services, which was not corrected by successive governments, has left the UK a highly indebted, unbalanced and unequal economy.
At the same time, this election may be the last opportunity we have to solve the greatest crisis humanity has ever faced – climate breakdown. If the global economy cannot halve its emissions by 2030, we will face a catastrophic “hothouse Earth” scenario of rising sea levels, extreme weather events and food shortages.
As the fifth largest historical greenhouse gas emitter, the UK has a responsibility to decarbonise early so the rest of the world can do so over a more manageable timescale. There are also selfish reasons to opt for an early target: early decarbonisers will be able to develop specialisms in green research, development and production.
Finally, the UK, along with the eurozone and the US, is headed towards another recession. There is now a widespread consensus that the post-financial crisis attempts to stimulate the economy with loose monetary and tight fiscal policy have failed. Trying to fight the next recession through monetary policy alone would be like entering a boxing match with one hand tied behind our backs. The only way to deal with another downturn will be to boost output and productivity through investment.
The GIR – or the Green New Deal as it was originally conceived – provides an opportunity to address all these issues together. A significant programme of investment into research and development of green technologies, improving the sustainability of the UK’s transport and energy infrastructure, and improving the energy efficiency of housing will absorb the impact of the coming recession while decarbonising the economy. If this investment is concentrated in the regions, as it is under Labour’s plans, it offers the chance to rebalance the economy away from London.
Over the long term, however, the GIR must go further. Part of the reason deindustrialisation has become so entrenched in the UK is that the City has attracted capital inflows that have pushed up the value of sterling, making our exports less competitive. Investment and people have in turn flowed out of the declining regions and into the booming City, locking in the trend.
If the Green Industrial Revolution is to work, it must be combined with measures to constrain the power of British finance. Deindustrialisation, the financial crisis and austerity can all be traced back to the dominance of financial interests in British political economy – the only way to deliver “real change” is to take on the City.
Tackling inequality should be our priority
by Elif Shafak
The difference between rich and poor, and rural and urban, is a structural rift affecting everything from health to cultural productivity; from access to job markets to political power.
Read Elif’s piece in full here.
A homeless man, who has been rough sleeping for 5 years, in central London on 8 November 2019. Credit: Getty
Everything is secondary to stopping Brexit
by Timothy Garton Ash
I want this election to produce a majority in parliament for a second referendum on Brexit. Everything else is secondary to that. All the other issues – inequality, education, social care, the environment – are important, but the reality is that the shaping and funding of every single one of them will depend crucially on whether Britain is inside the EU or outside it. Then, of course, I want a clear majority in that second referendum for staying in the EU.
I’m horrified by the way the liberal, pro-European side of British politics has fallen apart over the last few months, both in the ghastly internecine feuding that has wracked the People’s Vote campaign and in the failure of Labour and the Liberal Democrats to make electoral pacts where they clearly should. What looked in the great demonstrations earlier this year like a real popular front for the people to have the final say on Brexit has degenerated into a Monty Python rivalry of the People’s Vote of Judea versus the Judean People’s Vote. Nonetheless, I still hope against hope that the wisdom of ordinary voters, helped by online voting guidance from groups such as Best for Britain, will produce enough tactical – actually existential – voting to get this result. That is not now a likely outcome, but it is still possible.
More broadly, I want to see – and contribute to – the fightback of a chastened, reformed and rejuvenated liberalism, learning from its manifest mistakes since 1989. What we face in Britain is just one corner of a much larger struggle, also visible in the United States, Poland, Germany, France, indeed almost anywhere you look in the liberal democratic world.
My hunch is that the global anti-global counter-revolution still has a lot of force and anger behind it, so we will probably see more populist nationalist electoral victories in the next year or three. But in the longer term I remain optimistic about the capacity of a self-critical liberalism to bounce back.
Abolish Trident and sound happy about immigration
by David Hare
The Home Office should also be put in special measures, like a delinquent school, until it has a humane asylum policy.
Read David’s piece in full here.
Credit: Andy Buchanan/AFP via Getty Images
Above all else, we want revenge
by Owen Hatherley
I t’s quite easy to list things I “want” from this election. The Labour manifesto promises dozens of policies that would actively improve my life, as well as the lives of many of my family and friends. Even more than in 2017, I enjoy the novelty of a political party actually promising to do things that could make people’s lives qualitatively better, rather than a political party promising “hard choices” that would cut their benefits, make their housing more insecure, and put a price tag on their every thought and action.
But the most honest answer as to what I want from this election is revenge.
