As we come to the end of 2016, to say there has been a seismic shift in politics at home and abroad would be an understatement. Across the world social democracy has been cast aside and replaced with populist nationalistic ideology, riding an ocean of resentment and disillusionment with ‘traditional’ politics.
The UK, along with others is at the centre of these changes. As a Party we must navigate the choppy waters ahead of us to reach our final port of electoral success, rather than crash against the rocks of political failure for a 3rd consecutive time.
In order to do this the Labour Party must set a course for the politics of pragmatism if we are to see a Labour leader in Downing Street anytime soon. We have a difficult task ahead of us. Boundary changes aside we need to go into the next General Election with a policy platform which resonates with the public across Britain, not only winning back the votes of those that we have lost, but convincing traditional Conservative voters that Labour is the party for them.
Going forward we need to consult with not merely our membership, but with the public at large. This includes tackling a number of issues that the Labour party has had a difficult time reaching a consensus on.
On immigration, we need to recognise that a Leave vote in the EU referendum was a vote for it to be curbed. Labour must convince the public that a diverse society is an enriched society, whilst it must simultaneously go into the next election with a policy which enables immigration to work for the country, and in employment fields where a skills gap exists. This could coincide with a rejuvenation of funding for more apprenticeships so that young people can fulfil their potential, recognition that a degree is not a necessity to achieve all that you can, and support older people to re-train into a new career path.
Labour should continue to pledge to increase the number of affordable homes and social housing stock, but recognise that whilst the socialist utopia of a council estate of all people living side by side regardless of income is an ideal, it is no longer reasonable whilst 1.9 million families are on the housing waiting list, and means test both applicants and current tenants based on income. Again, as with immigration, this cannot be a stand-alone policy and should coincide with a independent regulatory body that oversees rent controls on private housing and a publicly accessible national register of landlords in order to begin to addressing the abuse of tenants in the private housing sector.
National security could also be a flagship policy of Labour heading into the next election, with significant increased spending on the armed forces and a continued commitment to the Trident nuclear deterrent programme. Sending Britain’s armed forces into a war zone with a salary for their dedication and duty to our country, of as little as £15,000 is abhorrent. A broad review of our armed forces, including recognising that leadership is not solely possessed by those with university degrees from middle to upper class backgrounds, would make the armed forces more representative of the people they protect. The welfare of those who serve is important long after they have left the military and Labour should pledge to continue to support to them for as long as it is needed.
The defence of the United Kingdom and our interests is important in a increasingly unsettled world, and it is vital we head into the next election with a solid commitment to strengthen our defence.
I believe that all of these policy changes that I have touched on fit within the pragmatic, principled traditions of Labour. There is much more to be discussed. Our future relies on a shift by many within, to understand where we are in the mind of the electorate and the necessity for our party to turn a page forward, not backwards.
Yes, we are a Socialist party, but Socialism is no longer as black and white as it was in times gone by. We must delve across the breadth and depth of our movement and most importantly, beyond, in order to become a party fit for 21st Century governance. Refusal to do so will condemn us to electoral insignificance. So change we must.
The Labour Party has always been a beacon of hope to those of us who strive for social change, for a society where those with the broadest shoulders carry the heaviest burden, and for a country where those at the bottom of the ladder get a helping step up. Whilst that should always be the case, it is no longer enough in its own right. The politics of pragmatism is the future for electoral success. It’s time to embrace it.