Labour needs more ‘big policy’, so here are some ideas


10:40 am - February 28th 2013

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by Renie Anjeh

Two weeks ago, Ed Miliband made a speech in Bedford – a must-win seat for Labour – announcing new policies such as a cap on interest rates but most importantly reintroduction of the 10p tax rate funded by a mansion tax. It not only showed whose side Labour is on, but also exposed some truths about the Tories.

It’s no coincidence that Boris Johnson and George Osborne were competing on who can attack the mansion the most vociferously – the Tory leadership race is already kicking off!

Labour needs more ‘big policy moments’ so that people know where Labour stands. Here are some suggestions:

- Free universal childcare for all pre-school children, funded by scrapping higher-rate pension tax relief.

- A million new homes by 2020, funded by pooling the budgets for housebuilding and housing benefit, using that prioritise housebuilding over subsiding rents.

- A cap on energy prices and a windfall tax on the ‘Big Six’ energy companies, used to fund a home-insulation programme.

- An independent Office for Immigration Management, which will advise on policy, report on immigration, launch inquiries and give ‘traffic-light’ signals on immigration.

- A reduction in the cap on tuition fees from £9,000 down to £5,000, funded by ending child benefit for over 16s.

- A National Care Service funded by increasing the age where people stop paying National Insurance from 60 to 70 and replacing inheritance tax with a ‘lifetime gifts’ tax.

- A Jobs Guarantee so that those unemployed for over year would get a ‘living wage’ job for six months, which would funded ending the tax-free lump sum pension entitlement.

- 400 local banks, alongside a new British Investment Bank, which will be created by using 1% of the bank bailout fund.

- A National Salary Insurance scheme so that those who have worked longer get more in their benefits.

- A tax allowance of £25,000 for first-time buyers for homes worth up to £250,000 funded by a new ‘net wealth’ tax.

Let’s just hope Jon Cruddas is reading today.

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Reader comments


What about a £90k cap on local government pay to save money and reduce inequality between those in the local government sector?

Or introducing a bill that nationalises all homes left empty for more than 2 years so they can become council houses.

It might only save a tiny bit of money but it all counts – ban MPs for claiming for their TV licence on expenses (or would it cost more to enact the legislation than it would save?)

@1 – Pay at the very top of the public sector should be cut. Nationalisation is not the way forward and taking away people’s properties is not the role of the state – if you want to deal with the shortage of housing, build more homes. There is IPSA to do that.

Lot of robbing peter to pay paul going on here.

`- A million new homes by 2020, funded by pooling the budgets for housebuilding and housing benefit, using that prioritise housebuilding over subsiding rents.’

Really? Demagoguery I think.

You don’t seem to understand that capitalism is finished. Austerity is the embalming of the corpse. Stimulus would be like taking a defibulator to a headless torso. Taking money from one area to give to another area doesn’t result in growth it’s just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. In any case `growth’ is just a euphemism for ripping up the planet.

A socialist party should have a socialist programme and yes that does include nationalisation/socialisation of the property and surpluses of the monopolies.

Big policy would be full employment by sharing the available productive work not some crappy job creation scheme lasting six months, bringing the monopolies under democratic control of their workers and social ownership, ending the bail out and creating a state bank with a monopoly of credit so the privateers cannot rob us blind ever again and that can lend to small business at base rate and facilitate social investment in accordance with a democratic plan. The defence of all necessary and desirable public spending on health, education and welfare, etc plus a balanced budget to be paid for out of the surpluses of the monopolies and fair income taxation. A federation of sovereign British nations to replace the `union’ and the renegotiation of the founding treaties of the EU in accordance with socialist principles.

A cap on energy prices

do you mean moving to something like cost plus regulation, or some of the other available clever ways to regulate utilities that are available?

Because a straight cap is a daft idea. Think about what happens as wholesale energy prices changes. For some prices the cap won’t do anything, for a short range of prices, the cap will reduce energy retailer profits, and then for prices higher than that, the cap would cause them to sell at a loss. Which they won’t do.

imho “local banks” are a bad idea – look at the experience with Spain where local banks become local slush funds for local mayors. More competition might be a fine idea, but what is gained by having small banks that only operate in one locality?

There are limits to the benefits of home insulation. Many properties cannot be fully or even partially insulated. Grants for higher spec windows and replacing inefficient appliances would be worth considering. Passivhaus standards for new build

Call me picky, but if you’re going make suggestions along the lines of ‘we should do X and fund it by doing Y’ then I’d really like to see some figures that tell me how much X will cost and how much you expect to be able to raise by doing Y.

