Strengthening sure start comes first
Thursday 12 May will usher in the second anniversary since the formation of the coalition. A week after Cameron and Clegg had their now infamous press conference in the Downing Street garden, the four-page Coalition Agreement was published; a 36-page manifesto, a £6.2bn cuts programme and a 22-bill Queen’s speech. 2011 was the first year since 1949 that no Queen’s speech was delivered, and it has allowed the government two years to get its legislative programme through parliament. Labour has already made known that it will repeal the health and social care bill at the earliest opportunity, but as we reach the half way point of the electoral cycle – what does Labour’s legislative programme look like? And what should a prime minister Ed Miliband’s priorities be come 2015?
Sure start was at the heart of Labour. One of Labour’s proudest achievements, the 3,000 centres built across Britain by the Labour government were based on proven evidence. The poorest children fall behind in language skills long before they ever walk through the school gates – and they never catch up. The first few years of life are crucial for the formation of a child’s cognitive abilities. Aid them early and give them intensive encouragement, with expert advice for their parents, and you can change their lives forever. It was, and still, is the easiest way to improve the life chances of the many. Labour must pledge to renew and strengthen this policy.
Secondly, the national care service arrived too late in Labour’s time in office to become reality – but the idea is plausible and, moreover, essential. The current care system is unfair and underfunded with widespread, unmet need. But it is also unsustainable due to the increasing demands and expectations of our ageing population. Radical reform is a must.
Labour should commit to building at least 100,000 new council homes a year, repair existing stock, take over housing facing repossession and ensure the compulsory purchase of private builders’ unsold land banks – which currently translates to 620,000 new homes. As I have previously written, ignoring this salient issue cost the Labour party dearly amongst its core support. More of them, at a high standard, accessible to all would ease some of the most pressing concerns faced by our most ardent supporters.
Labour should not just aim to be a party of business, but more specifically to be a party of good businesses. Ed Miliband’s ‘responsible capitalism’ narrative has tapped into the national conscience. As part of the process of learning and applying the lessons learnt from the savagery of the 2008 recession, Labour should commit to creating elected work councils, where by law at least one worker must sit on the main management board. This idea is the norm in mainland Europe, with Germany, an economic powerhouse, introducing this reform decades ago.
Lastly, Labour’s 2010 general election manifesto contained a pledge to introduce a living wage for workers in central government. It stirred Gordon Brown to deliver his most passionate speech during the campaign, and a standing ovation at the Citizens UK hustings – the birthplace of the movement. This isn’t just a London-centric issue; no one does a hard day’s work to end up in poverty. Roll out a regionally set living wage across the UK.
As Miliband confidently stated this weekend, this will be a one term government. Announcing new, credible, radical, Labour policies in a Queen’s speech of our own will surely but enhance this prospect.
Alternative Queen’s Speeches on Progress
Progress editorial: The first Queen’s speech in two years is imminent. Labour should seize on the event to set out its own stall
We asked Labour people to devise what would be in Labour’s Alternative Queen’s Speech to show how Britain would be better under Labour
It should be fiscal responsibility first in Labour’s Alternative Queen’s Speech argues Jacqui Smith
The UK needs a radical tax overhaul. Fabian general secretary Andrew Harrop sets out what this would involve
Strengthening sure start comes first writes David Talbot
Richard Darlington, Tony Dolphin and Graeme Cooke from IPPR present their Alternative Queen’s Speech for jobs and growth
We need an Alternative Queen’s Speech for community empowerment argues Florence Nosegbe
Patrick Diamond wants Labour to create an efficient, muscular state through a ‘too big to fail’ bill and a ‘mutual home-ownership bill’
Jeremy Miles would introduce a ‘transparency in equal pay bill’ and introduce compulsory so that all politicians have to listen to all sections of society
In Steve Van Riel‘s Alternative Queen’s Speech business should be required to publish the salary of its lowest-paid worker, and the OBR should be mandated to work with the opposition on costings
LabourList editor Mark Ferguson would put an end to Crown dependency tax havens, and finally introduce a National Care Service
Former Labour party general secretary Peter Watt would introduce a safety in care bill for all adults in care, and a rule to remove a set number of pieces of legislation from the statute book every year
Anthony Parker presents his poetic contribution to the series
David Talbot is a political consultant, tweets @_davetalbot and writes the weekly The Week Ahead column on Progress
Photo: Phil Dowsing Creative
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