Dream Labour Manifesto: from the Right to Food to tackling corruption
The Labour Party are gathered in Brighton for their annual party conference | Alamy
Lord Blunkett, Dawn Butler MP, Ian Byrne MP and Margaret Hodge MP
10 min read
With the next general election as close as 20 months away, four Labour parliamentarians from across the party set out what they would like to see from a Labour policy platform
A Labour manifesto must put ethicalness and equality at its core
Dawn Butler, Labour MP for Brent Central
The Labour manifesto I would like to see would be bold, ambitious, and forward-thinking, grounded in ethicalness, equality and fairness for all. I would start by ensuring accountability and honesty in parliament by making the ministerial code the responsibility of MPs.
It cannot be right that the Prime Minister is the judge and jury over whether a minister has lied. I have a motion in Parliament signed by 87 MPs so far calling for this very change. A Labour manifesto can deliver on this.
I would like to see several key pledges which I first announced as shadow women and equalities secretary. This includes: closing the gender pay gap by requiring large companies to conduct gender and race pay audits and publish action plans to tackle it – backed up by civil enforcement; end period poverty by providing free sanitary products in schools, food banks and homeless shelters; introducing rights to flexible working from the first day of employment; tackling harassment at work by reinstating Section 40 of the Equality Act to protect employees from third party harassment; and legislating for all large employers to introduce a menopause workplace policy to break the stigma associated with the menopause.
My manifesto would establish an Emancipation Educational Trust, to address the historic injustice of the slave trade and tackle institutional racism and discrimination. It would provide school programmes and visits for young people to ensure it’s never forgotten, and highlight a resistance movement often hidden from history.
My manifesto would enact Section 14 of the Equality Act so that people can bring forward cases on multiple grounds of discrimination. There are a whole host of other new commitments I would like to see. Data protection assessments would be carried out regularly. Ending violence against women and girls a primary focus. Ban cruel and inhumane gay conversion therapy. Reform of the Gender Recognition Act.
On our children’s future, I want investment in Sure Start centres to reverse the shameful cuts since 2010. A protect-everyone pandemic policy, to deal with Covid-19 and any future pandemics to make sure everyone is protected. It should be modelled on my Private Members Bill – the Coronavirus No.2 Bill.
On the economy: immediately increase the minimum wage to over £10 an hour, and introduce a pay ratio so bosses don’t take more than 20x the pay of their lowest paid worker. A job guarantee scheme. Tax on unearned income.
Labour must put ethicalness, fairness and equality at the heart of everything we do; therefore my manifesto would publish a comprehensive equality impact assessment of economic policies.
A right to food should be at the heart of a Labour manifesto
Ian Byrne, Labour MP for Liverpool, West Derby
The golden thread running through my Labour manifesto would be equality, fairness and opportunity for the many and not the few. It would be centred on three key principles: the Right to Food; a National Education Service; and a National Care Service.
Following a decade of Tory austerity, 10 million people in the UK are experiencing food insecurity. A Labour government should bring in the systemic change that is needed to end this injustice.
Food poverty leads to health and life expectancy inequality, malnutrition, obesity and a host of other related problems. It affects children’s educational attainment and life chances. Less measurable but no less important is the effect on individual human dignity and social cohesion over time in our polarised nations of food banks next to investment banks. The last year has demonstrated that in the face of new threats and challenges, society is only as resilient as its most vulnerable and as its mechanisms for caring for everyone.
The Right to Food Campaign recognises that food banks are a sticking plaster over a gaping wound and that systemic intervention from the government is what is required to tackle food poverty. My manifesto would pledge to legislate to make access to food a legal right in the UK.
This will make the government take action to end many of the situations that force people into food poverty at present and, crucially, it will make our government legally responsible for ensuring people do not go hungry.
The grassroots Right to Food campaign, which I’ve been proud to bring to Parliament, imagines what a right to food would look like in legislation and believes that the following measures will provide an achievable, tangible and legally binding route out of food poverty for millions of people in the UK. These are: universal free school meals; community kitchens; reasonable amounts in benefits and wages; ensured food security and independent enforcement.
Second, we need a National Education Service, based on the idea that free, lifelong education should be available to all.
Every single person in this country regardless of income should have the ability to maximise their potential. That is what a national education system free at the point of use from cradle to grave would achieve. Not saddling our youth with debt but freeing students to explore and develop potential. Enriching our society with creative minds free from the worry of debt. Education opportunities for all should become a mantra for the next generation and future generations.
Finally, our current social care system is in crisis and broken. We need a National Care Service. Like the National Health Service, social care should be built on the principles of being available to all who need it, not who can afford it – with nationally agreed terms and conditions for staff and the end of the mantra of profit over quality.
