By Dawn Butler
We now have a new president-elect and President Trump’s first responsibility will be to turn down the heat on the pot which he has had on the boil for a number of months. This is definitely the most pressing action the president of the United States can take. Many are now wondering how this affects us in the UK. Well, here is my view.
I think that in the Labour Party we need to have the difficult discussions with ourselves and with the general public. We are always talking about what we are against but where’s the narrative about what we are for? Where’s the discussions acknowledging concerns around diverse communities, immigration, sexism, race, racism and class?
It is important to listen to the concerns of people and then to talk more about delivering the change that is needed so that we don’t tolerate our differences but accept and embrace them. We know where our hearts lie and it is in championing the welfare of the working people in the country. We as a party were created by the trade unions to protect people at work. Some people wrongly believe that we are all about the welfare state, when actually we are about the welfare of individuals and making our country fairer and more equal. That’s where I think the conversation should start.
Labours vision and values are not just about people tolerating others, but accepting others. We all should want people to be promoted on their merits and not on their privilege, race or sex. There is a worrying far-right sentiment echoing across the world but there is also an antidote to this, and that is socialism – a better and fairer world where we do not pit one group against another. Old against young, men against women, white against non-white. It’s time to not only talk the language of unity but to set out the vision of unity.
There has been an erosion of workers’ rights and this has resulted in workers feeling voiceless. They feel unable to participate in the things that directly affect them. So when given a chance to vote they will not vote for more of the same, why would they when life continues to be a struggle? Surely anything is better in their eyes than the status quo.
Zero-hour contracts need to be banned, the minimum wage should be increased and a fair rent policy introduced. If you do a fair day’s work you should be able to afford to live. Labour’s front bench should have this as the central principle for all its policies and John McDonnell, our shadow chancellor, has already said that he will cost all of our manifesto commitments. The narrative should be how do we keep the cost of living low and increase the standard of living?
By reducing the inequality in income and wealth we can build a progressive tax system and create a more equal society, boosting businesses and closing the gap between the incomes of the poorest and the wealthiest and ending the gender pay gap. We need to prove not only that we can do it but also show how we would do it.
We need to show that Labour wants a working economy. We want to create more jobs by in-sourcing our public and local services. We want to run our busses and energy as not for profit companies. Paying people more in wages, having cheaper energy and fair rents will result in less money from the public purse being spent on benefits. It’s a total win-win. Our rescue package for the banks totalled £500bn, and while it avoided a recession the banks are still being reckless with our money so why can’t we have an owned national investment and regional banks? Instead of legislating against rip-off pay day loans we can invest in local banks that will give fair loans.
As a Labour Party we will create a million good quality jobs by investing £500bn in infrastructure and industry across the regions using British steel. We should insist on transparency in companies who we do business with to ensure that they have diversity on their boards and everyone is fairly paid. Just imagine how focused companies would be if they knew that they will only get the big contracts if they employ people on fixed-hour contracts instead of zero hour ones. And if they had to pay women the same as men. When you join the dots it makes sense and everybody wins, from the lowest paid to the highest paid.
This Labour vision is possible. We really have to start believing in Labour and our Labour message, so that the country can believe in it too.
Dawn Butler is MP for Brent Central and shadow minister for diverse communities.