Sun, 21 April 2024

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By Bishop of Leeds
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The Labour Tribune Group can help Keir Starmer transform the country


4 min read

With the Tories offering a return to tax-cutting small-state austerity, it is time for the left of the political spectrum to present ideas that will bring about the change our country needs.

The status quo established under the Tories since the global banking crash has not brought benefits for most people. We have seen inequality soar, average household income plummet - while those who are already well off have accumulated a greater share of our country’s wealth. 

To pretend cutting taxes is the response to the immediate crisis facing our people is a monumental act of betrayal

Cutting taxes that will disproportionately benefit the already well during a cost of living crisis is not only wrong economically, it’s also cold hearted. Millions will be plunged into poverty in the coming months, unable to pay household bills for the necessities that sustain a basic standard of living. To pretend cutting taxes is the response to the immediate crisis facing our people is a monumental act of betrayal.   

Labour must demonstrate that things can change, and our country can be led in ways that prioritise the needs of its people rather than a wealthy and powerful few. The Tribune Group has been in discussion with academics and experts who share our desire to bring about the change we need.  

What emerges in our book of essays from eighteen of Britain's leading progressive thinkers are seventy-five ideas that set out the three big divides in British politics today.  

Let’s start with growth, where the Tories have created a low growth, consumer driven economy, fuelled by huge income transfers to older voters and high levels of personal debt for younger working families. After delivering a dog’s Brexit, the Tories themselves admit they’ve failed. Yet it’s very clear the Tories still believe they can cut their way to growth.  

We believe we need a very different model of growth which entails rebuilding and building new institutions. 

The divide is now clear. Labour must offer to boost growth with a smart supply side strategy to mobilise innovation and rebuild mission-driven institutions to help helm the transition to net zero. To do this, as Will Hutton explains, we must reconnect economic and productivity growth with wage growth through more purpose-driven companies. We must capitalise on the opportunity to make our green future by seizing the opportunities before our eyes to become a global centre of clean, green manufacturing.  

That must be backed by a fiscal policy that works for working families with transformed levels of public investment in physical, digital, human capital and NHS infrastructure. We need to stop resting on the Bank of England for growth and develop a fiscal policy that revolutionises productivity. 

The second big divide is between our approach of active government and the Tories philosophy of austerity.  

An active state is the only way to tackle climate change and turn the climate crisis into climate opportunity - and open those new opportunities to all. The active state helps us all work together. We believe in that because Labour is a "we party". Patiently our authors explain how unequal countries are unhappy countries. The statistic that says it all is Michael Marmot’s revelation that life expectancy here, in the world’s sixth biggest economy is now actually falling in our most deprived communities. We can win an argument for the "fair necessities" of life because the British people fundamentally believe in fairness as the best guarantor of meaningful freedom in life for us all. And by uniting our social and economic agenda with a social investment agenda we can show how we can grow the country faster - and deliver on levelling up. Labour built social security. But now we need to rebuild it.  

Finally, the Tories are ironically divided by culture wars. The dividing line here is simple: between Labour which wants strong communities and the Tories preference for divided communities. Their nasty divisive politics pits neighbour against neighbour - and weakens the Union. By contrast, we believe communities are stronger, safer and nicer places to live when we invest in active communities. That’s why Labour will transform policing for the 21st century as Rick Nye explains and invest in what Jess Prendergast calls ‘attachment economics’ in every community and crucially.  

The sad end of the Elizabethan era came with a new prime minister who recommitted to Tory notions that have been tried and failed. The way is now open to a Starmer project that will transform our country, not merely for some, but for all. 

The papers contained in our book set out ideas for how this can be achieved. This is the start of the debate. We intend to hold a series of events around the country and hope that people will help us take the discussions forwards by organising their own discussions.


Clive Efford, Labour MP for Eltham and Liam Byrne, Labour MP for Birmingham Hodge Hill.

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