A 10 pt plan to save Labour?


9:30 am - September 9th 2009

by Sunny Hundal    


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1 – establishment of a High Pay Commission;
2 – greater tax justice, including closing tax havens and more equal distribution of income and wealth;
3 – index link benefit levels, pensions and the minimum wage to average incomes;
4 – replacing tuition fees with a graduate solidarity tax;
5 – a Fair Employment Clause in all public contracts;
6 – windfall and transaction taxes and resetting capital gains tax;
7 – a new covenant with the military, including more investment in mental healthcare, equipment, housing and support for veterans funded by scrapping plans to renew Trident and re-deploying the money saved within the Minister Of Defence budget;
8 – a Green Neal Deal*, to include scrapping the third runway at Heathrow;
9 – remutualisation of the finance sector;
10 – a credit card bill of rights for consumers.

… according to Jim Pickard, taken from a speech that Jon Cruddas gave yesterday.

The advice is simple: move leftwards or lose the election. I can see two advantages with this. First, this manifesto would be electorally popular, and it would fight on a different ground than the one Tories want now (size of public debt). Secondly it would invigorate a very demoralised Labour base which would otherwise not bother to go out and vote or deliver leaflets.

The problem is that it doesn’t go far enough.

The polls have stagnated for Labour. The public mood isn’t shifting despite the NHS row, the upturning economy, the row over spending cuts or Tory slip-ups on other issues (Alan Duncan). The swing voters seem to be sticking with the view that New Labour should not be in power and are now emotionally tied to that narrative. So is much of the media.

Sunder Katwala is also right when he says:

Yes, the Tories haven’t changed so much. That is part of Labour’s argument: the contrast and the choice matters. But Labour’s best bet is to define itself, and so test the Tories on content, and so offer an opportunity for external third party scrutiny too.
Yet my sense is that Labour talks about the Tories at least twice as much as it should, and has said less than half of what it needs to say about itself.

In such a situation the only thing that can jar them out of their mindset is something big. But even here the government doesn’t have much credibility – remember the big constitutional changes Gordon Brown promised only a few weeks ago? What happened to that? Who knows.

Jon Cruddas’ 10-point-plan may re-establish New Labour as the party of social justice but it’s unlikely to win them the election. For that they need something of a political earthquake.

More reading
Soho Politico: Saving Labour: it’s not just about the policies, it’s also about the positioning
Carl Packman: I like where Cruddas is going
Left Foot Forward: Cruddas reversal shows his green credentials
Hopi Sen: I feel cynical today

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Economy ,Labour party ,Westminster

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Reader comments


It’s a pity that there’s nothing in the plan about reform of the electoral system and national government. Otherwise it’s a pretty attractive wish list.

Please, please come forward with this as a manifesto. Mostly it is utter insanity of course, pretty much what we would expect of the left. What a strange and weird world the left occupy. Lets see if we can drive Labour down to under 100 MPs and out of power for all time with third party status – we can hope.

You cannot count this is 15 points. I have pwned you on my video blog.

Are you spamming. Stop spamming.

5. Donut Hinge Party

#11. Gently lead Gordon Brown into a quiet field to retire.

On 2 – what is ‘greater tax justice’? Surely the most ‘just’ thing is everyone keeps what they earn. Where is the justice in someone with a job (not even a high paying one) subsidising people who don’t want a job? My girlfriend is a carer in a retirement home. She works 48 hr weeks at £6.30 an hr. Where is the justice in her having to pay hundreds of pounds a month in tax, while millions of people who have no intention of ever finding work get thousands of pounds a year in benefits? I do look forward to our invasion of Switzerland however. Why is it such an evil thing to you for a country to have low/zero tax rates?

Stiil, I admire the attempt to move the debate away from the £175bn deficit. At least you’re acknowledging that it’s a debate you can’t win – although I would like to see a comment that starts “I think a £175bn deficit is a good thing because ….”.

The swing voters seem to be sticking with the view that New Labour should not be in power

I’ll let you into a secret; it’s not only swing voters. Here’s one (member – 30y) who will not be voting for them.

move leftwards or lose the election

The only time in recent years that they’ve had success was when they rejected the hard left and you believe this is the answer? Brilliant.

Consider what R.H Tawney wrote about the Labour party in his day;

“The Labour Party is hesitant in action, because divided in mind.”

