The Party of Full Employment….

In 1945, Labour’s election manifesto had this to say:

They say, “Full employment. Yes! If we can get it without interfering too much with private industry.” We say, “Full employment in any case, and if we need to keep 8 firm public hand on industry in order to get jobs for all, very well. No more dole queues, in order to let the Czars of Big Business remain kings in their own castles. The price of so-called ‘economic freedom’ for the few is too high if it is bought at the cost of idleness and misery for millions.

Fast-forward to 2012 and sadly, unemployment has become an accepted reality for far too many, those who are unemployed are dammed by politicians of all shades as being ‘feckless’ and ‘work-shy’. No regard is paid to the structural factors that cause unemployment in a social system that concentrates wealth and genuine opportunity in the hands of a staggeringly small amount of people. You may think this is a little bit too 20th Century but in 1993, Gordon Brown, hardly a left-winger by any standards said this:

Our aspiration now must be more than helping people to find work regardless of its quality or prospects, but ensuring full and fulfilling employment by expanding employment and training opportunities for all

In other words, a commitment to full employment is in Labour’s political DNA, left and right. Sadly, the kind of mechanisms he had in mind to ensure this were inherently unstable and unreliable. Even if the private sector were to grow exponentially, it would never guarantee full employment. Indeed, the quality of the jobs that are driving the slight fall in the current claimant count is poor. If you take the current governments approach then you will slightly increase those in work but because this is through a casualisation of the labour force this will be off-set by the churn, ie, the number of people who are dropping back into unemployment will off-set the gains you make elsewhere. In terms of the gains made by the Treasury, by more people entering taxation, these are off-set by losses in terms of revenue lost by cutting corporation tax etc. So, the policy is a self-defeating one, this is why Labour’s policy-makers in 1945 saw that the goal of full employment had to go hand-in-hand with building a strong state sector. Labour must stop going along with the neo-liberal attacks on the state sector and start to remember that it can be your friend and its flaws can be off-set by promoting co-operative ownership models. Furthermore, it is a false economy to trade-off jobs against wages and conditions as Mr Balls has been known to do.

Similarly, Britain’s economy has stopped producing things. It has relied too heavily on a over-mighty financial sector and this is a fundamental structural failing. Britain’s productive economy has been decimated by decades of ideological battering, first by the Conservatives, then by a Labour government that did not enough by a long-shot to address this issue. Promoting full employment is an antidote to this chronic imbalance. Valid comparisons do exist between the current state of the economy and the national omnishambles that faced Labour as it entered office in 1945. Obviously, we have not just been through a World War and this structural crisis is somewhat different to the Great Depression (though not in the degree of its severity). However, getting people back into sustainable, long-term work is one of the solutions. Once again, Labour should revive its historic commitment to full employment, a core Labour value that has served us and Britain well in the past and can again.

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3 responses to “The Party of Full Employment….”

  1. syzygysue says :

    Spot on! Well said. A Labour government should guarantee a job to all who want one.


  2. Robert says :

    It is about making jobs, Labour used the public sector to make jobs moving offices out of London to places like Newport in Wales, then sadly Brown tried to close it.

    We did not have a benefits office in my small town Labour gave us one, plus they gave us a tax office plus they gave us a dedicated job center, all made a massive dent in unemployment, problem was in 2008/9 Labour had closed the benefits office, they had closed the Tax office with a massive brand new office block, and they tried to close the Job center which angered the Labour MP so it was made into a Job center plus. In 2010 we were back in trouble with massive unemployment.

    Labour had used the public sector to make unemployment it grew to big and Brown tried to reduce it , Brown came out with his 300,000 reduction in the public sector.

    Now of course the Tories are going the New Labour way, using the private sector big time in the NHS, will this work well maybe but the Union are already talking about strikes we will see.

    This sums up labour really.

    Yvette Cooper MP, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said in response to reports of possible Incapacity Benefit changes:

    “Those who are fit for work should be working or seeking work.

    “Labour’s reforms were due to get around a million people off sickness benefits and save around £1.5 billion from introducing a new medical test and reassessing current claimants. That test was worked on with doctors and disability groups, and was finding more people fit for work based on proper medical evidence. We have been urging the new government to complete the implementation of those reforms and hope they will do so.

    “We would be very concerned if they were to rip up the new test and the medical evidence just to reach an arbitrary target for spending cuts – that would be deeply unfair.”


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  1. THE LABOUR PARTY: The Party of Full Employment … | Think Left - September 29, 2012

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