Letter to Labour: a wish list

Photo by Damith Chinthaka Vithanage, Wikimedia Commons

It can only be a matter of time before you get to hold the reins of power. The only possible way this cannot happen is if the current increasingly fascist regime finds a way to halt elections altogether – maybe by engineering a state of emergency, having pushed millions of decent people out of their apathy and into manifestations of anger and disgust.

But let’s assume that does not happen.

I have some requests. I think they are shared by many. Some may strike you as naive, fanciful, unaffordable. Granted; but they contain the germ of a shift in thinking: concentrate on that.

First of all, please do not assume that a big majority means you can take support for granted. Many of us will have lent you our votes so that we can remove this wicked government from power. That is not to say that we do not have high hopes that you will bring about much needed positive change, but we are not necessarily committed Labour voters and you owe us. You owe us action which shows that you recognise a real hunger for a new politics, a new agenda for the UK. And that is where the wish list begins:

  1. Put the climate emergency front and centre of everything you do. It is not just the most terrifying challenge facing us. It is the most exciting opportunity! Seize it! Reach out to the campaigners, innovators, inventors and the young! If we aspire to be world-beating at anything. let it be this!
  2. Re-join the EU if for no other reason than pragmatism. It makes no sense for us to stand alone. No sense at all. You don’t have to love it. You just need to want the best for the UK and to help make the EU the best it can be. To do this you will have to stop pretending Brexit could ever be any good for the UK at all. You’ve alienated a whole raft of us with this ridiculous ‘make it work’ approach. Stop it!
  3. There must be a commitment in your manifesto to electoral reform. Yes, the two party dominance has meant you have at least got a crack at the whip for about a third of the time, but we are tired of the seesaw, tired of the tribalism, tired of the complacency and very, very tired of the unfairness and lack of true representation. And there should be no such thing as a safe seat…
    As you commit to bringing democracy into the modern age, please consider abandoning Westminster and its public school/Oxford college/London gentlemen’s club vibe and relocating to a bright, modern, inclusive hemisphere in Birmingham or Manchester. End the confrontational style of the debating society and embrace a more collegiate, collaborative politics which will, anyway, ensue from proportional representation. Uphold and enforce the Nolan principles.
    Turn the Houses of Parliament into a museum…hopefully not to a dead democracy. Oh, and meanwhile, introduce electronic voting in the House of Commons.
  4. Encourage and facilitate Citizens’ Assemblies…engagement and ownership of change is essential. As Professor Timothy Snyder has said, democracy is not something that is done to us…it is something we all must work to maintain and develop.
  5. Reverse all the hideous legislation rammed through by this government of kleptocrats and ideologues. Safe, legal routes for refugees and asylum seekers must be high up on your priorities.
  6. Rename the ‘benefits’ system the ‘social support scheme‘. It’s a safety net! Millions have been driven into poverty and suffer the shame and despair that accompanies it. They do not need to be stigmatised, nor do they need the more fortunate feeling some sort of righteous benevolence because of the existence of the (broken) ‘benefits’ system.
  7. End the charitable status of the public schools and invest heavily in education. Our children are our future. Let’s give them all the best start possible. Teach them about democracy…real democracy, and let the focus be on developing talent in whatever form it takes, rather than tick box processing. Teachers hate that system. Children hate it and some are gravely let down, their lives wasted before they have even really begun. Value practical, manual and vocational skills as highly as academic achievement and invest accordingly
  8. Copy some of the great ideas for intergenerational living and social interaction which have been so successful in Europe: free accommodation for students and young families in buildings housing older people, for example. Or those fabulous ‘libraries’ of living stories where people can learn that we have so much more that unites us than divides us.
  9. Healthy people are productive, happier people. More emphasis on preventative medicine and well-being, please! Outdoor spaces, access to places for exercise and relaxation are essential and an investment, not an indulgence. Clean rivers and seas. Access to the countryside.
  10. Build affordable passive houses with rainwater collection, solar, ground source heat and insulation as standard. No more sh*t buildings with a predicted life of 20 years, tops.
  11. Stop playing to the populist agenda. Brexit and this government have led to the abandonment of the mass of decent, progressive people in this country. You have abandoned many of us, too. All attention has been focused on the minority who prick up their ears to the dog whistle of immigration. Yes, the Overton window has stretched so far over to the right that the political ‘centre’ is now in right wing territory. Most of us do not want to be in those dark lands of hate and greed. Lead us out again. Please.

I could go on. I am sure others have things to add. Lots and lots of things, no doubt.

Give us some hope and a vision for a future. At the very least.