Thursday, 11 April 2002

Current Comment: Search for a New Labour Leader

It seems strange to many people that in a search for a new leader for the UK's labour party the leading candidate is being criticised for proposing to offer a real alternative to the ruling conservative party of David Cameron. In recent decades the belief has arisen that to have a realistic chance of being elected to government a political party must occupy the middle ground. This has led the two main parties to squeeze together into an ever narrower band of policies and the people have been denied a meaningful choice.

The election of May 2015 saw the rise of two parties that did seem to offer some new policies; on the right, the UK Independence Party proposed to curb immigration into the UK, and on the left, the Scottish National Party advocated less austerity and more help for the poor and needy. The first is showing the conservatives that there is room to move further to the right, and the second is showing labour that there is room to move to the left, which, after all, is what the leading candidate, Jeremy Corbyn is proposing.

Although Mr Corbyn is being demonised by his opponents for advocating outdated policies that would return labour to the political wilderness, his pronouncements have been both tentative and moderate. The main concern is his promise to look into the possibility to re-introduce clause four of the party's original manifesto, which concerns the nationalisation of key industries. At a time when the privatised energy companies and national railway system are in crisis, calls for renationalisation are being heard from many quarters and such a policy could win many votes. At least the policy would open some space between the parties and provide the voter with a clear choice between privatised exploitation and nationalised inefficiency. If that does not seem much of a choice, at least the latter provides many more jobs for working people rather than huge profits for a few, and isn't that a socialist objective?

It is strange in a democracy in which poor people greatly outnumber the wealthy that policies that favour the poor are so hard to sell. The answer must lie in the power of big business to influence policy and threaten economic disruption. The myth that the poor can only get richer through continual economic growth should be challenged by left-wing politicians. Economic growth has not been found to 'lift all the boats' as was promised in the 1960s, neither have the benefits trickled down, as some still maintain. The left now has an opportunity to advocate redistribution of wealth in new terms that all can understand.

John Powell

To learn more about life in general and the intriguing story of the grassroots industrial revolution in the turbulent Ghana of the second half of the twentieth century, read John Powell's novels The Colonial Gentleman's Son and Return to the Garden City or his non-fictional account The Survival of the Fitter. More details of these books and photographs of the informal sector artisans of Suame Magazine in Kumasi will be found on the following websites.

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