A broad, progressive alternative for the modern age.

It is this author’s belief that in order to counter the cold hard logic of the right, the left needs to embrace romantic idealism.


NNot since the time of Orwell has British Socialism had such a surge in perceived legitimacy.

Neo-Liberal politics and economics has dominated our national conversation since at least the 70s.

It took around six years for the post-war government to establish the welfare state, but we’ve been steadily dismantling it ever since.

Simply put, the British left has been losing the political argument for the last 50 years.

But that seems to be about to change.

Since the unpredicted rise of a certain Mr. Corbyn and the growing backlash towards the austerity politics of the right, there’s suddenly an opportunity for the left to start being heard.

This will forever be Corbyn’s great triumph.

It is our duty to now build on this shift.

We need the right story.

We need a modern narrative.


I recently listened to an episode of the excellent Adam Buxton podcast, in which he interviewed the filmmaker and journalist, Adam Curtis.

Curtis, known for his somewhat avant-garde approach to documentary-making — more interested in telling a story than laying out bare facts — makes an interesting point in this interview:

I think Curtis is on to something here, and specifically with regards to it in combination with another point he makes earlier in the podcast -

Taken in conjunction, what Curtis is saying is that the world, and the left in particular, is yearning for a new way — but we have no plausible ideas.

Our immediate political being is too busy taken up with ensuring that the liberal victories of the past are maintained — a battle we’re currently losing anyway — to come up with any dramatic or bold change for the future.

Though I agree with much of what Tony Benn said and stood for, I think his statement — “There is no final victory, as there is no final defeat. There is just the same battle. To be fought, over and over again. So toughen up, bloody toughen up.” — is not as true as it once was.

There is of course no final victory, but there is most certainly a generational one - an epochal victory - available to us. The right secured this in the 70s and 80s, certainly economically at least, if not socially.

We have a chance now to do the same for the left.

Now before the Corbynistas come a’ knocking — I think Corbyn offers a bold, new vision and it would be a great start. To achieve what I am about to suggest, we will need Corbyn elected as Prime Minister.

But his is still a socialism steeped in the political language of practicality and budget-balancing and tempering of the right. It had to be.

Imagine if we, as democratic socialists, could have anything. What would we want?

The last UK general election has shown that there is an appetite for visionary, progressive plans — something most did not believe to be the case.

The time is now to start thinking about how we can capitalise on this, not compromise. It’s time for revolutionary, bold ideas.

The left needs to begin thinking about what it actually wants to stand for.

Does it want to constantly have to fight the small battles, and often lose, or does it want to win the bigger war?

In this essay, I’m going to focus on a broadly British agenda, because it’s where I’m from and what I know, but the concepts could be applicable elsewhere.

Now, there is one big caveat to all of this. Brexit.

Brexit has thrown a spanner in the works of all that is possible in British politics.

It is an ideology of inwardism and isolationism, such that we cannot talk of a global future for Britain without considering the extra baggage this brings.

There is a way to counter this.

I’m not suggesting that Brexit is shelved (in an ideal world I am, but this isn’t such a place). Rather we circumvent it.

We put in place the framework for a future far beyond Brexit.

Then, when push comes to shove, when these ideas have been adopted, we decide whether Brexit is truly compatible with the state we want.

Of course, another major barrier is the rabid, right-leaning press in the UK.

We’re never going to convince the Murdochs and Dacres of this world to convert to promoting a socialist agenda, so again, we must just skip them completely.

There’s much to be said for the lessening power of the press in our internet-obsessed modern culture. Corbyn showed it was possible to achieve electoral gains against an entirely hostile media backdrop.

We must continue in this vein.

But back to this story, our narrative.

Let’s put this in terms of what we up against, here’s the narrative of the right:

It’s a message of individualism. It appeals to the ego.

Logically, it’s kind of flawless.

And this is where we on the left fall down.

We don’t have logic, not in the cold hard terms the right understands.

We have feelings, emotions, empathy.

But this doesn’t mean we’ve lost the argument before we walk in.

Rather than fight logic with logic, or logic with emotion, we mustn’t fight it at all — we must reframe the narrative.


We are at a pivotal point in British political history where we have the chance to shape the narrative structure of the reality around us.

Right now, there’s a prevailing structure that adopts many truisms:

You can’t borrow your way out of debt

Budgets must be balanced

You can only be a true patriot if you’re rightwing

These are stories that the political class and media has fed us for decades in order for us to accept the reality around us.

There’s money to be made maintaining the status quo.

And so what is our response?

