Thursday, November 20, 2014

Labour's Electoral Programme (Part 16, the Summary)

Ed Miliband acknowledges the faithful after his speech at the Labour Party conference in Manchester

In the previous 15 parts of this series, I have taken 180 points from Labour's Policy Document, called its "National Policy Forum Report".  For presentational reasons these are not direct quotes, but are near-quotes. My intention has been to retain the original meanings.  I have also, however, been selective as nearly twice as many points can be found in the original document; but hopefully I have not missed out on any of the major areas which are covered.

A reason that I started to summarise these points was that I felt that the Labour Party was missing key opportunities to spread its ideas in the run up to the General Election. The earlier version of its proposals were missing from both the European Election Campaign and the Scottish Referendum Campaign. Then when Labour finally adopted its proposals at its recent annual conference, this was done in a very low key fashion.

I had two main fears. First, that we were only going to start pushing the programme in the period of the short election campaign after the Commons itself was dissolved - and this would be too late. Or secondly (even worse), that the broad sweep of the proposals would just be ignored and had only been worked upon to keep the active rank and file quiet. But things have now started to improve. Even Ed Miliband's speech at the CBI drew from what is now my final category on the Private Sector; then he came out with a strong line with an earlier point against Zero Hours Contacts.  This week the section on Immigration has been stoutly pushed by Yvette Cooper. Then tomorrow we can expect the section on the NHS to be strongly pursued in a Common's debate on a relevant Private Members Bill. On top of which there are also signs that Labour will initially seek to begin to galvanise its members first through a planned series of Regional Meetings; as shown here.

Not only do we need to push the points I cover using the media and then counter any flack they come up with; but we need canvassers and candidates to be pushing our programme. It moves us beyond New Labour and opens the door for clearer democratic socialist advance at a later stage.

This is what is covered in the previous 15 sections - 

For part 1 "Improving Wages and Working Conditions" see  here

For part 2 "Fair, Sustainable and Responsible Economic Growth" see here

For part 3 "An Equitable Tax Structure" see here

For part 4 "A Charter For Young People" see here

For part 5 "The National Health Service" see here

For part 6 "Education, Education, Education" see here

For part 7 "Local Democracy" see here

For part 8 "Political Reform and Equal Rights" see here 

For part 9 "Energy and Climate Change" see here

For part 10 "Disability. Transport" see here 

For part 11 "Policing and Security" see here

For part 12 "Europe and Immigration" see here

For part 13 "Rural and Cultural" see here

For part 14 "Our Global Role" see here

For part 15 "Pensions. Private Sector" see here

ADDED 6 DECEMBER  - There is also this, which I have just discovered on a Labour Party web-site. How many CLPs are aware of it ? And how many are making use of it ?


Unknown said...

So Ed Miliband and the party of Labour is four square against zero hour contracts. Really!

Wish it were so because Labour’s opposition is at best partial, contradictory, Janus-Faced and hugely hypocritical. The usual sticking plaster approach by a Labour Party which spins one nation politics while supporting free market economics and being unsupportive of working people who challenge poverty wages, privatisation, job cuts and slave labour placements at firms such as Poundland, Amazon, Firms where zero hour contracts and workplace exploitation is all pervasive and central to the business plan and drive for market share and the bottom line.

Harry! If zero hour contracts are demeaning, divisive, anti-social and exploitative and the antipathy of one nation politics and are a throw-back to pre-war casualisation, then they should be outlawed, full-stop. No ifs, no buts. After-all the founding principles that led to the establishment of the party of Labour was the idea that all workers should receive a fair days pay for a fair days work. A principal that is both modest and timeless.

Harry I watched today's, second reading of Ian Mearns ( MP for Gateshead) Zero Contracts Bill and was appalled at the paucity of argument and the light-hearted nature of the debate and was struck by the empty Commons chamber. Not a priority for our Westminster representatives.

While the proposed Bill (which is going through the motions and has no chance of reaching the statute book) might be deemed progress insofar as it would:

• require employers to treat zero hours contract workers on the same basis as comparable workers on regular contracts.

• allow workers on zero hour contract workers employed for 12 weeks to receive a contract for fixed and regular hours and employers to give reasonable notice.

• When a shift is cancelled with less than 72 hours’ notice then the employee will be paid in full.

• Exclude exclusivity allowing zero contract workers the right to seek additional employment.

So this is a Bill that has little to do with first principles (a fair days work for a fair days pay and a living wage) or about banning casualisation and low wage contracts which are hugely unjust and unfair. It is a Bill that takes the easy option of mitigating the worst features of zero contracts which will remain fundamentally unfair and exploitative.

And as we all know, the Achilles-heel of the few Labour MP who bothered to show up to support Ian Mearns Bill is that up and down the nation Labour run local authorities slavishly implement coalition austerity measures, dismissing staff on full time and living wage contracts and replacing them with staff on zero contracts and by subcontracting work and services to firms and agencies who do the same.

So reports that Ed Miliband is against zero hour contracts is a little bit unconvincing, don’t you think? After all being a little bit less nasty than the Tories is unappealing don’t you think?

If zero contracts are bad and damaging to the well-being of hundreds of thousands of UK workers, families and deprived neighbourhood communities (and they are) and are detrimental to any meaningful concept of fairness and social justice they should be outlawed not amended.

And this should be a clear and unambiguous Manifesto commitment.

Harry Barnes said...

Ernie : At the TUC Conference, Ed Miliband said - "We'll ban zero hours contracts which require workers to work exclusively for one business. We'll stop zero hours contracts which require workers to be on call all day without any guarantee of work. And we'll end zero hours contracts where workers are working regular hours but are denied a regular contract." Then a week ago he attacked the use of zero hours contracts by Sports Direct at Shirebrook, saying that it is a terrible place to work. Labour's Policy document as endorsed at its last Conference, states that they will stamp out zero hours abuses.

Whilst these positions are inadequate, they are also a welcome move in the right direction. Those active in the Labour and Trade Union Movement now have a partly open door, which they can seek to push to open wider. As their local MP, Dennis Skinner has been revealing the depths of the practices at Shirebrook for some time. It was good to see that it was this example of zero hours abuse which Ed Miliband picked upon.

Unfortunately, numbers of Labour Councils have been caught up in the zero contract abuses. These often work on top of another abuse, where areas such as social work is farmed out to private firms. This has arisen in Derbyshire, because it was inherited from a previous Conservative Council. Then the authority has been so cash strapped by the Coalitions funding arrangements, that it has not yet found the leeway to pull itself out of such arrangements. Labour is proposing some improvements for local government, which could ease the process. But as with zero hours, the door needs opening wider. If under Labour enough was not done, then we would need to work out what tactics should then be recommended - what for instance is the modern variant of the old ILP ideas of "majority opposition"?

But look at the broad sweep of the 180 Labour proposals which I have listed in my recent items. (a) Whose proposals outmatch them anywhere which involves parliamentary politics- the Greens and the SNP? (b) Are they not a distinct improvement on what emerged under Blair and Brown? (c) Do they give scope for improvements which democratic socialists who remain inside the Labour Party (or can be attracted to it) can realistically hope to broaden?