There is the small chance that the shift to the left will make the party look like it has no identity other than to contest elections, or that these new ideas (left republicanism, left commuinitariansim etc) are just mere trends, however when you consider what Cruddas has written elsewhere;

“Hardie and Tawney were part of a tradition that gives us hope and vitality, and charts a way out of the trap of orthodoxy. Now is the time for that tradition to be rediscovered.”

The way out of the “hesitant” problematic asserted by Tawney is precisely to remember the true grounds that the Labour party were founded upon, which as Cruddas mentions relates directly to the ideas of Tawney and Hardie, exercised in practice with the split from the liberals.

The Hobbesian indivdualistic liberalism that excited Blair so very much has died, and these ideas (though they may be too late to save electoral defeat) are clearly the next stage. But these aren’t based on new ideas to inject life in parliamentary democracy alone, these are proofs that the original project of the Labour party have not disappeared, and some of those old ideas are not archaic and outdated. The ideas of Tawney and Hardie are as alive today as they were then.

“remutualisation of the finance sector”

What does the inclusion of a howlingly mad idea in your manifesto do for the credibility of the rest of it?

The UK finance sector includes banks like JPMorgan, Citi, Goldman Sachs, Abbey (Santander). Domestic names like Barclays, HSBC, Standard Chartered, Man Group … just imagine trying to mutualise a global bank like HSBC. How the flaming hell do you think that’s possible?

There is plenty of scope for aggressive radical reform of the finance sector that could outflank the Tories, and plenty of places to go for inspiration. Is the inclusion of a well informed plan for reform of the financial sector in a Left Wing manifesto too much to ask for?

These are all excellent ideas for making our society fairer, more civilised and more cohesive. I am not sure that they have much relevance with regards to “saving” the Labour Party, since there is absolutely no chance of the Labour Party introducing any of them. I am afraid that it is only when “liberals” realise that fact that they can really start to get down to the hard work of actually changing society for the better. Labour may still be better than the diabolical Tories but the party is no longer on “our side” to a significant degree. Britain looks more and more like America, with two wings of the same business elite taking it in turns to run the country, every day.

This list is a spectacular bit of point-missing. A list that might work would start with

1) Cancel identity cards and the national identity register and absolutely everything that goes with it.

2) restore habeas corpus and the right to silence.

And so on. It’s the nasty, stupid, small minded state interference in every aspect of our lives that’s killed this government and it’s got to stop. That’s why people are turning to the tories, even though everyone knows that they’ll be awful. The next election is in grave danger of turning into little more than a referendum on the identity card scheme and labour will lose.

1 A High Pay Commission focuses on the wrong problem. Do you really think that bankers knowingly took risks in pursuit of a £2million bonus that they would not take just as eagerly for a £1million bonus?

2 By this I assume you mean soaking the rich. The problem is that the really rich have vastly more ways of avoiding tax so the net result is at or near zero. The best thing you could do for tax justice would be to raise the income tax threshold and slash VAT. Labour had done bugger all about the first and is not allowed to lower VAT because of EU rules (which it has not lobbied to change)

3 If you like. But average incomes may fall in the next year or two. Benefit levels would not have done so automatically. It just seems a funny time to introduce it that’s all.

4 How does this help? At the moment, students borrow money and pay back a fixed amount retrospectively. Under this system, graduates still repay money retrospectively but they no longer know how much it costs. Now that you have your degree, government can increase its cost whenever it likes by hiking the “solidarity” tax.

5 All employment is supposed to be fair, that is why we have employment law. If the employment law we have is not fair then you should say what you actually want to change and then apply it to all employers. Why should only public contracts provide a gold standard that cannot be applied to the rest of the workforce?

6 Windfall taxes on what? Transactional taxes on what? You mean transactional taxes like VAT? But VAT already screws the poor. On property? We already have Stamp Duty – which is widely hated. Or do you mean on investments? If so, what do you think that will do to our already under-funded pensions? And what do you mean by resetting CGT?

