Labour must not compromise with the free market

The New Labour project represented the single largest policy shift in the Labour party since its creation, radically altering the electoral agenda of the party. No longer would Labour be fighting for nationalisation or "the common ownership of the means of production", instead Tony Blair would run a campaign based on a new platform of “social individualism”. Regardless of what you think of Blair, his policies were a compromise with the free market. He thought that the private sector was the most efficient, and pushed ahead with the task of privatisation set forth by Margaret Thatcher.

Tories defined the status quo and Labour adopted it. Since then, the British economy has undergone one of the most catastrophic crises of capitalism in living memory - yet the dominance of finance and big business continues to go unchallenged. For Labour to secure its future as a party standing for fairness and democracy, it needs to move on from its obsession with the private sector. There needs to be a recognition that some services are best kept in public hands.

This means bringing nationalisation back onto the agenda including, but not limited to, the energy firms, utility companies, network operators and the transport industry. As prices rise and wages stagnate, should we continue to let the private sector profit from vital public services? While better regulation, such as the price freezes and fares caps announced by Ed Miliband earlier this year, is a step in the right direction, regulation cannot deal with the fundamental issues that are found in these natural monopolies. In industries such as energy and rail, the initial investment required is so great that it is simply not viable for a large number of firms to compete in the market.

British people support nationalisation, with even Conservative voters favouring the policy - though to a lesser extent than their Labour counterparts. A YouGov poll found that 68% of the public want to see the energy companies brought back under public control, and that over 65% want railways to be renationalised. Electorally, there are huge potential gains for Labour if it delivers on economic radicalism and builds the mixed economy that voters want to see. That is, an economy in which key industries are kept in public hands and others are in the private sector.

Labour policy cannot just be confined to these key public services: the party also needs to deliver on raising employment levels. Unlike this coalition government, a Labour government can't settle for low-waged, part-time positions. Britain needs jobs with clear entry routes, fair hours and fair pay - jobs that provide security for families and give hope to the hopeless. For Labour, the question is - how can a government create jobs? Conservatives, and admittedly some Labour MPs, might say that cutting taxes and subsidising business is the answer. However, surely we need to move beyond the dogma of tax reductions for the richest?

Britain needs an industrial policy and direct government intervention to create new industries and new hubs of employment. When the livelihood of some of Britain's poorest and most vulnerable is at stake, surely we cannot rely solely on the private sector to create the opportunities that ordinary people so desperately need? Labour can win the hearts and minds of British people if it moves beyond the legacy of Thatcher, defining its own future as a party that stands up for what is right.

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