I am a huge fan of Social Media, and being a Councillor, it is an important tool. But, I am getting rather fed-up of Labour based social media groups at the moment. No decent debate seems to happen before someone starts throwing “mandate” around or labelling as Red Tories, Corbynistas or just generally being rude and aggressive to fellow members. Yet social media has huge amounts of power and potential. So I tried something a bit radical, you could even say, progressive. On a couple of groups I am still a member of, I initiated “the Policy Pot”. The rules were simple, under the main comment, add your policy idea. No bitching, labelling, or asking people to leave the party was allowed. If you wanted to debate that policy suggestion, then reply to the comment.
I recognise the limitations of doing this, but it was open, transparent, and it was focused around what we could be doing, which I felt was brilliant. I would like to thank everyone who took part and for showing what we can do when we work together. And from the comments received in the thread, and personally, lots of those who engaged really enjoyed it too.
So what about the results. Whilst this is by no means a comprehensive consultation, or a true in-depth analysis, I think the most popular results are likely to resonate with many Labour Members, more importantly, would start a positive engaging discussion with the electorate.
Below are a selection of the main topics of discussion with some of the finer points and suggestions:
- Develop Life Long free access to education
- Including a broad range of subjects
- Accessible by open online learning for all ages
- Primary and Secondary Education should include life skills like voting, banking, dieting, parenting, budget management government and Justice. Basically empowering people to live in our society.
- Revolutionise the education system to have equal balance between vocational and academic skills
- Scrap school league tables and SATS and let teachers actually teach
- Provide maintenance grants for students in further education undertaking vocational courses
- End charitable status on independent schools, and introduce VAT on school fees to pay for maintenance grants for students.
- MPs barred from holding posts in corporations whilst elected.
- On election, an MP should experience some “life” – First 6 months on the average wage in their constituency.
- The right for constituents to recall their MP and force a by-election.
- Nationalisation of medical research and drug production.
- Nationalise energy utility companies.
- Nationalisation of all the railways as then come up for renewal
- Nationalise the water companies.
- Provide free water to all families for subsistence, then fair metered readings to all.
- Nationalise all telecoms Landline and Mobile). This could provide full coverage of high speed broadband and consolidation of the 4G networks.
- Renationalise any service which the country would rely on in times of extreme financial difficulties.
- Free hospital car parking for patients, carers and visitors.
- Enshrine the NHS in law to ensure that it is protected no matter what party is in government.
- Make it illegal to change, dismantle or sell off front line care services
- Better access to NHS dentists, integrated with GP surgeries/ health centres
- Free prescriptions for all of UK.
New Home Building
- Develop a high quantity Housing programme, catering for a range of occupancies.
- Must include good Social Housing without being bargained out.
- Utilise more brown field sites
- Reclaim property if left idle for 5 years or more.
- Solar panels on new build homes as standard
- Genuine housing projects, new school projects and large scale infrastructure to include alternative energy where apprenticeships and unemployment are factored in to building costs
- New housing must have a decent garden and parking for 2 cars
- Build Council houses at low cost by introducing a new class of planning permission of ‘social housing land’ with purchase costs of land limited.
- Restore secure tenancies and cap private rents.
- Where Social Housing is sold (right to buy), another equal (new) property must replace it.
These are a selection of the most popular, but further topics included Business Tax Reform, Devolution, Electoral Reform, Employment Reform to name but a few. Other very specific suggestions including developing sovereign capability in defence and industry, IE being able to build our own defence capability and other high reliance industries such as the steel industry. In fact there were 72 different areas for us to look at with some very interesting suggestions to review. They are not costed or even fully developed into cohe
The main point is this, the membership of our party has a lot of great ideas to offer and many members still feel like they have no say in our party policy. Whilst I appreciate my methodology needs more work to ensure inclusivity both online and offline, it still remains that over 4 days I engaged with members up and down the country, collating over 400 policy ideas, with discussions on many of them in 72 different policy areas.
We need to develop manifestos for the local elections in May, not to mention the Police and Crime Commissioner Manifesto. We need to fill our current policy void and the membership is chomping at the bit to do it, let’s get on with it.