In recent months, the Scottish independence debate has become the hottest of political hot potatoes. Passions are running high, with a recent ICM poll reporting that 21% of Scots questioned said discussions with friends and family had “degenerated into rows” (though this poll may not have taken into account the Scottish appetite for a good rammy).
Among Labour activists, and feminists in particular, it is a truth universally acknowledged that Cameron and Clegg refuse to promote the women in their parties. The accepted wisdom is that their front bench is almost entirely, and very deliberately, male, whereas ours has a much stronger gender balance.
Since the government’s welfare reforms came into effect, a family can now claim a maximum of £500 a week in benefits. It may sound a lot, being slightly higher than the UK average weekly wage of £449, but it won’t get you far in London. The average weekly rent for a family home in London is £379 a week, compared to £166 in the UK as a whole. When a home costs more than twice as much in London, does it make sense to cap benefits at the same level as everywhere else?
The recent controversy over the Uber taxi service has led to searching questions on the impact of technology on traditional industries and its effect on employment. It also challenges the centre-left to find meaningful ways to react to these changes. Every day we see the impact of technology on businesses, in apps like Uber, and even in our relationships with apps like Tinder. In retail, well-known supermarkets are expanding their use of technology at the expense of on-site workers in order to maintain profits.
Feminism is by its very nature the disruption of the status quo; it is truly radical politics that aim to completely transform society. For that reason, feminism is never going to be popular and it is never going to be a vote winner – it is a utopian vision that is ultimately very difficult to sell as a remedy to people's day to day concerns. The question must be asked, that if the Labour Party's strategy is promoting the politics of consensus, will the party be ignoring radical feminist reforms in the name of favourable polling? Whilst we could all do with following Caitlin Moran's advice of getting up on a chair and declaring ourselves strident feminists, there still remains the question about how this attitude can be implemented in popular policy.
Consumerism is an area where the left has a difficult but also a historically productive relationship. There is a role for the left in seeking to tackle issues such as the cost of living crisis and to support consumers; but there is also a role for the left in considering how consumers can become a force in themselves to drive forward our values.
The recent article from the Young Fabians on the need for Labour to win the youth vote in 2015 is bang on. The question is how.
The Young Fabians Ideas Series seeks to pin down the principles that Labour should adopt on a number of "-isms". Some of these, such as internationalism, have been an established part of the dialogue across the left for a long time. Others, such as patriotism, are already high on the agenda of topics Labour needs to address in order to win elections in challenging times.
Asked once at a political job interview what I understood by the term “big society”, I had to admit to only a vague idea of something to do with David Cameron spouting on about local government. And it is not just me. When it comes to anything involving terms such as ‘devolution’, ‘separatism’, ‘localism’ as well as the dreaded ‘Big Society’ - no-one else seems to have much of a clue either.
Patriotism is a tricky subject for Labour. And yet, who within Labour ranks could possibly claim that the Labour movement is anything other than a patriotic expression? We are a patriotic party, with a patriotic history.
Throughout 2014 the Young Fabians are running a series of commissions to explore the major ideological questions facing One Nation Labour now and in the future.
The recent Co-op AGM saw the ringing endorsement of Lord Myners’ proposals for rectifying the ailing institution. Myners’ original report made for grim reading. “Lay” individuals were elected to the board who felt unqualified to be there and, therefore, could not contribute to decision-making or participate in the overall management of the company.