We can build a social care system that works for both the user and employee and take profit out of the equation and replace with dignity and decency.
The pandemic has revealed a new role for the state: Labour must harness this going forward
Lord Blunkett, Labour peer
Manifestos rarely win votes, but they can, as we saw in 2017 and 2019, present an opportunity for opponents to lose you votes. Conservative and Labour have both experienced the opposition going for their Achilles’ heel.
For Labour, our manifesto offering is less about individual policies than it is about getting a hearing, visibility and, therefore, the chance to reach an audience. We must connect with the immediate concerns of the electorate and present the long-term challenges which only social democracy can fix.
In the pandemic, market forces were unable to provide answers. The partnership between private enterprise’s innovation in developing a vaccine, government investment to make it happen, and the devolution of vaccine rollout to the local level, offers a model for future policy making. An enhanced role for government, but with a key bottom-up approach to delivering on the ground, and mobilising talent and goodwill to bring about change.
From enormous investment in the furlough scheme to build back loans, it was only the power and organisation of government in conjunction with the Bank of England that could offer stabilisation and the foundations of recovery. Labour, therefore, needs to demonstrate the lessons learnt, including what went wrong and why. Then, offer policies that are relevant to the individual and the family. Re-assert the confident role of community, demonstrate how mutuality and reciprocity provide clear, complementary and underpinning answers to the challenges ahead to those legitimately delivered by the State.
Labour’s manifesto must highlight the way in which the world of work has changed, during and beyond the pandemic. This means facing the challenges of artificial intelligence and robotics, and setting out how the distribution of the increased productivity gains can only be achieved equitably by a collaborative approach between public and private, individual freedom and innovation, and the reassertion of public good.
Equally, on climate, the speed and enormity of change, the organisation of resources and the compliance of the public, can only be achieved in the same way. The economic, social and political consequences are so profound as to require planning and inclusivity.
Prosperity will only come through investment in, and creative approaches to, education and learning throughout life. Progression within work, the ability to cope with changing work patterns and opportunities, will only come through an imaginative, forward-thinking education policy.
Greater equality of opportunity and outcome will also contribute to long-term solutions to social care – preventing people needing highly expensive and restrictive residential care and instead intervening to prevent ill-health, and then using the development of science and technology to promote independence and longevity.
Above all, to offer security: in the home and on the street, in the workplace and in ageing. Borne not of benevolence, but of liberation; of an enabling government that is the partner of the people in making self-determination a reality.
Clear pledges rather than a confetti of promises are needed for a successful manifesto
Margaret Hodge, Labour MP for Barking
The last time Labour won a general election we did so with five simple pledges made on a single card that pointed towards a brighter future. From “education, education, education” to “tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime” we focused relentlessly on powerful slogans based on realistic promises that spoke to people and their everyday lives. We urgently need to look outwards again, to be clear and consistent about our positive vision of hope for the future and to forge convincing new narratives fit for tackling today’s priorities. The challenges we face are huge. Old certainties that political choices are based on self-interest no longer hold true as cultural and identity politics increasingly determine voters’ preferences. The Tories’ spending spree makes traditional dividing lines more complicated to articulate. And Johnson’s populist exploitation of people’s fears makes for a dirty politics.
But we can formulate a distinctive and different vision based on traditional Labour values that speaks to people’s concerns. For Labour, economic prosperity and social justice are not competing objectives, but interlinked ambitions – two sides of the same coin. Bringing people together rather than stoking division makes us the party of unity. Providing everybody with genuinely equal opportunities to fulfil their dreams and potential underpins our approach to everyday problems.
It is in that context that we can then develop specific promises, whether on the NHS, education, climate change, job security, housing, social care or fair taxation – and honesty and integrity in politics. But we must not return to the confetti of promises that littered the last manifesto. For me, tackling child poverty with a renewed 21st century Sure Start, investment in schools, and financial support for families left behind would be one priority – with Sure Start as the specific pledge.
A real plan for climate change by retrofitting public buildings and homes, supporting renewable energy, and replacing petrol in all our vehicles would resonate – with a more ambitious goal of net-zero on emissions by 2040 as the specific pledge.
Proposals for creating safer communities by restoring police numbers, funding youth facilities, and bearing down on knife crime – with youth provision as the specific pledge.
Finally, we have to show our fitness to govern by a relentless focus on value for money in public spending. We should promise to sweep away the corruption that has infected the government’s use of taxpayers’ money and to bear down on tax avoidance and financial crime. And we should commit to a responsible tax system that is progressive between individuals, that considers assets alongside income, and that puts right the intergenerational unfairness that exists today.
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