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Since the Brexit referendum, cultural and identity explanations for the polarisation of British society have saturated public debate. A comparison between students’ and Brexit voters’ attitudes to economic insecurity, however, reveals surprising similarities between these supposedly opposing groups. Reforms to higher education and the welfare state could be the key to winning a governing majority for Labour.
It’s commonly assumed that the Brexit referendum exposed pre-existing faultlines in British society. But we need to take seriously the idea that voting produces divisions and identities, rather than simply measuring them. If we consider the sorts of subjects and identities our current modes of voting in elections and referendums produce, we might be prompted to embrace more reflective, and more deliberative, democratic practices, in order to bridge rather than entrench divisions in British society.
Stuart Holland, Martin O'Neill
Few living figures can match Stuart Holland’s range of experience and insight into both British and continental European politics. As an advisor to Harold Wilson, Willy Brandt, Jacques Delors and António Guterres, Labour MP for Vauxhall 1979-89, and as a leading light behind Labour’s economic programmes in the 1970s and early 1980s, he has profoundly shaped the political economy of the Labour left and the case for a ‘Social Europe’. With the left now ascendant within Labour, the EU locked in permanent crisis, and the UK struggling to come to terms with Brexit, Renewal caught up with Stuart Holland in Coimbra, Portugal.
The international political environment will inevitably affect the UK government’s ability to pursue its trade policy goals after Brexit. Global trade politics is marked by significant institutional fragmentation, creating a difficult environment for a ‘middle power’ like the UK. In order to safeguard progressive policy objectives, the UK should pass a Trade Bill that would bring trade policy under domestic public scrutiny.
The NHS in its current form is good at keeping people alive but not at keeping them well. Labour should be championing a fundamental change to how we fund and provide health and care, with the aim of keeping people well, and supporting people with long term conditions
Frederick Harry Pitts, Lorena Lombardozzi, Neil Warner
Basic income may not be the ideal response to automation and technological unemployment envisaged by its proponents. In fact, it risks embalming our current economy – defined by low-skilled, low-paid, and unrewarding work – for longer than would otherwise be the case.
Inequality is one of the most pressing issues of our time. It has long been the Labour Party’s lodestar. We need to take a clear-eyed look at its causes and consequences in the twenty-first century in order to put together coalitions and policies to tackle it effectively. The challenges are great, but there are new analyses and ideas on the left that should give us hope.
Income inequality may soon start to fall, but this isn’t a cause for great optimism. Inequality is at far higher levels in Britain than other large European countries, with hugely damaging effects for society and quality of life, as well as for politics: high inequality tends to go along with political disengagement and high levels of far-right voting.
The left has traditionally viewed the fight against inequality through the lens of the poorest in our society. But the stagnating real incomes of those in the middle of the income spectrum means we need to reframe it as a majoritarian issue, and tackle it with a comprehensive plan that attacks inequality from different angles.
Mike Savage, Sam Friedman
Britain’s class landscape has changed: it is more polarised at the extremes and messier in the middle. The distinction between middle and working class is less clear-cut. The elite is able to set political agendas and entrench their own privilege. The left needs a clear narrative showing how privilege leads to gross unfairness – and effective policies to tackle the ‘class ceiling’ so entrenched in our society.
Climate change will only break out of its eco bubble if we understand not only the impacts, but also the opportunities that tackling it effectively can open up for greater economic and social justice.
Joe Guinan, Thomas M. Hanna
The left must quickly recover the capacity to offer a radically different political economy or reap the consequences.
George Morris, Yasmine Nahlawi
For too long the Labour Party has failed Syria. But there are policy measures that Labour could promote which would contribute to a just peace in the country.
Marina Prentoulis, Katrine Marçal, Renaud Thillaye, Barry Colfer, Folke große Deters
An international discussion of the impact of Brexit and the prospects for the left.
In political discourse in recent decades, class has been repositioned as an essentially cultural historical phenomenon rather than a dynamic, lived reality connected to the changing temporalities of British capitalism. This is visible in SNP rhetoric as well as in Labour’s current ‘culture wars’. But Labour must reconnect with an economic analysis of class, for it is this that could in fact reunite the culturally polarised elements of a Labour electoral coalition.
Florence Sutcliffe-Braithwaite, James Stafford
It is rare to live through a year and to know, with some degree of certainty, that it will be a marker in scholarship and memory for generations. Rarer still, perhaps, to know this while also doubting whether coherent and truthful public reflection on politics will be possible for much longer.
Brexit offers an unexpected opportunity: to use the taxpayer’s stake in RBS to begin to transform our banking sector into a locally-based, locally-focused system that works for small and medium-sized businesses in the real economy.
The Conservative Party is now profoundly divided ideologically, into ‘hyperglobalisers’ and the more mercantilist pragmatists. Theresa May enjoyed a unique window of power when she first became PM to fashion a clear vision of the form of Brexit that ‘reluctant’ Tory Remainers like herself would favour. But May chose ‘safety first’, trying to balance the Remain and Leave camps in her party, while focusing on wiping out UKIP as a threat to the Tory vote.
23 June 2016: the EU referendum result is one of those moments that will be forever etched in my memory. Like the death of Princess Diana, it is a marker in time. I was working for Stronger In, the official Remain campaign, when the result came through. The rejection felt personal. It was a rollercoaster ride. The Leave campaign won, by the slightest of margins, but with a stench of toxicity that was more keenly felt if one was off-white like me.
Neal Lawson, Mat Lawrence
Many see it as a ‘silver bullet’ policy innovation: the RSA is behind it, as is Compass, and support also comes from the Adam Smith Institute and Silicone Valley tech-utopians. Neal Lawson and Mat Lawrence debate Basic Income in theory and practice.