Politics UK: Culloden

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Loves socialism, but not enough to talk to working class voters.
Labour has met the challenge – now we must make the change
A guest editorial by Ruan Preston MP, Shadow Education Secretary

The past decade has not been easy on the Labour Party – or the many communities we represent up and down the country. The litany of damages inflicted speaks for itself: jobs lost, savage cuts to the public services people rely on and to top it off the deeply regressive and unfair poll tax. The 1980s have been a decade of deep economic and social divisions in this country.

Britain has never had more need of a Labour government providing a true alternative to the damaging and divisive policies of Mrs Thatcher – and yet, in 1987, we had to face the facts that our message did not get through.

Therefore, as we contemplate the Kinnock years now behind the Labour Party and look for his successor, we must not forget the one thing above all that his leadership gave our party: he has turned our collective gaze forward again to the 1990s. This will be a pivotal decade for Britain, with the challenges of technological change and a new world order taking shape around us. If the keyword of the 1980s was unbridled self-interest, if we are to meet the challenge the watchword must be opportunity.

Because for all the talk of aspiration, as Britain moves into this new decade, far too many are left free to aspire without true opportunity to meet those aspirations. This is a cornerstone of our message for the 1990s: there can be no true individual liberty without action to ensure equal opportunity. Many Britons want to succeed – but only those who could do so already have been granted the privilege to do so. That must change.

The final report of our Policy Review for the 1990s, Meet the Challenge, Make the Change, was our answer to that, our answer to the values of hard work, fair play and equal opportunity that will shape Britain going forward. The comprehensive raft of policies it presents shows that it is now Labour, not the Conservatives, which has the answer to the spirit and challenges of the 1990s.

It starts with the individual – as a consumer, as a worker, as a citizen – and his opportunities. I was privileged to contribute my views on skills and training to the Policy Review. It’s not enough to keep insisting on free choice and aspiration as the Conservatives do – we must take responsibility, together with employers and educators, to raise the level of skills and education in this country. The rapid pace of technological change puts an ever-increasing premium on education both as a means for individual social mobility and economic prosperity. We must have a government which takes responsibility to help all our employers meet the challenge of keeping their employees learning, investing in their businesses. And we, as a government, must finally ensure that we raise standards in our schools across the board.

And it’s not enough to abdicate responsibility to the calculus of the market. The market economy works well in many sectors – but not quite everywhere. Where the market fails to live up to its promise of economic efficiency and serving the interests of consumers, there we must act. The growing complexity of our society and economy lead to no different conclusion than that like collective action, the market mechanism is a means, not an end. And ultimately, it’s the ends that matter to the lives of the communities our party was founded to serve.

But it’s not just for those individual Britons and our national economy that opportunity is now a watchword. We must also seize the opportunities of the 1990s as a nation. The fall of the Iron Curtain presents the opportunity to make the world anew. Gone are the days of a fearsome stand-off – we have an opportunity to work multilaterally for peace and cooperation and we must now seize it. There is no case to keep obstructing a multilateral effort to reduce the number of nuclear weapons now. With the emerging world order, Britain has a crucial role to play in making sure that future world is one of cooperation, friendship and peace.

The impending completion of the internal market puts the EEC at a crossroads. Europe, the crossroads of the Cold War that is now behind us, must be the crossroads of the new world order as well. We must show that Europe can bridge East and West, and build a new, social model. One that works for all of its citizens in a democratically accountable way. With the realities of the single market before us, we can no longer shy away from our duty to ensure that Europe protects the consumer and the worker as well as the shareholder and the employer. It is an opportunity that Britain, and Labour, must seize if we are to build a better, more compassionate Britain in Europe and the world in the 1990s. With the Conservatives withdrawing over Europe, now is the time for Labour to show leadership.

Neil Kinnock’s leadership has transformed the Labour Party by accepting that our ideology has never been one to look back but look forward as people expect of us. We have mended the divisions that plagued us, risen to the challenge that the British people have posed us to provide the alternative. As his leadership ends so prematurely, we find ourselves the party of an optimistic, progressive political programme in touch with the British people like we have never had before.