I’d also quite like to see some evidence to show that your figures for X and Y are based on something more than bunch number pulled out your arse at random and scribbled on the back of a fag packet.

Thanks.

Luis, you appear to be asking about details?

Don’t be silly. ;-)

*Shrugs* Labour is still a neoliberal party. So what’s new?

“Free universal childcare for all pre-school children”

…and *only* pre-school children, presumably?

I worry about perverse outcomes here. Imagine a mother who would love to stay at home with her two pre-school children but feels she can’t afford to. So she takes a job, maybe at a local nursery, paying £200 a week. Meanwhile the state is paying £200 a week for the free childcare, maybe at another local nursery, that enables her to do that job. Something has gone wrong there.

The problem is that there’s a fundamental tension between making work a financially viable option for parents who want to work, and making full-time parenting a financially viable option for parents who want to stay at home with their very young children.

At one extreme, we could take the view that all parents ought to be working and the best way to incentivise that is to let them keep the highest possible proportion of what they earn. So: no financial subsidies (benefits/tax credits) for parents who stay at home with their children, and no childcare costs for parents who go out to work.

At the other extreme, we could take the view that all parents ought to be looking after their own children until they reach school age and the best way to incentivise that is to make full-time parenting a more financially viable option than going out to work. So: generous financial subsidies for full-time parents, and high childcare costs facing anyone who chooses to work.

This policy leans heavily towards the former extreme. Hence if we think working should be a *choice* for parents of pre-school children, arguably it gets the balance wrong.

I could see a stronger case for universal free before- and after-school care. That would seem to respond to parents’ needs without unduly pushing anyone into work.

11. Keith Reeder

“A million new homes by 2020″

No. A million times, no.

I care more about green space than I do about the supposed “benefits” of concreting over vast swathes of the country, especially when so many tens of thousands of properties are standing empty.

So unless every last one of those million homes was built on brownfield sites, I’d struggle to vote for a Labour party that had this as a key manifesto pledge – and I’ve voted Labour since the 70s.

@11

“Vast swathes”?? If every one of those new homes were built on green fields, then the amount of land space that would be lost would be less than 0.3% of the country.

@3 – Capitalism is dead? Okay, so when is this Communist Revolution going to begin? Capitalism is here to stay but it needs improving not ditching. As for robbing Peter to pay Paul, I simply do not understand your objection to building new homes and creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs but instead lining the pockets of slum landlords.
@4 – I agree with a full employment target but what would be stupid is for the Labour Party to set itself up for failure, so we need to be realistic and aim to get people jobs so that they are still active in the labour force. As for the rest, Labour tried your political model before – it’s called the 1983 Manifesto!
@5 – We had price caps in the energy market before. Just look at the gas profits announcement yesterday, I think it is clear that we need tougher regulation and what I forgot to add is that the regulator needs to force these retailers to pass any price cuts to the consumer. Forgive me, but it seems like you are standing up for the status quo. As for local banks, can I ask whether or not you looked at the German model of local banking? You might understand what I’m talking about.
@7 – No need to be so crude, but if you must know I do know the figures. Starting at free childcare, it would cost £7bn which is the same amount able to be saved by scrapping higher-rate pension tax relief, as calculated by the IPPR. National Care Service, by increasing the NI age limit to 65, you’d save £0.8bn therefore I expect you get at least £1bn by increasing it to 70 which is where the state pension age is heading. IPPR calculated that a lifetime gift tax instead of IHT, would raise £1bn more. £2bn would cover the cost of going further than the Dilnot reforms, into a National Care Service. Tax-free pension lump sum entitlement costs £2.5bn, that is more than enough for a Jobs Guarantee. Housing benefit and housebuilding budgets together costs £24bn, we could build £200,000 every year using £12bn per annum.
@10 – I’m sorry but that is part of the point, parents want to work but the childcare costs are so high that it does not allow them to work. By having universal childcare, not only saves a lot of money for families but it also allows mothers to get to work. Why should women have to stay at home? It’s not the 1950s!
@11 – It would only be on brownfield sites, and I think that current Labour Party policy opposes building on green spaces.

A future Labour government will really need to rethink national defence policy.

That is almost always regarded as very unsexy by the self-styled “left” but there are real threats as well as a likelihood that public debate will become mired in pointless discussion over the costly renewal of the Trident missile submarines.

