The revolutionary Liz Kendall

I promised myself that this web site would be devoted to professional, rather than party political, issues. But Liz Kendall’s programme for government, as a candidate for the Labour leadership, is so close to where I am both professionally and politically, I couldn’t resist… this ‘web exclusive’ piece led the briefing for Progress online on 3 August 2015

 

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Liz Kendall’s leadership candidacy has broadened Labour’s agenda whilst focusing on the absolute need to win elections, which we can only do on a programme that includes all significant sectors of the population.

She shows admirable courage in tackling difficult issues and has caused me to reconsider my own knee-jerk responses to government policies in this, the sixth year (of at least ten) of Tory rule. For example, it was wrong for Cameron to fragment schooling by introducing free schools, especially where they weren’t needed, and to fund them disproportionately. But anyone who’s ever been bruised by campaigning against a school closure knows that blanket scrapping of institutions isn’t the answer. If free schools work, let them stay as part of the diversity of provision that we introduced, fund them fairly and demand the same quality of output as we expect from others.

Never has ‘2% of GDP on defence’ been controversial for Labour – until now, it seems. Just because Liam Fox supports 2% doesn’t make it wrong; Barack Obama does too. No one believes that the world or even Europe is safe today and peacekeeping and disaster relief will continue to be needed. And for many working class young adults the armed forces provide a degree of skills and (self) discipline which they might not get elsewhere. The tragedy is not that we invest in the military but that so many end up on life’s scrapheap.

As for these being ‘Tory policies’ – what nonsense. Apparently an enhanced minimum wage is now a ‘Tory policy’, so should we scrap our commitment? Of course not.

But I’m being defensive.

What’s revolutionary about Liz is her commitment to decentralising power. She believes that local people have rights and opinions and should have the capacity to influence, even control how local services are delivered; that we should continue to reform public services, like making health ever more patient-centric; and that where powers can be devolved to councils, and from councils to communities, they should be. She says that the economy should be no political football; long term sustainability, avoiding Greek-style chaos, is essential. We should cultivate business as a force for good, not least because we will, frankly, never return to the levels of public spending that we enjoyed in the past. That Liz questions whether the 15-year old structure of tax credits is still right for today is healthy; hitting the poor is not. Right in the short term, a permanent subsidy for low-paying employers (Working Tax Credit) cannot be sustainable. That she opposes Tory trade union reform is absolutely right, too – it’s an arbitrary and nasty solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.

I know all four candidates personally and worked closely with both Andy and Yvette in government. I like and respect them both, but I don’t know what new ideas they bring to this new world. Jeremy aspires to the good old days of 1983. I find Liz’s approach intellectually stimulating and passionate in ways which excite me, now that I’ve had five years out of Parliament to reflect on such things. I won’t be going back into government but Labour must: Liz can build the momentum to do that.