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I HAVE just returned from the Labour Party conference in Brighton, a conference that was vibrant, exciting and full of debate in the hall and across the fringe.
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell, consistently Labour’s best performer, is building a reputation as a credible, knowledgeable, competent chancellor-in-waiting. His speech was stuffed with new policy announcements that would radically improve the relationship between workers and their bosses while improving productivity and giving people a stake in, and some control over, their work.
The key pledges were to end in-work poverty by increasing the “real living wage” to more than £10 an hour, cutting the average working week to 32 hours over four days within 10 years and ending the opt-out from the European Working Time Directive, which lets firms get round the rules on limiting working hours to 48 hours a week.
He followed the policy introduced by Scottish Labour a decade-and-a-half ago of free personal care for the elderly but went further with a National Care Service funded through central taxation.
Expanding offshore wind energy with a 51 per cent publicly held share — a very different approach to that in Scotland, where private equity companies and multinationals dominate, repatriating profits to the boardrooms of Europe’s capital cities whilst host communities get crumbs.
As part of Labour’s “Green Industrial Revolution” £300 million would be spent on 30,000 electric cars for hire and 500,000 interest free loans of up to £33,000 would be available to help people buy electric cars instead of petrol or diesel.
Combine this with the renationalisation of rail and council-run buses and we will see transport contributing to the major reductions in emissions we desperately need.
McDonnell committed to halving the use of foodbanks in his first year in government and ending the need for their existence within three. Food would be recognised as a “basic human right.” There will be a National Food Commission to monitor food insecurity, and an Access to Food Fun to help the 50 most food deprived areas of the country.
And Labour will create a publicly owned pharmaceutical manufacturing facility to ensure we are not being ripped of for vital drugs.
These policies build on “For the many not the few” manifesto of 2017: they are practical, radical and common sense.
With the Tory government in crisis and Johnson a dead man walking, these policies and many more will be put to the voters soon. They would change our economy and society for the better, building community cohesion, and help release the potential of all our citizens. I look forward to the election and the transformations that will help change the lives of working people across the country.
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