Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Putting Policy Flesh on the Bones

I'm grateful for so many of you in spending your three pounds and voting for me to be the next Labour leader, and just hope that the party does not open an enquiry to ask how this has all come about. After all, we know how: the leadership never trusted the membership. Frankly, you know, I expected more of you in the great beyond to dip in and vote as I reach out to more than the narrow party constituency, more than these apparent unreliable insiders obsessed with their £40 a year membership and just being too involved. We expected insiders to vote for that chap I shall only call the C word, but apparently outsiders have voted for him too, and some of them he doesn't even want! I do - I'll take all I can get. So reaching out it is and I am the candidate to reach the important Great British public. So I'm not ungrateful for the numbers voting, far from it, and yet I have to say the absence of any attempts at entryism tells us just how far we have got to go to get the voters out there interested. Nevertheless, it is up to us as candidates to generate interest, and I intend to do so using matters of substance.

Now, in that light, of addressing matters of substance, I've been asked to put policy flesh on the not quite bare bones of the vision thing I have already expressed previously. The vision thing is, you see, vitally important: vitally important that we have it. It is our ability to see, to see ahead, and see ahead we will. Not 'we shall', but 'we will', and those of you beyond the party who treasure our great language will know that to say 'we will' is to make a statement of intent. I am determined to do this, and as Mrs Slocombe used to say, I am unanimous in this.

So how does this vision translate into policies? Well, it does, and I want to look at some key areas that fit in with the vision that a modern party like ours can possess, one that nevertheless takes account of political realities, of a Conservative government that won, and a Labour opposition that lost. Yes, we must always remember that they won and we lost.

Remember when we used to win? Yes, a certain Tony Blair used to say, "Cor! Bin this!" and he'd say, "Cor! Bin that!" and binning policies helped us win an election or three, and we must do the same, otherwise we'll end up with the first two of those essential three words, and that means, without making the case, we'll end up saying, "Cor! Bin the General Election!"

 So what policy areas are these we must bin and must refashion? I suggest housing, transport, welfare and devolution are all key areas for the current political agenda. And I shall, if I may, key in Europe with devolution, which is the same thing but in different directions. But there is a relevance here of that particular coupling with all our policies. Remember the term "subsidiarity"? That was Europe handing decisions down to the lowest level relevant, and you'll see how subsidiarity has a part to play in every policy area.

So let's start with housing. Housing is one of our values, that everyone should have a place to live. This is our aspiration at least. Ideally it is a decent place to live, particularly where children are involved. But, if one thing this General Election result has shown us, it is that we must be realistic, and there will be, even under my leadership I'm afraid, waiting lists and a likely continued rise in house prices and rents and horrible places to reside. Subsidiarity means it must be the full responsibility of individuals to find housing, and businesses to provide housing, but let's see this positively as part of opportunity Britain. We will never be able to go back to the days of that collective socialist paternalist Harold MacMillan and his building lots of council houses when some people never had it so good - not as good, was it, when people were able to buy those houses at a discount and stash the cash in a wealth effect: that really was a time of never having it so good. So let's not make that mistake of council house building again. Although the one thing we can do is sell off Housing Association stock. And then, as regards the market in property, given that we must attract the votes of the elite, rising property prices under pressure of fewer places to live is a means by which they can afford and maintain a lifestyle, and this while expensive welfare goes to those who sit in front of afternoon television watching programmes about buying and selling houses, ridiculous when buying and selling houses happens among those who work, and either manage a lifetime of debt or are part of the elite taking property prices (just as they do affording education) in their stride.

By the way I'm not referring to education simply because the Conservatives took on what Blair did, the only difference being that their academies and free schools are aimed at the posher end of the market whereas ours were aimed at the poorer end of the market. Neither did - nor does - much for social mobility: and in any case these last years of falling unemployment have shown how useful it is to have a pool of largely uneducated labour to fill low wage low productivity jobs, a labour pool that now we must free from benefit top-ups however painful but useful for the subsidiary of responsibility.

