Progress | Centre-left Labour politics


Purple praise

The Purple Papers chapter on the ‘care crunch’ is a further very useful contribution to the debate. It makes the case powerfully for an extension of the free childcare entitlement, currently enjoyed by three- and four-year-olds and some two-year-olds, to 25 hours a week for all children aged one to five. The paper estimates that this would require an additional £7bn per year of investment. An ambitious proposal. The evidence is clear that high-quality childcare is good for children’s outcomes – particularly for the most disadvantaged children. Indeed, since Labour introduced free childcare for three- and four-year-olds the attainment gap between disadvantaged five-year-olds and their more affluent counterparts has narrowed from 37 per cent in 2007 to 31 per cent in 2011.
Posted by Claire McCarthy on 2 November 2012

The Purple Papers are right to call for universal childcare. Childcare is one of the factors most responsible for the costs of children’s needs rising faster than inflation – childcare contributes £60,000 towards the £143,000 it costs to meet the basic needs of a child until adulthood. But if the arguments for universal childcare are so compelling on national economic interest grounds – and they are – then funding it should be a priority across government, not just from within current children and family budgets which have been already repeatedly raided by the coalition.
Posted by Alison Garnham on 13 November 2012

Both right and left share a tendency to think equally simplistically when it comes to creating wellbeing. Creating health, for instance, might appear to be about deciding where, how and on what to spend £100bn or so of taxes. But that is how to create ‘illness treatment’ services. Creating health or any other kind of wellbeing (such as safe communities) is not something achieved by the simple deployment of money, however cleverly buildings and personnel are managed. You do not need to be a ‘small state’ enthusiast to recognise that the creativity and capacity of individuals, families and communities ebbs and flows in a constant dance with the state’s deployment of services, buildings and systems.
Posted by Alex Fox on 14 November 2012

Women winners

I am pleased to be a guest-editor for a day on ProgressOnline ahead of this year’s Labour Women’s Network political day. Recently, the election of well-respected local candidate Lucy Powell in Manchester Central has confirmed that women candidates can be trusted to win by-elections. Her success follows that of Seema Malhotra in Feltham and Heston and Debbie Abrahams in Oldham East and Saddleworth, proving that it is the right candidate for the seat, rather than the safest available ‘family man’, which leaves Labour well placed for by-election victories. Likewise, the selection of strong female candidates like Jane Kennedy and Vera Baird for the police and crime commissioner elections demonstrates the Labour membership’s faith that women can perform well – both professionally and electorally speaking – in what could easily have been seen as a ‘job for the boys’.
Posted by Claire Reynolds on 16 November 2012
Bad policy, bad politics

I think it was Tony Blair who used to say the best policy makes the best politics. The reverse is true: bad policies make bad politics. The sell-off of the forests, the NHS reforms, the police commissioner elections: ministers keep on getting it wrong. The AV referendum was a shambles. John Hayes’ announcement on windfarms will be studied by future generations as the exemplar of government confusion. The debates on Europe are starting to make Maastricht look like a Quaker meeting. The next two years will be marked by further policy confusion and mismanagement, contributing to the strong sense that David Cameron wanted to be prime minister without knowing what he wanted to do once he got there.
Posted by Paul Richards on 9 November 2012

Retail rage

Usdaw’s Freedom From Fear campaign has been running for more than 10 years and, working in partnership with employers, government, police and other agencies, has made a real difference in helping combat incidents against retail staff. Despite this, figures published by the British Retail Consortium in January this year revealed that incidents of violence and verbal assault against retail staff had increased by 83 per cent on the previous 12 months. The Retail Trust charity has published research which shows that 60 per cent of those working in retail had reported being treated aggressively, and, of those affected, 56 per cent had been the target of aggressive behaviour on more than three occasions in one year.
Posted by John Hannett on 8 November 2012

Violence against shopworkers is a serious social issue, but it is also a significant economic one. We need our retail environment to be an attractive and safe place for customers, and this issue can undermine shops (particularly in deprived areas or in smaller stores where there is likely to be less security on hand). If fewer people want to visit our retail environment, it will have a detrimental impact on tax revenues, jobs and growth. One Nation requires customers and store workers to be as safe in Bootle as they are in Bexhill, and as safe in a corner shop as they are in a major department store.
Posted by Toby Perkins MP on 8 November 2012

Obama II

I cannot be rational as far as Barack Obama is concerned. To be born mixed-race is to be born into no-man’s-land. I will never be black enough, but I will also always be too black. My skin colour shuts me off from not one but two communities, and is a permanent and ineradicable reminder of an absent father. I remember, shortly after my 14th birthday, being given a copy of Dreams From My Father, Obama’s first book. Alan Bennett once wrote that the best moments in reading come ‘when you come across something – a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things – that you’d thought special, particular to you, and here it is, set down by someone else, a person you’ve never met’. That’s what Obama’s book was like for me.
Posted by Stephen Bush on 6 November 2012

Marriage equality was supported in referendums in Washington, Minnesota, Maine, Maryland – the first time the law has been changed by a vote of the people rather than a decision by the courts or state legislature. And by electing Tammy Baldwin, Wisconsin has returned the first openly gay member of the US Senate. New Hampshire voters were responsible for another first: the entire Congressional and Senate delegation are now women.
Posted by Matthew Doyle on 7 November 2012

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