A Personal View by Rev. Malcolm Hill
A UNITED BRITAIN
The Next Labour Government
‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood/sisterhood’, says the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. – This should be the principle of the Labour Party, and therefore there is no justification to treat people as of different ‘classes’ – lower, middle or higher, and no warrant for ‘low-paid work’: everyone who works is entitled to a fair and decent reward for labour, according to hours spent, experience, qualifications and responsibilities. Respect for others and honesty must be the marks of all activity in the Party and in government. This is the basis of unity.
[Common Wealth, Private & Public Business]
The Labour Party affirms the balance of the dignity and freedom of the individual person alongside the interdependence of all people. Policy, therefore, will aim to promote both private enterprise and state & communal activities, social and economic.
Too many injustices are being tolerated at present, leading to hardship and misery for millions of our citizens. These include huge differences in rewards – exorbitant salaries, rock-bottom wages – and excessive profits. – The only sure remedy requires the regulation of incomes and prices, ensuring a ‘level playing-field’, and the mitigation of debt. – A Labour government will set up a Prices and Incomes Commission to determine and enact fair prices and incomes.
A Labour government will encourage both services for the community, and public and private businesses to achieve full employment – by the following means:
local authorities take audit of community needs, prior to decision and funding
setting-up of National Investment Bank to finance social, cultural and economic projects
setting-up of national and regional economic & infrastructure agencies
setting-up of research and development units
promotion of vocational training / apprenticeships, alongside help-into-work for every unemployed person
[National Employment-Payment Contract]
Beginning with an assessment of the weekly cost-of-living, the National Employment-Payment Contract will be guaranteed by legislation, and provide a genuine ‘living wage’ for all workers in return for full-time employment. Upon a stated base, increments will be payable for added qualifications, experience, responsibility & hours up to an agreed maximum.
Taxation (personal & corporation) will be fixed at rates fair to all incomes, and will be strictly enforced.
[National Health Service]
The health service to all citizens, free at the point of need, ought to be funded by the resources of a nation’s common wealth. The promotion of people’s health is not the delivery of a product, which can make financial profit, nor can it be adequately achieved by volunteers or ‘charities’. Its finance should basically be derived from the contributions from citizens: general taxation, donations and, where necessary, the printing of money. Through these means, the NHS will no longer be an anxiety-filled, ‘hand-to-mouth’ ‘business’. Making a profit will be replaced by high-quality service as the NHS’s overriding concern. The tendency to privatisation will end, as pointless, but the need for efficiency, strict scrutiny of finance/salaries and standards of work, and transparency of transactions will be paramount.
Education raises the quality of life for everyone. Thus, education and training will be free for students at school & university (undergraduates), and for all in non-academic training and apprenticeships. State-funded education should be administered by a democratic government, national & local. The trend toward so-called ‘Free Schools’ & ‘Academies’, unanswerable to citizens, should be reversed. Government ‘administration’ will include the formation of curricula to ensure a broad knowledge of all subjects, and the development in all students of a critical mind and attitude, in the cause both of freedom and responsibility.
Housing is necessary for everyone and must be affordable to all. House prices have risen at five times the pace of earnings over the last five years, continuing a longer-time trend. The result is that houses today are overvalued, (estimated, about 40%). House prices – and rents - are draining a disproportionate slice of people's income, leaving too little for other necessities.
[The average cost of a house in England today is £307,000 – against average annual incomes of around £27,000. Average monthly rentals are £744: (in London, £1,500) – against weekly ‘living’ wage of £1152.]
Thus, the cost of a house is beyond the means of millions of people, especially the young and first-time-buyers.
House-prices & rents should gradually be reduced, perhaps over five years, by 40% to the benefit of both sellers and buyers and of tenants. This would release finance into household purses and into the whole economy.
The urgent need for housing should be met by the building of around 250,000 affordable houses each year – to buy or rent.
[Law & Order]
It is vital that police be in contact with the public: police ‘on the beat’; in contact with schools, societies, Churches, Mosques.
Courts adequately funded to administer swift justice.
Adequate resourcing of prisons, including sufficient staff, so that activities and education may help the rehabilitation of offenders, preventing reoffending.
Ensure a ‘living’ income for the elderly, temporarily unemployed and disabled people. (Maintain present special benefits for pensioners, including free bus travel & TV licences.)
Welcoming immigrants is of great benefit to the nation, bringing fresh ideas and lifestyles, as well as needed skills. However, limitation of numbers, and special funding is necessary to help local services, where numbers are high. Attention to wage-levels must be given to prevent disadvantage to all, and attempts made to arrange the increase in wages in all nations involved in economic migration.
[Printing of Money]
Since the financial crisis of 2007 the Bank of England has created/printed £375 billions to rescue the nation’s economy and save British banks. Similar action has been taken in USA, China and South Korea. Currently, the European Central Bank has a programme of injecting £795 billions into the EU’s economy (named ‘quantitative-easing’ - QE). Jeremy Corbyn is suggesting, that we adopt ‘the people’s QE’ to finance projects for the people’s benefit. The NHS, education and other public services as well as infrastructure could be appropriate beneficiaries. - All these aspects of the economy and society involve the common wealth and well-being of the whole nation. The supply of printed money – in addition to the income from sales and services - where appropriate, will ensure that all the services for people, and those who work in them are adequately funded, and will end the restraints/cuts and anxieties, which cripple vital services. The success of this ‘subsidised’ economy will depend on honest, disciplined and transparent control of income and expenditure, both in the central bank- ‘Bank of Britain’ - and in all businesses & public services in receipt of QE.
