Labour can be architects of change before 2015

November 26, 2012 10:56 am

Author:

Tags:

Share this Article

The Labour Party’s purpose is to create and lead change. Not for its own sake, but change in line with the progressive passions and priorities that brought us in to our movement. That is why we are a party which restlessly seeks government, the lever by which we can deliver our goals. But we must not be mistaken in thinking that because we are out of office today we are totally without power. As politicians and political activists we can pressurise and persuade to change regulation, legislation, culture or practice. Politics may be unpopular, but it is the principal means by which we can exert influence on the issues we care about.

For that reason earlier this year Labour wrote to major employers throughout the country with a simple but potentially meaningful proposition – to offer veterans a guaranteed interview for appropriate vacancies. 22 companies, including o2, John Lewis and Wickes, agreed to increase support for service-leavers seeking work. This was not a guaranteed job, but a foot in the door. The scheme, the Veterans’ Interview Programme (VIP), was launched on 4th July and since then many other businesses and agencies have expressed an interest.

Our motive was rooted in the knowledge that while our country is brilliant at turning civilians in to soldiers we are not good enough at turning soldiers in to civilians. We wanted to increase opportunities for those who fight for their country to start a new life on their return, easing the transition from military to civilian life and enabling veterans to provide for a family or simply put food on the table.  Skills learnt in the Armed Forces can make a hugely positive contribution to business and we wanted to break down the dual barriers of access to employment and employers’ perceptions of veterans which can be misunderstood.

For some time I have been talking to DWP about the scheme and today the DWP is rolling VIP out nationally. All employers will be able to register through Jobcentre Plus and when veterans seek work they will be directed to participating businesses by advisers. Jobcentre Plus will help employers implement the programme and veterans who could benefit will be sought out. This is potentially a significant policy shift which could help the lives of thousands of veterans at a challenging time of low growth and mass redundancies from the Forces.

I know some readers may wince at such praise for a government Department overseeing a painful programme of cuts to essential welfare support. But our anger at the social hurt caused by current DWP policy can sit alongside a recognition that it is a matter of all-party consensus that those who return from the frontline, including Afghanistan, should be shown more respect than be asked to join the back of the dole queue. If Labour can influence change for the better we should do so, which is why we have persuaded DWP to make VIP a national scheme.

One Nation Labour is rooted in the belief that that we must share prosperity, give everyone a stake in society and defend the institutions which bind us. The Armed Forces Covenant is the embodiment of one nation politics, protecting those who protect our country, ensuring they suffer no disadvantage as a result of service and recognising that the Armed Forces are central to our national character just as they are our national security. Labour has a strong track record of supporting Forces’ employment – Jobcentre Plus has a national network of Armed Forces Champions thanks to the last Labour Government.  Today’s announcement builds on this and shows that respect and reward for the service community is at the heart of One Nation Labour.

It is important we take action now not just because of the challenges facing UK veterans but because it will be harder to persuade the nation we are agents of change in 2015 if we do not demonstrate today our desire and ability to turn ambitions in to realities. Labour can be a constructive force for change, whether through opposition against or co-operation with the Government, as policy-makers in our Councils or as community activists.

A national VIP scheme can be a great Labour legacy achieved from Opposition. The more such achievements we seek to build from Opposition the more likely we are to be able to build a legacy from government.

Jim Murphy is the Shadow Secretary of State for Defence

  • http://twitter.com/KulganofCrydee Kulgan of Crydee

    Whilst the One Nation is just soundbiting, the Veterans’ Interview Programme (VIP) goes someway to help those who served this country willing to defend it & its’ interests with their lives if necessary. I suppose I should declare an interest being a 22 year veteran myself. A great example of how a good idea should be received whether in Government or in Opposition.

Latest

  • News Scotland Murphy makes unity candidate pitch as Unite prepare to endorse Findlay

    Murphy makes unity candidate pitch as Unite prepare to endorse Findlay

    There are two interviews with Scottish Labour leader candidates in this morning’s papers. Jim Murphy launches his campaign by talking to the Daily Record (the same paper Johann Lamont did her resignation interview with last week), while Neil Findlay has a short conversation with the Morning Star. Murphy builds on the statement he made last night (“I’m applying for the job of First Minister”) by claiming he wants “to bring the country back together after the referendum.” He said: “I […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Brand or bland? Are these really my choices?

    Brand or bland? Are these really my choices?

    Russell Brand has a book out and a great publicist. His diagnosis of our current malaise is pretty spot on. His solutions however are woolly headed at best and inconsistent at worst. But Russell Brand is being taken seriously. He’s never off Newsnight nor out of the pages of the Guardian. People are flocking to follow him in their thousands. He is Che Guevara for the scripted reality generation. The established left simply don’t know what to make of this. […]

    Read more →
  • Comment If politicians can’t enact the policies people actually want, the system is broken

    If politicians can’t enact the policies people actually want, the system is broken

    This week, Class released a new poll on the theme of fairness and inequality, which will nicely coincide with the debates at our conference this Saturday. Speaking of which, you should totally book a ticket for that as we’re down to the last few. Anyway, I find our polling particularly interesting (I mean, you’d hope I would) because its aim is to gauge public opinion on long-term issues, rather than responding to a given news story. Class polls provide a […]

    Read more →
  • Featured Scotland “I’m standing for First Minister of Scotland and I intend to win”: Jim Murphy joins Scottish Labour leadership race

    “I’m standing for First Minister of Scotland and I intend to win”: Jim Murphy joins Scottish Labour leadership race

    We now have three candidates for Scottish Labour leader, as Jim Murphy’s long-awaited candidacy has been confirmed. The Shadow International Development Secretary and former Scotland Secretary released a statement this evening, saying that his intention is to be Scottish Labour leader and First Minister: “I’m standing for First Minister of Scotland and I intend to win. I want to bring Scotland back together after the referendum. There is so much to be proud of in Scotland but so much we […]

    Read more →
  • Comment I’m not upset about Cameron’s refusal to wear a t-shirt – it’s everything else that gets me

    I’m not upset about Cameron’s refusal to wear a t-shirt – it’s everything else that gets me

    On Monday the news broke that David Cameron has repeatedly refused a request by Elle magazine to be photographed wearing a t-shirt. Why? Because on it, the t-shirt says “This is what a feminist looks like”. There have been a catalogue of ideas floated since about why he might not have done it – “It’s only a mag campaign” or “You shouldn’t dress up the Prime Minister”, say. But really, it’s not important that it was a request from a […]

    Read more →