As we look for Kinnock’s successor, we must not forget. We must resist the temptation to look back and lose ourselves to the nostalgia of “far-fetched resolutions pickled into rigid dogma irrelevant to real needs”. We have learned, to our and the country’s detriment, how that ends. We have shown, with the Policy Review, that we know better – that we have done as we always did and adapted our aims and values to the realities before us.

We have met the challenge, now we owe it to the communities we represent to also make the change. Let’s honour Neil Kinnock’s leadership by bringing it to its natural conclusion: a new, forward-looking Labour government that brings Britain out of the damage and division of the 1980s into the world of opportunity that will be the 1990s.

Ruan Preston has been Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Education and Science since 1989 and contributed to Labour’s Policy Review for the 1990s as Shadow Skills Minister.
An Unnecessary Evil: Ending Presidentialism

The latest twists in the Marcus Drummond-MacBeath Ministry saga are more blows to our nation. A nation we have an extradition treaty with has taken in the former Prime Minister so that he can evade justice. Patricia Carmichael, his first Home Secretary, could be executed for treason. Another Home Secretary, Lance Campbell, fled to Yugoslavia, and the Myercough Government had to bribe them with foreign aid for his return. So, where do we go from here?

Over the last forty years, our government has become too much like America’s. Our Prime Ministers have started to act more like a directly elected President than as a leader whose power is dependent on the support of the Commons. They feel free to wiretap at will, inform the media of policy before the Commons, and, as Baroness Thatcher’s tenure shows, direct all policy.

Our Prime Minister is not a Commander in Chief. They are not the Head of State. Both of those titles rightly belong to Her Majesty. We need leaders who are willing to give up their own power and restore it to the people’s democratically elected representatives.

In my Shadow Cabinet, I am not a dictator. Outside of the policy proposals I established during my leadership campaign, I am not coming in with a long list of things that I believe we need to get done. I seek to empower and support my Shadow Cabinet to think through ideas, test them out with their staff, and share with the rest of us. Take our Shadow Budget for example. While I was a supporter of scrapping the prescription charge and increasing investment in our social services, Shadow Chancellor Tommy Dawson came up with the ideas to scrap bus fares, quadruple adult skills initiatives, and support the creation of a Democratic Workplace Center. Shadow Health Secretary Ruth Murphy is cooking some great stuff up, Shadow Home Secretary Ruan Preston’s speech against the Terrorism Act pulled back by the then-Prime Minister, and Shadow Foreign Secretary Gryff Morrison is one of our best performers in Question Time and is a phenom at pressuring his opposite number. 

Imagine what we could do if our Cabinet felt as free to work as my Shadow Cabinet does. Imagine what we could do if our Cabinet was empowered to develop policy, think through policy, and lead the country instead of following the directives of their all-powerful leaders. It wouldn’t fix all of the problems that we’ve gotten over the last year, but it would be the best way for us to start and heal.