Turn to the left to look to the future. It’s time for change, for progress, for something different. It’s time for another way.

In the next 10 sections, I will outline the key ideas on which we could build a truly progressive, idealistic, romantic vision for the future of Britain.

These are intended as jumping off points, to use some horrible corporate jargon.

The idea is to make these part of the political debate, in the way the recent Labour manifesto managed to bring rail and utility nationalisation, education and the NHS to the forefront.

So we must address policy, that is clear. But we must also go further: to the very philosophical essence of what politics is for.

In this manifesto, I will offer visions of radical policies but also, the narrative within which they could be framed, for the fight is not won on fact, but fiction and fantasy fulfilment.

1.1 Redefining the inherent value of humans

EEven, or especially, the most leftwing of political parties still discuss the value proposition of work as a fundamental goal of progressive politics.

Marxist ideology is built on the concept of the masses taking control of the means of production — but that still requires that they work.

What if we didn’t need to work at all?

Or perhaps if we only had to work if we so chose?

That’s the basic idea of Fully Automated Luxury Communism.

F.A.L.C has become a bit of meme in recent years — talked about in Vice, joked about on Reddit — but it’s grounding is accurate.

Automation of jobs is imminent (and in some cases already happening), and under current systems, that’s going to result in levels of unemployment on a scale never seen before.

Rather than hide away from this prospect, F.A.L.C seeks to embrace it.

Essentially it builds on what Keynes said about the idea of a 15 hour work week, to suggest that by accepting full automation, only non-automatable jobs, or those undertaken out of choice, will exist.

This then allows humans to choose how they spend the rest of their time — they can work a bit if they so wish, they could spend their days in leisure with family or friends, or they could focus on creative pursuits.

It redefines what it means to be human — we will no longer be defined by the job we do, but what else we do.

Of course, there’s one thing this entire concept hinges on — people will still need money, goods, things.

Which is where the next thought comes in…

1.2. Universal Basic Income

TThe idea of Universal Basic Income is gaining momentum.

Countries like Finland, Netherlands and some territories in Canada have trialled systems in which citizens are paid a basic income regardless of the work they do — enough to live on comfortably.

The UK Green Party has supported the idea for quite a while now.

I’m not going to go into detail here about the process and structure of a Universal Basic Income rollout — there are plenty of places you can read about that — I’m making the point that simply the idea, the romance of such an at first glance outlandish approach, is one that we on the left should consider exploring.

Does it not capture the imagination? What could be achieved with life if simply surviving were not the focus?

2.1. An entirely revised political system.

OOne thing conspicuous by its absence from the recent Labour manifesto is any mention of electoral reform.

It does seem that ever since the botched AV referendum in 2011, main parties supporting change in this area is simply off the table.

Yet we are all too aware of the weaknesses and limits of our current system: people think their votes are pointless, they think that MPs are out of touch and they don’t see any local or regional representation.

Electoral reform is but one aspect of a radical program of constitutional reform that could set us on a different path.

2.2. Federalism

InIn conjunction with the above, a federal UK. It’s clear that the current devolved system is on a knife-edge.

A federal system, in which each ‘state’ within the UK had strong AND equal law-making powers would ease many of the biggest concerns with the current system — that Scotland doesn’t get enough of a say in UK decisions, that too much power is concentrated in London — by divvying out responsibilities to respective local regional administrations.

So you would (very) roughly divide the country geographically — and end up with something like this map (plus Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland).

Each state would have equal local power, and national executive power or influence in relation to their population size — which brings us to:

2.3. Proportional Representation

TThe biggest arguments against PR systems is that they don’t produce strong governments.

That argument tends to fall apart when you consider that two of the last three UK elections have resulted in minority or coalition governments whilst still using a non-proportional system.

The UK is hardwired against PR though, and so a sensible compromise would be to go as far as possible towards PR whilst maintaining the few positives of the current FPTP system.

Something like the AV+ system proposed by the Jenkins commission in the 90s would do the trick.

This would solve the whole “my vote doesn’t matter” argument, because quite simply, every vote will count in some way.

2.4. Term limits

ItIt seems bizarre that in a country so ensconced with the notion of checks and balances do we have a system whereby in theory it would be possible to have a generation of elected dictatorship.

Many would argue the Thatcher and Blair years were close to that.

Term limits — say two election cycles — like those in the US, for either governments, Prime Ministers or both, is a no brainer.

The argument against is that is makes the government of the day feel more like administrators, merely treading water.

Good.

We have seen the consequences of the alternative (Brexit, for one), and the thought of a government whose actions are checked by time restraints as well as constitutional instruments would be a welcome change.

