What is Scottish Labour for?

InequalityAs Scottish Labour regroups after the General Election, the temptation will be to focus on organisation and structure. Important though these are, the real question the party has to ask itself is – what is Scottish Labour for?

After the 2007 and 2011 Scottish Parliament elections, Scottish Labour held reviews that gave detailed consideration to internal structure, election organisation etc. Tucked away in both reviews was a mention of political purpose and strategy, but it was left to another time, it was regarded as of secondary importance. No political party has a divine right to exist; it has to have a clear political purpose. Scottish Labour needs clarity over its key purpose and then needs to find a way of expressing it in language activists can explain and voters can understand.

For me the answer is, it’s inequality stupid. Continue reading

Osborne’s £12bn cuts mainly hit those in work and will backfire badly

'Gideon' OsborneContrary to incessant Tory propaganda about a pervasive culture of welfare dependency, the evidence actually shows jobless benefits claims are now at a 35 year low, but will be put at risk if Osborne pursues his £12bn welfare cuts at the expense mainly of people in work. Of the three out-of-work benefits – unemployment benefit and income support mainly for single parents and disabled persons – the proportion of the working age population receiving one of these benefits (according to the Resolution Foundation) peaked in 1993 at 17%. It now stands at 10%, its lowest level since 1980. The number of children living in workless families has also dropped from 20% in 1996 to 12.5% now. There are now fewer than 100,000 workless couples with children (excluding where adults are disabled). Moreover the UK employment rate for single mothers has risen from under 40% in the early 1990s to 62% now, and has continued to rise through this latest recession. Continue reading

Spiralling executive pay can only be curbed by having it determined by employees

Times up for high payThe latest figures on executive pay are so preposterous that they should provoke uproar. It is now largely hidden from public scrutiny but an example recently published concerns Bob Dudley, chief executive of BP, who was given a total remuneration package of $15.2m in 2014: his basic salary was ‘only’ $1.8m, but his deferred bonus and other share awards totalled $9.8m, up 64%.

It is through devices such as these that pay at the top in business has escalated into the stratosphere in the last two or three decades. Chief executives at the biggest UK companies, according to Incomes Data Services, took home 120 times more last year than their full-time employees, yet in 2000, just 14 years earlier, they received 47 times more. In the US it is even more extreme: between 1978-2013 the remuneration of chief executives rose 937%, more than double the level of stock market growth, and enormously more than the 10.2% increase in the average US worker’s pay over the same period. Continue reading

Who will speak for those who lack any meaningful political voice?

Voiceless person  (gagged) One of the most disturbing aspects of the election a few weeks ago was the large and rising number of voters who felt disenfranchised and voiceless. Not only those who felt abandoned by Labour in Scotland, nor even the 9% who deserted the main parties to vote for UKIP, but the untold hundreds of thousands who felt alienated by current politics and refused to vote, yet were burdened by grievances they couldn’t offload. They include:

  • those who are the victims of a tax exile who wants to bulldoze their homes to make way for luxury property;
  • a single mother who finds herself penniless on the back of a non-performing zero hours contract;
  • a young jobless man sanctioned because he didn’t attend a job interview even though he had informed the DWP beforehand that he would be having an operation in hospital that day;
  • countless persons who once again didn’t vote because they never have because it’s pointless and ‘they’ always win.

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Aspiration: what’s in it for the 20 million in poverty?

cashAccording to the official Office of National Statistics’ latest report, 19.3 million persons in the UK had an income below 60% of the national median at some point during 2010-13. That is nearly a third of the entire population, and a higher proportion than for the EU as a whole.

The UK figures are even higher for pensioners (40%) and single-parent households (60%). These statistics are awful for the sixth largest economy in the world, but there is a deeper hypocrisy behind them. At the general election the Tory manifesto and Cameron’s speeches resonated with calls for aspiration for everyone. So what are the aspirational chances for the 20 million people at the bottom of the pile when Osborne’s first act in the new government is to target them? Continue reading