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The Guardian
Loves socialism, but not enough to talk to working class voters.
Steve | A-Team
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.
Max | A Team
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.
Steve | A-Team

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