Visionless Politics by Derek Wyatt
We lost the elections in 2010 and 2015 because we lacked a vision for the nation. We had become more interested in incremental policies than an overall narrative for our people. I doubt seriously whether the Labour Party as it is today understands this or even grasps that it has little or no future as a UK political entity.
In the 2015 General Election, we did not want to reform the NHS. We wanted to plug a hole in its accounts by introducing a mansion tax. This was politics by flight.
The NHS does spectacularly well despite political interference. Within my life time we will have one person working (instead of two) and one person retired. Then the NHS will have to ration its services or the tax payer will have to pay vastly more. There is a third way and that is to pay a contribution for more services like hip and knee replacements. We already have NHS+ for dentists, opticians and prescriptions. And yet my party shrank from its duties. It hid behind its history.
It was not just the NHS. It failed to ensure a road map for Education. In particular, it failed to understand the need to reform our universities, further education and life long learning. Instead, it was pre-occupied in wanting to reduce student fees from £9k p.a. to 6k p.a. Again like the NHS, this was a play at the edges. It was a nod to timidity. We failed even to look at the hugely successful Indian model of enabling private post-grad skill-specific university colleges.
Almost all of our 123 universities charge £9k for every student. How can an education at an Oxford or a Warwick be valued as the same as one as an Anglia Ruskin or an East London? We urgently need an Ofsted for this sector so students - "the consumers" as they are called - have some idea what to expect beyond rosy prospectuses and fawning videos. Students have a raw deal. Two of my undergraduate constituents from two respectable southern universities said they had never had - over a single year – any of their history or English essays marked.
But it was Labour's disinterest in business which I found hardest to understand despite my creating initiatives with John Denham and Chuka Umunna. If you do not have a thriving start up culture and a tax system to enable small enterprises and family businesses then there is not much point in getting out of bed in the morning. Our business and tax rates need to be better than those in California.
We also need to ensure the City of London is the safest and most competitive banking system in the world. If we come out of Europe we will lose our financial position in the world. This will have a devastating effect on our whole economy. And the Google’s of this world need to pay their taxes here or be closed down. It is incredible to believe that we enticed Google here in the noughties by offering them huge tax advantages. Which clown in the Treasury agreed this? Tax avoidance and bank "fixes" should be a criminal offence and board directors should be held personally responsible. We do not want the continuing “behind the door cosy deals” with HMRC or FCA both of which need major reconstruction.
The spectacular and still surprising victory of the SNP has changed UK politics forever. Scotland will be independent - it could be as soon as 2020 - if Brexit happens. Yet, we offered no constitutional settlement and now watch George Osborne - virtually unopposed - as he gives away power to elected mayors in our English cities. We are inextricably moving towards city states without a murmur. We should have been fighting for four equal but lower parliaments for our four nations with an overarching Senate binding the UK forever. It is already too late.
As for the EU its democratic deficit at every level of its organisation is extraordinary. We could have proposed that all MEPs be rooted in their own national parliaments. We know nothing of what they do or who they are. If rather than spending €50m a year upping sticks to Strasbourg they had had to come back - in our case - to Westminster and give an account of themselves in both Houses, my how better informed all us Europeans would have been. The Labour Party's silence on support for fundamental EU reforms has been disappointing.
I have now reached the conclusion that if it is alright for Scotland so be it for the much larger and more powerful English. The Labour Party is essentially now an English Party. In fact in an FT article last week there was a suggestion it was beginning to look like a London centric one. No matter, I want an English Democratic Party to emerge from the centre right of the Labour Party and the centre left of the Tory Party. It will not happen suddenly but it will happen. Europe - in Greece, in Italy and in Spain - has shown us that the old parties can whither on the vine almost overnight.