2.5. Written Constitution

TThe most controversial of the constitutional reforms suggested here, purely for its potential to be ‘politicked’.

The fact of the matter though is that we live in 21st democracy whose only semblance of enshrined political law i.e. un-alterable or difficult to alter basic political rules, comes in the form of an 11th century document — the Magna Carta.

Beyond that, our constitution is derived from European Law, domestic rulings and parliamentary precedent.

There’s a strange notion of gentlemanly accord buried in the English psyche that suggests we have no need for written diktats, but the truth is anything but.

In a world of Trumps and Putins and Erdogans, there has never been a more pressing time to enshrine the rights and responsibilities of our citizens, institutions and government.

Brexit, if in spite of ourselves, we are to press on with it, offers an opportunity here.

All the current EU legislation relevant to Britain must be somehow incorporated into British law over the next few years.

I’m not talking of the Tory fetish ‘British Bill of Rights’, I’m talking about a full written constitution, that enshrines everything we take as a given in our political society, with any changes or amendments to be agreed with cross party support.


A manifesto which adopted the policies of radical overhaul to the political system as key facets of its platform would certainly get attention, and intrigue the public.

3.1. Embracing cross-party politics

OOur system in the UK is geared towards two-party politics.

Though it may have only recently returned to such an arrangement in practice, the machinations in place seek to keep the UKIPs and Greens from gaining too much power.

But our country is now divided in ways we’ve never seen before.

For us on the left, the reality is that in order to form a strong government in a post-brexit world, we’re going to more often than not require parties coming together to form broader coalitions than we’ve seen previously.

There was an unofficial attempt a progressive alliance in this election, but the Labour leadership opposed it at a national level, and constant talk of ‘no deals, no pacts’ affirmed that the post-election reality would play out this way too.

There really ought to be a recognition from the current and future Labour leadership that a Labour government in coalition with other smaller progressive parties strengthens, rather than weakens, their hand.

Far from a coalition of chaos, a broad leftist alliance of Labour, LibDems, Greens, SNP and Plaid — whether formally or informally agreed — is by far the most representative of all possible governments.

3.2. Party funding

TThe current system of donors and shady backdoor deals is obviously corrupt as hell. Yet so too is the American system which in theory has much stronger regulation on political donations.

The answer is simple — state-funded parties based on previous election results, perhaps weighted algorithmically to give smaller parties a slightly bigger slice of the pie than their electoral result.

3.3. Remove them entirely

TThe alternative to the above is the more radical option.

That is, we get rid of political parties completely.

There is some argument to suggest that we are already moving into a realm of more single interest, or single cause groups. The Brexitists, Momentum, Progress. These factions are becoming as integral to the political system as the parties from which they grew.

Is this better than what came before? Perhaps not, but it seems to be more effective. If a group can focus on one issue, or one platform, they can focus on it entirely.

The concern is that we arrive at a US style system of special interest groups, all vying for power within the umbrella of two main “mega-parties”. Perhaps we’re already on our way there.

Regardless, it’s an option that needs analysing, because in many other ways, it provides the direct and involved democratic system we crave.


FFirstly, the recognition the money, the financial system and everything that goes with it is a social, human construct.

It sounds bizarre to say it, in a society so focused on its fruits, but money is not real. That’s not some sort of anarcho-illuminati-conspiracy-fueled statement.

Money isn’t real value. It has no inherent value. The banking system is a construct.

These are all facts. It might make me sound like a sixth-former on a Youtube documentary-binge, but that is the truth of the matter.

The problem is, the story that we’ve all created and abided by, for most of recent human history, is much more compelling than the truth.

Money makes the world go round, is the gist of it.

So, what I’m not saying is let’s go back to a barter system. Or let’s get rid of money. Or anything of that ilk. In fact, what I’m suggesting is that we make money more real, more concrete.

What I am saying, is that our financial system requires a new narrative imagining.

What if, instead of a system that binds people debt and credit, we talk of a system of resource allotment?

What does this mean in practice? Well there are a few options.

Returning to the gold (or silver) standard is one. Government issued debt-free money another.

Read this paper by James Robertson for a more detailed look at these options.

Regardless of the approach, this financial narrative reframing underpins almost all else in this manifesto, because much relies on the understanding the budget-balancing and debt and credit are as much political stories as anything else.

If we can change the conception of what money is — from debt to designation — then we can begin to look at how best that money can be distributed.

4.1. Budgetary refocus

SoSo let’s assume that argument is won.

Where do we want our money to be spent?

