A new security
Putting security at the heart of The Labour Party
The United Kingdom is in crisis. We have a government that repeatedly fails to tackle the day’s issues, encouraged by those who thrive on “divide and rule”. Poverty is rising, inequality is deepening and bigotry is weaving its poison into our social fabric. Our Prime Minister is more concerned with delivering slogans and warnings of “Anti-Growth Coalitions” while pursuing a weird economic strategy that has caused the pound to crash and continues to put the nation on a course that forces working and middle-class people to foot the bill, at a time when wages are stagnant, prices are rising and living standards are through the floor.
The failings of our government reverberate beyond the socio-economic arena. Not only are everyday people hit by the political illiteracy of the Conservatives, but trust in our elected officials is impacted too. When a government cannot care for its people, what is its purpose? When a nation-state cannot offer shelter from the storm, what right does it have to call itself “by the people, of the people, for the people”? For the last 12 years, the Conservatives have pursued policies that have torn apart civil society, replacing it with mass marketisation and ideas of “dog eat dog”.
From 2015 until the last general election, Labour spent more time looking into the past than spending time in the here and now. Ed Miliband’s “One Nation Labour” was inspired by Benjamin Disraeli and Clement Attlee, creating “one nation” rather than two nations of the rich and the poor. Jeremy Corbyn borrowed the slogan “For The Many, Not The Few” from New Labour and ideas from the Bennite school of thought; mass nationalisation, higher taxes for higher earners, and pursuing a foreign policy that looked kindly upon authoritarians such as Assad and Diaz-Canel. On all occasions, Labour lost and handed the Conservatives the keys back to 10 Downing Street.
The running theme of failure under Labour has been the same – looking to the past, not focusing on what people on the street are saying now. People want freedom from poverty. People want safe communities. People want to know that if they work hard, they’ll reap the rewards. People want to know that when their children go to school, they’ll receive the best quality education that could go on for as long as their children wanted. People don’t want outdated ideology, they want security.
When many on the left hear “security”, their first thoughts may very well turn to ideas of a police state, authoritarianism and what many would consider “Tory ideas”. Let me be clear – while creating safe communities includes establishing a justice system that people can trust, security does not simply start and end there. Security is knowing that if you fall ill, there will be a strong welfare state that protects you. Security is knowing that if you are wronged at work, your rights will be respected and upheld. Security is knowing that young people will not be abandoned and turned into people of the abyss through a lack of care and attention from both the government and the local community.
It needs to be accepted, throughout all levels of the Labour Party, that its key message must not change regardless of leadership. The Labour Party has donned numerous identities throughout the years, which at times has been beneficial, and at others detrimental. The Labour Party must hammer home, every single time it speaks to the public, that we are the Party for Security. We are the party that will ensure the NHS is here to stay in public hands, not private. We are the party that will put your children’s future ahead of private profiteering. We are the party that will hand power back to the people, giving them the space to create a clean environment for their communities, their country and their planet. It cannot be just another political slogan, but a promise that when “we say we will make Britain work for everyone”, we mean it.
A precondition for developing such comprehensive material and mental security, of course, is the provision of dependable resources. That can only be properly done through fair universal contributions and equitable universal distribution according to needs and potential. That’s not uniformity, it’s justice – the proper balance of rights and responsibilities. Fully- funded healthcare is costly, but the cost of dealing with constant illness is greater. Providing the best quality education for all children is costly, but the cost of ignorance and having future generations fall behind is greater. Tackling crime and social apathy through programmes designed to give young people a fighting chance at life is costly, but watching what might have been fall like sand between our fingers is more expensive. Security is not just a provision that is handed from the top down, but an essential means of liberating and enabling creativity, innovation, aspiration and enterprise within local communities. It gives people a base for themselves to grow, and aspire beyond what they’ve been told is possible. This is far from a Utopian vision, as the rich have been doing this throughout history!
Am I advocating for all of this to happen within one term of a Labour Government? Of course not. I am optimistic, but I am not a dreamer. I understand that this would take years upon years of strategy to implement, and even then, it may not look exactly as I have written. But it must start somewhere. Labour needs to develop a national framework to deliver these promises and, when the time is right, give power to local communities to tackle the challenges they face. An MP representing South Wales wouldn’t know what someone in Essex, Glasgow, or even North Wales needs. But we have a chance to reach out to these people and say “we hear you, we understand you and we will help you”. A balance between national, regional and local decision-making is needed to not just rebuild the UK under Labour, but to cement an idea into our society that, no matter who is voted into government, these rights of security remain.
Nelson Mandela once said: “safety and security don’t just happen, they are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear”. I could not think of a better sentiment to guide the Labour Party.
About the author
Jack is a member of both the Labour Party and the Cooperative Party. He regards himself as a social democratic liberal.