James McCrimmon, the MP for Glasgow Pollok, is the Leader of Her Majesty’s Most Loyal Opposition and Leader of the Labour Party.
Britain needs modern, forward-thinking leadership: a vote for the Lib Dems and a hung parliament puts that in reach
As the campaign draws to a close at the end of this most unpredictable election, and Britons go to the polls after a lost year and a half, it would be very tempting for us to endorse the Labour Party. They have consistently outpolled the Conservative Party, having held at 40% or above in the polls for almost the entirety of the post-Thatcher era, have held the government’s feet to the fire on critical issues such as the security services and the Maastricht Treaty, arguably causing the downfall of two Prime Ministers as a result. Sir James McCrimmon, although a reserved, cerebral, and quite frankly dull figure, has government experience, and has positioned himself well as a credible statesman and a leader.  Bibi Lauria may be a strong, principled and moderate leader, one of the shining stars of this Parliament for her ability to work across party political divides in the Let’s Lead Europe campaign, but she is crippled by her party, which although well put together across the last seven weeks and during the campaign, is still deeply divided and still tarred with the stain of corruption. The fifth Prime Minister since 1990, she stands as a testament to a Tory Party which cannot be trusted with the reins of government.
That being said, just because the past year and a half have not been as dire for Labour as they have been for the government, does not mean that the party’s radical agenda would be good for the country.  Tommy Dawson’s Shadow Budget, and the rhetoric was the other side of the Tory coin: it was unpopular, divisive and sought to take the country back to outdated, class war rhetoric. They propose what essentially amounts to a withdrawal from Iraq, going back on our international commitments and bringing the Americans in when we promised we would not. And, just because Labour Euroscepticism has been more muted than the Tory divisions, it does not hide the fact the party has become increasingly hostile to pro Euro sentiment, suspending like Giles Radice and Tony Blair and endorsing populist rhetoric about the pound and sovereignty. All of this considered when making our endorsement, the choice is clear: the only way to secure a modern and forward-thinking government is with a vote for the Liberal Democrats, and for a hung parliament.
Mr Cardigan’s leadership has not been perfect, far from it. A number of missteps, missed priorities and the presence of the unpopular Euphemia Fournier-Macleod have all hampered his campaign. But he will provide the scrutiny, principles and honesty needed to curb the fatalistic tendencies of the Tories and provide the sense that has been lacking from Labour’s economic programme. He is a flawed hero, but our best shot nonetheless, and this is perhaps a once in a generation chance for Britain to embark down a new, better path.
Rhys Morrison: The next Labour Government

Griff Rhys Morrison is the Shadow Home Secretary, MP for Easington, and candidate in the Labour leadership election.


Thank you for taking the time to read my pitch to become Leader of the Labour Party.

Usually a campaign launch would be done in a speech in hall of members or activists but I wanted to do this differently. I wanted to reach out to you, the voter, directly.

Pundits and politicians have spent the last few months pouring over the election results with a range of theories and interpretations of why we lost and why the Tories won. I don’t believe it is as complicated as some people would have you believe, if we’re willing to listen.

You sent us a very clear message on election night and it is important that we take careful heed of it. Beyond the surface level messages about the manifesto, about specific policies people were unsure about, was a clear indication; you’re not ready to trust us yet.  

The Labour Party increased our share of the vote. In fact, we hugely increased it. We gained Members of Parliament while the Tories lost their majority. That message must not get lost in the aftermath and it would be a disservice to the hard work of the members and activists who campaigned so diligently and effectively for us to ignore those successes. They should be celebrated.

However you stopped short of handing over the reigns of power to us yet. So what was missing?

The answer, of course, was the messaging. You were uncertain about whether or not you would be better off under Labour. You like the idea of equality and social justice and fairness but you have  family to provide for, a job to keep, a house to buy. You’re not willing to risk public services you rely on, businesses you use and our economy to vote for theories and ideas. You want us to prove to you that a Labour Government is your Government.

We failed to set out our clear and viable alternative for you and for that, I apologise.

 That is why I am campaigning to be the next Leader of our movement. I want to set out that viable, credible alternative. I don’t want to talk at you, I want to talk with you.

This new Government have laid out their stall. Over the last few months, they’ve given signals of what they’re offering this country and frankly, I think you deserve better.

The failure of the Government to lay out the Coalition Agreement that establishes their policy offer, is a huge indication as to what is important to them. For all this bluff and bluster about moderating the Tories and open Government, Alex Cardigan toppled at the first hurdle. It should not have taken months of Labour Party questions and nudges to get a copy of that deal to you. They could have offered transparent, open Government. They chose not to.

There are other choices that this government has made that I would not. I wouldn’t start my platform in the Queen’s Speech with tax cuts for corporations. The fact that they thought it was acceptable for that to be priority number one is very telling about the thinking of this government.

They said they would legislate on health and safety and protect workers. They chose not to sign up to the social charter of Maastricht, before they bundled it.

They chose to create a National Service. They could have spent the last decade investing in schools.

They chose to lower higher tax rates. They could have raised them on the wealthy and given you, the hard-working backbone of the country, a break.

They chose to incentivise abandoning areas of high unemployment. They could have invested in local businesses and key employing industries.

