THE JOHN MCDONNELL COLUMN
WITH THE ELECTION ONLY WEEKS OFF, it’s time to be clear about what the left stands for in this election campaign and in any post-election negotiations with other parties, should this become necessary. On the left we have a vision of a society that is thoroughly democratic in all aspects of our life:which is more equal so that the extremes of wealth and poverty are eliminated,
- where our core economic assets are held in common to serve the whole of society not a rich few,
- where everything we do now ensures a sustainable future for the generations to come, and
- where we pursue peace, reject war and secure a world free of weapons of mass destruction.
That is what we stand for.
Despite the disillusioning impact of Blair’s New Labour, the Labour Party in government is still currently the only means of securing an administration that can assist in moving towards that vision of a socialist society. By adopting a number of extremely practical policies, Labour in government after May could have as radical an impact on our society as the Attlee government did in 1945. To the Labour Party leadership and to any others that may be a party to post election negotiations, these are the policies that the Labour left will place on the table.
Tackle the Deficit. All the talk about tackling the deficit has been about the level and timing of cuts to public services. We reject the need for austerity cuts when £120 billion is lost to public revenues as a result of tax avoidance and evasion. We say collect the taxes and end austerity.
Share the Wealth. Over the last three decades a huge gap has opened up between the rich and the rest of the population. This inequality grotesquely disfigures and divides our society between a super-rich establishment and a million families a year forced to rely upon food banks and 30,000 pensioners still dying of cold related conditions every winter. We need a wealth tax and, to tackle speculators, we need a Tobin tax.
End Poverty Wages. The Tories boast of a miraculous economic recovery but they have used the economic crisis to create an economy based upon low pay, zero-hours contracts and insecurity at work, especially for young people. That’s why we call for a living wage of £10 an hour, the outlawing of zero-hours contracts and the restoration of trade union rights.
Create Full Employment. In a society that needs so much work to be done to meet the needs of our community and to secure our future, it is counterproductive to have unemployment and under-employment at the current level. We need to commit to full employment as a Labour government policy and invest to put people back to work in decent jobs. That includes implementing the Green New Deal to invest in renewable energy and energy conservation, resulting in one million new jobs, and providing an alternative to the current government’s dangerous, headlong rush into fracking.
End and Reverse Privatisation. The sell-off of our national assets has been a national scandal in which large corporations have ripped off the general public and profiteered at our expense. The first steps of an incoming Labour government must be to end all privatisation of the NHS immediately and to start the process of bringing back into public ownership and democratic control the assets that have been stolen from us, including rail, water, energy and postal services. We reject TTIP which will hinder an incoming Labour government’s ability to restore services to democratic ownership and control.
A Decent Home for Everyone. Homelessness, overcrowding, high rents, land speculation, empty properties and unaffordable homes are all the hallmarks of the present government’s housing policy. The key elements of the left’s housing strategy is the building of half a million council houses, rent controls, the right of local councils to make compulsory purchase of properties left standing empty for more than 6 months and the introduction of a Land Valuation Tax to control land speculation and release the land for productive use.
Restore Free Education. Education is a gift from one generation to another and not a commodity to be bought and sold. Labour must restore free education as a right by abolishing tuition fees, restoring grants, reversing the cuts to FE and adult education, and re-establishing democratic planning of education by bringing free schools and academies back under community control.
Halt the Attack on the Poorest. The ruthless implementation of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) combined with the Bedroom Tax and the massive escalation in the use of sanctions have caused untold misery to people with disabilities and many of the poorest in our society. Labour must scrap the WCA, abolish the Bedroom Tax and halt the punitive attack on the poor, ensuring that benefit levels are set to provide a living income.
Tackle Inequality. New equalities legislation is required to eliminate discrimination that results in women still being paid less than men and a failure to recognise that the work undertaken in the home and by carers is shouldered disproportionately by women.
A Governing Party of Peace. Labour can help wipe out the stain of New Labour’s Iraq war by committing itself as a party of peace, leading the world in its investment in conflict prevention and resolution while scrapping Trident and becoming a non-nuclear country.
This Left Platform provides an agenda of positive hope to all those millions in our country who want change. Put simply, what we are saying is “No to Austerity, No to Trident and No to Coalition Deals.”
John McDonnell is MP for Hayes and Harlington and Chair of the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs and of the Labour Representation Committee
Photo: Simon Deville