Tribune Group: Labour’s British Promise

The Tribune group of MPs want to focus debate in our party on how we grow and achieve government. To do so, we need to remember and cherish our values. Why we formed as a party. What binds us together – the values that underpin our party – and drive the focus for policy. This paper is a contribution to that debate.

The Labour Party has been a radical force for change. The centre-left represented by the Tribune group is critical in framing the arguments that will win over traditional Labour voters and in explaining our values to those who have not voted for us in the past or have stopped seeing us as their first choice. We need to convince these people that it is our core values that they want to see applied in government.

Many of the things that Labour has championed are the things that people expect as basic rights and expectations today – things that became integral to the British Promise. This means we need to re-establish our credentials as the party that is at the core of that British Promise: 

  • that wants to see everyone flourish and helps the next generation aspire to do better  
  • that wants everyone to live a life they have reason to value
  • recognises the mutual benefits of public and private endeavour
  • that the public interest must be expressed by a dynamic, supportive state in society and the economy
  • that is fair and is seen to be fair – on taxation, on rights and is on your side
  • which is outward looking in the world and puts security of its people at its heart  

 

Opportunity and aspiration  

The Labour Party, unlike any other, was founded by workers themselves as a mass party to achieve equality of opportunity for all. Our fight began in the world of work, at the core of our lives and our society. It is where we are needed today as much as ever.  

The balance of power between capital and labour has been tilted decisively towards capital. This is in part because of the technologies of the fourth industrial revolution, in part because the possibility of producing anywhere empowers companies, and in part because it is harder in today’s smaller and faster moving workplaces for workers to band together to provide influence, voice and countervailing power. The consequence is a rise in insecure, poorly paid and low esteem work. Fewer people have a chance to exercise their craft, skill or profession. The concept of a career is becoming redundant. Yet it is work that gives meaning to our lives and the income with which to live them. The Labour Party must stand beside ordinary men and women in their battle to shape the forces of capital so that they provide fulfilling work, decently paid jobs and opportunity. 

Of course the world of work evolves with the ever-mutating economy. We need to recognise and reward jobs of the future. Many will be in industries not yet imagined; many more will be in human-to-human interaction, from teaching to caring. Labour needs to shout clearly that we are the party that champions good work in whatever guise. Let’s recapture the drive that gave us our name.

We look for the enfranchisement of our workforce to unleash their energy, creativity and engagement without which tomorrow’s economy cannot be built. We want to breathe new life into working-class organisations, and to look for new partnerships and means of bargaining with companies whether large or small. Nor should we be afraid to put forward policies that create decent jobs where they are needed. 

The aim is to ensure everyone should have the opportunity to achieve their goals and aspirations no matter what their background. 

And it is important that we recognise and cherish that many decisions are now rightly taken by devolved parliaments and assemblies, and increasingly at a local level through mayors and regional government. It is right that Labour continues to look at where decision making powers should best lie in the context of the United Kingdom.  

Corporate Justice and the repurposing of enterprise  

This reshaping of work will need a reshaping of companies. Too many have lost their way, with no purpose except the pursuit of short term profits - exemplified by what happened at BHS, Sports Direct, and RBS. Those who consumed their services and who worked in them were last in the priorities of their managers and directors. 

Labour wants to refocus enterprise so that human betterment is put at the heart of our capitalism. The evidence is that such refocused businesses perform better; they invest and innovate more and they build workplace relationships based on mutual respect. Such great companies, interacting with a well-designed ecosystem and industrial strategy encouraging enterprise, are the originators of private sector wealth generation. Ethical business thus must become the norm in the UK. With policies that encourage greater involvement of the shareholders, workers and consumers to ensure that business operations are properly purposed, we can create a system that boosts the performance and ethics of business alike. Britain can become a beacon for how twenty-first century capitalism should be done. 

The British Promise  

We must be the party that delivers the best environment for people to flourish and get ahead as they choose. There was once the ‘British Promise’ that the next generation could always expect to do better than their parents. Sadly, that has evaporated. It is a Promise that exists for the few and not the many. 

Historically, Labour has been responsible for many of the social advances in our society. Universal healthcare, social security, housing, education, workers’ rights, and pensions: all of these are incorporated in what once was a British Promise – that no generation would fall back on the advances made by the previous ones.

