A credible alternative

28th May, 2012 9:31 am

In recent times, we’ve had a lot said about the need for us to be credible. It’s true that we need to win trust for our economic message – and I believe we’re well on the way to accomplish this. But competence alone does not address the lack of trust many of us pick up on the doorstep.

Over the years, I’ve noticed how big the rise in disillusionment has been on the doorstep. Many factors play into it – notably the anti-political stigma left by MPs’ expenses – but it is the utter bewilderment of the recession and austerity aftermath that is the biggest contributor. It’s pretty clear why.

The Tories and their Liberal sidekicks have championed There Is No Alternative. It is somewhat depressing being constantly told it’s all doomed and you just have to accept it. So when we come knocking to have a chat, the obvious question comes. What would you do differently?

Back in the better times, the dividing lines were clear. We would invest in public services. The Tories would threaten them. Vote Labour for better schools and hospitals. But even then there were issues like housing, where we had to find some unsatisfactory explanation for the lack of affordable homes, but unable to offer much hope. And it’s that pitfall we must avoid.

Times are very complicated, and our position as a democratic socialist party is not easy. But we would be mistaken if we let that hamper our role to provide people with a clear alternative to this rampant destruction of our welfare state, public services and quality of life. As the NHS is flogged off, how will we roll it back? As another fare hike is put through, will we freeze it back down? And as another attack on workplace rights is pushed through, will we undo it?

The common concept of credibility is misguided. It is too narrowly defined on fiscal measures alone. The starting point is so constrained that we risk ending up with an offer so bland it falls flat. We need to widen our criteria – to be a serious alternative to the current government as their credentials come into question. Our goal should be to make people’s lives better, to give them confidence and hope that if we were in power, things would improve. And I’m heartened to have heard Jon Cruddas, our new Policy Review co-ordinator speak of just this. It’s vital that our plans stand up to scrutiny, but our emphasis must be on our alternative vision to the Tory-led government, not what can’t be done.

We must be fiscally responsible for the long term, and expose false short-term economies. Closing down a Sure Start centre may help the council budget, but has a far greater long term cost for the local community. Likewise we should dare to make new spending commitments that would result in growth without adding to long term debt – like building social housing that would help provide new homes as well being cost neutral within a matter of years. Our plans should be fiscally sound, but backed by evidence, not just superficial posturing to look tough.

When it comes to our attitude to business, we must continue this approach. Ed Miliband’s call for responsible capitalism has given us an opportunity to go beyond our timid shell of the past, when any ideas that made the CBI uneasy were shot down by business or treasury ministers. We must fight the Beecroft report and the subsequent onslaught on rights at work that will result. But we must also think beyond this for our alternative vision, and how we can encourage businesses to grow by developing and better engaging with their staff, rather than by increasing insecurity.

It is right that we are diligent and know what we can afford to put right and when. But our goal must be to have bold, credible policies that will show people that there is an alternative, and that alternative is Labour.

Alon Or-bach is a London representative to the National Policy Form and a member of the Prosperity and Work policy commission

To report anything from the comment section, please e-mail [email protected]
  • hp

    Yes, we need a credible plan to deal with the £milloin millon debt that the UK is lumbered with.
    Let me write that out in numbers: £1,000,000,000,000.
    Approximately £50,000 for every non-public sector worker.
    So, let’s hear that plan.
    That is just our immediate concern.
    We will have to deal with long-term pension costs next.

    • alonorbach

      Of course we will tackle debt, but we should not just posture to look tough. And we should pay it back – not just shift the burden from public to personal debt. Cutting services that end up costing people more to get privately, or forcing people out of work because they can’t afford childcare is the danger I’m talking about. Pensions another good example. As public sector pensions slashed bluntly, and no doubt we’ll hear arguments to cut back state pension more, that ‘saving’ will end up costing individuals even more.

      • hp

        Hard decisions need to be made.
        It is no use just ignoring it.  We need to find a way of eliminating our deficit while our interest rate is low.  Otherwise, when the cost of borrowing increases, debt interest will take an even larger share of public spending and there will be even less to spend on public services.
        You have to make those difficult decision if you want credibility.

        • treborc1

          Just like that?