They chose to push for an MP for British living overseas. They could have increased representation for those of you living in Scotland and Wales.

They chose to expand the scheme to send kids from deprived areas to private schools. They could have improved the schools you’re using already.

The choices this Government made tells us a lot about their understanding of the challenges many of you are facing. After over a decade of Tory mismanagement, whole regions of our country face rising unemployment, struggling health services, stretched school resources, and the collapse of key industries. You want to know that a Government will have your back.

It could have been a plan for getting Britain back on track, but they failed at the first hurdle.

So what could Labour offer differently? Well, we could offer a minimum wage, to guarantee a basic level of income to everyone. We could scrap some of the Tories’ Trade Union restrictions, to make it easier for Unions to do what they should be doing; negotiating better conditions for you at work. We can invest properly in schools and hospitals and restore trust and dignity into our public services.

All of these policies, of course were in the manifesto. Now some in our Party would have you believe that the manifesto was the root cause of our loss. That by promising an 85% tax on the superrich, we scared people. Maybe that specific policy should be scrapped. But they need to listen to you on a deeper level than that.  

Our Party must now resist the urge to clutch at quick or easy solutions. It would be very easy to throw back to the policies of the 1970s and hope for the best. It would be equally easy to dismiss all of those same policies and embrace Thatcherite economics wholeheartedly.

Let’s be clear. The Labour Party is the party of the working people just like you and the lives of working people have changed since 1979. However, that doesn’t mean a warm embrace for free market economics. I understand that most of you don’t just want free market economics. You’ve just ripped the party of free market economics to shreds at the ballot box and withdrawn their majority. I get that message. We must resist that urge to lurch to the right and bare in mind that clear message I spoke about earlier; you’re not ready to trust us yet.  

Rather, the Labour Party must now consider what policies would have the biggest and most effective impact on you and your family and make the case for those with all of the passion and steel our movement is famous for.
I don’t want to stick to the policies of the past, or lurch suddenly to the right and be Leader of the Opposition. I want to stick to our guiding principles and forge policies that follow them to become Prime Minister.

Those core Labour values; social justice, equality, freedom, democracy, ought to guid everything we do. How do we make the economy fairer, Britain safer and people’s lives that little bit easier?

If elected Leader of the Labour Party, I will listen to you, I will talk to you as I am doing right now, and I will do everything I can to make this party your party and make the next Government one that works for you.
Renew the Left, Renew Labour

Ruan Preston is the MP for Midlothian, a former Shadow Home Secretary and a candidate for the leadership of the Labour Party

As somebody who worked so passionately on the Policy Review, I am no stranger to learning the hard lessons of electoral defeat. Because let’s face it: for the fourth time in a row, Britain went to the polls and delivered the Tories the key to Number 10. Yes, they may not have won a plurality of the votes and yes, they had to buy off the Liberal Democrats with Cabinet posts to get there. But at the polls, when we faced the most corrupt and scandal-ridden government since the war, we still could not gain your support.

I think we did not do enough to inspire you. We were out of tune - more concerned with taking others down with unpopular tax measures than with building the ordinary hard-working people of this country up.

In the midst of our last leadership contest, I wrote that we should stand by the Policy Review and the lessons we learned from 1987. Unfortunately, we went the other way. Now our party stands at a crossroads again, I have set out to bring us back to that path that can get us back into government, building a better Britain for the new millennium. I want to bring to Labour a story that inspires and resonates with the voters of today, rather than fighting the battles of the past. That’s why I want to renew Labour as its next leader.

Some may interpret this as a lurch to the right. I don’t think it is. I am a proud man of the centre left and its values are my values: fairness, equal opportunity, freedom and social justice. These were the values of the Policy Review for the 1990s, and they’re the values underpinning my campaign to Renew Labour for the new millennium. The story of the Labour movement has always been about building up those who are dreaming of a better future - lifting up the working people of this country. That is the core of my message. We haven’t been there enough for the strivers, the dreamers and the aspirers of this country over the past years. In the meantime, British society has changed so that more of our countrymen than ever before feel free to dream and aspire. That means we must be their party again.

