Here is a non-exhaustive list of policy positions that indicate my location on the political spectrum.
Decent, secure jobs on decent pay
Employees are human beings with bills to pay and families to support – not units of labour measured by cost and productivity. For parents, securing a decent job means being able to provide for their family and raise their children in a secure and stable home. Put simply, Employment Rights = Family Values.
To that end, I support a One Nation Industrial Strategy with the aim of bringing prosperity to every corner of the country and offering everyone the opportunity to live somewhere with a low cost of living, high quality of life and decent, secure jobs.
I also support campaigns to roll out the Living Wage, outlaw “zero hours” contracts, promote Labour’s Jobs Guarantee and have campaigned with the Cooperative Party against payday loans. I have consistently argued against unpaid internships – both publicly and privately.
Being an Engineer should be as prestigious as being a Lawyer
We need to radically change our attitude to STEM and vocational subjects. Science and mathematics maintain their place at the centre of the curriculum but more could be done to ensure that more young people study them longer and to a higher level. Vocational and technical subjects need to be respected and their contribution to a successful economy acknowledged. The previous Labour Government attempted to integrate vocational and technical subjects into the curriculum without fully making them part of the mainstream but even this is being completely rolled back by Michael Gove in the perverse name of “academic excellence”. Other countries – particularly the South East Asian economic powerhouses – consider being an Engineer to be a prestigious as being a Lawyer. This is not the case in the UK – and this needs to change because it has serious implications for our economy.
Every school a good school
The notion of “parental choice” in education rings a little hollow when there aren’t enough school places to go round and when the prospect of 12,500 more homes in North Hertfordshire is only going to make matters worse. Parents need to know that their child is guaranteed a place in a good school, within easy travelling distance of their home, where they will receive a good education. even if their child ends up in their second, third or fourth choice school. So the twin focus of education policy must be on ensuring that every school is a good school and that there are school places available in every community with young families.
Hertfordshire Conservative policy of all new schools being Free Schools will not solve the problem. Without overarching direction from local government, there is no guarantee that they will open in the areas of greatest needl. More importantly, it is teaching quality and not school structure that improves education – and this is what Labour needs to focus its energies on. This means well-qualified teachers, positively supported and incentivised so they stay in the profession and grow in their career.
In order to ensure that every child is guaranteed a place at their nearest school, we should return to a policy of defined catchment areas. Such a policy is successful in other countries, particularly the USA because it means that local communities have a greater sense of ownership of their local school – and this support drives up standards and improves community cohesion. On a practical level, it would help to mitigate school transport issues.
We do, however, need to be sensitive to the hopes and fears of aspirational parents and take steps to ensure that there are policies to address these. In the US education system they do this by ranking students within each individual school by academic performance and granting the highest performing student “valedictorian” status. This gives the highest achieving students in each school a higher profile and gives universities at all levels additional objective criteria by which to diversify their student body. It is widely and successfully used by universities such as Harvard and Yale to widen participation. We should explore how such a policy could be equally successful here.
Please see here for further details of my views on Education policy: Labour Education: the learner and the learning
Affordable healthcare is a human right – and should be a public service
The next Labour Government should bring all aspects of the NHS back into public ownership. No-one should be deprived healthcare because they cannot afford it and healthcare decisions should be made on the basis of patient need not private profit.
Power to the People
The reason why Energy prices have escalated is because a small number of Energy companies are operating like a cartel and consumers are powerless to act. I support policies that would give consumers more power over their energy supply: Community Energy Cooperatives and a radically improved “Green Deal” offer. Labour’s Energy Price Freeze is a necessary interim measure aimed at allowing time to reform the energy market and break up the cartel.
We need to increase our indigenous energy supply so that we are less dependant on imported fuel from volatile regions. This means we need to invest in Renewable Technologies, Nuclear Energy (which requires hardly any fuel – and we already have sufficient uranium reserves) and Carbon Capture and Storage which would enable us to utilise our existing coal reserves.
Proposals for Energy and Electricity installations often provoke fierce opposition from local groups, however some communities welcome such proposals because they afford the possibility of Economic Regeneration – and jobs. For example, there is a lot of support in West Cumbria for a new nuclear power station adjacent to the Sellafield and also for Britain’s Energy Coast Masterplan. Opposition largely comes from special interest groups with no connection to the area. Such local communities need support from central government to overcome this opposition so they can contribute to the country’s energy supply.
Affordable Housing: giving voice to the voiceless
There is general agreement that we need to have the biggest house-building programme since the Second World War if we are to tackle the current housing shortage – and this should include both “affordable” housing and social housing. While the “Right to Buy” policy does give people the first foot on the housing ladder, it also reduces the housing stock. So, social housing needs to be replaced on a like-for-like basis. Moreover, restrictive covenants need to be written into the deeds of “Right to Buy” properties preventing their onward sale to property developers and large-scale private landlords.
The issue of affordable housing is linked to the need for a One Nation Industrial Strategy. If prosperity could be more evenly distributed across the UK then it would follow that affordable housing could be more evenly distributed too.
The cost of public transport – particularly commuter rail fares into London – is completely out of kilter with our European counterparts. This is partly due to a badly-designed privatization during the 1990s that broke off the rail companies from the rail network and also created a patchwork of mini-monopolies that fail to offer the sort of competition that normally drives down prices for consumers. Consequently, I would support a comprehensive review of railway ownership that would consider alternative ownership models – including renationalization and mutualisation.