A letter sent to Ed Miliband MP, leader of the UK Labour party.
I read an interesting piece in the Guardian by Angela Eagle MP entitled "end to the greed creed" and was pleasantly surprised that it seemed like a step in the right direction.
I would like to see a concerted strategy from the Labour party to reengage the traditional Labour voter base and the huge numbers of disillusioned and disenfranchised UK voters (34.9% of the electorate didn't even vote in the 2010 election, that is almost as many people as voted for the Tories and the Lib-Dems combined 38.5%).
Angela's criticisms of "market fundamentalism" and the admission that New Labour failed to to "tame the rightwing dogmas already unleashed" look like positive steps in the right direction but there is a lot more to be done if Labour are to convince the electorate that you are actually prepared to offer a viable alternative to militant neoliberal dogma rather than just "empty" criticisms of the neoliberal status quo.
For three decades government policies have been based on the assumption thatneoliberalism is a sensible economic strategy rather than aharebrained ideological dogma, and despite the crisis of neoliberalism the Coalition are demonstrably stuck in the obsolete market fundamentalist mold. I have devised a number of political strategies and potential economic policies that would help to demonstrate that Labour has developed some strong alternatives to policies based on the defunct ideology of neoliberalism.
Labour needs to present some benchmark policies that clearly demonstrate that the party both admits failure to confront the iniquities of neoliberalism in the past and a determination to restore principles of fairness and social justice in the future.
One such policy would be to demand tax transparency from private sector government partners. By this I mean Labour should propose legislation to prevent any company without a transparent tax structure from getting any form of government funds (outsourcing contracts, PFI deals, subsidies, loans or bailouts). If these companies siphon off corporate profits through tax haven based shell companies or use similar tricks to enable their employees to avoid/evade tax, they should have absolutely no right to enrich themselves on taxpayers' money.
Put simply and clearly "Transparent Tax in return for access to public funds", "Transparent Tax Accreditation for all government contractors" or "a serious strategy to confront the corporate tax ripoff".
The word "transparent" is vital for a positive public perception, it should be contrasted with the Tories secretive and evasive Swiss Tax deal, that allows tax cheats to both keep their anonymity and in many cases a hefty proportion of their ill gotten gains.
This "Transparent Tax" policy could be used to counter the fallout from therecently exposed PFI scandal and an opportunity to present the Labour party as a renewed force and the only mainstream party prepared to openly criticise bankrupt neoliberal economic dogma and offer new alternatives to restore "fairness".
This reform of government spending policy should be presented in a context of an admission that Labour made mistakes in incentivising these kind of ripoff neoliberal "economic alchemy" PFI schemes. That these kinds of policies stemmed from the "unacceptable drift tothe right" in British politics, driven by the now discredited economic orthodoxy of "market fundamentalism" and the rightwing bias of the UK mainstream media. Labour must admit their mistakes and present the policy of Transparent Tax Accreditation as a demonstration that they are absolutely determined not allow the same mistakes to happen again.
Although a Labour "apology" looks like a poor strategy, I feel that it would work very well in bringing a lot of your disillusioned natural left wing voter base back onside and in engaging the angry electorate that would welcome some signs of contrition from some of the politicians they feel have let them down (expenses & lack of political reform. Bailouts, lack of banking reform & austerity for ordinary working people). Most importantly apologising for New Labour's "driftto the right" is also an implicit criticism of the coalition government for their continuation of the kind of neoliberal economic dogma (self-defeating austerity, mass privatisations, lack of banking reform, marketisation of health care & education, cutting investment in education, research & infrastructure) that created the Neoliberal Economic Crisis in the first place.
Other potential strategies include:
- Look back to the post-war consensus mixed economy (28 consecutive years of budget surpluses & a reduction of the national debt from 237% GDP in 1947 to just 43% in 1979 when the Neo-Tories tore it up), it wasn't called the "golden age of capitalism" for nothing. The1973 oil shock and late 70s strike actions that were used as excuses to tear down the post-war consensus now look like drops in the ocean compared to the Neoliberal Economic Crisis (including estimated PFI legacies & bailouts the national debt is back above 160% of GDP).
- Demand that any future bailouts or quantitative easing measures are used to stimulate long term economic growth by bypassing the financial sector to invest directly in education, science, research and development, public infrastructure projects and support to green & high-tech industries in order to help the UK catch up a bit with the high-tech economies after three decades of underinvestment. Contrast this investment strategy with the huge economically regressive spending cuts the coalition have inflicted on higher education and the sciences.
- Criticise the Coalition tuition fees hike as an "aspiration tax", since studies have estimated that even moderate interest rate rises would leave hundreds of thousands of low-mid income graduates (£21,000 - £42,000) trapped in negative equity on their student loans (unable to even cover the interest payments because of the interest+3% calculation), meaning a lifetime tax on what should be their discretionary income, simply for having aspired to educate themselves. Use socially beneficial professions such as nurses, engineers, scientists, teachers, town planners, forensic scientists, etc as examples of ordinary working people that will be hit hard by the negative equity "aspiration tax".
- Take a more pro-active role in the EU, push for an end to the democratic deficit, strengthen EU trading rules to prevent the economic punishment of countries that comply with EU regulations to prevent them from being undercut by countries that opt out (the decimation of UK pig farming after other EU nations opted out of costly animal welfare reforms is a classic example of this problem).
- Strongly criticise "Osborne's ideologically driven and self-defeating austerity" and make it clear that the Labour party advise him that "targeted taxation" (perhaps on speculative banking practices, short term executive bonuses and some form of Land Value Tax), curbs on capital flight (tax dodging) and infrastructure investment are tried and tested methodologies for restoring economic growth. (numerous citable examples: Roosevelt's new deal, the post-war consensus, Argentine recovery economics 2002-present). He will either continue with his "stagflationary" policies or he will have to eventually change course giving Labour the chance to question his reasons for delay.
- Renewal of housing policy (much more on this if you would be interested).
- Strategies to stabilise the highly volatile financial sector (ask if you are interested).
- Economic localisation and efficiency strategies (more details upon request).
- Innovative political reform (again ask if you would like to discuss my ideas in this area).
I hope you find these ideas interesting and care to discuss them with your colleagues in the Labour party. I have plenty more strategies and ideas and believe that I would be a valuable addition to the Labour party strategic planning team. I would be delighted if you would like to continue this correspondence, not that I expect it. I've written to many, many politicians with my ideas over the years and the abject lack of responses suggest that letters like this are put straight into the crank file (the bin).
I am keen to help the Labour party to devise some strong economic policies and coherent political strategies in order to help overcome the widely held public perception of a Labour crisis of identity (new labour, blue labour, old labour, purple book....).
Thomas G Clark
Unfortunately (and unsurprisingly), Ed and his team didn't bother to respond to this letter.
If you enjoyed reading this post, maybe you could buy me a beer? £1 would get me a can of cheap lager whilst £3 would get me a lovely pint of real ale.