7 OK, if you like, but why stop at Trident? There’s plenty of other fat to be trimmed. The Register’s excellent defence correspondent has pointed out that the US spends 10 times what we do on defence but is able to put 20 times as many troops in the field. I would add that they are better equipped troops at that. This despite the fact that they have many cloud cuckoo land projects of their own (F-22) and that the Pentagon is a byword for waste and pork spending. Oh, and the US military’s research programmes have also spun off such minor benefits as the internet, GPS and the personal computer. Seriously, canceling Trident is very much the start of what you could do if you wanted to restructure defence. And, FYI massive funding has already been allocated to sorting out military housing – but it is difficult to spend it effectively because the housing is owned by a massive PFI called Annington Homes.

8 Could you direct me to the contents of this Green New Deal – giving it a resonant title tells me nothing whatever about it.

9 Remutualisation of the financial sector would be wonderful. Probably we would have a vastly smaller financial sector providing only the socially useful bits of financial services and none of the potentially harmful bits. That would put a stop to bumper profits and bonuses (making the high pay commission look a bit redundant) but, sadly, this would have a gigantically deleterious effect on tax revenue – an effect which none of your other proposals would appear to remedy.

10 This is such a tiny issue that I can only imagine that it is here to round out the list. Meaning that this is it – no more ideas.

Nothing to rebuild the economy – biasing it back towards the creation of value rather than rent seeking behaviour by investors (including homeowners) and the banks. Nothing on education reform, nothing on foreign policy (cementing our links with India perhaps, by helping foster their growth and then spreading the lessons around the Commonwealth). No word on how to continue the regeneration of our cities now that values are collapsing. Nothing on the looming pensions crisis. Are none of these more important than the Making-credit-cards-safe enough-for-those-unwilling-to-read-the-small-print-act?

Must try harder

So we are going left, if this is left then I must be missing something, social housing thats now right wing, welfare state phew thats communism, looking after the soldiers thats OK but somebody who has an accident at work silly bugger.

Seems these New Labour people are only going left in their minds not in action, bring on the Tories for god sake.

14. West Midlanmds Activist

” including closing tax havens…”

Erm…most ‘tax havens’ are other countries. How are you going to ‘close them’?

What right do we have to tell other sovereign nations what tax rates they should be setting?

Who decides what is a ‘tax haven’? For many years we had lower corporation tax in the UK than many of our competitors, and we benefited from increased investment as a result. Should they have tried to ‘close down’ us?

@15 “West Mids Activist”/Anonymous
Surely you must be aware that the majority of tax havens are Crown dependencies? The Channel Islands for starters.

By the way, points n.2,3,5,7,10 alone could seriously save the day.

16. Donut Hinge Party

Well, any country that wants to trade with us or our EU partners now has to have full transparency (hello, Liechenstein!) or any country which is now bankrupt can get cash in return for turning over its investment records (Good to see you, Cayman Islands)

it would certainly energise Labour’s base/core vote, which has been neglected by the recent leadership in favour of swing voters. That is now coming home to bite them on the bottom.
Lots of nice lefty proposals, which i’m all in favour of.
There is one thing that divides Tory from Labour and Tory from Tory: Europe. Let’s hear something on that too.

Aye, definition is the problem, and this essentially provides the solution. It seems likely that it would only alienate those who would not have voted for Labour anyway.

Are there people still out there who believe this would be an unpopular programme? Are we getting hit by Progress trolls or something? Anyone watching the polls would see this would be a highly popular programme.

Some are unworkable – I agree with Luis that mutualising HSBC isn’t possible. I’m pretty sure he means mutualising some banks, at least the ones we own now.

20. Luis Enrique

Sunny @21

yes, I broke my own Luis Enrique’s First Rule of Blog Commenting (TM) – “if you think somebody is saying something self-evidently absurd, chances are you’ve misunderstood them”. Or “do not treat people like idiots”.

Although once you translate proposal 9 into “remutualise those banks we can” it becomes a rather ineffectual side-show.

@ Sunny 21

I think the key is how they are presented. Some parts of this programme, at least, will sell well, but *not* if they are billed as a shift to the left by Labour. If Labour is seen as going leftwards, it’ll look like its flailing. And, as I’ve said in a post about this one on SP, appearing to go left would be a major tactical blunder in the face of a Tory Party that is selling itself as centrist and progressive. Fortunately, though, these policies can easily be cast as a continuation of New Labour centrism. Labour doesn’t need a sea-change in philosophy. It just needs some policies, and to look like it has the conviction that they are the right thing to do.

