The 1945 Government of Clement Attlee has always inspired me. Attlee was a leader who understood that the way to address inequality was to ensure that in those post war years, people could access high quality public services where the ‘dustman and the duke’ would have the same entitlement. He also understood that creating high quality jobs was the role of government, not left to the market. Through the creation of the Welfare State and the nationalisation of industries he was able to ensure that families were provided for as they rebuilt their lives.
2015 is a different era, but left with a national debt nearing that of 1945. The market has catastrophically failed ordinary men and women – with jobs seeking to exploit labour, paying the minimum and providing little security and public services simply viewed as a commodity to sell as we have witnessed in recent years. This agenda has led to inequality in our society soaring as we are now the second most unequal country in the world. As stated in ‘The Spirit Level’, inequality leads to detriment on every social marker, whether health outcomes, prevalence of crime or longevity, to name a few. Good societies are equal societies.
Andy Burnham’s vision to revisit Beveridge in today’s context is a thoughtful way forward, so we can build the jobs, services and society that we need to tackle today’s crisis. He sets out an agenda which resembles the hallmarks of that great reforming Government. However Jeremy Corbyn also calls for a change in direction in this leadership contest.
Whether Burnham or Corbyn, both who will be reforming leaders, the Labour Party is crying out for a radical shift in direction. Jeremy Corbyn has been a long serving member of the labour movement – first as a trade union official and for the last 32 years as a Member of Parliament. His ambition for a Labour government to become the servant of the nation again meets the expectations of not only the 100,000s who have signed up to be registered supporters, affiliated supporters and Labour Party members, but the millions that they represent.
Jeremy is pragmatic, thoughtful and principled and has proved that he has the stamina and experience to lead a nation. His 32 years in speaking up for those on the margins of our communities in Westminster and those persecuted around the globe at every opportunity means that his commitment to justice is unquestionable. In a world of global conflict and confusion, his determination to create platforms for dialogue is to be applauded rather than hiding behind a £100bn spend on deadly weapons that are set to destroy the lives of innocent people if ever used, as has been debated in the 70th anniversary of the dropping of nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
A strong public service, yes with Burnham’s vision for a national care service, a nationalised railway, finding a state solution to remove the cartel of private utilities companies, saying no to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which will drive the profiteering multinationals to irreversibly take over our schools, hospitals, prisons and other vital services is the kind of clear vision that people are looking for at the next election.
Business is important, but must always be the servant and not the master. Good business always is, and that is why investment in skills, jobs and growth is vital to ensure that no one is exploited at work, everyone is paid a fair wage – not too little and certainly not too much, innovation has space to develop and governments once again understand that business must be nurtured, not left to sink or swim. Corbyn’s economic vision is credible, and more than that – it is common sense following the reckless behaviour we saw prior to the crash where our nation’s wealth was speculated on false markets.
It is time ordinary people across our country are heard, it is time that government becomes their servant, and it is time that the Labour Party restored its purpose in being the voice for those men and women who simply want to get on with their lives with the security that any modern society should provide. I believe Andy or Jeremy have set out such a vision. Let’s embrace the refreshing change that they will bring, energise all those who have signed up to our great labour movement – whether the Party or the trade unions, and together ignite the hope that we all long for, for our future.