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A real plan to revitalise held-back communities is what’s needed, not ‘levelling-up’ platitudes

Without a radical redistribution of power, resources and funding across the country, real change will not be possible, write IAN LAVERY, LAURA SMITH and JON TRICKETT of No Holding Back

IT IS approaching a year since we released our publication The Challenge for Labour, laying out our vision for how Labour must rebuild going forward in the midst of the most recent election, and our exit from the EU and the aftermath of the pandemic loomed over us. 

The overarching theme of the paper was to explore the reasons why in many places across the country the Labour Party was no longer seen as the natural home of so many working communities.

We listened to thousands of grassroots activists for their views on how this fractured relationship with the old Labour heartlands could be mended. 

The solutions were focused on the need to rediscover the values and principles that the Labour Party was born out of, those of co-operation, mutualism, social justice and solidarity, which remain at the beating heart of these communities all across the country. 

We also emphasised the need for bold new ideas that offer a radical alternative to the cult of neoliberalism that has torn out the soul of so many working-class communities, leading to rising poverty levels, inequality and misery in these areas. 

This should begin with a national recovery plan in the style of the post-war Marshall Plan, that has the ability to transform Britain to tackle the crises it faces head on, in the interests of the ordinary man and woman, rather than the narrow private interests that have been holding our country captive for too long. 

All this must be done alongside the fundamental need to organise.

We need to build a network of talented and enthusiastic activists who can turn Labour into a truly campaigning party rooted in the communities we wish to win back. 

No Holding Back’s vision is bold and expansive yet realistic and based on strong data and evidence. 

In many ways the report was laying out an alternative to the Tories’ mission of “levelling up” in the north of England, although recently they have started to claim to be committed to the somewhat incoherent goal of “levelling up the whole country.”

Presumably to appease southern Tory MPs in affluent areas who feel like the government has left them out. 

The Conservative Party’s levelling-up agenda is lacking in anything near the scope and ambition needed to take this country (in particular the north) into the future.

We remain one of the most centralised and unequal countries in the world.

Without a radical redistribution of power, resources and funding across the country, real change will not be possible; policies that are ideologically anathema to the Tories and therefore inevitably dooming them to failure. 

This provides an open goal for Labour. A well-organised party with a solid economic message that promises to put real power into the hands of held-back communities should be able to capitalise on a government which, for all its rhetoric on “levelling up,” is going ahead with the cut to universal credit alongside raising national insurance and increasing energy prices that will hit those they claim to represent the hardest. 

Yet regrettably, we cannot help but feel that the Labour Party could be seizing the opportunity better than it currently is. 

This country now sits at a crossroads in what could be looked at as an age of crises. 

Climate change will cause huge changes to the political landscape globally; a rapidly ageing society poses massive challenges to public services; and poverty and inequality continue to rise at an alarming rate. 

Now is not the time to hold back. Labour have an opportunity to offer a real alternative that could define the political direction of this country for a generation. 

There is now the very real potential to exploit the differences in the Tory Party. Boris Johnson has to keep the new self-proclaimed “red wall” MPs and the old blue wall Tories united behind him, but this is an uneasy alliance that is now showing signs of fraying. 

Despite this, Labour remains on average slightly behind the Conservatives in the polls and appear to have made few inroads into the communities who have drifted away from the party.

The Labour Party must wake up to the fact that the political landscape has changed dramatically in the past quarter of a decade.

Left ideas such as public ownership, investing in left-behind areas and tackling the vast inequality between the richest and the rest are more popular than ever, but these seem to have been abandoned.

At present it feels like the party is desperately scrambling to find its place. And instead of focusing on becoming a radical alternative to the Tories, much of the party’s energy is being directed towards a narrow internal vendetta against the left.

This will never win votes, nor will it build power in working-class communities being hit hardest by this Tory government. 

A bold vision, getting back into communities and organising in the workplace to reconnect with held back communities must be the priority because there are millions of people who need a Labour government now more than ever.

For more information about No Holding Back go to noholdingback.org.uk.

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