Missile submarines will do absolutely nothing about the looming real threats from: asymmetric conflicts, cyber warfare, terrorism and internal subversion.

What to do about Islamic jihadism in north Africa if successive governments there are threatened or following more massacres by Boko Haram of UN healthcare workers, school teachers and Christians in Nigeria?

News in the last few weeks:

“Britain will be unable to fully defend itself from cyber attacks for at least 20 years because of a dearth of computer experts, a report warns today.”
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/9863041/Britain-vulnerable-from-cyber-attacks-for-at-least-20-years.html

15. Luis Enrique

it seems like you are standing up for the status quo

er, no, I was pointing out the stupidity of a crude price cap when input prices are volatile. Do you understand why? There are other smarter varieties of tougher regulatory regimes.

do you mean the Landesbanks? Germany has, what, seven of them? Why would we have 400? Also, whilst there’s lots to admire about the German economy, I’m not sure their banks are much of an ideal. See for example:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/12/business/global/12landesbank.html?_r=0

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/finance/2012/0629/1224318947013.html

http://www.npr.org/2012/04/23/151189567/state-owned-german-banks-suffer-after-risky-investments

1. Abolish the NMW lifting millions off benefits, into work, gaining skills and a track record which prevents them from finding employment
2. Raise the tax threshold to a sensible level
3. Change the tax system to one based on wealth, not income, so plucky entrepeneurs like me don’t get taxed at the same rate in a very good year as all those mega-rich doctors and MD’s do every year (wouldn’t oppose some sort of mansion tax)
4. End final salary pensions for all public servants and replace with defined contribution schemes – this one is absolutely essential.
5. Massively relax planning permission in the UK funding a much needed homebuilding boom. People aren’t poor because of not receiving a living wage, most poverty these days is because housing is in short supply, and protected by all of the big 3

Unlike the United States, Germany never had a housing bubble. Its mortgage market is too tightly regulated. But some German banks did lose a lot of money in the financial crisis. The network of institutions called landesbanks have became a cautionary tale about risky investing.

http://www.npr.org/2012/04/23/151189567/state-owned-german-banks-suffer-after-risky-investments

“Vast swathes”?? If every one of those new homes were built on green fields, then the amount of land space that would be lost would be less than 0.3% of the country.

So? If it’s happening around you (as unfettered development of greenfield sites – some of which are already explicitly caught by local protection measures, for what they’re worth – is currently happening around me), “vast swathes” is EXACTLY what it feels like.

@15 – I think that some of your proposals are rather regressive. The National Minimum Wage has not stopped people getting jobs, it ensures that people have a decent pay. We need to have a living wage, so that we are not spending too much on tax credits but also so that families get a decet wage for their work. I have referred to wealth taxes as well.

Abolish Smith’s insane Work Programme which by the DWP’s own figures is half as effective as doing nothing. Allow local Job Centres to spend the money on education, training, equipment, self-employment startup or relocation for each unemployed person.

Raise the minimum wage to such a level that full time work no longer requires subsidy from the tax payer.

Reverse Camerson’s duplicity over the NHS.

Do not renew any rail franchises.

@15 – No, need to be so patronising. What I do understand is that there are people out there who have to make choices between putting food on the table or heating their home. Ordinary working people are facing staggering price hikes in their gas and electricity bills, and I want the Labour Party to stand up for them. Ofgem has even hinted at price controls, Which the consumer group is supportive and even a Tory Foreign Office Minister has backed calls for price caps in the energy market. Why aren’t you standing up for hard-working people who are sick and tired off facing massive energy bills?
As for local banks, in every town, city and region there is a local bank. 400 was an estimate, set at the level that Germany has. Local banks have proved to be successful, I’d say that the German economic model is hugely successful, and although there are risks – as there is with every bank. However, we are in a society where the banks aren’t lending to small businesses and the poor are relying on pay day loans and local banks could be lifeline for those people. Do you want to keep the ‘status quo’?

22. Luis Enrique

@21

I don’t see why you feel patronized by me asking if you understand why a straight price cap is a bad idea when input prices are volatile. You haven’t yet written anything to address that. “hard-working people who are sick and tired of facing massive energy bills” are not helped by proposing something that won’t work very well. All I am asking you to do is think about what forms of regulation, designed to lower household energy bills, are suitable when energy retailers face volatile wholesale energy prices. UK regulations cannot stop global gas prices moving around.

so you’re not talking about the Landesbanks then? Or am I wrong that there are only about seven of them in Germany? Can you provide a link that describes German banks that are you inspiration?

