Labour are hovering just ahead in the polls, but they are not hovering comfortably. Their National Policy Forum is approaching fast, so what can Labour pull out of the hat? There has been a lot of talk over the last few months about being radical with Labour’s ideas for the 2015 manifesto, but at a time of so called ‘anti-politics’ and ‘they’re all the same’ rhetoric, we have to ask; just how radical is radical?
Energy will continue to be a key issue and will tie in with Labour’s cost of living agenda which will feature heavily in their review, with inevitable policies on minimum wage and zero-hours contracts. Housing too will be critical; the GMB union has already called for Labour to build 250,000 homes a year, with 80,000 of those to be council properties. Ed Miliband has already made two pledges on housing: 200,000 homes a year will be built by 2020 and action will be taken on the length and cost of private tenancies. Both have received broad support from the party. The GMB are also calling for all housing policy and resources for England to be focused in one Whitehall Department, with a long term plan to switch spending and priorities from housing benefits to house building. They also want to see the establishment of Housing Delivery Bodies for devolved administrations, rural housing and on a city region level.
Jon Cruddas, the man tasked with leading Labour’s policy review, launched a Fabian Society report on the 9th June which promotes local ‘popular environmentalism’. This report seems to be in tune with a lot of thinking on the ‘blue’ side of the Labour party, with more emphasis being put on community and a local approach to government. This might indicate that we could see a more localist approach towards issues like the NHS or the environment.
It looks like Labour could be planning a sizable rise in NHS spending, with The Independent revealing that the shadow cabinet are toying with the idea of a ring fenced rise in National Insurance to pay for it. A cut in university tuition fees could also be on the cards as part of what Douglas Alexander calls the ‘credible and radical’ manifesto. These would no doubt be popular policies but Labour certainly need to be wary of biting off more than they can chew. In any case though, a ‘softly softly’ approach from Labour will not turn their poll lead into electoral victory; Labour need to go hard or go home if they want to stop hovering and start soaring.
He was formerly Head of Policy at the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP). With degrees in history and economics from the Universities of Oxford and London, Jake is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a trustee of the European Association of Philanthropy and Giving and advises several governments on public policy. He also advises clients on CSR and philanthropy activities.
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