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Labour must fight to give young people hope

ImageThe Labour Party needs to be seen as the party pushing issues relevant to the future. The 16-24 year old age group is the only generation in living memory that will have a worse quality of life than the generations before them. Labour need to be seen as the party that bring issues affecting young people into debate first and offer policy that will lead to optimism.

Ed Miliband expressed his concern that Britain was in ‘the relegation zone of Europe when it comes to youth unemployment’ and promised that ‘a Labour Government would find jobs for young people. Promises play a part in ‘machine politics’. It was during the last election that Nick Clegg promised free higher education to all, only to backtrack on his promise and allow Cameron to push through a 200% increase in tuition fees and remove the vital Educational Maintenance Allowance that kept so many 16-18 year olds in education. If Miliband does enjoy success in the general election, it will be expected that Labour does find jobs for young people, but he needs to clearly define the future of the party as well as the present to the ‘lost generation’.

Employment Minister Mark Hoban rightly identified in an interview with the BBC that ‘young people are most likely to be laid off first, most likely to have low earnings and most likely to be in temporary work’. He thought that the answer was to make young people more competitive. It must be acknowledged that making young people more competitive will make them more desirable to employers and it must be said that there is merit in the youth contract that aims to create 410,000 new work places for young people over the next three years, but this has to be seen as a short term solution. The program will have varying degrees of success and won’t help the long-term unemployed. Labour must be the party that doesn’t try to win votes with short-term policy but tackles systematic failures once and for all.

In the wake of the Falkirk scandal General Secretary of Unite Len McCluskey said that ‘Miliband has got to start out with a policy that gives people hope and something different from the austerity that the government is pursuing that engenders nothing but fear’. This statement could not be more relevant to young people.

If Labour are going to relegate the Trade Unions to an interest group then it needs to be seen as the party pushing ethical capitalism that looks after workers. Labour has broken the agreement that dictates how the party must act, Clause IV (after amending it once already) which states:

‘Labour work for: a dynamic economy serving the public interest, in which enterprise of the market and the rigour of competition are joined with the forces of partnership and co-operation to produce the wealth the nation needs and the opportunity to work… it is essential that services and undertaken for the common good and should be owned by the public or accountable to them’

Labour must be more radical or risk a divide within the party. It has to be seen as the party working with other governments to back ‘bilateral tax treaties in multinational frameworks to block companies from getting round bilateral agreements.’ that are recommended by a recent G20 report and then use the atmosphere created to make multinational corporations that have been avoiding tax payments more accountable. This is a solution that is more optimistic for the future of Britain.

We must remember that in our lifetime a British Government tried to implement forced labour schemes with its ‘back to work’ project that was found to be illegal. This kind of tyrannical action in the name of competition must be challenged and it answers must be given to explain how such a situation could arise. The corporations cannot be allowed to define their civic duty. The left could unite on this common ground.

Labour needs to be starting debate for the good of young people and the future of Britain. A potential debate would be over Starbucks model (see video below) of ‘it’s not what you are buying, it’s what your buying into’. This kind of model needs to enter the consciousness of the public or the same problems are going to occur generation after generation.

The model suggests that:

  • The consumer must know that a share of every purchase they make goes towards a fair wage for the producer and that in turn they are helping to end global poverty by improving quality of life all over the world.
  • The consumer must know when they make a purchase, a share of the money is going to creating a new employment opportunity.
  • The consumer must know that every purchase goes towards improving existing practises at all levels of the company including environmental practises.
  • The consumer must know that the corporation that they give their money to is helping their government give taxpayers the best value for money possible and that corporations that are not co-operating as much are not fulfilling their civic duty.

These proposed changes (put forward as an alternative to austerity) if backed by government policy would be considered radical within the current sphere of thought. They would draw criticism because they are ‘anti-competitive’ and contradict with free market principles. Westminster’s elite need to accept that the era of unaccountable free market capitalism is coming to an end and that many in the Houses of Parliament represent the old ‘machine politics’ that Miliband spoke of, these individuals need to be replaced by younger people with some more innovative ideas that aren’t blinkered by the comfort of the old system.

The selfishness of Thatcherism must end, individuals and corporations must put society ahead of their own interests.

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