Particularly, what would we do if the government issued debt-free money or loans to be used for infrastructure and “big ticket” projects?

4.2. Clean energy revolution

TThe UK is actually taking a leading role in the advancement of clean energy technology, but we could be doing much more.

Particularly, the way the argument is sold.

Right now, it’s based on fear of environmental cataclysm.

What if instead it was founded on the opportunities, the new markets and technologies that would open up?

It is entirely possible for the UK to be wholly served by clean energy in the next decade.

Imagine how different our country would be if that was the case.

4.3. Space exploration

WWhy should we invest in exploring other worlds when the current one is apparently so lacking? Because even if we do manage to transform our nation, or even the whole world, into a clean energy, supra-socialist utopia, it might be too late.

We genuinely might need a backup plan.

The techno-futurists in Silicon Valley are talking about this. Elon Musk is acting on it. Even Trump has invested more in NASA than any US President of the last thirty years.

Why aren’t we, as a nation, as a state, thinking about this?

Take half of the money we pour into defence and commit to space travel, and within ten years our nation will have evolved in ways we can’t yet imagine.

The greatest technological leaps in the last century have come from two sources: space travel and war. I know which I’d rather invest in.

The UK has already made some moves towards this, particularly from a private enterprise perspective. Let’s go whole hog.

5.1. Press Freedoms

LLet’s get this out of the way.

A free press is a good press. It’s good for democracy.

We don’t have a free press. We have a press controlled by a small group of billionaires.

It’s free in so much as the newspapers can print whatever they want, there’s no state restriction.

It’s not free in so much as they can’t print anything that their owner doesn’t want printed.

This needs to change.

Though recent elections have shown the media to not hold the political sway it once did, there’s still bite in the beast yet.

Now, I’m not suggesting that the state in any way intervenes in the editorial freedom of the press.

What I’m suggesting is that they intervene in the business of the press.

Introduce and uphold laws to curb the number of outlets one person or company can own.

Bring in stricter rules on advertising and make these deals more transparent.

Make the papers publish on their front page who owns them, who edits them, what political parties they support, and how much money they’ve donated to said parties. Every day.

Perhaps even go as far as to introduce mandatory trusts in which the owner has no part. Final non-editorial decisions go through the trust rather than the owner.

Give Ipsos and Press association greater power to fine and punish those who print deliberate falsehoods. Any owner who accumulates a certain number of fines over a certain period must sell the company.

Free press means freedom to print what they want, it doesn’t mean freedom from the consequences of printing what they want.

6.1. Population growth management

TThe line here is so thin, and so fraught with obvious historical complexity, that it’s tough to even mention it. But we must be able to discuss these things without resorting to the presumption of malicious intent.

Our nation, like many other developed nations, is faced with both an ageing and growing population.

The elderly care crisis is only just beginning.

As much as the Tory’s “Death Tax” furore was justified, there are still questions we must ask as a society.

One of the biggest questions we need to answer is why we are so keen to prioritise quantity over quality of life.

6.2. De-stigmatising suicide and legalising Euthanasia

TThere’s a legitimate philosophical and ethical question at the heart of this.

Do we really want to live longer, knowing the latter years of life are merely suffering and waiting for death?

Of course there are those whose final years are a joy, but the older we get as a society, the more these become the exception.

Death isn’t always the worst outcome. We put so much effort as a society into keeping up this pretence, when the truth is obvious.

The hangover from a deeply religious dogma is simply that we value living beyond living well.

To be, is sacred. To be good, to be in health, is a bonus.

As our life expectancies increase, we need to rethink this notion.

If you were given the choice to die at 80, how you’d like, having lived the life you’d wanted, before or only just beginning to descend into the ill health that would otherwise consume you, or spend the next 10 years in a facility, steadily losing your faculties, your mobility, your independence — everything that made you, you. What would you choose?

For some, they’d still choose to live on and suffer. And that’s fine.

But I think many would not.

They would choose to call it a day, knowing they’ve had the best of it.

We should have the option to end our life as we see fit.

Of course, regulate it as much as possible, like abortion, and only allow state involvement with regard to education and information, not execution (perhaps a poor choice of word) in order to prevent any unnecessary or unwarranted deaths.

OR…

6.3 Societal Biohacking

TThe alternative to the above, is the more utopian option. Rather than focus on quality for the short term, we focus on quality and quantity.

What do I mean by this?

Focussing all of our attention on improving human health to such a degree that life expectancy increases dramatically, but at the same time ensure that such focus encourages health improvements on a holistic, day-to-day scale too.

