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GRM Speech: Fabian Society
[Image: 27867162-8276207-image-a-62_1588291565977.jpg]

Griff Rhys Morrison spoke to an event for the Fabian Society.

Thank you very much for coming to hear me. It is a privilege, it really is, to be able to speak at an event hosted by the Fabian Society. Throughout the history of our movement, the Fabians have, I think, been one of the most influential affiliated socialist societies and I think a lot of that is because the Fabian Society values research and evidence and is, ultimately, about taking the best thinking possible and applying it to the problems of the day. That is an approach that has served us well, as a movement, time after time.

1911. That was the year this society first called for a universal healthcare system in this country. Many didn't take it seriously. But the pioneers, founders of this society, looked at the issues of the day and said "our society has a persistent problem with health and disease and the impact of poverty on them." They looked at the evidence and research available and designed a solution, not out of ideological means or because an academic wrote about it in a book. But because all of the evidence available suggested that one of the major impacts of poverty was on healthcare and that ill health contributed towards further poverty. Their solution was founded on the principles in which they believed but it was not merely a theorist's invention. It was a practical, reasonable, credible solution. Of course, many, especially those whose namesakes are now in Government, rejected the evidence before them. They dismissed it, arrogantly, as extreme. There were even those, back in 1911, who dismissed it from the left. It didn't go far enough and didn't further the eventual, apparent, revolution. Well, it took 30 years but I'd say the Fabians won the argument. Our NHS is something to behold, and while we think of it's foundation being in the late 1940s, the real thinking behind it, came from people like you or I, sitting in a room like this, and talking about the real issues that were effecting the nation.

I have another one for you. 1906. That was the year this society, with the principles behind them and evidence in hand, called for a national minimum wage. 84 years ago. I'd say it's been long enough, wouldn't you? It's time.

The principles behind it are clearer than ever. Workers in this country, even those with stable jobs, don’t get paid a fair amount for their labour. What's a fair amount, you may ask? I'd argue that a fair amount is when a family can rely on their pay so that they can eat, and live in a home, and buy clothes, and feed their children. If they can't do that, something has to change. The evidence is squarely behind us. Millions of people in this country are out of work, millions more are struggling even with work, and millions again don’t know if they'll have work next month. That is our evidence and, frankly, it has been the evidence since 1979 and here we are years later and nothing has changed. It's time.

It's time for the Labour Party to take our role as the political arm of the working people, seriously. I don't mean by slating CEOs. We shouldn’t just be trying to bring down the ceiling, we should be raising the floor as high as the rafters. We should be making it clear; it doesn't matter if the CEO's pay is cut if the workers' is cut too.  It's time that workers, giving up huge parts of their lives to dedicate to their employer, were paid fairly for the graft they put in. Our principles as a movement implore on us to make it happen, the evidence is crying out for it to happen, the Fabians said it should happen 80 years ago, and now it’s time to get it done.

How do we get it done? Well, we get into Government. Turns out, if the last few elections are anything to go by, that's not as easy as it sounds. And nor should it be. The people of this country rightfully ask that a political party, and their leadership, demonstrate their credibility as an alternative to the Government of the day. Since 1979 this party has been trying to do this and I know some people don't like to hear it, but the public are unconvinced.

Neil Kinnock made huge strides in demonstrating our credentials as a potential government to the people. Our Policy Review two years ago highlighted in black and white, before our very eyes; the public want principle but they also want practical. There has to be a plan, there has to be something more than platitudes and a promise to look back. Those early Fabians had the magic formula when they took their principles, looked at a problem and the evidence they had and formed a solution. They didn't look back 10-20 years for answers. In fact, they looked ahead 80. As it happens, I don't think they realised it would take us 80 years to cotton on.

What principles then? Well, the Fabian's own  are a good start. Honest, hard working socialists founding a society to advance the interests of the poor and the workers, it shouldn't come as a surprise that their principles are clear and crisp. Fabian principles are Labour principles are British principles. Equality, Justice, democracy, liberty, cooperation. Sound familiar?

"Equality of power, wealth and opportunity". I can think of several segments of our society today in this country where that is simply not a reality. A national minimum wage is only the start. We need to be looking at ways to build equality, raise that floor and elevate the working man. We need investment in education, in skills and retraining programmes. In some circles, retraining is unpopular. The solution, so the argument goes, is that the work should match the worker. But if we want opportunity as well as just fair pay, if we want to raise aspirations in this country, we need to also make sure the work being done contributes to a national good.

Public and private sector debates have waged over the course of the 1980s and to be honest, the public are growing weary of them. If elected Leader of our party, I would absolutely advocate for the public ownership of water, electricity, of mail or health, of education. Absolutely. But to create equality of opportunity, we also need to recognise that private sector workers need our support, too. Retraining programmes unlock opportunity for the poorest and can be the difference between 200 men applying to work for the same job at one pit, and 2000 men applying for 2000 different jobs across the region. The Labour Party should want that. We should be desperate for that. We should be falling over ourselves to give the working men a leg up in life.

