I’m writing this after attending a Jeremy Corbyn rally in Dundee. Yes, Jeremy was inspiring, delving into a great many issues which are desperate needing addressing. Yet in another way, this rally served to highlight the purpose of the event, which is another election to determine what the leadership will look like instead of finding the solutions we so very badly need in our society today.
For such a long time now, politics has been about personality. One of the reasons I greatly admire Jeremy Corbyn is that he has tried to change this. Instead, he has focussed on the manifest issues that need addressed, be they environmental issues, health and mental health stigmas, pay gaps between genders and generations and ever growing inequality. What we need now is to get away from election cycles, leadership battles and personality politics and create avenues for the public to debate and hone policy initiatives which will bring about a radical change in the way we live our lives.
So much is needed to be done to counter the affliction that this austerity obsessed Westminster Government has imposed on us. Infrastructure and manufacturing are badly in need of whole scale investment. The simple act of creating mass social housing will create a ripple effect. New jobs will be created, manufacturing industry will be reborn. In the past, Scotland had over 200 businesses that made bricks alone. Today there are just two and a shortage of bricks. This one policy would create thousands of well paid jobs which would rejuvenate the economy, personal and business taxes would help to fund the next round of building and infrastructure helping to grow Britain and Scotland out of debt rather than saddle it with more.
Taking the National Grid back into public hands would allow us to renegotiate contracts with the energy suppliers to make them expand and maintain the grid for a reasonable rate rather than at the expense of the public, so many of whom are already dreading the onset of winter and rising fuel costs. The creation of local energy initiatives including micro-hydro commissions would put local energy back into the communities who know best how to use it.
All of this could be achieved and so much more if we are prepared to come together to create the space to allow ourselves to take our future into our own hands.
Perhaps the greatest achievement we could reach would be to deal with the oncoming technological revolution, which the Bank of England project up to 50% of jobs could be lost. How do we deal with 50% unemployment when the current British mind-set is one of low wages and reducing social security? It seems clear that there must be serious consideration given to a basic income to ensure a permanent safety net for all and end desperate poverty in our society.
At present, a yearly basic income of £10,000 to every resident of Britain over the age of 16 would cost £400bn. This is double the current social security budget. However, it does not take into consideration the increased tax revenues from those currently on lower tax brackets and more importantly what the dramatic increase in social security spending will be once the autonomous machines take a greater share of employment opportunities. Nor the recent announcement from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation that poverty costs Britain £78bn a year.
A basic income has the potential to have a transformative effect on society. Yes there are issues to be ironed out, but it is a nettle we on the left must grasp before the right use it as a tool to further destroy our health service and social security.
Jeremy Corbyn has fired a starting pistol to a different kind of politics, one where austerity should no longer be accepted as unavoidable, and where poverty and inequality should no longer be seen as the price we pay. Now is the time to create a better society, one which is created and shared by all without prejudice. As he himself said: ‘It has never been about me … it’s about we!’ We have an opportunity to fundamentally change how we live as a society. Now is the time to seize it.
Allan Grogan was the founder of Labour for Independence and is an activist within the labour movement