Yes, some people, if not the welfare dependent or the high elite, go to work using transport. It is Osborne's policy to keep petrol less taxed because they use cars. But what about public transport? Let's be honest: John Major privatised our railways in the worst way possible, so that they have to be subsidised to be profitable. Can we make them profitable without being subsidised? Our legacy now is adjusted from the worst days: we have Network Rail and these operating companies. Now it is a good thing that many of these operating companies are owned by State run railways abroad, so although we see our prices rise, subsidies rise and profits grow, these bodies can run their own services as a social good and bring to their own national operations the benefits of making a profit. Yes, this is the new reality, just as is the Northern Powercut. Let me tell you about that - and some home truths are needed. Remember the fuss made about trams in Manchester, followed by the fuss made about trams in Sheffield? What about all the noise about a pathetic little line in Edinburgh? Yes - but do you remember hearing anything about the Wimbledon Tramlink? No - and that's because the south takes its investment in its stride, where necessity demands the investment and where surely we can spend lots on repositioning stations, and co-ordinating London Underground, London Overground, Thameslink in two forms, Crossrail and the Stansted Express. I have detailed policies on this and a map of proposals. Yes we are committed, at enormous expense, to HS 1, HS 2 and HS 3, even if they will be out of date by the time they come to fruition, when the Chinese and Japanese will be building maglevs up and down their lands going at considerably faster speeds. We need to catch up as we fall behind at the same time, all at a considerable commitment to such marginal investment. I know others want small and effective rail and rapid transit improvements, but we must remember that this Chancellor is showing the way and we are not an opposition for opposition's sake, even when we might have a better alternative.

When Labour won its landslide it didn't institute a Welfare State that would cradle people from their birth to their grave. No. They expected that, as the National Health Service made people more well that it would be able to shrink, not discover more and more conditions to treat. This is no way of going on. The point about unemployment pay was to then be taken to a firm or government department to start a job. People who were ill or had needs had families to look after them, and if they didn't they were illegitimate anyway and could approach a religious house or convent or some such. The logic of this Chancellor's and Secretary of State for Work and Pensions' direction must be the workhouse, surely the best place where people can do mindless and meaningless work in order that they may survive. Let's be honest, it was not all bad in the nineteenth century. I was reading how children in bondage, even to such progressive mill owners at those Unitarian Greggs in Styal, used to run away to the workhouse. They ran from such a lovely village and guaranteed work to a workhouse because they thought they would be able to leave it and get a real job. What a good idea - and in appealing to our elite, who with their wealth can relax somewhat, we need to refashion the world of benefits to get ahead of the curve and bring back the local workhouse. It will give people the experience and skills by which they can go and do these low wage low productivity jobs that the elite money economy does seem to allow. I'm sure that a sensitive introduction of the workhouse can also be a little softer with older inhabitants or those with medical conditions, reducing the need to offer pensions or other social care as early as we do. Indeed, care homes can be incorporated into workhouses. Furthermore, people in workhouses will put less pressure on Housing Association properties allowing them to be sold off. And of course these workhouses will be privately run, giving a real sense of economic growth in the motivation of the labour force, especially in the north - and we would only need to pay by results.

And let's be clear, here, that we are committed to one nation. Yes we are because why should part of the nation pay and part of the nation receive? That's two nations. Let us have one nation, where no one is receiving, or at least they are receiving in a well run private workhouse that gets paid by results of people working hard within and then going into work without. Let the wealthy elite realise it is time to vote Labour! Yes, Labour is for labouring!

But. let me warn you. We could soon be automating ourselves out of jobs, and having no cost or price for items in the information economy. Capitalism is threatened, and the C word man must not be allowed to suggest an unwelcome alternative. We must therefore retain the low productivity low wages jobs that our elite understands as necessary for social peace, that reinforced by the active workhouse system I am proposing that would benefit everyone going through its transitory purposes.

So more and more decisions should be take locally. For example, every workhouse would have to decide its own regime on how it would meet its payment by results. But let's look at the wider subsidiarity question. Who knows whether we will be in or out of Europe by the time the next election comes? Who knows if euros will be printed on Greece-proof paper? But here let's devolve to local cliques and bigwigs, the sort of people we see tribally up and down the country, with local feuds able to sort out local policy differences. There is a good argument for national politics to be refashioned not by voting and all the trouble that brings, but a refashioned House of Lords where our elite can purchase their way into direct policy making. After all, with my kinds of policies, why have a General Election at all? Why not leave the direction in which we are now going and which I can advance to a collection of the wealthy to actually make public decisions?

Let's look at the evidence. The City of London is a wonderful receptacle for financial assets of all kinds, legal and illegal, that has a special place in the property sector in London, especially now that the benefit families are being forced to move out and go to northern England (and could be the very people to occupy the workhouses there). Property prices can soar and really generate finance for our nation, on the biggest scale since slavery! Ask what powered our industrial revolution and it was slavery. Now ask where the money is coming from today, and it is oligarchs and crooks and all sorts of worldwide dodgy dealings, as well as from a whole host of financial derivatives that make pre-2008 look like sober times. Quantitative easing that has kept the patient alive is turning up now in all sorts of high-end consumerism for the sorts of people we need to vote Labour, people with many properties and even more cars.

I say to the pessimists, Labour does not have nowhere to go. Elect me as your leader and I will continue with venom where the Conservatives are only gingerly going. I will get us there and fast - the one nation that is our future, located as a magnet for the world. Let's refashion Labour and show the world!

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