After months and years of arguments, claims, counter-claims, protests, rhetoric, and anger, the BMA leadership and the Government have finally come to a compromise deal on the proposed new junior doctors’ contract. It’s not over yet. The precise wording of the contract has to be worked out, and the junior doctors have to vote to approve it in a referendum from 17th June to 1st July (having a referendum any time other than late June is inconceivable.)
The Labour Party is losing its ability to speak outside of the narrow community of members, activists, and loyal supporters. This is not a Blairite, Brownite or New Labour obsession. Tell that to the brilliant communicators of the new left-wing movements in Europe, Pablo Iglesias of Podemos or former Greek minister Varoufakis.
Three weeks ago Nick Srnicek (author of Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work) and Cllr Joe Goldberg (Cabinet Member for Haringey Council) spoke to the Young Fabian Technology Network about the effects of technological change on the future of employment.
Their perspectives provided an insightful summary of the different positions in the debate on how to respond to the increasing automation of work - Joe Goldberg argued a focus on education, training and investment (particularly in STEM fields) will provide people with the skills to adapt to these changes and retrain, whilst Nick Srnicek suggested trends such as automation and robotics will eventually replace most of the human labour required by our economy and we should attempt to build a society where income is detached from work.
Although these two viewpoints aren’t necessarily contradictory in the short term (state investment in science and technology are necessary for either), Srnicek argued capitalism in its current form has “run out of steam” and no longer produces growth - one reason why technological change will not create jobs to replace those destroyed as happened in the last industrial revolution. This, alongside recent data showing many of the fastest growing employment sectors don’t require a degree, suggest an increasingly low wage, low skill economy. Joe focused on generational changes such as having more geographical mobility than our parents, which, combined with few millennials having mortgages, means the next generation will have the freedom to change city and jobs far more frequently than their parents.
A large portion of the discussion centered around the idea of a Universal Basic Income. Goldberg proposed a version of basic income that replaces the current benefits system and protects people from the potentially devastating effects of economic and cultural changes that the next industrial revolution will bring, but rejected the idea of a “post-work” society; with the huge global shifts occurring across the world London’s attractiveness as a global hub is as much threatened as the economy would be if people were to stop working with innovative ideas and businesses. Both speakers agreed that other issues such as tax and housing reform would need to happen before a basic income would be possible.
Despite differences in their predictions for the future, there was an acknowledgement on both sides that capitalism has changed and the Labour Party must change with it, with Goldberg noting that the left’s traditional solutions are industrial solutions, unsuited to a post-industrial world.
An unjust tax system that favours the few only serves to hurt us all. Revelations of widespread tax avoidance unearthed in the Panama Papers has thrust the UK’s fiscal system to the forefront of public consciousness in an unprecedented fashion. The Labour Party must take this rarest of opportunities to hammer the Tories not just for their championing of tax havens, but for their pig-headed approach to taxation as a whole.
Over the last 48 hours, the world has been rocked to its core, following the biggest leak in history. The Panama Papers have shed light on the way in which the political and economic elite have been purposefully evading tax and shielding their wealth from the public eye.
If we are to appear as a government in waiting we must overcome the tenderness of discussing immigration policies, and we must do this fast. This starts by going straight to the core of this debate by asking ourselves, how do we actually intend to house new arrivals, particularly the most vulnerable?
You could be forgiven for thinking that Wednesday’s budget didn’t say much about health – other than that headline-grabbing sugar levy. And following the frontloaded increase in NHS funding set out in November’s Spending Review, you might think that the health service really isn’t doing too badly under this government.
But, as ever in health policy, things aren’t quite that simple.
“When I was your age” so the boring mantra your parents repeat goes, “I got a job and looked after myself”
Sometimes, listening to the Tories announce a budget and its measures to building success for the next generation (!) you can’t help but feel like Osborne is your dad, berating you for not trying hard enough.
The Young Fabians Education Network hosted in debate in Parliament in early February looking at the secondary school admissions system.
With access to the best schools often dependent on postcode, some parents are able to effectively buy their way into high quality state education, by buying or renting housing in the right catchment areas. The event looked at some of the possible alternatives, and the practical and political challenges involved in reforming school admissions.admissions system.
Following the event Joel Mullan wrote an article for Left Foot Forward on the key messages emerging from the discussion. It is reproduced below.