Collective action, another borrowed Fabian principle, must also go further than just calling for public ownership. The mines and shipyards are unlikely to reopen after a decade of despair under this rotten Tory Government. Collective action is needed to ensure that the private companies don’t use the poverty, and the desperation for work, to undercut workers. We must fight back against the race to the bottom for cheapest labour and manpower and instead be making the case that public or private, workers should have a say in how their workplace is run.

The cooperative movement, like the Fabians, have long called for further democratic structures in our businesses. We must resists the urge to think of collectivism as a signature part only of the public sector but uphold it as a basic principle of all workplaces. It should not be controversial to say that workers should have a stake in business. Where workers have a say in their workplaces, through cooperative structures and business models, rules are fairer, wages are better, and employees are happier. No economic policy I can think of would reimagine how British business is done more than a movement-wide push for cooperatives. If there are private industries out there who think that privatisation under this Government has somehow saved them from having to give workers a fair say, under my leadership the Labour Party would correct that error in judgement. We would make it clear that if you want to keep turning a profit, if you want to keep trading without us knocking on your door, you'll need to think long and hard about what working conditions, and decision-making systems you have.

Policy-making in this country, following the Fabian model, principles-problem-evidence-solution, should be based on longer-term needs of the country. Short-term solutions, like a quick repeal of a law here or a renationalisation there, will only ever solve problems that are been and gone. To be efficient, and effective, and credible as a Government, the Labour Party need to be solving problems arising now and coming up in our future. You don't have to be a fortune teller for that. You just need to look at the evidence.

The sale of social housing in this country has been quick and is rapidly reducing the stock of housing available to local councils to house those who need it. Nobody, when they proposed social housing ever imagined that they would be sold-off for a quick profit. I can see the attraction. I'm glad some working families were able to buy their own home. I'll always celebrate that. But what about those who can't? Reducing the stock is going to cause long-term problems with social housing. A problem and with our principles in action, and evidence behind it, the Labour Party can offer a tangible, credible solution. If elected leader, Labour would aggressively pursue policy to rebuild Britain's stock of social housing and, coupled with that, would look at ways of bringing down private rents too. Construction industries can be rebuild on the back of this policy, and if we're reskilling workers, employment can rise as well. Joined-up thinking.

It would be remiss of me if I stood and talked about the values and principles of the Fabian society if I didn't mention your commitment to multilateral international cooperation. It's a principle I, and millions like me, share. There can be no doubt that Britain's standing in the world has been shaken under this Government. Their atrocious, callous no-go policy on challenging apartheid is a national disgrace. The Labour Party cannot stand for social justice and equality for Britons but not for other nations. We must use our influence in the world, in Europe, in the Commonwealth, in NATO, in the UN, to work with neighbours and partners to build-up an international coalition dedicated to the pursual of human rights, of social justice, and who is willing to challenge South Africa on apartheid.

Overseas aid for countries suffering from mass poverty must also be a part of a Labour Party manifesto that takes our principles seriously. Not sending money abroad, and certainly not ignoring poverty in our own country, but working with others cooperatively to tackle international injustices and abuses of the free market that take advantage of and exploit poorer nations. Poverty abroad can be a very real threat to Britain's economy, our security and our interests as well as being against our principles and this must be challenged wherever possible.

Multilateralism is not just for economics and social justice, though. It must work for our defence industries too. Some may question whether a socialist or social democratic party like Labour can ever really turn a blind eye to nuclear weapons. The truth is, we can’t. Nuclear weapons are an affront to the values of international justice, equality and cooperation. However, the Trident nuclear system is not just a machine or an idea, it is food on the table for families up and down this country whose loved ones work in manufacturing, in design, in metalwork, in IT, in computing. It would be an affront too to our socialist values and principles to see them starve. Instead, we must say; we will protect your jobs. Trident should be renewed, for our security and our job security. Once that has happened, the defence manufacturing industry in this country can have a real discussion about what's next. If I am Labour leader, I will be calling for a transition in those industries from nuclear defence to nuclear energy to align our commitment to jobs with our commitment to peace.

However, it must not stop there. Alongside this, we must seek out international agreements. Firstly, multilateral agreements on reducing stockpiles. Britain is an influential world player and there is no excuse for us not to be leading the way in forging solutions between countries that would see the overall global number of nuclear weapons decrease. Secondly, I would seek agreements on proliferation. If poverty is an issue to our security, proliferation of nuclear weapons certainly are. Thirdly, I would seek agreements on nuclear energy use globally to ensure regulations and rules are fair and in Britain's interests.

I say all of this, of course, but we need to be elected first. The Labour Party cannot afford to spend another decade in the wilderness, looking back and tinkering with short-term solutions. We must be forward-thinking and bold. We must take the best thinking, like those early Fabians did, with our principles and the evidence before us and put it into practice for the future. Doing that will align our principles with our solutions, with the problems faced by workers in Britain today and it is that combination that will help us build credibility as a viable alternative government, ready to serve our country. Thank you.
Gruffydd Rhys Morrison MP
Leader of the Labour Party
Member for Easington
Biography  | XP: 7 | Traits: Safe pair of hands
Issue Champion: Britain’s place in the world

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GRM Speech: Fabian Society - by Griff Rhys Morrison - 06-16-2020, 09:06 PM

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