THE DANGEROUS SITUATION WE FACE
The most powerful nations and factions today, whether USA, Russia, China, France, Britain or al ‘Queda or ‘ISIS’, are hostile to one another, and aspire to leadership – domination – either of the whole globe or their ’sphere of influence’. This domination often involves widespread interference in the affairs of lesser nations, and oppression of minorities. It is seen in suspicion & surveillance (spying); subversion of democratic regimes & movements; sale of weapons to oppressive nations; outright aggression (war), accompanied by widespread torture and other vicious treatment of adversaries; most aggressive actions have often been answered in kind (revenge). The horrific consequence is the death of 100,000s of men. women & children, the devastation of property, and the flight of countless refugees from their homelands.
A POSITIVE RESPONSE BY THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT
The only effective response is good will to all nations – to replace hostility, aspiration to domination, and ‘projection of power’, all of which makes our future perilous.
Good will can be expressed by every nation working together in a UNITED NATIONS, reformed and democratically organised through the ending of the ‘great powers’ veto, and upholding of the UN Charter. - The UN Charter, Article 1 – ‘take preventive action to remove threats to peace . . and settlement of international disputes.’ But, Article 27 – ‘decisions of the Security Council (on peace or war) require the agreement of the “Permanent Members” – China, USA. Russia, France & UK. Such authority of ‘great’ powers disrespects the value of all the other Members, and wrecks the decision-making of the UN. This ‘veto’ relationship should be replaced by democratic voting. Then, the UN can be empowered to take action and make peace, such as in the following steps. We employ this procedure to deal with the present conflicts in western Asia and Africa. –
A DEMOCRATIC U.N. CAN BRING PEACE TO WESTERN ASIA AND AFRICA
- UN calls for a cease-fire throughout the whole region – form Afghanistan to Libya.
- Convenes an International Conference of all parties – regimes and rebels, such as ‘ISIS’ – in the conflicts to exchange their grievances and aspirations – with determination to settle their disputes peacefully. ( The warring parties keep on saying ‘there is no military solution’ to the conflicts, but keep on bombing and building armies. Hypocrisy !)
- Prohibits the supply of armaments, destroys arms caches and calls for the withdrawal from the region of all outside forces , preceding universaldemobilisation of military, and transfer of personnel & resources to civil occupations.
- In view of the killing – mass-murder in land-battles, bombing, terrorism and torture, committed by all sides in the conflicts, UN declares a universal amnesty, and calls for mutual confession of crimes and mutual forgiveness by all.
l Calls on all the nations to observe the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, particularly the Articles, relevant to the conflicts, as a template for the building of civilised living in every nation. -
a. right of every citizen to life, liberty & security of person;
b. freedom from slavery, torture & degrading punishment;
c. equality of every person before the law;
d. freedom of movement; to marry; to own property; e. Freedom of thought & religion;
f. right to social security, health-care, employment - with a living wage for all; and right to rest & leisure; g. Right to education & culture.
- · UN calls together representatives of all faiths, with the following agenda:
- affirmation of belief in One Creator of the universe.; b. respect for the faith and practice of all believers; c. adherence to the prohibition of violence & murder; d. Commitment to mutual forgiveness for past wrongs.
- The UN / international community sets up a ‘Marshall Plan’ to supply resources for the reconstruction of devastated infrastructure & property, and the development of economies & services in all the nations of the region.
PEACEMAKING IS NOT ONE ‘SILVER BULLET’ !
Like most human activities, peacemaking is not one simple action. It is a process of several friendly actions, taken by many agencies for justice & peace –
- MEETING Without meeting there can be no friendship or peace. We have to hold out the hand of friendship to all nations – as neighbours in one world. (See below)
- NEW INITIATIVE Every nation will form a ‘Corps of Bridge-Builders’ – Every nation will adopt an alternative international policy. – Instead of ‘projecting power’ through the build-up of armed forces, ready to intervene in conflicts, they will form a Corps of Bridge-Builders’, comprising diplomats, business people, skilled workers in construction, health, education & recreation (on the pattern of ‘medecins sans frontieres’). All these personnel will operate initially through Embassies to develop with the host-nations friendship & cooperation in trade, welfare & culture. (Twinning of towns will be supported.) The ethical and political guide of ‘Bridge-Builders’ will be the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
- REJECTION OF MILITARISM & NATO Friendship ends, when weapons are used, and military alliances, such as NATO, are joined. Peace can only prevail, when weapons are scrapped, either unilaterally or multilaterally, and when nations ally to make peace – not war. Then, arms-making & armies must be converted to constructive industry & culture.
But, how shall work be found for redundant defence workers & disbanded soldiers ?
THERE IS A VAST ARRAY OF PROGRAMMES OF WORK TO EMPLOY THOSE MADE REDUNDANT –
for example –
CONVERSION OF ARMS MANUFACTURE
Machinery & products. - Tanks to tractors & bulldozers
Bombs to mining explosives
Warships to merchant ships
Aircraft-carriers to aid-resource ships
Tents – from military to disaster-relief Amphibious vessels – from navy to tourism.
INFRASTRUCTURE PROGRAMMES Roads, railways, canals, fuel & power distribution, land conservation & drainage, coastal defences, telecoms . .
BUILDING INDUSTRY Affordable housing, schools & colleges, hospitals, cultural facilities (theatres, cinemas, libraries), youth centres
TOURISM A demilitarised world will encourage travel across frontiers, and the building of hotels, youth hostels and restaurants
A more peaceful world will make way for increasing trade & manufacture.
£ billions will be transferred to the civil economy.