Are local German banks any more willing to lend to the kinds of people who use payday loans than other banks? Why do you think local branches of national banks have different lending policies towards small businesses than small local banks would have? What happens if local banks have more lax lending standards than commercial banks and experience higher rates of loan defaults, are you proposing subsidising lending to bad credit risks?

Labour could support Caroline Lucas’s LVT bill (or go even further):

http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2012-13/landvaluetax.html

24. the a&e charge nurse

Where do labour stand on health these days?
Are they still committed to an ‘internal market’ or has Tony’s neoliberal bubble burst for them?

@ 13 Renie

“I’m sorry but that is part of the point, parents want to work but the childcare costs are so high that it does not allow them to work.”

This is a baseless generalisation. Some parents of pre-school children want to work; others want to stay at home as full-time parents. Some feel they can’t afford to work; others feel they can’t afford *not* to work. It all depends on their earning power, how many children they have, what benefits they’re entitled to, what their partner (if they have one) earns, what stage they’re at in their career, etc.

If you’ve got any evidence that most parents of pre-school children want to work but can’t afford to, I’d love to see it. All I can find is this recent survey suggesting the opposite – that most new mothers want to stay at home but can’t afford to:

http://www.uswitch.com/blog/2012/09/07/money-worries-forcing-new-mums-back-to-work-early/

“By having universal childcare, not only saves a lot of money for families but it also allows mothers to get to work. Why should women have to stay at home? It’s not the 1950s!”

It’s not a question of mothers *having* to stay at home unless we *allow* them to work. It’s a question of mothers (or fathers) *having the option* to stay at home if they want to, at least during those early years. It would be silly to get into a position where mothers were going out to work through financial desperation because the state was prepared to pay someone else to look after their children, but not them. (On the other hand, it would be silly to get into a position where parents who *did* choose to work didn’t benefit financially from that. As I say, there is a fundamental tension here; we’d have to look at withdrawal rates of Tax Credits etc.)

@25 – I think evidence shown by Mumsnet and research by the IPPR, shows that a lot of women do want to go out and work by the time their child is school age. The thing is, you are opposing such a radical policy idea on the basis that some women will use it to go back to work. Explain what the impact will be for parents who want to stay at home? They will still have that choice. We could frontload their child benefit for 2 years, but that does not mean that families should have to put up with the staggering costs of childcare, especially as it prevents them from going to work. Universal free after-school clubs, I’m not sure that is thought through at all.
@20 – I agree with the first point and the third point. The cap on private provision in the NHS should be reversed and Health and Wellbeing Boards should take over commissioning with the advice of GP consortia. However, we need to try and expand the co-operative model in the NHS to give workers and users a greater say in their Health Service (but that is controversial). On the minimum wage, there is a huge risk. I think almost everyone on the Left would like to increase the minimum wage to that level but it is unrealistic, and the minimum wage should still be determined by an independent panel of economists. What we should do is give tax cuts or reduce the labour costs for businesses that pay the Living Wage, so there is a clear incentive to pay and so they can afford to do it. On the railways, we should be aiming for mutualisation not nationalisation.

@ 26

“I think evidence shown by Mumsnet and research by the IPPR, shows that a lot of women do want to go out and work by the time their child is school age.”

*By the time their child is school age*, sure. That’s what my wife did – stayed at home until our youngest started school. But that’s precisely the point at which free childcare is withdrawn on your proposal.

“you are opposing such a radical policy idea on the basis that some women will use it to go back to work. Explain what the impact will be for parents who want to stay at home?”

It just seems teeth-grindingly frustrating. Imagine being one of those 75% of new mothers who wants to stay at home with her children but is struggling financially. Then the government says to you: ‘there’s £200 a week here with your name on it. Get a job, any job, and we’ll use that money to fund free full-time care for your two children’. Wouldn’t you want to say: ‘why not just give me that £200, or £100 for that matter, and let me look after them myself?’

Maybe that’s what we should do – give every parent of pre-school children an allowance they can choose either to spend on childcare (if they want to work) or not.