Yet in this modern economy where so much work is insecure, personified by the “gig economy”, we must ensure that people have opportunities for self-improvement, leisure and family life balance. These metrics will become ever more important as material standards of living improve.

We face a generational divide which is fracturing the relationship between millennials and baby boomers. This undermines our society and can only be tackled if millennials have the same opportunities once given to baby boomers. 

Our parents had aspiration for us all to do better than they did, and Labour laid the foundations that underpinned such expectations. We must ensure that the British Promise is as available to our children as it was to their parents and grandparents. 

A commitment to tackle climate change and protect the environment is integral to the concerns of the well-being of future generations at home and abroad. From the Kinder mass trespass to the 2007 Climate Change Act, Labour has been at the forefront of this and we will continue to work for the greening of the economy.                                                                       

Respect for each other and our communities  

Labour has always promoted what binds us, bringing communities together. We built houses, schools, libraries and transformed the lives of working class people. We are the ones that led our country to build the NHS and develop one of the most progressive international aid policies in the world; displaying our shared national compassion. 

Today the ties that bind are weakening. People may be social animals but the view has grown that all that matters is me first and that the pleasure of association and rewards of looking out for each other should take second place to the satiation of our own individual wants and prejudices. Trust is falling. After the EU referendum, this has got worse. There has been a spike in hate crime. The advent of social media – which generally has empowered people – has created an echo chamber, one that is very often filled with aggression and hate. These two factors alone are helping to unpick the cohesion within our society.  And we must always insist that we honour our duties and responsibilities to each other, never walking on by; paying our taxes; being a good neighbour.

We need a greater emphasis on community and the good that great social and public institutions can bring – including the promotion of trust – but which needs active local and central government support. It is a core value of our party that equality means respect for all regardless of race, religion, sexuality, gender and status in society. Our institutions and our policies must reflect that. 

We have always been the party promoting women’s rights. For too long business and government could be described as old, pale, stale and male. This needs to be ended to allow women their rightful place in an equal society. This will mean Labour has to examine every policy proposal through the prism of women’s rights and equality.

We must also work hard to ensure that immigration works in the interests of communities up and down the nation. Not just immigration that benefits a few, but all. 

The time for the Dynamic Supportive State is now  

For too long there has been a denial of the interdependence of the public and private domains. No economy and society can flourish unless it is well governed. It is the state, as the embodiment of the public interest, which is where people can come together to solve problems at a local and national level. 

It is the instrument which can be harnessed to ensure that those with the least are not left behind. The state allows people to have access to services which could be beyond their means without it – whether education, health or legal aid. High quality public services are an indispensable component of twenty first century civilisation. The appetite and demand for them will grow in the knowledge based world of the future. 

It is the state, too, that underwrites the risks of frontier innovation and scientific endeavour that are the drivers of economic progress. It is the state that necessarily finances the country’s crucial physical public infrastructure. The failure of austerity to deal with our country’s financial crisis has opened minds to the case for an active state. 

Let’s be clear; a dynamic supportive state means an active state. One which makes sure people aren’t left behind and is based on fairness and equality. Markets produce perverse outcomes and disincentives. This can be seen quite clearly in the current equity markets, which reward short-term investment; leading to the collapse of private sector research and development spending. 

Weakly regulated banking led to the creation of financial products that created the crash of 2008. A hands off approach by Government towards the market has led inexorably to great inequalities and injustices for individuals, businesses and the country. 

A dynamic and supportive state helps its people to achieve not just great things but also sustains those things that make up the social fabric that sustains the British Promise. 

Fair Taxation  

The state itself needs financing. It is taxation and growth that will deliver all of the above. But taxation is cast as a blight and a burden, and is often poorly designed so triggering yet more resentment. 

Labour believes in fair and progressive taxation to deliver a just society, which provides the services that people need – a belief for which it must argue passionately. We must work with our constituents to assure them that taxation is an investment not only into their future, but of their children’s and their neighbours. There is a middle way between the opinion that all taxation is intrinsically bad and the belief that everything can be funded by the rich or tackling tax avoidance. 