Not necessarily personal revenge, though there are a few moments here or there where I would have loved to be able to tell my younger self that one day, the Labour Party would stand on a manifesto like this. But there’s something a little different about seeing that manifesto when you’re hovering around 40 than if you’re 20 – when you’ve known nothing but the zombie neoliberalism of the 2010s, gutted of moral authority or economic plausibility by the financial crisis; or if you’re 60, when you can remember, say, local authorities building 100,000 council houses a year; nationalised railways and energy companies; and not seeing tent cities in every town and city in the country.
If you were born in the early 1980s, on the left and from a working-class background, you’ve seen countless lives destroyed and hopes crushed. You’ve seen the shellshock caused by an entire country reconstructed to make avarice into its cardinal virtue, and by an unending project to recast kindness and solidarity – beyond “individuals and their families” – as the preserve of suckers.
Credit: Andre Carrilho
Corbyn must resign as soon as he loses the election
by Richard J Evans
What you wish for has to be within the realm of the possible; otherwise it’s mere self-indulgence. So, following the inevitable thumping victory for Boris Johnson on 12 December, followed by Brexit, the first thing I want is for Jeremy Corbyn to resign as leader of the Labour Party, something he signally failed to do following the party’s humiliating defeat in 2017 at the hands of the most incompetent and divided Conservative government in living memory.
I’d like him to be replaced by someone competent, which he has never been since the day he was elected leader in 2015; someone who doesn’t temporise and equivocate on Brexit; and someone who stops the Orwellian denialism that has done such damage to the party over the past couple of years, and who tackles the cancer of anti-Semitism that has afflicted it since Corbyn took over.
I also want the Labour Party to stick by the radical policies announced in its 2019 election manifesto, though I’d also like to see them properly costed and a practical way found of implementing them over a number of years. The party will have five years to work out all the details, and I don’t want it to waste them.
And what do I want to happen after Brexit? It probably isn’t realistic to hope that the wave of hatred, xenophobia and isolationism that has rolled across the UK will abate: the “hostile environment” to immigrants that has caused such damage to the NHS, to our universities and to business isn’t likely to become any less hostile in the hands of a Johnson government.
I’d like to see resistance to the privatisation of the NHS win widespread public support and do at least something to mitigate the damage, though I’m not particularly hopeful. And I want creative ways to be found of circumventing the worst effects of our uncoupling from European Union institutions, for example, in my own area, continuing the close cooperation with universities and research centres on the Continent that’s been so essential and so beneficial to the UK over the past 40 years
More speculatively, I’d like to see Brexit followed by the reunification of Ireland. The Republic is no longer the backward, priest-ridden polity it used to be, while the wings of the reactionary and obscurantist DUP in Northern Ireland have already been clipped by Westminster’s imposition of same-sex marriage and legalised abortion. The customs border Johnson’s deal proposes along the Irish Sea will be the first step.
Finally, I want the British constitution and the rule of law to stand up stoutly against the renewed assaults that can be expected from a Johnson government.
In particular, I don’t want the Supreme Court to be replaced by elected judges who will simply do what the government tells them. And I want the new government to keep the Human Rights Act in force and retain British adherence to the European Convention on Human Rights, though the Conservative Party has threatened both.
We urgently need a second referendum
by Marina Warner
And I’d like 16- and 17-year-olds, UK citizens living abroad and EU citizens with settled status to be able to vote in it.
Read Marina’s piece in full here
We must respect the decisions of the electorate
by Simon Heffer
This sounds, I know, depressingly middle-aged, but what I most want once this election is over is to live in a country where our values of democracy and freedom of speech are supported by civility between those of different opinions, and honesty and realism among our political class when setting out the choices before us. And any democrat should want the decisions of the British electorate – whether in the plebiscite of 2016 or in the general election of 2019 – to be honoured and not subjected to extended dispute, whatever each individual might think of their outcomes.
If we are to be governed as a democracy, we must be able to trust our politicians; currently we largely do not, with good reason. There have, in this campaign and before it, been too many instances of blatant dishonesty, prevarication, evasion and misrepresentation by politicians from all parties. Therefore the choices some voters will make on 12 December will be badly informed, because they have been deceived. If we have any reserves of statesmanship, they should be used to provide honest, responsible and accountable government. Otherwise, people will look for other options, and they will not be pleasant.
What one wants for the future and the most one can realistically expect are, sadly, almost certainly unalike. Nye Bevan once said that the great quality of our society at its best was “serenity”. We lack that now; how do we restore serenity?