John. D. Rockefeller once said that he tried to turn every disaster into an opportunity. Equity markets have decided to do the opposite when reacting to the collapse of oil. Falling oil prices have historically been positive for the world economy, given the redistribution of purchasing power from producers to consumers. However, markets have focused on the direct negative effects of lower oil prices without looking ahead at the potential positive outcomes.
The 2016 presidential favourite will falter if she continues to use gender as her selling point
In an effort to avoid falling victim to Einstein’s definition of insanity, Hillary Clinton has used her gender as a qualifier for office, claiming that it is time for a female president. Yet if Clinton believes Americans will vote for her because she is a woman, initial results offer little reason to hope.
There is nothing sexy about energy efficiency, opined former Chair of the Energy and Climate Change Committee and Conservative MP Tim Yeo to explain the past failures of successive governments to address the UK’s leaky housing stock. He was arguing that energy efficiency fails to capture the public imagination or inspire MPs to act, to address this pernicious and prevalent infrastructure problem that leads to fuel poverty, excessive carbon emissions and tedious blog posts (well at least one).
The fall, rise and rise again of Barbara Castle’s 1969 white paper ‘in place of strife’(IPS)
Everyone has been in that situation: You’re sitting at the bar, five drinks in and suddenly the topic of conversation changes to the unions. The right-winger in your group says that in smashing up the miners, Thatcher did a hard but necessary task, the left-winger talks about Tube drivers being the last bastion of the well-paid working class worker and the Centrist... well the centrist has a faraway look tinged with sadness. “If only we had implemented In Place of Strife (IPS)…”
The Labour Party leadership contest, in addition to enabling debate on different policies, provided a valuable opportunity for members to reflect on the party's ideological core. The radically different visions offered by each candidate paid tribute to the many different readings afforded by Labour’s ‘democratic socialism’. Now is an apt time to re-evaluate an important but oft-overlooked interpretation – one which stresses the ‘democratic’ in democratic socialism’s – which can offer much use if applied within the context of the workplace. If taken to its ideational conclusion, its adoption would herald a profoundly positive shift in the relationship between labour and Labour.
The Labour Party was founded to provide Parliamentary representation for the trade union movement. Socialist societies, including our own [Fabians], provided the other foundational pillars. For as long as these core links to the labour movement remain intact, Labour remains a worker's party. Despite this, the contemporary Labour Party suffers a tendency of courting a liberal meta-narrative that seeks to de-legitimise the foundational remit of the labour struggle. Bombarded by the media and opposition parties with the message that trade-unionism is dead, out of touch and out of date, the public are often left without access to an alternative discourse. This in turn destroys the incentive of workers to rally behind the only party that institutionally represents their interests.
From the Archive
With numbers of trade union members plummeting, Usdaw the trade union for shop workers, is managing to buck the trend.
Anticipations editor, Ellie Groves talks to the General Secretary of Usdaw, John Hannett, finding out his big secret behind this success and what he thinks an ideal relationship between the trade unions and the Labour Party would look like.
In the 1970s, American Sociologist Mark Granovetter posited a theory of social action based on what he called ‘weak ties’. Granovetter argued that the strength of community and social movements comes from the amount of interaction they have with each other. He used the example of two American neighbourhoods, one white working-class (WWC) and one Italian, who were trying to resist redevelopment of their area. He observed that in the WWC neighbourhood, everyone worked in the same factories, drank in the same pubs, attended the same events etc. In contrast, the Italian neighbourhood was based primarily on strong familial relationships, with little interaction between families. In the end, the WWC neighbourhood were able to form a strong community resistance based upon the pre-existing ties between workers and friends and succeeded in protecting their area. In contrast, the Italians were never able to agree on who should be leaders of the movement and could not organise, and they lost their fight.
One of the principal reasons for the success of the C4 series Undercover Boss was the emotional punch packed by seeing wealthy individuals recognise the hard work and commitment of their employees. Often alien to the shop floor themselves, they went back to the boardroom with new compassion for their frontline staff.
It is great to be here tonight to talk about our party, where we are, where we could be going and what that might mean.
The past couple of months have been fairly eventful for all of us in the Labour party and the movement more broadly.
I think all of us here, we are a room full of Fabians after all, will have done some hard thinking about where we went wrong and where should be going.