The tax system needs to be broadly based so that everyone – companies, those who inherit wealth and those who earn and spend – all contribute their fair share. Too often fairness in taxation is only a debate about income, whilst wealth inequality has widened – made worse, for example, by Conservative cuts to inheritance tax. The tax system needs to be fair to all and reflect a changing economy. 

Britain in the World  

Britain has to look outward to the world. The rise of populist nationalism around the world is causing nations to turn inwards, shirking their international responsibilities and undermining past successes. This has come about because globalisation was allowed to run rampant, as governments recoiled from challenging for fear of being charged with “interfering”.

Globalism has badly wounded internationalism. Labour is an internationalist party, as are the British people, but this is being challenged in this post Brexit era. We must fight tooth and nail to ensure that internationalism and globalism aren’t conflated; we should not leave anyone behind in the world. But we cannot just preach internationalism; it will require action as well. This will mean international aid and supporting allied governments during times of national emergencies. 

This includes being an active member of supranational organisations such as NATO, the UN, the Council of Europe and the WTO. We will need as close a relationship as possible with the EU even if we are no longer to be full members. If we succumb to the populist outlook on the world whereby we refuse to maintain our acceptance of Article 5 of NATO, thereby allowing international pariahs to grab spheres of influence through military action, we will be failing our founding principles. 

Patriotism and the British Promise 

Labour is the party of the British Promise. We are the party that seeks to bind our society together behind common values of justice and fairness rather than populist appeals to blood and ethnicity. We yield to nobody in our love of our country. The only patriotism that will endure in Britain is generous and inclusive delivering the deep ties that bind; Labour through its policies and its actions represents the best of our country. 

Conclusion  

Antony Crosland, not a natural Tribunite but one of Labour’s greatest post-war thinkers, pinpointed the issues facing Britain with precision accuracy. He said that: 

‘In Britain, equality of opportunity and social mobility... are not enough. They need to be combined with measures... to equalise the distribution of rewards and privileges so as to diminish the degree of class stratification, the injustices of large inequalities and the collective discontents.’

This perfectly sums up the challenges that face a modern social democratic party. 

Labour needs to be both forward looking and optimistic. We have the values to develop the policy for the future. The propositions we have set out here can appeal to traditional voters and to those we need to win; our values encompass them both. A society in which we all can flourish around a new deal at work, repurposed business, a strong and dynamic state supported by fair taxation, and outward looking to the world. These are the values Tribune can and should promote within Labour, and beyond. They represent the true heartbeat and beliefs of the British people. 

 

Rushanara Ali MP

Jon Ashworth MP

Margaret Beckett MP

Clive Betts MP

Roberta Blackman-Woods MP

Paul Blomfield MP

Lyn Brown MP

Karen Buck MP

Richard Burden MP

Liam Byrne MP

Ruth Cadbury MP

Jenny Chapman MP

Yvette Cooper MP

Jon Cruddas MP

Alex Cunningham MP

Nic Dakin MP

Wayne David MP

Peter Dowd MP

Jack Dromey MP

Clive Efford MP

Louise Ellman MP

Bill Esterson MP

Pat Glass MP

Helen Goodman MP

Kate Green MP

Louise Haigh MP

David Hanson MP

John Healey MP

Sharon Hodgson MP

Dan Jarvis MP

Diana Johnson MP

Barbara Keeley MP

Stephen Kinnock MP

Ian Lucas MP

Justin Madders MP

Shabana Mahmood MP

Seema Malhotra MP

Chris Matheson MP

Liz McInnes MP

Catherine McKinnell MP

Jim McMahon MP

Ian Murray MP

Melanie Onn MP

Chi Onwurah MP

Albert Owen MP

Matthew Pennycook MP

Lucy Powell MP

Steve Reed MP

Andy Slaughter MP

Nick Smith MP

Owen Smith MP

Karin Smyth MP

Keir Starmer MP

Jo Stevens MP

Gareth Thomas MP

Nick Thomas-Symonds MP

Stephen Timms MP

Anna Turley MP

Karl Turner MP

Alan Whitehead MP

 

 


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  • Have you all left “Progress”? Many of you are rather uncooperative back-benchers who don’t seem to care for the Party Membership, so why should we care about you?!