          • hp

            Yep.
            The other piece of bad news:  we need to reduce public sector employment, too.
            As valuable as public servants are, they cannot make any net contribution to debt reduction. Also, that includes so-called private sector businesses that are funded by govt. contracts: a big ‘hello’ to much of the UK construction, medical and IT industries.
            At present, the debt burden falls upon too few shoulders.
            We need more people making net tax contributions and fewer non-contributors.
            Oh, and look forward to an extensive period of no economic growth, too.  Rebalancing our economy will not be easy.
            Hands up who still thinks that running up a huge national debt was a good idea.

          • treborc1

            Well a god old ww3 will do it. or Jesus  making a come back.

          • AlanGiles

            “Jesus  making a come back.”

            He already has – he was appearing at the Levenson enquiry today :-)Like
            Reply

          • treborc1

            No crucifixion though the bloke could charm his way our of a war, or into one.

          • treborc1

            No crucifixion though the bloke could charm his way our of a war, or into one.

          • John Dore

            That will be most here, me excluded. Next question.

    • Trudge74 as alexwilliamz

      Here’s hoping you don’t have a mortgage. I’m guessing the average mortgage is probably over 100k per house owner! Scary

  • John Dore

    A mate of mine and I made the fatal mistake of discussing politics after a few pints on Saturday night. We’re both Labour but he’s far more let’s say committed than I. We agreed on just about everything and the one thing we were certain of was that Labour would not win the 2015 election.

    The most likely outcome was lib lab coalition.

  • John Dore

Latest

  • Comment Featured The long read: Why Corbyn’s moral clarity could propel him to Number 10

    The long read: Why Corbyn’s moral clarity could propel him to Number 10

    It is accepted wisdom that for a party to be elected in a first past the post two-party system it has to appeal to swing voters, particularly those in marginal seats. As a result the two main parties have vied for the centre-ground. Consequently, in recent decades a large section of the electorate came to see little to choose between them. People have also come to believe that you cannot trust politicians. Distrust increases if politicians clearly behave in ways that are motivated […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured Naushabah Khan: We feel pride in our country so let’s use this to tackle Labour’s “Englishness problem”

    Naushabah Khan: We feel pride in our country so let’s use this to tackle Labour’s “Englishness problem”

    The reality of last year’s general election is that Labour’s failure to secure a victory in an England, suffering at the hands of UKIP, ultimately resulted in our defeat. As a parliamentary candidate in Rochester and Strood, for both the general election and by-election, caused by the defection of Mark Reckless to UKIP, I am all too aware of the public mood, that considered us out of touch with their lives and values. Both elections also revealed fascinating notions of nationalism, belonging and identity politics that as a […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Rachel Reeves: Queen’s Speech showed the typical Tory failure on pensions and infrastructure

    Rachel Reeves: Queen’s Speech showed the typical Tory failure on pensions and infrastructure

    Yesterday in Parliament we voted on the Government’s programme of legislation for the year ahead, as set out in the Queen’s Speech. The background to yesterday’s debate about its economic measures is the critical decision our country faces about its relationship with Europe. The evidence I have heard as a member of the Treasury Select Committee has left me more convinced than ever that a vote to leave would scupper any hopes and well-laid plans we might make for our […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Corbyn puts campaigns at heart of Labour staff reshuffle

    Corbyn puts campaigns at heart of Labour staff reshuffle

    Jeremy Corbyn has carried out a shake-up of the way the Labour Party operates with a review of the party’s internal structure and a reshuffle of his backroom staff. As the leader approaches nine months in the job, Simon Fletcher, chief of staff, will move to a new role of Director of Campaigns and Planning. While some have seen this as readying the party for a possible post-referendum snap election, it is seen internally as filling a more long-term brief – covering areas such […]

    Read more →
  • Europe Featured News Corbyn and Miliband team up to warn of dangers of Brexit on climate change

    Corbyn and Miliband team up to warn of dangers of Brexit on climate change

    Jeremy Corbyn and Ed Miliband will hit the campaign trail together today as they champion the leadership the EU has shown on tackling climate change – and warn that a vote to leave would put recent progress “at risk”. It is the first public appearance that former leader Miliband has made with his successor, and comes in a week in which rumours circulated that Corbyn was trying to coax him back into the Shadow Cabinet. During last year’s leadership contest, Corbyn praised Miliband’s […]

    Read more →
Share with your friends










Submit