Liz Davies reviews For the Many: Preparing Labour for Power, edited by Mike Phipps, Or Books.
THE 2017 LABOUR PARTY manifesto broke the mould. While, in truth, it was not as radical as many of Corbyn’s supporters had hoped for, or his detractors had feared, it was perceived as radical. As Jeremy Gilbert puts it: “Nobody voted Labour because they liked the moderate and unchallenging tone of many of the sections of the manifesto”. Written at breakneck speed, through sleepless nights, over an extraordinary three and a half weeks, the manifesto was radical and realistic, constructive and costed, and popular.
Had we been elected, there would already be a tangible difference: less poverty, less homelessness, building council homes, an end to local government cuts and a human rights approach to international policy. Britain would be a better place, and be playing a better role in the world.
Shortly after the general election, Mike Phipps and the publisher thought about a constructive critique of the manifesto. What did it do well? What might have been less good, or even wrong (Trident, in my view)? What better promises could the Labour Party make?
The contributors to this book welcome the manifesto - and want its ideas to develop. These are constructive comrades. They are in good company: the book launch was attended by Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell who each talked about deepening and radicalising the manifesto. It’s a breath of fresh air to hear Labour leaders open-minded and welcoming of new ideas.
Chapters discuss the economy (Hilary Wainwright), negotiating Brexit (Ewa Jasiewicz), towards a National Education Service (Kiri Tunks), a Fair Deal at Work (Gregor Gall), Social Security (Ruth Lister), Secure Homes for All (Stuart Hodkinson), Healthcare for All (Allyson Pollock), Safer Communities (Chris Williamson), Leading Richer Lives (Jeremy Gilbert), Extending Democracy (David Beetham), a More Equal Society (Malia Bouattia) and a Global Britain (Glen Rangwala).
The roll-call of respected names on the left is augmented by a preface from Ken Loach and an afterword by Jon Lansman, besides an introduction by editor Mike Phipps (familiar to Labour Briefing readers). There is a wealth of detail here, which party members can pick up and put into the National Policy Forum process, or try to take as motions to Labour Party conference.
How are we going to ensure that the next manifesto promises to decommission Trident? We all have pet spending projects - which McDonnell would ruthlessly cost - that were not in the manifesto. Mine would be restoration of legal aid (particularly for social security), promising to build council housing (not the vaguer “social housing” term used), abolishing the benefit cap, abolishing right to buy. Feel that the proposals on social care were a great start, but could go much further? Push the point through the party’s structures.
This book gives you chapter and verse on what additional detailed policies would transform the lives of many. Use it.
There is a more philosophical element underneath. Wainwright and Gall both discuss what workers’ participation in the economy would actually mean. Lister insists on the term “social security” rather than “welfare”: signifying social solidarity, not charity. Gilbert, Jasiewciz and Bouattia each start to discuss what the Labour Party as a social movement actually looks like. If the mass Corbyn-led Labour Party is now a social movement, how can it enjoy the energy and creativity of the social movements while remaining democratic?
This book, not widely available in bookshops, but mainly through the web, is an invaluable handbook for party members to propose specific, radical policies. But it’s also a start at understanding this extraordinary, beautiful, movement that emerged nearly three years ago and has the potential to transform society. » available from http: //www.orbooks.com/catalog/ for-the-many-preparing-labour-for-power
is a barrister and Honorary Vice President of the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers. She writes in a personal capacity.