Nic Dakin: Labour needs to change – call it a Red Shift – if it is to speak for the concerns of the new English working class

12th October, 2016 7:00 am

middle england

As Autumn begins, Labour’s difficult summer falls like last year’s leaves, allowing everyone to focus on the bare tree and ponder our future. What is the new English socialism needed to reshape the political landscape we can see on the 2030 horizon?

At the last general election, England shifted decisively blue. Today’s polls show us faring even worse, trailing by 17 per cent. The world is changing rapidly. And, whilst being true to our values, we need to change with it.

In an age of identity politics the loud shout of the English in voting “No” to the EU, is a call to be heard. To be listened to, to be taken seriously. We want to come out of Europe but we don’t want to lose out? How should Labour respond to this challenge? What is the Red Shift that puts Labour in the driving seat of these demanding and changing times?

Whilst trust in politics might be low, voters rightly have high expectations of us. They expect us to square the circle, to find a new way for England in the world which transforms our productivity and trade. Somewhere through the tangled devolution spaghetti of metro mayors, and other models, local Labour leaders must seize the opportunity to power and empower local communities.

In the next 15 years new technology and demographic shifts will transform the workplace. If Labour is to be the workers’ party it needs to be relevant to workers today and tomorrow. With the rise of the robots, and the return of the retired to the workplace, Labour needs to represent the interests and concerns of the new tech workers, the new English working class.

By 2020 more people will be self-employed than working in public services. What is Labour’s role in making their workplaces and working time safe and secure? What are the new factory Acts for the modern age? How do we ensure that the new public realm of 21 st century assets thrive to make England a better place? What will be the data Acts for the 21st century that ensure the governance of data is safe whilst allowing that data to drive the positive changes in healthcare, the environment and so on to improve our lives today and tomorrow?

We need new dynamic institutions to provide for us in old age, as we age longer and to deliver personal healthcare within a National Health Service. These are the known challenges: we also need to be ready for the unknown challenges!

In all of this Brand Labour needs to show how the “we” helps the “me”. There is no lack of appetite for collective, shared solutions. There are umpteen spontaneously spawned each day by citizens working together for their collective, common good. The challenge for Labour is to connect with these new forms of collaboration and cooperation.

Finally there is a confidence in England’s abilities to shape the world in a role outside the EU. An inner, Churchillian confidence that we can  make things happen in a big-hearted way. Without arrogance we, Labour, must represent the best of that spirit to play our part, tackling the new risks rising on the world stage. The world is changing rapidly, England is changing rapidly. Labour must shift to meet these changes and these challenges, to win by finding the new solutions that better people’s lives.

Nic Dakin, along with fellow MPs Liam Byrne and Shabana Mahmood, and activist Caroline Badley, have written a third Red Shift report on Understanding England as it is – Inspiring England as it could be: England in 2030, A Report on New English Socialism.

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