Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Michael Rustin on Ed Milliband the new leader of British Labor Party

I have long respected the work of British sociologist Michael Rustin who is Professor of Sociology at the University of East London and founding editor of the always excellent British journal Soundings. So I was interested to read Michael Rustin's careful praise of Ed Milliband, the newly elected leader of the British Labor Party.

Rustin recognises that Milliband is unlikely to advocate the type of radical change in economic social and public policy hoped for by many, but describes him as
" .... someone who does not deny that matters are complex, that there are a lot of different interests and people who will have to be listened to, that problems cannot be conjured away by vacuous enthusiasm, that errors will be made and need to be admitted when they do. This was neither Blair nor Brown, for sure, nor Cameron or Clegg either.  Will its its lack of swagger impose itself as embodying a different kind of strength?
Rustin offers the following policy initiatives as ones that Milliband and Labor should pursue. Rustin argues that some of these issues have been raised by Milliband already:
  •  Democratisation, not privatisation, should be the approach to public sector reform.
  • Devolution of powers to local and mayoral authorities, reversing the compulsive centralisation of New Labour reformism.
  •  A more radical 'proportional' reform of the electoral system than the weak AV version it adopted at the General Election should be proposed.  AV offers to benefit only the Liberal Democrats, not the Greens and other parties.  
  • A 'Green New Deal’ as a response not only to the climate change issues, but also as a step towards reversing de-industrialisation.
  •  While the contribution of the financial sector to Britain's economy is valuable, its strong regulation and taxation, in the cause of greater equality, should be a cornerstone of economic policy.
  •  Economic growth is not everything  - broader measures of well-being are needed, in each phase of the life-cycle.  This includes the balance of family and working responsibilities for families with children, the quality of working life, measures of public health, adapting to an ageing population.  Workforces in the public sector should feel enabled, not bullied, by governments, with forms of audit and inspection that encourage public participation and involvement.
  • The problems of housing and land values (usefully introduced by Andy Burnham in the campaign), and the disparities between regions, need to be addressed, as one of the largest sources of inequality and unfairness in contemporary Britain.
  •  There needs to be a serious re-think of criminal justice policy, in particular stopping the prisons being used as dumping grounds for the mentally ill.

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