Sunny – I don’t think this would be an unpopular programme, and most of it I agree with. But neither do I think it would make Labour much more popular than is current – most people couldn’t care less about most of the proposals. I don’t think it’s sufficient in itself to be a policy platform.

is it a policy platform or a set of principles?

It’s been reported here and eslewhere as a “10 point plan”, so I assumed it was a policy platform.

Oh, and #22, remutualising Northern Rock would be a good start.

25. Luis Enrique

tim f. mutualisation might make Northern Rock more stable as an individual entity but I reckon it would do sweet f.a. for the stability of the global financial system -it’s not a “good start” toward that end, because I don’t think it leads anywhere. It might be a good idea in itself.

Luis – don’t think anyone s arguing that re-mutualisation would solve all problems.

Soho Politco and others – I completely agree that you don’t bill the ideas as ‘a leftward shift’. You bill them as pragmatic policies to cut our deficit, to strengthen our financial sector and to protect public services.

Perhaps I should have been more clear – the language I’d use to sell these policies is completely different to what I’ve used above.

27. Luis Enrique

Sunny,

sure … I don’t know how much importance Cruddas places on the idea, maybe it’s just a small nice-to-have thing. What else on the list addresses reform of finance? Maybe the High Pay Commission will do something, at a stretch you could argue that a Tobin tax would help with stability (quite a stretch) but otherwise there’s not much on the list that addresses reform of finance. I think that’s quite an omission.

28. Luis Enrique

actually, Sunny, I take it all back… on thinking about it, unless there was a vague bullet point “we will reform the finance sector”, I don’t know what I was expecting. This is hardly the place for setting out the details of what that reform would look like.

I’ve missed your article on the racist murder of a Muslim grandfather in front of his 3 year old grandchild in Tooting. Is it because the murderers were black?

30. Donut Hinge Party

Those poor Muslims; won’t someone think of the poor Muslims! Damn you, on the left, with your pernicious Muslim-hating agenda!

Hang on a minute – it’s Wednesday, does that mean we’re hating blacks or muslims? Ah, go nuts – go for the Somalis and kill two birds with one stone.

Sunny: Sorry off topic. But why are you not getting in on this threat to bloggers and blogging?

Don’t gag blogging prisoners

32. Alisdair Cameron

Where’s the abandonment of authoritarianism, the rejection of uber-surveillance, ID cards etc and the restoration of civil liberties?
Oh, and an outright rejection of marketisation/privatisation of vital public services?

Until the left address the issue of how to pay for anything, its a busted streak.

Take the right, where there is a two point plan to stop Labour being elected.

1. Doomsday book of government debts Pensions included.

2. A new tax, to appear on all receipts, hypothecated to paying off the debt. Called a labour tax (small l) so that people don’t confuse it with the Labour party, (large L)

Given that over the long term, 400 billion us going to go on the debts inflation linked, per annum (pensions included), its going to be so in your face, that there is not a hope in hell that Labour will be re-elected. They will be to busy hiding under police protection

Nick

34. vicarious phil

Interesting ideas, maybe. But Gordon Brown won’t propose them, it’s too late. The new Labour “brand” is dead. The current Labour leadership probably have to lose before people like Cruddas get to have their go at trying to change things. The best Brown and crew can now do is the right thing. Try to put the country first and start telling the truth, stop wasting time and money on longer term government plans they’ll not be in power to implement. What legacy do they leave? The bitter after taste of an administration only interested in it’s own survival? We Brits love our losers, Brown’s had his chance but if Darling and others keep/start telling the truth then they may benefit in the medium term…maybe.

Sunny . Just restore the old regulations regarding mortgages
90% mortgage, 4x times ingle salary, self certified mortgages to be equal to to average of 3 years salary backed up an accountant’s report, buy to let mortgages to be maximum of 50%. Mortgages to be funded by savers for 75% of lending- only 25% f funds to come from the markets. This will stop massive rise in propery prices- no boom , therefore no bust.

Mortgage regulation. Lets see 50% deposts for BTL.What impact does that have?

It screws councils and housing associations. I’m all for it. I can’t see them getting 50% deposits.

You can’t exempt them. That’s the beauty of EU law. It would be illegal state aid to say that a HA can gear up more than a private company.

Great idea! Lets go for it.

In general

Why when the left propose things, do they always forget to tell people the cost?

