The Last Word: A transition position

Making Labour’s single market shift permanent, punishing parents and farewell to Kezia Dugdale – Progress director Richard Angell has this week’s Last Word

As an interim – before formally adopting the right policy to keep Britain in the single market indefinitely, Keir Starmer has committed Labour to membership of the single market and custom union for a long transition period as the United Kingdom leaves the European Union. At the moment this just delays the cliff edge facing British workers and the British economy. The only correct position is for Labour to make this single market shift permanent.

The parliamentary wrangling for this is not simple, as former government chief whip Hilary Armstrong and university of Nottingham’s Mark Stuart outline in this month’s Progress magazine. To win this position with the British public their concerns on ‘free for all’ migration and desire for change on immigration must be dealt with. The university of Cambridge’s Catherine Barnard outlines radical reforms – from Belgian-style overstay enforcement and pre-1995 border checks to identify cards – that are all possible under freedom of movement and EU rules. These changes, however, will give greater confidence in the system and reinstate a sense of ‘taking control’. To win this position, however, with Labour comrades staying in the single market must be seen for what it is: a way to implement Labour values. Rupa Huq and Roger Liddle are right to say the world’s biggest social market holds back the worst excesses of global trends to lower standards and workers rights: ‘The single market is the best existing defence against a “race to the bottom” in the modern world.’ At the end of the day Europe is a ‘social market underpinned by social democratic rules’ which is why the political right and the Bennite left hate it so much. While the EU is imperfect – what isn’t? – bring reminded of these centre-left fundamentals is important. 

Join the fight for a single market future for Britain. This weekend Progress chair Alison McGovern and Heidi Alexander started the Labour Campaign for the Single Market and invite you to their launch on 5 September. Clive Lewis and the TSSA’s Manuel Cortes launched the Labour Campaign for Freedom of Movement just before – I signed up immediately. These are two sides of the same coin – join both and watch this space. 

Punish parents

The Trades Union Congress has a blistering report out today exposing how some employers are punishing parents for taking their sick children to hospital. Two-fifths of parents say they feel penalised if they use their statutory right to request flexible working. Nearly half report they are struggling to balance working and parenting. 

Frances O’Grady, the TUC general secretary, said: ‘It is shocking that some mums and dads are being stopped from taking their children to hospital when they are sick.’

All change at Scottish Labour

I was sad to see Kezia Dugdale leave her position in Scotland. She took up the mantle, as Sheila Gilmore argues at the most difficult time. We obviously wish her well. Scottish Labour has had more leader’s since the Scottish parliament was founded that Labour has had since the second world war. It has had three women leaders, all have been forced out by their own side – the latest being a relentless series of attacks from the Campaign for Socialism in Holyrood. 

The timing is very disappointing as it further tips the balance of the National Executive Committee in Momentum’s favour. We should always remember that these roles take their role not just on the individual, their families but the staff would work behind the scenes and now face uncertainty. 

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Richard Angell is director of Progress. He tweets at @RichardAngell

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Photo: Richard Gardner

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