Entering office in the summer of 1945, Clement Attlee’s Labour government took charge of a war-ravaged economy. Despite this, in just a few short years, his Labour government had transformed Britain, through the creation of the NHS and welfare state, whilst also building over a million new homes.
As our country emerges from lockdown, we face the biggest recession in living memory. To recover from the economic effects of Covid-19, Britain will need all parts to be functioning at full tilt – and Labour, as it did 75 years ago, has the chance to show the country it has the right plan to get us back on our feet. It should start by embracing aviation, an industry that is perfectly placed to play its part in our national renaissance.
Airports are critical for our economic health but the aviation industry has not received one penny from the Chancellor. The government has also fallen short on its proposals for safe travel, with the new 14-day quarantine period being almost impossible to police and inflicting real damage on the industry.
Many local councils and communities are heavily dependent on the huge rates generated by airports – Heathrow pays £118m, Gatwick £30m, Stansted £13m and Manchester £12m. This is money for social care, street cleaning, and many other vital public services.
Councils like Luton and Newcastle hold shares in their regional airports, but are now feeling the pain with the loss of dividends as the industry shrinks to almost nothing. Windsor and Maidenhead, where tourism is a crucial part of the local economy, are talking about potential bankruptcy and, sadly, it will not be long before other councils send out similar warnings.
The government seems to be looking the other way on aviation and, undoubtedly, there will be some in the Labour Party who are comfortable with that. Labour must do better and can take inspiration from the courage and perception of Clement Attlee and his radical government by advancing rapid proposals to intervene to save jobs and airlines.
As it did in response to the 2008 financial crisis, Labour can use the moment to demand reform, ensuring the industry delivers on commitments to decarbonise, moves faster towards electric engines and uses super clean fuels. This bold approach will help revitalise an essential industry that employs hundreds of thousands of people, and can help map a path to a renewed economy, post Covid-19.
Just like 1945, the British people want a clear way forward from a time of national crisis. A supportive stance on aviation will go a long way to showing that Labour understands what needs to be done and is up to the task of building a better Britain.