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What Labour should do now

To make a real difference, Britain's Labour Party should be bold and think big.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. Photo: Éric Spiridigliozzi. Parti Socialiste. Flickr. CC. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. Photo: Éric Spiridigliozzi. Parti Socialiste. Flickr. CC.During the coming Labour Party leadership battle in Britain, there will be a critical need to inspire, promote and oppose. And all with a double audience in mind: the actual Labour Party electorate, but also the wider public. Inspire people with innovative approaches on many key issues, promote specific examples which illuminate the potential of a Labour government, and oppose by repeatedly focusing on the problems that the Conservative government will be facing.

The dominantly antagonistic and right-wing national press will cause all the trouble it can, especially for Jeremy Corbyn but also for Labour as a whole. Even so, large-scale public meetings will get local print and broadcast media coverage, with these outlets much more sensitive to viewer and reader opinion. Remember that many provincial dailies have readerships in their circulation areas that are close to the combined local readership of the nationals. Moreover, social media lend themselves to useful coverage.

In doing this, one way to have a real effect is to change the nature of the whole debate. This still means speaking to and for the alienated and the marginalised. But it also means bringing in major new elements, some domestic but other clearly international, the latter focusing on Britain’s potential role in a post-Brexit world.

So here are three domestic and three international elements. They are not exclusive of others or of issues already to the fore. They are merely examples - and there may well be better ones.

First, domestic:

Business Invest in SME support but strengthen financial regulation, especially in the finance sector itself. Demand hugely more effective action on tax avoidance, but fund HMRC to ensure it has adequate expertise. Seriously take on tax havens. Increase higher tax rates. Offer fiscal and other support for mutuals, cooperatives, co-ownerships and other forms of business organisation. Halt and reverse creeping privatisation of the NHS and education while investing seriously in many elements of the national infrastructure.

Transport  Cancel HS2 and replace it with heavy investment in upgrading the capacity and quality of rolling-stock on all major intercity routes. Opt for modest increases in speed but more emphasis on passenger comfort, especially less overcrowding. Invest in rapid and systematic electrification across the north starting with the Trans-Pennine route. Take Southern back into public ownership now and return railways to public ownership as franchises expire but within franchise periods if companies fail to deliver to newly set higher targets for service delivery.

Energy  Cancel Hinckley Point and replace with heavy investment in renewables, with far more emphasis on wind energy, both onshore and offshore, and invest heavily in research and development of new systems for generation and especially storage. Reverse recent government downgrading of green policies and put far greater emphasis on energy conservation.

Second, international:

Post-Brexit  Accept Brexit, but use it to argue for a new international role for Britain which combines continued commitment to Europe as a whole with far greater emphasis on worldwide links, not least the Commonwealth. Thus, argue for the UK being in the unique position of unrivalled connections to Europe, north America and the global south, in facing the common global problems of the failing neoliberal economic system and critical environmental pressures.

United Nations and Security  Support and commit strongly to effective United Nations peacekeeping, including a commitment to lead investment into a UN Emergency Peace Service. Prepare to lead on this, including a highly trained multinational standing force with Britain at the centre. Make Britain as the lead player in this field. Accept that the wars since 2001 have been disastrous and have left countries, including Britain, less secure. Demand a complete rethink of strategies using the best available analysts given a free reign to propose new options, however radical. In the light of Chilcot and the continuing problems with ISIS, this will strike a chord.

Environment and Development  Emphasise that climate disruption is the greatest long-term security threat to everyone, but especially to the marginalised. Maintain the development budget in full but call for the reform of DfID towards a far stronger commitment to action on deep poverty and gendered and sustainable development, all in the context of persistent anti-corruption policies.

In all cases, argue with confidence and never fail to remember four elements:

* The Conservative government has already had to reverse core policies

* The 2008 financial crisis had its origins in the banking system, starting with the toxic loan debacle in the United States. It was not the fault of Labour, but Labour had failed to regulate the financial sector adequately. The party will not let this happen again

* Individual bankers, hedge-fund managers and the rest are not the problem – it is the system itself which is the problem, because it is far more deep-seated and entwined with the progressive failure of the neoliberal economic system after forty-plus years. Only Labour recognises this and is ahead of the times, not behind them. Repeat this with confidence

* The greatest global threat comes from climate disruption – repeat ad nauseam.

About the author

Paul Rogers is professor in the department of peace studies at Bradford University, northern England. He is openDemocracy's international security adviser, and has been writing a weekly column on global security since 28 September 2001; he also writes a monthly briefing for the Oxford Research Group. His latest book is Irregular War: ISIS and the New Threat from the Margins (IB Tauris, 2016), which follows Why We’re Losing the War on Terror (Polity, 2007), and Losing Control: Global Security in the 21st Century (Pluto Press, 3rd edition, 2010). He is on Twitter at: @ProfPRogers

A lecture by Paul Rogers, delivered to the Food Systems Academy in late 2014, provides an overview of the analysis that underpins his openDemocracy column. The lecture - "The crucial century, 1945-2045: transforming food systems in a global context" - focuses on the central place of food systems in human security worldwide. Paul argues that food is the pivot of humanity's next great transition. It can be accessed here

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