“We have a proud history of bold change, and it has proved popular – some of the things we consider to be immovable parts of our lives and our society were once considered radical changes to the status quo.”
By Jack Sargeant MS
At the recent Labour conference Keir Starmer chose to start his speech with a bold promise; a Labour Government would act early to put a Hillsborough Law onto the statute book. It is the right thing to do but it also shows that Labour is different, confident, and willing to be bold in advocating for change. This is Labour at its very best.
We have a proud history of bold change, and it has proved popular – some of the things we consider to be immovable parts of our lives and our society were once considered radical changes to the status quo. Council housing, the NHS and paid leave were all once derided as extreme.
This really hit home to me during a conversation with a colleague following a trip they took to the mining museum Big Pit. On a group tour of the pit, they heard a fellow visitor react in surprise when they were told the miners in the 1800’s were only paid for what they dug. They asked about sick pay and annual leave. This may seem a little naïve, but it happened, and it demonstrates how far we have come and how much change becomes accepted.
When the Labour movement called for sick pay and paid leave they were derided by large parts of the printed press and Tory party as dangerous radicals that would bankrupt Britain. Working people of course knew differently and supported the Labour movement and we should always have confidence that people understand their own lives.
This fact is very much evidenced by the public’s support of bold programmes of Labour governments across the UK. Whether that’s in Wales or in Greater Manchester, Merseyside or in local government.
As a Welsh Labour Member of the Senedd I was proud to stand on a bold and forward-thinking manifesto just over a year ago. Welsh Labour secured their best ever result in that election which came on a day that saw Labour lose ground elsewhere. Mark Drakeford and his agenda deserve credit for this.
A basic income trial, nationalising trains, ending bus deregulation, free school meals, free prescriptions, saying no to fracking, a community bank network, putting social partnership into law, ending the right to buy and a huge council house building programme. These are all Welsh Labour policies that do not happen in England and have been delivered by a bold and electorally successful Welsh Labour Government.
It is absolutely right that devolved government should have the space to follow its own agenda and I hope this long continues. But we also need a bold UK Labour Government and that’s why I was so pleased with Keir’s conference speech.
A recent survey highlighted that the public support bold ideas that will solve the huge challenges of our time. The Common Ground campaign carried out a piece of research which demonstrates that bold ideas are popular ideas.
It found that 75% of voters support a Green New Deal, 65% support a £15 minimum wage and between 65 – 69% of voters want nationalisation of energy, water, rail buses and mail. Interestingly 63% support the introduction of wealth taxes and at a time when we have become so used to governments giving out money universally 59% support a Universal Basic income.
These are just a few examples to demonstrate that Britain is not as economically conservative as some would have us believe. Bold transformative policies are popular especially at times when people recognise their living standards are falling and something needs to change. Some would have us believe the public are sick of change, that is wrong. They have had enough of the UK Tory and nothing ever changing for the better.