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

Labour's mutual manifesto

It might be instructive to compare Labour's defence of collective action with the Tories' invitation to do-it-yourself austerity.


Labour's use of office to give support to those facing hardship contrasts sharply with the Tories determination to deprive people of properly-funded frontline services and their failure to grasp the seriousness of the financial crisis.


Had the Tories been in power during this recession we would have seen return to the "sink or "swim" situation faced by millions in the 80s and early 90s - but on a scale last seen in the 30s.


As I've argued through this blog, Labour has always been on the right side of the argument when it comes to sharing power and prosperity - not by accident do the Tories side with the powerful and priviledged against those seeking a fairer society. No matter how hard Cameron has tried to rebrand the Tories, the interests remain the same...


It's often said that few people read party manifestos. However, they give an insight into what kinds of debates are going on within parties, what demands are being raised by rank and file members and supporters.


The Labour manifesto for the 2010 general election starts with a foreword from the party leader:
"This is a moment to show greater boldness in response to what Britain has gone through and the toll it has taken. We reject a ‘business as usual’ mentality because we have to re-build and re-balance the economy, as well as renew our society and politics."
And in the introduction:
"The global financial crisis shows we need to be bolder about reforming our financial markets and building our economic future on fairer, more solid foundations."
In contrast to the Tory plans to abolish regional development agencies and other public bodies which shape investment, Labour declares that
"an activist industrial strategy is needed: learning the lessons from those nations that have succeeded in developing advanced manufacturing and leading-edge service industries. In these countries the role of government is not to stand aside, but to nurture private-sector dynamism, properly supporting infrastructure and the sectors of the future."
As to the ownership of enterprise, there's a recognition of the need for transparency:
"we will require institutional shareholders to declare how they vote and for banks to put their remuneration policies to shareholders for explicit approval [and] more disclosure of who owns shares, a requirement for bidders to set out how they will finance their bids and greater transparency on advisers’ fees".
Consideration will be given to limiting votes on takeovers to those shareholders registered before a bid - to prevent speculators and potential asset-strippers having a say on the future ownership of companies.


Labour's support for the co-operative movement is acknowledged, as is the potential for growth in the wake of the crisis:
"There is growing interest in co-operative and mutual organisations that people trust, and that have the capacity to unleash creativity and innovation, creating new jobs and services – particularly in disadvantaged neighbourhoods where traditional approaches have failed in the past. We want to see more local organisations run on cooperative principles with an expansion of Community Interest Companies and third-sector mutual organisations that reinvest profits for the public good."
As announced in the budget
"The Social Investment Bank will make additional capital available to social enterprises with an initial endowment of £75 million funded by dormant accounts alongside existing funding streams. We will promote the creation of more social enterprise hubs in every community – helping more to get off the ground [through] Business Link, enterprise education and the Regional Development Agencies."
The Tories made great play of their plans for worker co-ops in the public sector - but a far more sensible version of this policy is already in place in the NHS. Employees in the NHS have the right to request that they deliver frontline services through a social enterprise. In extending this right to other public sector workers, Labour recognises that there must be "greater community involvement in their governance" - and crucially, enterprises will be not-for-profit.


So for Sure Start, there's a mutual future:
"we will now pioneer mutual federations running groups of local Children’s Centres in the community interest."
There's support for mutuality in financial services:
"We value the role of building societies owned by their customers and the strength and diversity that a healthy mutual sector brings to our financial services, and we will consult on measures to help strengthen the sector. As one option for the disposal of Northern Rock, we will encourage a mutual solution, while ensuring that the sale generates maximum value for money for the taxpayer."
For transport, along with public investment in infrastructure, a potential policy for reforming the privatised railways:
"We will welcome rail franchise bids from not-for-profit, mutual or co-operative franchise enterprises and will look to remove unfair barriers that prevent such bids benefiting passengers and taxpayers."
In the privatised energy market, support for co-operative and municipal enterprise:
"We will devolve power to local councils to hold energy companies to account for community energy efficiency programmes, and give them powers to develop local energy systems such as renewables and district heating. We want local people to have a stake in local renewable energy projects such as wind farms. So we will support community organisations, co-ops and social enterprises to provide energy services, meaning lower prices through bulk purchasing, and the development of small-scale renewables."
The manifesto recognises trade unions as
"an important part of our society and economy, providing protection and advice for employees, and working for equality and greater fairness in the workplace."
And there's strong support for employee-ownership in the private sector:
"We want Britain’s workers to have a stake in their company by widening share ownership and creating more employe-eowned and trust-owned businesses. We want to see a step change in the role of employee-owned companies in the economy, recognising that many entrepreneurs would like to see their companies in the hands of their employees when they retire."
It won't surprise you that in the Tory manifesto there's no mention of increasing employee-ownership in the private sector - and naturally, no recognition of the important work of the trade union movement. That's because the workplace is the one area the Tories don't want people to even think about demanding power...


As for democratic reform of parliament - the Tories oppose Labour's plans for referenda on a the alternate voting system to replace first-past-the-post and a fully-elected Second Chamber to replace the House of Lords...

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