Progressive values, behaviours and goals: the next ten years

Alison McGovern MP

Why we are Progressives

During the European referendum, instead of admitting the catastrophic results of a decade of austerity, Conservatives succeeded in putting the past on the ballot paper. The solution to our broken politics and the disintegration of our NHS, the shameful increase in child poverty and homelessness, and explosion in regional and intergenerational inequality, was not progress, it was nostalgia.

The ‘Leave’ campaign promised a return to the economic nationalism of the 1950s, and the immigration policies of the 1970s.  Given that globalisation has changed the world fundamentally over the past thirty years, it was devastating to see the referendum offer the public a policy platform that was both populist in nature, and impossible to deliver. We have seen the resurgent popularity of old-fashioned command and control economics, and a romantic attitude to a class politics of the past.

Progressives recognise that we cannot look back. Political nostalgia rewards those who are already represented by, and who continue to dominate, our nation’s power structures.  While we strive to create a more equal society, and to empower those who suffer discrimination, be it on the grounds of gender, race or other features, nostalgia at its worst is simply a sophisticated expression of prejudice.

Most importantly, we plan for the challenges and opportunities of the future, rather than dwelling on those of the past. The lessons of history are crucial, but the battle for progressive politics will be won by winning the future, not by having the best account of the past.

Inclusive economy

We no longer live in a global economy where we can guarantee that growth will benefit everyone in our society. A liberal global economy can be a force for good – enabling people to achieve their potential, and facilitating the sharing of ideas, technology and culture, across the globe. However, a decade of austerity and the rigging of the market system in favour of monopoly capital has left many workers trapped in low-skill, low-pay work. And the first step to reforming our system is ensuring that work pays.

We believe that the advancement of technology can benefit the world, but that without proper regulation it will result in a concentration of wealth and power. Innovation must benefit the many, not the few. To do this we must change the structure of the tech industry: breaking up cartels and regulating to redistribute power.

Our economy must be rebalanced. For decades economic growth has been focussed on London and the South East, without effective redistribution and investment in the regions of our country. Without a stronger economic backbone, communities throughout the country cannot achieve their wider potential. It is an economic, social and moral imperative that we address this.

We know that to face a future characterised by automation in the workplace, an impending climate crisis and an aging population, we need to change. We should see this as an opportunity to democratise our economy – supporting trade unions, encouraging worker voice on boards and incentivising patient capital for regional investment via the creation of a National Investment Bank.

Wealth inequality is also holding us back. Wealth is disproportionately held by those who currently dominate the structures of political and economic power. We must consider radical transfers to challenge this unsustainable status quo – whereby via means-tested baby bonds, individual learning accounts as part of a National Education Service, or by giving everyone shares in our nation’s land wealth.

In addition, young people in metropolitan areas – ‘Generation Rent’ – consider home ownership a pipe dream, while others are trapped in low-paid, low-skilled jobs by a lack of opportunity. We need the state to intervene to put this right. We have the power to relocate the government from the opulence of Westminster, to create a sovereign wealth fund to build new homes; to enact a land-value tax to tax wealth in a progressive way.

We want to mobilise the power of the nation state, not just for an intangible expression of patriotism, but for the tangible benefits which that power could bring to the people of the United Kingdom and our shared future.

Britain has been badly scarred by the lasting consequences of ideological austerity. Child and pensioner poverty as well as homelessness, are shockingly on the rise. The NHS and social care are under unprecedented strain. In our modern economy it is neither sustainable, nor is it right.

However, this does not mean we find our solutions to these problems in the history books. We have access to an unprecedented amount of creativity, technology, and innovation and we must use these to test new approaches to benefits and state support that work for both people and planet.

We must be open-minded and in deciding policy, we match our values with evidence as to how best we can influence and change people’s lives for the better. This means listening to the communities and organisations who deal with these challenges every day, rather than simply dictating how services should be run.

Internationalism

Progressives believe in the dignity and equality of life right across the world.  We believe that we are strongest when we understand the common experience of all people, wherever they are, and we cooperate with the international community to improve lives across the world.

As such, we believe in the European Union and stand ready to fight for Britain’s membership of it.

We see the devastating consequences of a world that cannot work together. It is our duty as progressives to uphold international principles on human rights, including tackling extreme poverty and dealing with conflict. We need to invest both financial and political capital in our global community. We also recognise our moral responsibility to provide safe passage and safe haven when the international community fails. We cannot let people bear the brunt of our political failure.

The most dangerous threat to our international community – climate change – cannot be addressed with individual or state-level action alone. We need coordinated global action. We must build on the Paris agreement, and decide how developed nations can best help and inspire the next wave of economic development to be truly green growth.

This is not the easy route to take, but it is the right one, and one which will help secure the future of our planet for future generations.

Our ambition for our country

Finally, progressives have an ambitious vision for our society and all the people within it. We want a society where people are able to express their identity and who they want to be, as well as achieve their potential and what they want to do. We want our journalists, politicians, writers and artists to be from all over our country. We want them to be different genders, races, and religions. We want our social, cultural, political and economic life to reflect our population: our diverse experiences, talents, and skills.  We do not want anyone to be constrained by their background or place in society and we wish to build institutions and structures that mean people can build their social capital.

Many of the barriers to our vision for society are invisible. Nominal equality of opportunity is not the same as empowerment. We therefore must take steps to make our political culture more inclusive, to empower people at work and in their social lives to have faith in who they are, free from abuse of any kind and have pride in themselves. This allows us to build a community that is genuinely inclusive, welcoming, and provides comfort and support.

Most of all, we believe the United Kingdom is a country of which we could all be truly proud. It contains all the ingredients for a country that could help people to get on and make the most of life.  What we need are new ideas, new leadership and a commitment to change the way that Britain works. We have faith, that given the potential that our country has, we all have real reasons to be hopeful about the future of our community, our country, and our world.