Sunday 19 May 2024

Labour's Wish List of Six



Sir Keir Starmer’s list of six priorities are clearly dictated by what their Focus groups tell his team  are necessary to win the election.  They cast a poor light on the priorities of “the British People” as distorted by the Tory party’s sycophantic press but are, perhaps, wise, seeing the vast amount of money the Tories have at their hands to further poison the debate.  Only one of Starmer’s priorities, the NHS, overlaps with mine (more of which later.)

 In brief, the Starmer's "election winners" are:

1.     1. Deliver economic stability, but sadly under misguided financial constraints imposed by the Tories.  Let’s hope he has the courage to break them, and not waste the first two years, as Blair/Brown did.

2.    2. Cut NHS waiting times.  This is the one on which we agree: but it will be costly and won’t be easy.  We can’t just conjure additional doctors, nurses, other medical practitioners and stable buildings out of thin air.  It takes five years for a doctor to get through even the preliminary training, and three for a nurse and most other health-care workers

3.    3. Launch a new Border Security Command.  Notice the capital letters (presumably in the original) and the use of the military “Command.”  A tawdry attempt to sound tough on immigration when we actually need more of it.  I hope Starmer eventually feels ashamed of it, as I believe  Ed Miliband does over his anti-immigrant mugs.

4.    4. Set up Great British Energy. I agree this is urgent and ought to be on my list, but without the “Great.”  It is high time we stopped kidding ourselves, put “Greatness” to one side  and aimed for simple competence in this and every other area.

5.    5. Crack down on anti-social behaviour.  Well, there’s not much of it where I live (though people drop  too much litter.)  Another shameful piece of populism.  For a more honest and constructive approach see No 1 on my list (below.)

6.    6. Recruit 6 500 new teachers.  Good idea, but they take four years to train.    Better to concentrate on making the job more attractive so that the existing ones stop leaving.  Abolish OFSTED as a first step, get rid of the MATs and their over-paid super-heads and directors, restore responsibility to local government.

Rather, I suggest:

1.    1.  Tackling the Courts Backlog and Prison Overcrowding.  Courts and prisons,  like defence and law and order, are essentially the responsibility of the state.  The backlog of court cases is an affront to a civilised society.  I believe the aphorism “justice delayed is justice denied” goes back to Magna Carta. Keeping prisoner two to a cell built for one for 23 hours a day with a joint open lavatory shames us all.

2.    2. End child poverty.  Pot-holes in the road are a nuisance and repairing car springs adds to our motoring costs, but with the  will can be remedied in time. But the effects of deprivation in childhood last a lifetime. We are a rich country with an average income per head of over £30 000.  No child need be deprived of a comfortable upbringing.  On Day One end the two- child limit and restore the £20 cost of living addition to Universal Credit.  Begin restoring the Sure Start Centres.

3.    3. Tackle the housing shortage. End no -fault evictions, impose rent controls, abolish the right to buy, build more social housing.

4.    4. Properly finance and staff the NHS.  As with teachers, as well as trying to recruit new staff, improve the conditions of those already working in it to stop them leaving

5.    5. Restore Local government funding.  This is an essential level of government and should be properly resourced, either by grants or its own fund-raising powers.

6.    6. Set up Citizens’ Assemblies to consider Constitutional Reform.  Yes, I know, this is just an anorak’s interest: “ordinary” people worry about the NHS and the cost of living and don’t care about such arcane issues.  But Britain is in a mess because it is badly governed and it is badly governed because our government structures are no longer fit for purpose.  We need to examine our electoral system(s), how to put parliament in control of the executive (rather than vice versa as at the moment), the structure of the Union, devolution to the regions and localities, our relationship with international institutions, make commercial law responsive to the needs of the localities, and much more besides.

Yes, I know, my six might not win an election, but someone should be talking about these things.

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