A society will be serene only when it feels it is being dealt with fairly. That requires compassion and justice, but also equality of opportunity and advancement through merit: both of which are essential not just on moral grounds but in the interests of maximising prosperity through developing human potential. It means holding no one back.
I suspect the last time society was as divided as it is today was after the Civil Wars. How were those divisions healed? Mainly by greater prosperity and social mobility, but it was a process that took in many respects 250 years.
The election may not provide a clear result, and if so there may be another in a few months. I hope if neither of the main political parties commands the confidence of the public they will not try to offer the same menu at a second election, but will find new leaders and new approaches.
There are urgent priorities to be addressed. Our health service fails to function properly because its resources have not kept pace with a growing, ageing population. The question of social care for the elderly who cannot look after themselves must be grasped before it becomes a national scandal. Our educational standards have fallen, and we need not only to improve the curriculum for children in school, but to provide educational opportunities throughout a lifetime. Our police need to be remoralised; our prisons are a disgrace, with too little emphasis placed on sending prisoners out as better people.
Is there at present the leadership to promote such improvements? I doubt it.
Our democracy is crying out for reform
by Billy Bragg
Since the crash of 2008, Westminster has struggled to make sense of voters’ wishes. The first-past-the-post method used to elect MPs has failed to achieve its primary objective: to deliver a clear mandate to the winning party. The electorate has begun to look beyond the binary choice of Conservative or Labour and, as a result, parties have been forced into coalition.
Without the necessities of war that pressured them to work together in earlier times, politicians have tinkered with the constitution in an attempt to bring some stability to these unusual arrangements. Yet seemingly small changes, made for the sake of expediency, can have huge consequences. The Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 has proved an impediment to good governance, creating a situation in which the government can be defeated but not fall.
Having witnessed how dysfunctional the electoral system has become, a significant slice of the electorate are likely to vote tactically on 12 December in the hope that, if they can’t get what they want, then they might be able to prevent their least desired outcome. Our democracy shouldn’t be like this, with voters forced to do their own DIY constitutional reform.
Even in calmer times, the chances of getting representation at Westminster for your vote are slim. In some regions as many as 80 per cent of us live in safe seats which almost never change hands. In most seats, the winning party gets less than 50 per cent of the vote, meaning the majority of votes cast in the election go straight into the bin.
People imagine that democracy and accountability are synonymous. However, their relationship is more akin to a Venn diagram: in times of consensus, there is significant overlap, but when politics are polarised, the two drift apart. This trend has serious implications. Authoritarianism doesn’t begin when your neighbour disappears in the middle of the night. It starts when the powerful feel that the rules are so lax that they can act with impunity.
My hope is that all those who have been forced to vote tactically to have a sense of agency in this election will demand the creation of an electoral system based on proportionality, one which ensures that almost all of the votes cast result in representation at Westminster. And if we hope to protect our democracy from a prime minister such as Boris Johnson, who has acted with impunity for his entire adult life, then we need a written constitution that cannot be altered by a simple Commons majority; a new settlement that makes the people sovereign in their parliament.
We can no longer afford to ignore our intellectuals
by Bonnie Greer
After the election, I hope that there is a time and space for thought.
Read Bonnie’s piece in full here.
Immigrants must be defended as human beings
by Musa Okwonga
I want whoever forms the next government to act upon climate change and corporate tax evasion with an urgency that the country has never seen before. I want them to mention both these issues every day alongside each other, so that people begin and then continue to understand the link between the illegal enrichment of some oligarchs and their enablers, and the degradation of our public services and environment. I want those victorious politicians, whoever they are, to remind us that the will and the financial resources are there for us to reshape our society for the better. I want them to act on climate change now, now, now.
I want the next government to carry out policies that do not sacrifice social justice for economic prosperity. I want them not to be obsessed with the deficit, and to challenge without hesitation the conflicts of interest and dubious ownerships of large sections of our country’s media. I want them to support the BBC and the NHS to be at their best. I want them to defend immigrants not as valuable economic assets but as human beings. I want them to work to provide affordable and excellent education and housing wherever people live in the UK, and I want them to shrug aside those who call them naive and idealistic, and instead go about their efforts with the same vigour of those activists in the civil rights struggle. That is the government I want.
