In an age of individualism, where striking railway workers are asked ‘what about teachers? What about nurses?’ the Left needs to inspire an interconnected and collectivised vision. We need to paint a picture of a Britain where people from many workplaces and walks of life can have job security and good conditions. Where children of all backgrounds across the country can access high quality education, mental health care and social activities.
It has always been the Labour movement which is at the cutting edge of new ideas to improve society, upgrade democracy and bring communities together. Where the Tories are bereft of ideas, Labour must seize the agenda. We must be politically aggressive, ruthless in pursuit of our aims, to bring about bold, transformative change.
For too long, the public has been presented with a shopping list of disparate policies. Labour’s 2019 manifesto contained many promising ideas, but lacked an overarching vision. Policy announcements since then have been far and few between, feeling more sporadic when they need to be tied to a bigger picture. In Open Labour’s new position paper we offer a clear vision which connects policy on a whole range of issues – where greater financial security, connectivity and opportunities to work, study and socialise can enable everyone to live freer, happier, healthier lives.
Time and time again, the Government has promised to ‘level up’ all regions across the UK, particularly in the North. A better funded rail network is a crucial starting point – a full completion of HS2, as well as digitally connected transport links would improve affordability and connections to areas that need it the most.
But this is just the starting point. Open Labour believes rail should be brought into common ownership. We stand in full solidarity with rail workers wanting a decent pay rise and job security. After over a decade of real terms pay losses, people across both public and private sectors want a pay rise. This is the cultural climate in Britain right now and Labour must seize on it.
Improved public transport networks, run for people not profit, would give people greater freedom, agency and choice. Furthermore, properly funded rail is the first step in creating a Green New Deal. We have heard thousands of empty promises from the Tories on solving the climate crisis, but with train travel difficult, expensive, and inaccessible for the vast majority of people, it is no wonder that driving remains popular. An improved rail system and a Green New Deal could, and indeed must, go hand in hand in improving peoples’ quality of lives.
Big bosses at major utility companies wreak havoc on our environment and charge us small fortunes for them to do so, meanwhile they continue to profit. With utilities under common ownership, they would be run for people not for profit, and with the environment at the heart of this transition. A Green New Deal must lower energy bills for thousands of people across the country currently making the difficult choice to ‘heat or eat’ every week. With concern growing about the jobs of those who work in unsustainable industries, action towards halting climate change must come with a green, digital jobs revolution. A revolution that must spread further than just the Capital.
The modernisation of the UK’s infrastructure and economy must also include bold plans for housing. A new generation of social housing which is safe, green, well designed, and more importantly does not fall into the hands of private landlords, would radically alter living for the most vulnerable across the country. No one should worry about how they will afford a safe place to come home to, and a new housing scheme will ensure no one will have to. To help meet the demand on housing supply, we must also train up a new generation of construction workers – as well as recruit people into skilled work in education, health and social care, agriculture, and other vital industries which keep our society moving.
The cost-of-living soars by the day, the NHS is overrun, public transport is dire and Climate Change worsens by the day. This may paint a bleak picture, but unfortunately it is the reality of life after a decade of Tory rule. We need a Labour Government that will fight to fix our society, for every single person in it. We can’t leave it too late for a desperate Boris Johnson to call a snap election – now is the time for Labour to start putting forward a brighter, bolder alternative, a roadmap for uplifting the lives of millions across the country.
Abi Barinski is the National Secretary of Open Labour
Open Labour’s position paper can be found here
A screen reader and braille support-enabled google document can be read here, courtesy of Open Labour: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1pI3jMByZxr36ut64Wl3bQBIdQM0ynHzibJrETj17Jzg/edit?usp=sharing