@27 – 75% of mothers? Have you got any evidence for that, because I’d like to see it. We already have free entitlements for childcare already for some people, but it should be universal and it should be 25 hours not 15 hours for all children 1 to 5. If you don’t want it, you do not have to have it but research shows that the Treausry would get £7bn back in tax revenue, because mums would be able to go to work? As for your proposal for an allowance, it seems like you want to roll the clock back to the days before child benefit existed. I am in favour of frontloading child benefit and tax credits so parents can get more in the first two years of their child’s life, but we should make it possible for parents to get to work without having to face the cost of childcare which is about £5k per year for every child in this country. Look at Norway and Austria, rather than the old days of the Family Allowance. In addition, you fail to understand that good universal childcare is also good for the child and can boost social mobility as well as increasing life chances. We need to invest in early years education, rather than kowtow to the social conservatism of those who wish for the days gone by.

30. Natacha Kennedy

@Schmidt

Properties that cannot be insulated, including sound insulation in flats, should be made unletable, this would bring a large number of properties onto the market at cheap rates for first time buyers. They would then have the incentive to find ways to insulate creatively.

One of the biggest problems in housing terms is the huge rents now being charged by private landlords, which prevents people from saving to buy their own place and increases the price of buy-to-live properties. Building more homes will not necessarily solve this, these homes are just as likely, if not more likely, to be bought up by buy-to-let landlords. Restricting private landlords, and putting a windfall tax on their profits might be a better way forward.

@ 28

“75% of mothers? Have you got any evidence for that, because I’d like to see it.”

I provided the link @ 25:

http://www.uswitch.com/blog/2012/09/07/money-worries-forcing-new-mums-back-to-work-early/

“As for your proposal for an allowance, it seems like you want to roll the clock back to the days before child benefit existed.”

I meant a cash allowance, like Child Benefit or Tax Credits, not a tax allowance, like Family Allowance. (Obviously. What use would a tax allowance be to a full-time parent?)

“good universal childcare is also good for the child”

It’s highly plausible that it’s good for a child to attend good-quality playgroups and then nurseries before starting school. It’s highly *implausible* that babies and toddlers will do worse being cared for at home by their mothers than in a nursery or with a childminder.

I think you’re confusing two issues here. If you were proposing universal free access to an appropriate amount of good quality early years provision – an hour or two at a mums & tots group for babies and toddlers, a couple of mornings in playgroup for two-year-olds, part-time nursery education for three-year olds, full-time nursery education for four-year-olds – you’d certainly be on to something. But you’re not proposing that; you’re proposing eight-hour days with childminders or in nurseries for children from – what? – six months up? That’s not ‘early years education’.

Look: I’m not at all hostile to the idea of financially supporting parents who want to work. I just wouldn’t want to end up with a system that perversely withheld support from parents who instead wanted to stay at home with their children – which includes many, perhaps even most, mothers of very young children. At it does seem to me that there is something perverse about a system that says: we’ll pay £100 a week towards the cost of caring for this child, so long as the mother is out working and not providing that care herself. So I’d want to know how all this interacted with tax credits etc.

32. Man on Clapham Omnibus

13. Renie Anjeh

@3 – Capitalism is dead? Okay, so when is this Communist Revolution going to begin? Capitalism is here to stay but it needs improving not ditching.

I think if you are going to make such bold statements you need to suggest who is going to improve capitalism or why indeed it is a system guaranteed to last. The rich who prosper will hardly wish to change things and the poor have no power. Ultimately it will collapse under its own logic and David Ellis is absolutely correct IMO.What replaces it will be an interesting issue.

According to Douglas Adams, 42 is the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything.

34. Keith Reeder

“Restricting private landlords, and putting a windfall tax on their profits might be a better way forward.”

And introducing US-style rent control.

35. Dislecksick

Please note all, that we do not, and have not for at least 60 years, live under capitalism.

We have a mixed ecomony which has tipped towards being actually more of a socialist system.

As I have said before, I am taxed at about 75% all in all, so are you saying you just need the further 25% to create utopia.

What we have is the worst of all worlds, a high taxation economy run by corporate mandates with little compeition – any fervent capitalist would agree that the corporatist system we have today is not the point of capitalism – after all, why haven’t all the bad businesses gone down? Because social democrats bailed them out. Socialism for the rich.

Don’t delude yourselves that the small fragment we have left which operates in a free market it the cause of the world’s ills. healthcare, banking, rail, you name it, is awarded by government decree and NOT the free market, and therefore it’s a cash cow for politicians and their mates on the boards on these companies…..but apparently if we made the entire ecomony by mandate of mandarin then we would all be better off? Don’t you realise that it would be even more of a boys club without the reality of some sort of competitor stealing your order book?

