progress is not the elimination of struggle, but rather a change in its terms’ - Aneurin Bevan

fair for all

Two very interesting commentary pieces, one from the Guardian by Douglas Alexander and Ed Miliband, the other from Tribune by Ed Balls, which show how the next Labour manifesto will be shaped by a strong social-democratic perspective.

Balls writes:
"Everybody has a stake. That was one of the founding ideas behind our welfare state.

"Whether it's support for children or our national health service, universalism has always been a core principle. And I believe it's vital that those on modest and middle incomes - not just the poorest - are part of it."


"It’s only through this combination of universal support for all families and targeted support – what we call progressive universalism - that we have been able to lift half a million children and almost a million pensioners out of poverty.

"We could not have raised child benefit for all by as much as we raised child tax credit, but nor could we ensure that every family or every pensioner who needed support got it unless we continued to invest in universal benefits too."
The principle of universalism - not excluding people on socio-economic grounds - is under threat, Balls notes, from both the Liberals and the Tories.

Rather than recognise that as citizens, the more secure are entitled to the same universal services, they would limit the provision of government support to the poorest, which would increase rather than lessen unpopular forms of means-testing. And as we all know, services for the poor alone are poorer services because the least among us lack the means to fight for improvements to services, having to struggle to get by as it is.

Alexander and Miliband write:
"The need for collective action is clear: from climate change to reforming social care, from improving education standards to tackling unemployment. And it goes to the heart of why Conservatism is wrong for the next decade: the right kind of state action is not a drain on individual empowerment; it can enhance it. Osborne and the Conservatives are caught between the ideology that defines them and the real lessons from the financial crisis. In the face of massive market failure, they continue to assert that society's problems will be solved if we simply have a small state. The role and shape of the state will be central to the coming election campaign."
"Don't let anyone tell you there aren't big choices at this election. We will fight for our vision of society: enabling government, empowering people, a society where we grow together, not apart."
Yet again, I must make the correction that it is not ideology that blinds the Tories, but the interests they represent. Time and again opinion polls show that voters have a high level of awareness that the Tory party exists to protect the wealthy few rather than the struggling many - there's nothing wrong with making this connection explicitly, it doesn't alienate middle income voters, it's not about envy or a poverty of aspiration. It's a matter of fact.

And as Alexander and Miliband observe:
"The jobs of the new decade can only be created if we recognise the role of government, complementing the private sector in making it happen, nurturing industries from digital to low carbon."
This is true, whatever you make of the terminology. The language of each individual having a stake in collective action, is welcome. It is to be hoped that the next manifesto will have a strong emphasis on expanding co-operative and mutual enterprise in the private sector.

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