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What Labour must do to win

MICHAEL MEACHER says the party mustn't run scared of Tory stooges like Mark Carney - we need a coherent strategy for the movement

With 16 months to go Ed Miliband is beginning to put in place some key policy commitments, notably the realignment of corporate power in order to address the living standards crisis and the lopsidedness of a recovery that benefits only the top 1 per cent.

But if Labour is not only to win the election but to set in hand the transformation of Britain from its present dire and broken state a number of other important conditions have to be fulfilled.

First, Labour must present not just piecemeal policies, but a credible narrative across the board based around a distinct ideology which clearly explains the root problems that hold Britain back and how they can and must be put right.

That is what others have been trying to do, including myself in my recently published book The State We Need: Keys to the Renaissance of Britain.

Second, there has to be a huge social movement in the country to drive the agenda.

Labour can only achieve serious transformation if it has a vision which can win the hearts and minds of a majority of the electorate.

Labour is well placed to secure this if it could enhance its relationship with the seven-million-strong trade union movement from one of uncomfortable co-existence to one of positive and committed partnership.

This means quickly resolving the current stand-off by strongly encouraging individual trade unionists to join the Labour Party - and giving them sound reasons to do so - while at the same time preserving the collective voting rights of the unions within the federal structure of the labour movement.

Third, Labour needs to do much more to systematise its campaigning across the country.

Some three or four central themes should be chosen and they should be driven home by meetings, discussions, local projects and specialised campaigning up and down the country from now to May 2015.

In every region there should be a key regional official and a selected MP to oversee this work and to report back problems and successes to the centre. There are already good precedents for this, even for example in such unlikely areas a Banbury.

And this should be assisted by a big revival of the training and political education which was such a strong feature of Labour activities in the past, promoted particularly by the monthly Talking Points which debated current controversial issues throughout the party.

Fourth, Labour needs to become a democratic party again.

Whereas the Tories have always been top-down and never wanted their members to play any active part in their politics, Labour has always traditionally attracted people by giving activists a real say in the formation of policy, with annual conference as the supreme policy-making body within the movement.

That broke down under the Blair-Brown regimes, but it is essential it be recovered if Labour is to acquire a really vigorous and dynamic membership and win back the millions of voters we lost after 1997.

 

We have to involve the people, because the powers that be will always side with the Tories. We saw it recently when Bank of England governor Mark Carney said it was wrong to demand a "crude" bankers' bonus cap of 200 per cent of base salary.

He also thinks it wrong to break up large banks in order to produce a more competitive industry.

What a surprise. Carney is not an independent governor of the Bank of England, he's a partisan choice of George Osborne's who can be relied upon to echo his master's voice.

Osborne is adamantly against a cap on bankers' bonuses and even deliberately went to Brussels to try to block it when he knew that almost the whole of the EU supported a cap.

Osborne is also utterly opposed to any break-up of the "big five" banks or indeed any diminution of their power even though they're an oligopoly controlling 85 per cent of accounts in the retail market - which may have something to do with the fact that the Tory Party gets half its funding each year from the finance sector.

So Carney was not offering a serious independent judgement on Miliband's views on Britain's broken banking system, he was merely following the ideological line that gained him his appointment.

When Osborne chose Carney as the next Bank of England governor rather than Paul Tucker, the obvious choice, he lionised Carney as in a class of his own among central bank governors and as a man who had shown his metier in his highly successful handling of Canada's financial system.

What he didn't say was that Canada had undergone an even bigger financial crash than we have and that as Carney was leaving his job there the Canadian financial markets were getting seriously out of hand, particularly in the form of an incipient housing bubble - shades of Britain. Carney was in fact chosen not because of any exceptional abilities, not because his record was unblemished, but because like Osborne he is a devotee of finance-dominated neoliberal capitalism whose motto is "let money and the markets rule, and government get out of the way."

Carney spent 16 years working with Goldman Sachs and is imbued through and through with the values and attitudes of the Great Sucking Vampire Squid.

Osborne went out of his way secretly to recruit him. When Labour put forward a Bill to require that the appointment of the governor of the Bank of England should in principle be subject to ratification by Parliament - without then knowing that Osborne had already done a deal with Carney - Tory MPs filibustered the Bill so that it was talked out.

Carney is there now in order to protect Osborne, whose position remains a lot more fragile than he pretends, from the kind of independent accountability shown by his predecessor Mervyn King.

He is also there to snipe at Labour, which is a wholly improper stance for a supposedly independent governor, but it satisfies Osborne's aspiration to fill all senior financial posts so far as he can with anti-interventionist marketeers.

 

Michael Meacher is Labour MP for Oldham West and Royton. Read his blog at www.michaelmeacher.info

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