Owning the means of production means nothing. Who controls the means of the production is everything, and we can’t all control it, therefore a system where, theoretically, anyone can grow a business and therefore become rich and powerful is the fairest system possible, rather than the socialist system where the smoothest talking politician who makes the most bullshit promises gets that right, and then will obviously create an empire to protect his, and his mates, little gravy train of perks, secretaries and black Limos.

36. Renie Anjeh

@31 – I think you need to really look at the issue of childcare rather than making wild assumptions. Did you look at the clip that I gave you? I seriously do not know what your problem is on this issue because you are in a very small minority. The poll you showed me said ‘new mothers’, I am talking about parents of 1 to 5 year olds allowing them to access free universal childcare. We have free childcare entitlements which last 15 hours a week for poor children, but that does not help those parents who want to go to work. Also, do remember this is a blog and I did not write a whole manifesto on childcare. The radical proposal I want is 25 hours per week providing high-quality early years education from 1 to 5 year olds not the state paying for childminders for 6 month olds (that is why we have parental leave). I recommend that you read the IPPR research.
@32 – No disrespect but you are talking about some socialist utopia that exists in the imagination of Ken Loach, rather than actual reality. Capitalism is here and it is here to stay. It will not go and should not go, what it needs is real reform. Some of things I was talking about such as local banks, a living wage, full seperation of casino and retail banking, stronger consumer protection, an end to huge market monopolies, employee-representation of executive boards and possibly moving to a system where workers are also shareholders. We also need strong private sector trade unions too. Labour is not, and never has been, an anti-capitalist party as such (bar 1983) but we should be proud reformers of the market.
@34 – I agree with rent controls but there needs to be caution on the way it is implemented but a windfall tax on landlords’ profits is a terrible idea.

37. Chaise Guevara

@ 33 Bob B

“According to Douglas Adams, 42 is the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything.”

Yeah, but the question is either “What do you get when you multiply six by nine?” or “How many roads must a man walk down?”

@ 36

“I think you need to really look at the issue of childcare rather than making wild assumptions.”

What wild assumptions? It’s a plain matter of fact that some people would rather stay at home with their children than go out to work, at least while those children are very young. I think you need to question your own assumptions about what all ‘modern’ women surely want.

“The poll you showed me said ‘new mothers’, I am talking about parents of 1 to 5 year olds”

It’s a fair point, but it’s not unreasonable to think that a good proportion of mums of two or three year olds would also like to stay at home with them if they could afford to.

“Also, do remember this is a blog and I did not write a whole manifesto on childcare.”

A fair point again. I’m just raising some concerns that might be relevant if someone *was* looking to produce such a manifesto, pointing out that the choice to be a full-time parent is just as worthy of support as the choice to go out to work.

“The radical proposal I want is 25 hours per week providing high-quality early years education”

Sorry, but childcare is not the same thing as early years education. You can’t equate the service provided by childminders and daycare staff with that provided by teachers in nurseries and reception classes.

“I recommend that you read the IPPR research.”

I took a look. What troubles me about it is the same thing that troubles me about your own argument: it starts from the assumption that every mother of young children wants to work and asks ‘what can we do to make that happen? What countries have high maternal employment rates? They must be doing something right’. It’s the mirror image of the mistake made by someone who assumes every mother of young children wants to be a full-time mum, and sees *low* rates of maternal employment as a sign of policy success. In fact a successful policy would be one that had every mother able to pursue her career and family life in a way that suited her – which is not something you can just read off from employment statistics.

I suppose I’m viewing this through a slightly personal lens. My wife chose to stay at home till our youngest started school and knew a lot of women who did the same thing, and a lot more who would have done so if they hadn’t felt the financial pressure to work. I wouldn’t suggest for a moment that every woman does or should feel the same way, but (as I keep saying) the contrary assumption that every woman wants to work is baseless.

I took a look. What troubles me about it is the same thing that troubles me about your own argument: it starts from the assumption that every mother of young children wants to work and asks ‘what can we do to make that happen? What countries have high maternal employment rates? They must be doing something right’.

The protestant work ethic has a lot to answer for if you ask me.

36

‘Labour is not, and never has been an anti-capitalist party as such’.

I take it that the ‘as such’ refers to Labour’s roots as a socialist party, which begs the question of how a socialist party is not anti-capitalist ‘as such’?


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