In this second decade of the twenty-first century we have reached a crossroads. The end of the cold war has not led to a new and more stable world order but instead to widespread disorder and human suffering.
Our global world is fragmenting and life is becoming less predictable not only for people in poorer parts of the globe but in more affluent countries like Britain.
The financial crash of 2008-9 is hugely symbolic. It exposed deep flaws in the ways our economies are run. But more than that, it highlighted the staggering and unacceptable gap that has opened up- and is continuing to widen – between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’. Wealth in the form of land, capital and income is more concentrated, and into fewer hands, than for the best part of a century. A fraction of the ‘1%’ that commentators write about is dictating to governments, colonizing electorates and lining its pockets.
The Labour Party can no longer be complicit in a system that even Adam Smith would have condemned. But rhetoric is not enough. A party that aspires to govern in the name of the people as a whole must own an alternative vision and have the policies and will to act on that vision.
There will be a great clamour of opposition as the 1% summon their resources to defend their advantages. It is common knowledge that most media magnates and the editors who serve them champion the ‘haves’. I can see the ‘Red Ed’ headlines now! But we must hold our nerve. Most people know instinctively, even if the media distort the evidence, that too many have been losing out to too few for too long now.
This speech is directed to the many – to those in the ‘squeezed middle; those in the so-called ‘precariat’ who have lost all job security; to those in casual or part-time work who want a proper job; to those who are under-employed; to those on zero hours contracts; to those compelled to work for nothing to ‘earn’ their benefits; to the sick and disabled whose quality of life has been undermined; and, above all, to all those who began their lives in relative poverty are being pushed by way of food banks to absolute poverty.
Amongst these, adding up to so many of the 99%, there is a tangible will for proper political representation and change. Opinion polls already show majorities for many of the policies I am going to outline today.
It is time to see and admit that the Emperor is wearing no clothes.
I have said that rhetoric is not enough. Immediately on the election of a Labour government there will be a fundamental shift in economic policy. No longer will government policy satisfy the requirements of the ultra-wealthy on the false prospectus that only they have the talent to allow us all to prosper. A rich vein of talent runs though each and every region of our country.
The policy of austerity that has taken money from the have-nots to complement the estates and bank accounts of the haves will be ended.
There is a twofold justification for this. First, a rebalancing of the economy in favour of the majority over the minority will lead to its reinvigoration. It is not only just and compassionate to invest in those who are not awash with capital, it makes sound sense. Unlike the 1%, they will of necessity spend any additional monies, and do so locally. Second, kick-starting the economy will provide a platform for the further changes we are committed to.
To this end we will on day one:
- Set the rate of income tax at 10% for people earning £20-30,000 a year with a sliding scale up to 90% for those earning in excess of £150,000 a year.
- Reduce VAT by 5%.
- Increase Corporation Tax by 10%.
- Restore democratic accountability to the Bank of England.
- Introduce a Tobin-style tax on specified financial transactions.
It has been established beyond doubt that riches and privileges are transmitted principally via the inheritance of capital. By the end of the next Parliament we will:
- Increase Inheritance Tax on estates in excess of £500,000 with a sliding scale up to 80% for estates in excess of £2m.
We will act unilaterally as well as work with other governments inside and outside the European Union to close the tax loopholes used by wealthy individuals, banks and corporations operating in Britain, extending to the phased closure of tax havens.
We will act against the ‘bonus culture’ that now contaminates the upper reach of the public as well as private sector.
I must be brief here, while conveying that a Labour government will deliver an integrated programme for a more just, equal and civilized society.
Over the period of the period of the next parliament we will also:
- Bring in new banking regulations to specify reserve levels and acceptable profit margins and to enforce a separation of lending and investment departments.
During the initial term of office we will also act in the following areas:
Set up a National Commission in the wake of the Scottish referendum to determine how best to devolve democratic decision-making nationally and regionally.
Outlaw second occupations or other forms of work undertaken by elected members of the House of Commons; and introduce a cap on expenses.
Abolish the House of Lords and replace it with a second or ‘people’s assembly’ chamber, its members to be selected for five-year terms of office from cross-sections of the population according to similar criteria to those deployed to form juries.
Abolish hereditary titles and the honours system; end hereditary entitlements to non-farming land in excess of 100 acres; and hold a referendum on the future of the monarchy in the event of the Queen’s death.
Reinstate legal rights and, as and when necessary, legal aid for all citizens.
Replace the non-accountable surveillance of ‘all’ citizens with an accountable and discrete monitoring of realistic threats.
Outlaw zero hours contracts; make payment of a living wage and sick and holiday pay compulsory; provide incentives to boost full-time as opposed to part-time or casual employment; restore the union and other rights of workers; and secure worker representation on the boards of companies employing 100 or more.
Ensure that no employer will take home an income more than 10 times that of his or her lowest paid full-time employee.
End the ‘bedroom tax’; draw to a timely conclusion ‘austerity’s failed experiment’ with universal credit and the privatization of people’s day-to-day security; and introduce/restore benefits adequate to compensate for periods of unemployment, sickness or disability.
Take back into public control the major utilities, including the supplies of water and energy and systems of transport and communication; and orient these to an optimal ecological return.
End the privatization of health and social care, renegotiating outstanding contracts for the provision of services as well as building and other projects carried out under private finance initiatives/partnerships; re-organize 24/7 primary care teams to allow a greater role for ‘physician’s assistants’ and nurse specialists; and re-introduce local ‘district’ hospitals and regional specialist units.
Bring under public control domestic, commercial and other property left vacant for a period in excess of five years, most conspicuously in London and other major cities; support a long overdue programme of public sector house-building, releasing and supporting local authority resources.
Phase out private schooling, which is designed to reproduce privilege; close ‘faith’ and other free-standing schools; re-introduce secular comprehensive secondary schooling under the auspices of elected local authorities; and secure a more appropriate balance between ‘letting children be children’, education and preparation for the workforce.
Freedom of religious and other beliefs:
Underwrite people’s freedom to have and espouse religious and dissenting views and to hold assemblies.
The enforcement a living wage and of workers’ rights will end employers’ push for cheap migrant labour. In addition, we will recognize that migrants enrich our country; strengthen border controls and the monitoring of migrants from outside the European Union; and offer extra support to local authorities and communities where migrants settle in significant numbers.
End Britain’s nuclear non-deterrent; and acknowledge that we can and should no longer act as a global enforcer, unilaterally or in concert with the USA.
I will spell out each of these policies in detail in the coming weeks and months.
I can already hear the hoots of derision and screams of anguish! But I ask you to think about ‘who’ is laughing, ‘who’ wailing. You will find that hiding behind the words of the journalists and commentators are the multimillionaires making up the 1%. ‘There is no alternative’ they will tell you: ‘you must line our pockets’, pay tribute, or we will all sink together.
The emperor is naked! Most people know this, so let’s acknowledge it and act accordingly. There IS an alternative. Much of what I have laid out in this speech was commonplace in the postwar years. But not all: it is time to move on and to look to a better and more secure future.
WE CAN AFFORD EACH AND EVERY MEASURE I HAVE OUTLINED TODAY. The multimillion pound bonuses of the 1% can be better spent. Let me remind you that billions of pounds are sitting in the ‘hidden’ overseas bank accounts of the 1%.
It is time to call the wealthy and powerful to account. It is a fact that most of them were born to privilege – check out the present Cabinet. They inherited too the idea that they have a right to rule. I say it is time to call their bluff. Vote for a Labour Party committed to the wellbeing of the population as a whole rather than the 1%.
Let’s see this through!