This article was originally published on the now defunct Labour Vision website in 2017.
By Will Barber Taylor
Our world is in serious trouble. Whilst this isn’t explicitly stated in the news it is implicit in every broadcast. Devastating hurricanes have wrecked communities across the Caribbean; Florida is recovering from similar horrors. America is threatened by and uncontrolled wave of mass shootings whilst under the shadow of war with North Korea. The western world’s supposed leader is more concerned with media spats than he is with the horror that is enveloping his nation. Britain is also in a precarious situation; the only thing certain about Brexit is that it’ll continue to be uncertain. Both major parties have internal troubles – the Conservatives with a leader who makes a lame duck seem active and Labour with rifts over anti-Semitism, bullying and its vision for government. Spain is in crisis over Catalonia independence. Myanmar, a country with strong (and for me personal) links to Britain is overseeing one of the worst ethnic cleansing events in recent history. In other words, everything is bit rubbish.
That is why Labour must not be blinded by Brexit. With recent predictions suggesting that, based on current polling, Labour is at least likely to be the largest party in Westminster (if without an overall majority) we must seriously be thinking about what a Labour government should want to achieve. Yes, there are manifesto pledges – nationalisation on a grand scale. But what about foreign policy? If we are to make a Labour government successful should we not be focussing on what we can do regarding international relations; Brexit of course takes up a great deal of time but there is so much more that can and needs to be done. Britain has failed to react at all to the atrocities being committed in Myanmar and was slow to react when hurricanes hit British Overseas Territories. Both nations have strong links to the UK and yet they almost abandoned by the government. Labour needs to deal with these problems – not just from a humanitarian conscious but also that, realistically, once we leave the EU we will need as many friends as we can get.
A problem that crosses foreign and home affairs is Climate Change. Climate Change is one of the greatest issues facing our world – the Paris Climate Change Agreement and the recent plan to ban diesel and petrol cars by 2040 are welcome but they aren’t the only solution. Our oceans are polluted; landfills lie across the country filled with plastic that won’t decay for a hundred years. Similarly, costal erosion threatens large sections of the population – not just those living on the coast but others further inland who will be impacted by the population distribution and the threat of flooding. These are real issues that we cannot ignore simply because of Brexit. They need to be dealt with now.
Similarly, Britain’s open defences need to be looked at by the next Labour government. British troops are underprepared and underequipped. Cuts to the Army, Navy and Air Force mean that our most vital line of defence is being corroded. Investment should be put into the Army, Navy and Air Force with immediate effect. An open debate must also be had about what our armed forces is for – is it simply protect us from invasion or something else? Britain must as always be committed to ensuring the freedom of our allies and uphold democracy across the world. An overhaul of the armed forces, looking at personnel training, the most effective ways to deploy the army abroad, a review of the effectiveness of weapons and developments in modern technology that mean the lives of troops are not risked. These are all things that we must consider now and in the immediate future and not be blinded by Brexit.
Education is another area which a Labour government should deal with. Education is often said to be the foundation stone for an individual’s future success and yet there is a crisis in teachers; thousands are leaving the profession every year and the government is doing nothing to keep them. Reforms to educations made by both Michael Gove and Nicky Morgan have turned a bad situation putrid. It is now getting to the stage that firms owned by the likes of Lord Ashcroft such as Impellam are stumping up the shortage with huge returns for their investment. One of Ashcroft’s solutions is to train unqualified “classroom supervisors” as substitutes for teachers – people with no experience in teaching. As Private Eye has covered, this is wonderful for Ashcroft but not so great for children. Brexit cannot blind us to the failings in our teaching system, failings Labour must fix.
The exposure of new and dangerous drugs to young people must be tackled. Andy Burnham has already started initiatives to tackle drug abuse but he has wisely pointed out that policy is hollow without investment. Burnham has also started tackling homelessness by donating 15% of his salary to a homeless charity and setting out measures to tackle rough sleeping. It was once said that there were no rough sleepers or homeless people in Britain; this was, of course, never true – where there is wealth there has also always been poverty and deprivation. Yet, whilst Brexit is a key issue it must not blind us to how people in this country are being used and abused both by drugs but also by an unequal housing system, forcing them to live on the streets.
These are only a few of the issues that a strong Labour government needs to tackle, if it gets into office. It cannot be a government restrained by the shackles of only dealing with a singular policy area. Brexit will affect us all through trade and economic changes but we cannot be complacent to other ills in our society. Because of Brexit we cannot forget the housing crisis or the failure of society to functional as cohesively for all as it could do. Our world is in crisis and Labour has been out of power for nearly a decade; we need to be ready for change not simply for the sake of change but to have a real impact on peoples’ lives. That is we cannot be blinded to the injustices of our world simply because of Brexit. We can create change and we must create change.