For the future, not the past

Three reasons the 2017 Labour manifesto is for now and beyond

I have been wanting to contribute to the debate on the UK’s upcoming general election for a while now, but with plenty of articles, editorials and opinion pieces flying around already what unheard viewpoint could I offer?

With today’s publication of the Labour Party manifesto, however, I would like to draw attention to what I think are some genuinely exciting initiatives.

I have previously in my life voted Liberal Democrat and Green — never Labour . There is talk of this manifesto being a callback to the 1970s; here are three ways in which it’s for the future.

1. The National Investment Bank

When you put money into a bank, it is not sitting untouched in a safety deposit box. Your money grows because the bank takes your money and invests it into companies/schemes/initiatives that will return a profit. This is how the bank affords to pay you your interest. By setting up an account (current, savings, etc) you are giving a bank permission to invest your money where they see fit.

Too often large multi-national banks are investing your money in large multi-national companies, meaning that your money is being used to fuel the ongoing growth of already-big big business. Critically, this investment strategy means smaller — even national — companies are over-looked.

We all use banks. All the private capital in the UK is right now being invested by banks. Shouldn’t that money — your money — be invested here? In our communities? Where we’ll reap the benefits beyond 0.5% interest earned?

The Labour Party has for this reason pledged the creation of the National Investment Bank (NIB), a bank dedicated to investing in companies/schemes/initiatives that enrich our society. Infrastructure construction; small business support; innovation development: all these things would be the priority of the NIB, and by rooting the NIB in regional development banks this initiative will put money straight into your local community, to maybe even help your small business.

A new idea

This Labour initiative is significant because it is thinking outside of the traditional box of relying on taxation-derived government programs to invigorate communities. It instead takes the normal operation of a private bank — the investments we’re all making every day simply by having a bank account — and uses it to provide ongoing improvements to our daily lives.

By using banking practice to fund residential redevelopment, by using it to support a local business that might rival a multi-national chain, and by using it to back a young entrepreneur with a fantastic but small-scale innovation, the NIB spreads our money where there is greatest societal gain for years and generations to come.

Furthermore, it represents a vibrant and innovative way to tackle the problem of the financial sector sucking up our collective investment potential and using it to benefit the few, the multi-national CEOs. It creates a bank whose primary objective is not making money for money’s sake but rather investing money for communities’ sake.

We stand to benefit twice over: from interest earned, and from the local initiative whose success afforded the interest.

2. The National Education Service

When we’re at school, we don’t really know what we want. We don’t really know why we’re learning things. Perhaps we’re not even being taught the right things. Already today, 50% of jobs require technology skills. I have been imbued with none of those skills, even at the tender age of 30 with a full education; they were not considered essential.

And that’s just a problem in the changing face of the job market. What if you never paid attention at school but suddenly find yourself desperate to pursue a specialised field? What if you’ve trained hard all of your life only to find your skill is no longer required?

This Labour manifesto has declared that education is a lifelong right for all, not a privilege for the young or those who can afford it. The manifesto proposes the creation of a National Education Service (NES), providing education that is free at the point of use for all. No matter your age, no matter your specialism and no matter your background, you can be trained and educated.

A new future

The NES is a scheme that prepares Britain for the changing world of the near and distant future. Most importantly, it guarantees that all will be equally provisioned.

As it stands there are huge barriers to gaining new skills, the most obvious being money. It currently costs £9000pa to go to university, and hundreds if not thousands to do short vocational courses at further education institutions.

When an individual must afford their own education, opportunity becomes a luxury. This is not acceptable. Paying for education fuels and widens division among us, with the affluent able to pursue what they wish while the non-wealthy have to accept what they can get. The only way that we can have an equal opportunity society, and therefore the only way that all potential in our society can be realised, is through the equal, varied and constant availability of education to all.

The education and skill-set of each one of us contributes to the wealth of all of us. With an unskilled or uneducated population new initiatives will not bloom. With an unskilled or uneducated population employers will find it harder and harder to find dynamic, capable staff. And with an unskilled or uneducated population we will find every aspect of our lives — from government to entertainment to economy — diminished.

3. Nationalisation

The Labour manifesto has broad and comprehensive plans for bringing many of Britain’s public services, including water, energy, the railways and the postal service, back into public control. It also sets out a spirited and fervent dedication to keeping the health service, the NHS, publicly owned.

I have set out in a previous article what I believe the illusion of privatisation to be, namely that any benefit brought from competition is overshadowed by the voracious and legally-demanded duty of these private firms to return profits to their shareholders year-on-year. When the product cannot be bettered, as is the case with essential services (electricity is electricity), these profits come from infrastructural underinvestment and price hikes… year-on-year.

A new direction

I would like to state that I believe the privatisation of public services to be a disgrace, and one that we should not stand for. I believe that it is ethically unsound for a few hundred businessmen and a few thousand shareholders to benefit from the needs of millions of human beings.

The logic of having privatised public services is that these services must in fact be luxuries. That we don’t really need electricity and are lucky to have someone making it. That we don’t need to leave our homes and should be thankful to even have the chance of visiting Colchester at the same cost of visiting Egypt. That I don’t need my broken arm fixed and should pay thousands of pounds for the unnecessary procedure to reset it.

This is just not the case. We need all of these things, for reasons of modernity at one of the scale to survival at the other. The plan to bring public services under public ownership ensures that we will be offered these services at cost, with the essential health service remaining free. Where we pay we will know that we’ve covered the cost of it getting to us, not the cost of a promise to a shareholder. We will know we’ve covered the fair wages of employees, not the bonuses of CEOs.

Nationalisation is for me not a choice but a necessity if we want to call our society a society.

Society as a priority

A society understands the complexities of our modern lives, that we are interconnected and impact upon each other daily. It understands that division, inequality and animosity will tear those essential connections apart.

I believe this Labour manifesto understands that society must not be abandoned, that we must not be left to fight for ourselves against each other. It understands that allowing personal privilege to determine an individual’s access to infrastructure, education and welfare is weakness, not strength.

It understands that we must invest collectively in a new, modern society, for that is the only way that our future wealth, potential and well-being can be unlocked.

This election, I will be voting Labour. I implore you to do the same.