I think this is an interesting time for the Labour Party. We lost a great Statesman in Gordon Brown. He might not have been the greatest public speaker but in terms of depth of knowledge or command of a difficult situation he had few equals.
The race is now on for a new party leader and I hope that instead of a coronation we in the Labour party make the leadership election a broader debate on the nature and future of our party.
As for my politics I’d describe myself as a libertarian democratic socialist. I believe the state should do all it can to protect the vulnerable and guarantee our civil and political freedom but also equal life chances. I think John Smith’s statement that Labour was about “releasing the extraordinary potential of ordinary people” is a great mission. I describe myself as a libertarian socialist because I don’t think the State has all the answers. Even that great model of the statist Labour party Nye Bevan looked to a charity “The Tredegar Medical Aid Society” for his inspiration for the NHS. Where its appropriate I think the state should help and not fetter individuals, charities, campaigning groups and Trade Unions to look for local solutions to problems. When we find a good model we can also see whether it can be applied elsewhere.
I also think its important that Labour should stand for civil liberties. I supported the passing of the Human Rights Act and the statement of an ethical foreign policy. I think we should be prepared to look at this goal and recognise we have at times strayed from it. I’ve opposed extension of detention without trial and I don’t like the idea of ID cards. In short I think the state should involve itself in citizens lives only in so far as it has to to prevent harm encourage freedom and equality, and subject to a test of necessity.
I think much of the middle class left thinks of politics as consisting purely of protecting and challenging civil and political rights. This was best demonstrated by the Guardian and metropolitan middle class switching its support in the 2010 election to the Lib Dems even though their economic programme was plainly centre right. We need to re-engage people with the concept of social, cultural and economic rights. Labour has done much to guarantee these rights including ratifying the European Social Chapter, but we have not made it part of our common language in politics and this has led fewer and fewer people to think of them as important. In short its our best argument and we are not losing it we aren’t even mentioning it!
At a national level
1.I’m interested in the idea of a national care service and accomodating the baby boomer generation as it retires but think there should be scope for local variation and experimentation until a best model is found.
2. I’m interested in preventative medicine and how that can save people a lot of misery in the long run and I’m also interested in the NHS spending more time and money on rehabilitation so that people can get back to living happy and fulfilling lives after an accident or set back.
3. I’m interested in proper consumer protection in the legal services world
4. I’m a passionate advocate for retaining legal aid- to me it is as important Labour achievement as the NHS read this and have pride in what we set out to do when we established it.
5. A lot more investment in public transport as a means of reducing CO2 emissions but also to help the most vulnerable in society. I’m reading more about smarter ways to tax car travel in a way that does not hit those who make necessary journeys but discourages those who travel a short distance when there is a good public transport alternative and rewards use of that alternative. I think we have to be careful that those options don’t involve too much intereference or scrutiny in daily life but recognise these will be mutually exclusive factors.
6. An international agreement on a financial transactions tax in order to cover the costs of the bank bailout and recession (reducing the cuts and general taxation needed to pay for it) AND to lift millions of people out of poverty.
It’s a mixed bag and I’m learning more about each of them all the time.