In other words, we find ways to make 90 year olds have the immune systems, the mental faculties and physical capabilities of those half their age.

How?

A massive and concerted push of funding into the medical and technological sciences, to an extent never previously seen. Find the cures for every disease, map the human genome, and then go further. Bio-enhance the human body — we already do this with hip replacements and pacemakers and the like — but why not with everything?

We become superhumans, transhumans. The ultra-libertarian silicon valley techno-futurists are already thinking this way. Why can’t we?

I never said it was the easy option. But it is an option.

7.1. Legalising drugs

WeWe have a drug problem, namely that we brand certain substances illegal and others of equal danger or worse, legal.

Of course drugs like Heroin and Meth are deeply problematic, but we know from decades of evidence that banning them does nothing to curb use.

Let’s look to the successes and shortcomings of legalisation in various places around the world and learn from them.

Regulation is better than criminalisation.

Various parties, particularly the Lib Dems and Greens, have toyed with manifesto pledges to legalise or decriminalise some substances.

What I’m proposing is full legalisation of all currently banned substances.

State takeover and regulation of all drug-related industries initially, then perhaps a move toward the current pharmaceutical model.

The income or taxes from a legalised Cannabis industry alone would fund any investment into use prevention and education, with plenty to spare.

7.2. NHS Funding

SSafeguard, ringfence, give it everything it needs, forever. Take what Labour proposed in their last manifesto, and go further.

There is only one place in which the Private sector should have an increased role in the medical sector — and that is in research and development.

See the above talk of biohacking for more on that.

8.1. Total education reform

WWhy do we educate our children?

Currently, in order to be able to carry out the jobs our society requires to function.

Excluding the ever-diminishing focus on the arts, education is purely preparation.

It hasn’t always been this way.

In other societies throughout history, the purpose of education was to increase the knowledge of the individual, to the overall benefit of society.

When jobs become automated, what then will be the purpose of education?

Surely to open minds, to foster creative-thinking, problem-solving, question-asking. Not test-taking.

A radical overhaul of the education syllabus will be required. A greater focus on the arts, while maintaining the importance of science and mathematics of course, but most importantly, a commitment to develop critical thought — the ability to think.

8.2. Teachers (see 10. The State)

9.1. Social Housing

HHomelessness should have no place in a modern society.

The current housing crisis is an endemic failure of successive Tory governments, one which would be wholly avoidable by reframing the narrative around social housing.

A radical social house building program funded by the state forcibly acquiring vacant properties, selling and using the profits.

The housing market has been artificially inflated for decades because of the Thatcherite and then Blairite idea of property as an investment.

Housing should be housing. No ripoff feudalistic land barons, no flipping homes for a buck — a house is to live in. End of.

9.2. Community

OOur fractured political landscape is reflected in our social scene.

Technology and social media has only further driven a collapse in the values of community and the collective.

The building and funding of bricks and mortar Community centres — whether it be for sports, arts, social or some other hobby — must be rolled out with as much vigour as social housing.

When communities have a physical location to convene, they become stronger.

But we mustn’t ignore the potential benefits of new technology — grassroots, community and cooperative-owned online spaces could be equally as important. Think Facebook pages but every pixel and byte of data in the hands of citizens.

10.1. Public Servants

WWe’ve seen with Brexit and its idealogical drive against ‘experts’ that the role of those “in the know” has been severely devalued in recent years.

By that I mean: Nurses, Doctors, Teachers, Civil Servants, Police officers and many others.

Ignored by successive Tory governments, they must be the backbone of our modern British socialist state.

Pay rises and funding, of course, but policy created with and by those who it most affects, not at their expense.

I’m not talking full technocracy, but at least some kind of informed governance, rather than the purely emotional and ideological version we have now.


What is the overarching goal of social democracy? Or rather, what would a truly socially democratic Britain look like?

How would it benefit the average citizen?

These are the questions this essay attempts to answer.

So what next?

Well, we must make the narrative concrete.

To return to the Right-wing narrative from the introduction:

Let’s offer up our counter-narrative:


If you agree with this assessment of where we are, where we should go and how we could get there, whether in full or just parts, please do share. Pass it on to your friends and family. Those on the left. Those on the right. Those in between.

Ideas don’t change society. Sharing ideas changes society.

Let’s see if we can make that change a positive one.


Jackson Rawlings is a political philosopher and writer with big ideas for how things should be. Talk to him on here or on Twitter.

The Politicalists

Politics chat while the world burns.

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Writing words about politics, mostly, and hoping they appear in the right order.

The Politicalists

Politics chat while the world burns.

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