In the year I was born, a wall signifying the geopolitical divide between two global superpowers collapsed and Margaret Thatcher, the then British Prime minister had cemented a neoliberal consensus that would outlast a generation. That year was 1989 and since then the world has changed beyond recognition, globalisation has brought the world closer together as well as creating huge divisions in wealth and opportunity. Neoliberalism an economic system which was once praised is showing signs of terminal decline.
Globalisation coupled with a failed economic system and rapid advances in technology has meant that the future for many in particularly the young is now bleaker than ever. The benefits of low cost of living, full employment and job security enjoyed by the baby boomer generation are a distant memory for millennials. What now awaits is a life of insecure jobs, wage depression and a stagnant economy with no sign of meaningful productive growth.
However, I believe that a positive future can be forged under a future Labour government. This can only be achieved if the Labour Party renews itself and ultimately wins power at the ballot box. To achieve this the Labour must stitch together a series of interwoven policies, anchored by an overarching narrative which adequately explains how the young, families and the old will be economically and socially better off under a Labour government.
First the young need to be equipped with the skills that will enable them to be globally competitive in this new century, this means providing children with strong comprehensive education. Education that is rooted in the digital age, with technology courses such as coding made a course subject in the national curriculum alongside English, Maths and Science. In addition to this alleviating, the financial barriers to higher education through the abolition of tuition fees must occur. Such a move would not only grant those from the disadvantaged background the opportunity to gain an education without the fear of debt, it will provide easier access for adult education - helping much more people to re-train and remain competitive in the workplace.
To add to this vocation education and apprenticeships must gain parity with university level education, a future Labour government must pledge to create a million more apprenticeships. One way this may be achieved is through linking apprenticeships with tax-breaks for medium to large business, providing an incentive for companies to train and provide more jobs.
Second, the Labour Party must rebuild our political economy, neoliberalism has failed not only hardworking families in Britain but also business both nationally and globally. Britain’s exit from the European Union, although an undesired outcome provides Labour with an opportunity to reform the British economy to ensure it promotes entrepreneurship, innovation and growth so that the economic gains are shared by all.
In tandem with economic reform, the Labour Party must develop a coherent answer to the rise of automation and the changing nature of work. The pace of technological advance mean that inevitably many jobs from manufacturing to the services sector will be lost to automation. This will mean that thousands of jobs will be lost over the next decade, to offsets this loss Labour must utilise alternative growth sectors such as renewable energy and technology to create new jobs to replace those that will inevitably be loss to automation.
However, the changing nature of work also means that the ideal of full employment will no longer be achievable. Many people will switch between eight to fifteen different jobs in their lifetime, with regular employment being a luxury as self-employed and part-time work become the norm. This means that Labour must introduce a set of policies which will allow incomes to be protected and livelihoods secured in the dawn of this new industrial revolution. Wage reform through enshrining a true national living wage into law would help to begin the process of preparing our economy for changing nature of work. The success of New Labour’s minimum wage act demonstrates how legislation can be used to protect incomes and support individuals and families.
Third housing reform must remain on the agenda - today the chance of owning a home is a distant dream for millennials and young families. Only those that have affluent parents with the means of providing financial support will have the opportunity to purchase a home. Measures such as the right to buy scheme are inadequate and exacerbate an already deepening crisis. The right to buy scheme must be scrapped and a major housebuilding infrastructure project initiated. Providing modern, affordable homes for every age bracket and income, in addition to creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs.
Lastly, for the older generation a National Health Service that is equipped to overcome the pressures an ageing population is crucial. The NHS budget deficit is growing to put the nation's healthcare at risk. This deficit could be overcome through a combination of direct investment and structural reform of the way healthcare is organised and delivered. The NHS most shift from concentrating care in hospital settings to the community and people's homes. Patients must be empowered to take charge of their own healthcare, with the NHS acting as a facilitator. This can help to reduce healthcare cost and ensure that we have a health service that is sustainable for the future.
The Labour Party has just experienced a difficult summer, and with Brexit negotiations, expansion of grammar schools and an ideological right-wing government, winter will not provide much respite. In this article, I have laid out four broad themes around education, economic reform, housing and the NHS. Before the Labour Party can reach out beyond its core support, the party must find a way of bridging this policy divide. Therefore the Labour Party must unite and set out a modern, progressive, socialist vision for this new British century.
Image A and B ©Frantzesco Kangaris http://www.fkphoto.co.uk/