Thatcher’s most pernicious impact was to force people to make choices between alternatives that, on closer inspection, were based on false dichotomies. So my campaign started by asking a radical question: why, exactly? Why can’t we have both strong unions and strong businesses? Why can’t we bring Europe closer to home and closer together? Why can’t a strong public ethos go together with economic efficiency? Why can’t we have public services that offer choice without sacrificing equality? Why can’t Scotland and Wales have their own devolved parliaments within a strong union? Why can’t we be tough on crime as well as tough on the causes of crime, if just being tough on crime hasn’t worked for a decade?

I believe in a strong economy with strong unions and strong businesses. The Tories may feel fond of the argument that workers aren’t “productive” enough to deserve a decent wage (and the LibDems might follow them around on it), there’s economic sense that it’s actually the other way round. By improving working conditions through, for example, a minimum wage, we inspire productivity that gives our businesses a competitive edge. We should harness that productivity advantage that will bring us into the new millennium with a competitive edge: we need to build the most productive, most skilled workforce we can, to the benefit of both workers and businesses. A huge part of that is my skills package: a Lifelong Learning fund developed in conjunction with unions and businesses, encouraging businesses to invest in the skills of their employees and helping to skill up the unemployed through an integrated benefit-and-guidance system.

And I believe in stronger public services, where a strong public ethos is combined with economic efficiency. The Tories have tried and failed and are now trying again with the NHS: the internal market is an unmitigated disaster that’s taken money away from frontline services and instead invested it in a bureaucracy. Waiting lists are up, quality of care is down. We need to end the internal market - but not to go back to the top-down system of the 70s. Rather, we should take advantage of the knowledge we have on the ground through a decentralised, cooperative system that gives administrative autonomy to hospitals, while we ensure that quality is up and waiting lists are down through a system of strong quality standards. Doctors and nurses will get the professional freedom they deserve. The same goes in schools, where a Labour Party under my leadership will increase diversity within the state system by giving teachers the trust they need to keep investing in their pupils - but at the same time, cap class sizes at 30 so that each child gets the advantage he deserves. It goes for council housing, where we’ll keep the aspirational value of the right to buy but ensure the housing stock doesn’t get depleted by mandating the right for the government to buy back the property upon sale and investing the proceeds of the right to buy in replenishing the council housing stock. These are all fresh new Labour ideas that will build on what was right and broadly-supported in the Policy Review and our latest manifesto - such as my own crime policy - and forge them into a coherent, aspirational and positive narrative for the future.

The failure of Maastricht in France puts not just Britain, but also Europe at a crossroads. Already, we are hearing the first knee-jerk sovereignty hawks push the idea of a “Europe of nations”. In effect, that means a Europe that takes a step back. I believe Labour needs to make the case to take a step forward. We’ve always been the party of a Europe that works for working people. But with the new Maastricht that will no doubt be negotiated now, we need to seize the opportunity to push relentlessly for a Europe that works for workers, consumers and for young people who dream of taking advantage of all the opportunities Europe has to offer. In my recent speech at the Labour Campaign for Europe, I’ve outlined a concrete offering to do all that, and more, reforming the CAP and tackling the democratic deficit.

These policies are premised on a simple, powerful idea that goes to the heart of the Labour movement: in the end, it’s all about opportunity, about aspiration, about realising the dreams and ambitions of working people. To lurch to the right would be to leave them alone to fend for themselves. That is the way of Thatcher; it is not Labour’s and it is certainly not mine. Rather, ours should be a positive agenda for change that extends opportunity both to those who need a leg up and those who need that extra push to excel. It’s a positive agenda that will end the divisive era of Margaret Thatcher and lead Britain into a prosperous new millennium based on a new paradigm of cooperation rather than confrontation. It’s the positive, constructive Labour agenda so many people in this country have been yearning for.

It’s the kind of agenda we only get if we Renew Labour and in doing so, Renew the Left in this country. I want to be the leader who does that and, in so doing, build a party that doesn’t just work for you but inspires you, and ultimately will see Labour and the left back in government.