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Be honest, Labour modernisers. These are failed Tory ideas | Michael Meacher

Labour’s Purple Bookers seem to have learned nothing. The party must fight inequality, not increase it

Where did we hear these ideas before? Devolve power from Whitehall, leave the big state behind, elect mayors with powers over policing, abolish the Department for Communities and Local Government. Or this on education: get private providers to compete where schools are thought to be failing, provide education credits for parents to move their children to other schools, make all schools autonomous like academies. Or this on public services: use “successful” foundation trusts as the model to provide primary care, allocate social housing on the basis of rewarding allocate social housing on the basis of rewarding good tenants, use “hasbo” eviction orders against bad tenants. Yes, they’re all Tory ideas – being presented as the face of Labour’s modernisers in The Purple Book.

They will simply push Britain further down the path to a free-market, deregulated, privatised, profoundly unequal country – which is precisely the problem, not the solution. It was light-touch regulation that enabled bankers to run amok, crash the economy, costing taxpayers hundreds of billions of pounds. The private finance initiative was a colossal waste of money, and even Tories are now turning against it. And as for free schools, the Swedes – who originally championed the idea – are now having second thoughts.

If there’s one belief that unites virtually all the country, it’s opposition to further privatisation of the NHS, let alone extending it by marketising the public’s trusted relationship with GPs. And social housing isn’t a reward for good behaviour; decent housing is a fundamental human right denied to 1.8 million households (about 5 million people) on the waiting lists.

But that’s not the half of it. It’s the dog that didn’t bark in the night, the real problems that simply go unmentioned. What is Labour’s alternative to the cuts, apart from cutting less and not so fast? We should factor in the growth dividend, which is substantial over four years. We should increase tax on the very rich who, as one candidly admitted, pay tax at a lower rate than their cleaning ladies. That means a financial activities tax, ending the non-dom loophole, and phasing out tax relief at the top. And we need to tie down the costs and benefits of a public sector-driven jobs and growth strategy that will transfer the jobless from dependence on benefits to positively contributing to the desperately needed programme of house-building and infrastructure improvement, and the new green, digital economy.

Since there’s been virtually no reform of banking since the crash – both Basel III and Vickers give banks until 2019 – stopping the next crash is critical. Derivatives and the complex exchange-traded funds, which as the USB scandal indicates are still out of control in the City, need to be tightly regulated, or where necessary prohibited. Bonuses should be cut sharply and require approval from the City regulator.

Our manufacturing decline is unsustainable if we are to maintain the standard of living we’re used to. We have to focus much harder on improving poor skill training and low productivity, reconstruct the crucial production chains lost to foreign takeovers. Manufacturing, not the City, must be the priority for the nation’s capital, and small and medium enterprises must be moved upwards into higher-tech niche areas less exposed to Asian competition. And shocking though it may seem to some, trade unions have an important role here. European social market capitalism and east Asian capitalism have generally produced significantly higher productivity and growth on a shared partnership model, where loyalty and commitment to a firm are earned by greater information-sharing and more internal negotiation and bargaining before major decisions are taken.

Also at a time when the power imbalance in Britain has never been greater, if Vince Cable thinks shareholders should have a say in bosses’ pay, why not employees too? Employment rights are not about disruption and strikes, but protecting vulnerable and often low-paid workers against unfair dismissal and discrimination at work. Unions should be given the power to do that.

No political programme can be complete – or relevant – without tackling head-on the mammoth inequality now starting to reproduce the Edwardian class system (perhaps why Downton Abbey is so popular?). The average pay of FTSE-100 chief executives is now £86,500 a week: 220 times the median wage in Britain today, and 390 times the minimum wage of £220 a week. We need a pay commission to set guidelines for fair pay, a maximum ratio between top and bottom, and more negotiation in all organisations about a fair distribution of remuneration between all employees. © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds