Labour needs to give people hope

3rd October 2012

John McDonnell MP, LRC chair, sets out a vision of what a Labour government should do in its first 100 days

When the Tories’ chief whip described the coppers at the Downing Street gates as plebs he betrayed exactly what this government thinks of us all.

Usually the Tories can disguise the class nature of their rule. In the past they have achieved this by co-opting members of the petit bourgeoisie, like Thatcher, Heath and Major, to front their governments.

But the coalition is the most obvious display of class rule that we have witnessed since the turn of the 19th century. This government doesn’t just represent the ruling class - it is comprised of the ruling class, with all its associated snobbery and belief in its almost divine right to rule.

Nye Bevan said that the Tories never speak about class warfare because they are too busy waging it.

As the cuts in wages, pensions, benefits and public services grind people down many, many more are waking up to the class nature of this government and are willing to fight back.

Even those in the Labour and trade union movement who thought they could negotiate their way through this government’s reign and passively wait for the return of Labour now realise that it might be too late by then.

If we are to save what is left of our NHS from full privatisation, prevent thousands more of our children falling into poverty and stop this generation of young people being scarred for life by a lost youth of unemployment, then we have to bring this government down and do it as soon as we can.

The strategy that is emerging combines industrial action with direct action to defend us from the attacks on our people, pushing the Tories back while at the same time destabilising them so they can be finished off at the ballot box.

The TUC Congress decision to explore the potential for a general strike may have been cynically supported by some right-wing union general secretaries to head off a confrontation with the coalition, but it has actually generated widespread enthusiasm for mobilisation for the October 20 demonstration and a follow-up programme of co-ordinated industrial action.

The anger of those people who are not members of organisations like trade unions that have established ways of fighting back is being expressed in spontaneous direct action.

For trade unions the natural venue for the fightback is the workplace and the picket line. For many others it is increasingly becoming the streets.

What many have now learnt is that to succeed we have to combine defeating this government in the workplace and on the streets before we ditch them at the ballot box.

However to defeat them at the ballot box requires having an alternative government on offer that gives people hope of something different.

It is futile to ask people to make the sacrifices required to fight back and bring this government down if it is only to return a government of business as usual.

People need to know now what a Labour government could do. Let’s now publish Labour’s programme for its first 100 days.

In the first days after the election Labour needs to take control of our economy to end the rule of the speculators by taking direct control of the banks we own and nationalising those that we don’t.

To release the country’s resources needed to put people back to work, Labour simply needs to introduce of a range of redistributive measures which will raise the funds we need from those most able to pay and who have profited most out of the boom years.

So in the first Labour Budget let’s bring forward a wealth tax on the richest 10 per cent, a Robin Hood tax on financial transactions, a land value tax, the restoration of progressive income tax of 60 per cent on incomes above £100,000 and a clamp down on the tax evasion and avoidance that is costing us £95 billion a year.

Labour can then use the resources released through taxation immediately to launch an investment programme in modernising our economy, its infrastructure and our public services.

This means investing in a mass public house-building and renovation programme, in universal childcare, in the modernisation of our public services, in the NHS, in creating a national caring service, in our schools and colleges, in our transport infrastructure and in the extension of broadband.

Labour could kick-start the investment in alternative energy, combined heat and power and insulation that would create a million climate change jobs and rebuild our manufacturing base.

Within weeks of taking office Labour should lift all our spirits by announcing the end of privatisation and cuts to our health, education and local services and starting the process of renationalising rail and our public utilities.

Labour should declare the end of the days of the fat cats.

For the rich it would mean the end of bonuses and limiting high salaries to no more than 20 times the lowest paid in any company or organisation.

For the 99 per cent it would mean a living wage, a living pension and living welfare benefits, reducing the working week to 35 hours, closing the gender pay gap, controlling rents and energy prices and restoring rights at work.

Labour should secure the future for young people by offering a guaranteed job, apprenticeship, training or college place for every young person with the burden of fees abolished.

Labour should also become the party of peace once more by ending the war in Afghanistan and scrapping Trident.

If Labour could show this determination to act, it could become the source of inspiration needed for the fightback against these Tories and the source of hope needed to mobilise the electorate at the next election.

This article first appeared in the Morning Star

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