The Guardian’s Comment is Free has published a contribution from Ken Livingstone this weekend on the situation facing the government. You can take part in the debate online by clicking here. If you are not already registered with the Guardian it’s quick and easy to do.
Ken’s column is reproduced below.
No Love Lost For Labour’s Hard Right
by Ken Livingstone
While Labour party and trade union members were out campaigning for Thursday’s elections, a narrow clique of the party’s hard right were doing everything in their power to sabotage Labour’s campaign and carry out a coup against the prime minister. Ordinary party members will have nothing but contempt for these people.
However the gigantic scale of Labour’s losses on Thursday cannot be ignored. They must be a wake-up call to the party. Many people are suffering the worst economic crisis in their lives and they want far more radical measures to protect them.
Millions of workers are paying through lower pay, longer hours, worse benefits or unemployment for the global economic crisis. A survey for Keep Britain Working this week found that more than half of workers in Britain have experienced a cut in pay or hours or a loss of employment benefits since the recession began.
The survey found that over the past nine months, 27% of UK workers have had their pay cut, 24% have had their hours reduced and 24% have lost benefits. Thirty seven per cent had experienced one of these changes, while another 12% had experienced two of them and a further 5% all three.
At the same time, billions of pounds have been wasted bailing out bank shareholders while leaving the bankers in control of the financial institutions, resulting in desperately needed credit being blocked for both businesses and families. In these circumstances, public anger about the abuse of MPs’ expenses is all the more understandable.
But the Tories’ policies are far worse. They are planning a massive onslaught on the poor with sweeping cuts in public services if they get their hands on the levers of power.
The parliamentary plotters have no answers to the impact of the economic crisis on the population, nor the abuse of MPs expenses which has rubbed salt in the wound. Their criticism of Gordon Brown is that he is not Thatcherite enough. Stephen Byers indicated where some of them stand with his attack on the new top rate of tax on the highest salaries.
The splitters should be brushed aside so that the party can focus totally on winning the general election. That cannot be done on the basis of “business as usual”. It requires far more radical policies to tackle the effects of the economic crisis.
The new top tax rate, which many of the plotters oppose, was a step in the right direction. Now we need to see nationalisation and direct government control of those banks which are in reality bankrupt and clear instructions that they re-start lending to businesses and families.
Where the market fails, as in the construction and house-building sectors, the government should step in directly to revive investment. The squeeze on public spending should be eased by abandoning multibillion-pound plans for a new nuclear missile system to replace Trident submarines.
Labour has a big enough majority to regain public confidence with these kinds of policies before the next general election.
As many on the parliamentary Labour hard right walk out of the government, there is plenty of talent among left and centre-left MPs who came into parliament to protect ordinary people in this type of crisis. They should be given the opportunity to help win the government back the support Labour needs to see off the Tories in the general election.