The government debts and liabilities are 8 trillion. It’s screwed

Nick

[42] “Why when the left propose things, do they always forget to tell people the cost?”

Because Gordon found the ultimate con-trick – borrowing. We borrowed and borrowed during the good years, which meant he could go on spending without having to make any visible tax changes. Let’s not forget that borrowing paid for over 5% of government expenditure even before the recession.

Of course, we all know how that worked out. £175bn budget deficit, £1 in every £4 spent is now borrowed. I’m sure some economist in the future will be able to tell us the true cost of Labour 1997-20xx, and it ain’t going to be pretty.

38. Geordie-Tory

You think the Left couldnt possibly make a more spectacular balls-up of the country than already have, then you read this tosh and weep with laughter.

I like Lefties, they look and sound like real people, just more deluded. WAY more.

What Labour needs is the political equivalent of vintage Ian Botham. Brown has to go and be replaced by someone not too close to him. Then they need about 3 issues that they can hit boundary after boundary from. The ten point plan helps particularly to activate the base, but after that its just a few singles when your chasing 300 to win. The hardest part is that the best issues to win elections are on the right side.

I Quote from Mark M”On 2 – what is ‘greater tax justice’? Surely the most ‘just’ thing is everyone keeps what they earn. Where is the justice in someone with a job (not even a high paying one) subsidising people who don’t want a job? My girlfriend is a carer in a retirement home. She works 48 hr weeks at £6.30 an hr. Where is the justice in her having to pay hundreds of pounds a month in tax, while millions of people who have no intention of ever finding work get thousands of pounds a year in benefits? I do look forward to our invasion of Switzerland however. Why is it such an evil thing to you for a country to have low/zero tax rates?

Stiil, I admire the attempt to move the debate away from the £175bn deficit. At least you’re acknowledging that it’s a debate you can’t win – although I would like to see a comment that starts “I think a £175bn deficit is a good thing because ….”.”

As one of these scum bags you describe(but i actually want a job) do you think we all want to live on 64 pounds per week(single person)- (93 pounds per couple per week) true rent and council tax is payed have you and any other ones of these righteous workers dared to actually look at the reasons why people are on the dole (and yes i do know people who are benefit cheats) I do not condone this behavior but i understand the reasons for it.

Reasons as to why crappy Gov schemes like new deal and the soon to start flexible new deal will fail

1. the death of manufacturing in the uk be it coal,iron and related industries.
2 . Unlike other european countries UK has not applied protectionism to its industries unlike as a example france or germany.
3.Poor education of the countries youth
4 Massive economic migration from EU countries and sub sahara africa plus russia
5 to the above our wages (even in this down turn is fortune)plus they dont know there rights as workers and also what EHO(environment health officer) officer is going to kick out 8-10 immigrant workers out of a over crowded house because they dont wont to be classed as racist

6 Employers and government are to blame for the above driving wages down to a point where doing these jobs are not viable for the native brit ….which brings me to my seventh point.

7 the cost of living the UK is one of the most expensive places to live in the world our politicans do not help they just get the heads down in the trough. A hell of alot of unemployed dont work for this reason alone ie better off on the dole (as a single person living with my parents im excluded from this group).

8 Lastly do you have 4-6 million jobs that pay the min wage? to acheive full employment? oh i thought not this is the main thing governments forget there isnt the jobs to employ us all.

but i suppose people like you would like to see a extra 4-5 million kicked out of there homes living on the street which could happen due the the current situation because its fashionable to bash the unemployed.

yay work for dole a £1.50 an hour cleaning your up dog mess and gum but its all good experience……… u would love that wouldnt you mark m.

She works 48 hr weeks at £6.30 an hr. Where is the justice in her having to pay hundreds of pounds a month in tax, while millions of people who have no intention of ever finding work get thousands of pounds a year in benefits?

Spot on. Except that the benefits bill this year is more than income tax raises.

The jobs can be found. Don’t forget, a million Poles found jobs. The problem is that those on benefit are making a choice. Benefits or low paid work, and a lot, not all, are choosing benefits.

The solution is to cap benefits after X years unless disabled, (not incapacitated)

People have to self insure. Compulsorary savings.

The next solution is to do what it takes to get the tax allowance at 40 hours * minimum wage.

Nick


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