Migrant worker flower pickers from Romania harvest daffodils in eastern England. Credit: Getty
There is disaffection and subdued violence
by Maurice Glasman
Travelling around the country during this election, from Dagenham to Salford, the overwhelming impression I have is one of disaffection and a subdued violence. The geographic and class polarisation expressed in Brexit has left both sides with a feeling of mutual contempt. Remainers see a gullible, easily manipulated working-class vote motivated by prejudice and nostalgia. For Brexit voters in Labour seats there is a sense of a ruling class, economic and political, that is unaccountable and dominant. The fact that so few bankers went to jail after 2008 merges with sullen resentment about the state of hospitals and schools.
The election is not experienced as an
exercise in public discernment between competing policies and visions, but as a collection of distant smears and promises released into an environment where there is no trust left. The overwhelming sense is one of powerlessness and alienation, of a disconnect between the working class and the people who run the public and private sectors; of a lack of accountability that cannot be remedied by elections alone. The disenchantment with Labour in what were once its heartlands is sad to witness and frightening in its consequences.
It made me consider what institutional response there should be to this beyond the necessary political work of rebuilding the Labour coalition. What changes should emerge from this election that could change the temper and tone and give some power to those who feel that they have none?
There is interest in citizens’ assemblies as an alternative source of power and debate and that is worth considering. Of greater immediate purchase, however, would be accountability assemblies in which decisions on public appointments, and of malfeasance, are decided in local forums, or as they were called in ancient Rome, tribunes. In these, non-citizens, or the “plebs”, were allowed to call assemblies when they thought that corruption had occurred, and had the right of veto in public appointment.
They were not simply debating chambers. As Machiavelli points out the tribunes had “teeth as well as tongue”, providing a check on a Roman elite that wished to ignore them. The introduction of tribunes into our politics for the public appointment of head teachers and directors of hospitals, as well as directors of businesses and banks, would
introduce a genuine accountability to our civic life, and a real power to those who are affected by decisions. It would function alongside parliament without challenging its political authority.
Machiavelli pointed out that while our rulers wish to dominate, the “common people” merely don’t want to be oppressed. The tribunes would give a civic forum in which they could debate and discuss appointments that concern them directly and bring real local accountability to cases of corruption. The historic sexual abuse at Stoke Mandeville Hospital is a classic example. The establishment of tribunes would provide a vital institutional link between the rulers and the ruled at a time when the ties that bind are unravelling fast.
Credit: Jason Alden/ Bloomberg via Getty Images
The left must undergo an intellectual revolution
by Paul Collier
My top priority has always been that the poorest countries should catch up with the rest of mankind (the theme of my book The Bottom Billion). More recently, I have added a further priority: that the widening gap between well-educated metropolitans and poorly educated provincials should be reversed. I want a government that commits to those objectives, recognises that they are complex, and addresses them in a spirit of pragmatism. It should figure out what might work in context and be prepared to learn from trial-and-error, rather than rely upon preconceived ideology. On those criteria, how is the election shaping up?
In respect of the bottom billion, the most promising recent innovation in British policy has been the transformation of CDC, (once the Commonwealth Development Corporation) into a world-leading organisation focused on encouraging purposive business in fragile states. Both directly, and by emulation, CDC is generating the jobs and tax revenues that are so badly needed.
If I were starting my career again, I would aim to join the many bright, motivated young people it has attracted. I was therefore both stunned and horrified to read in Labour’s manifesto that it plans to dismantle CDC: I smell an ideology-driven agenda.
Healing the rifts in the British economy requires narrowing the spatial and skill gaps in productivity. For spatial rebalancing, we need increased fiscal transfers from London, combined with political decentralisation that enables local governments to decide spending priorities. I am heartened that the north of England has become the key electoral battleground between the two main parties, with both promising to reverse regional divergence by scaling up investment in northern infrastructure. But both seem silent on political decentralisation, and the Liberal Democrats, for whom the policy is a natural fit, seem more interested in Cheltenham than Rotherham.
In respect of skill rebalancing, we need to concentrate resources and attention on the half of the population who do not go to university. We have brilliant universities, but for that other half terrible pre-school and vocational training. These are the vital priorities for skill rebalancing. Have the parties got it yet? The Liberals seem to have picked up on pre-school; Labour still seem to be determined to bribe students with money that should go to others (there is more pork barrel than ideology in that one); look for what, if anything, the Tories say on these two areas.
And finally, I want the left to undergo an intellectual revolution. After the electoral setback of 2015, under Ed Miliband, it plunged from the New Labour of Peter Mandelson to the Old Marxism of Seumas Milne. Neither proved capable of breeding the ideas we need. Will 2020 be more fruitful?