a manifesto for all times

Like all constituency secretaries, I am trying to fathom out how we can agree ten amendments to eight policy documents. They won’t all end up being discussed on the conference floor, but it is a great opportunity to think about the next Labour manifesto. The timetable is tight with local elections to work hard for, so we started to look at the papers this week.
We found some strengths, but could see some weaknesses. Whilst discussing Education, someone suggested we might need to go back to fundamentals – and that perhaps earlier manifestos might provide a start. That was a great incentive to dip into my Christmas treat. A compilation of every Labour manifesto 1900-1997. So here they are. My ten amendments, all pinched from previous manifestos. Of course some of them might need adapting a bit to suit modern times. They are weighted to the early years, although I could have almost included the 1964 manifesto in its entirety. In the end I settled on one paragraph. Strangely Education was the one area where words didn’t jump off the page. I don’t expect these to find their way to conference, but maybe they can help us find what we are looking for. Which one would you vote for? What would you add?

As Harold said….
We can offer no easy solutions to our national problems. Time and effort will be required before they can be mastered. But Labour has a philosophy and a practical programme which is relevant to our contemporary needs. The starting point is our belief that the community must equip itself to take charge of its own destiny and no longer be ruled by market forces beyond its control. (1964)

Stability and Prosperity
Shopkeepers and traders are overburdened with rates and taxation, whilst increasing land values, which should go to relieve the ratepayers, go to the people who have not earned them. (1910).

Work and Business
Unemployment and low wages, caused largely by the policy of the Liberal and Unionist Government, have brought distress to the bulk of the working people. Labour’s policy is to provide work or maintenance for the unemployed by opening up trade with foreign countries, by the national organisation of production and by a large programme of necessary and useful public works. (1922)

Living Standards
Agriculture, as the largest and most essential of the nation’s industries, calls for special measures to restore its prosperity and to give the land workers a living wage. The Labour Party is one that will develop Agriculture and raise the standard of rural life by establishing machinery for regulating wages with an assured minimum, providing Credit and State Insurance facilities for farmers and small-holders, promoting and assisting Co-operative Methods in Production and Distribution, so as to help stabilise prices and make the fullest use of the results of the research. (1923)

Stronger safer communities
Labour demands a substantial and permanent improvement in the housing of the people. At least a million new houses must be built at the State’s expense and let at fair rents, and these houses must be fit for men and women to live in. (1918)

Education and children
And, above all, let us remember the great purpose of education is to give us individual citizens capable of thinking for themselves.
National and local authorities should co-operate to enable people to enjoy their leisure to the full, to have opportunities for healthy recreation. By the provision of concert halls, modern libraries, theatres and suitable civic centres, we desire to assure to our people full access to the great heritage of culture in this nation. (1945)

Health and Care
Our fundamental purpose is simple but hugely important: to restore the NHS as a public service working co-operatively for patients, not a commercial business driven by competition. (1997).

Better politics

Down with privilege. Up with the people. The Lords must go. (1910)

The Labour Party makes its appeal to the Women voters with the fullest confidence. It was advocating the cause of Equal Citizenship when the Tory and Liberal parties were either utterly hostile or hopelessly divided on the question.  Although Equal Franchise has been secured after a protracted struggle, the fight for women’s emancipation is not yet finished………. The Labour Party recognises that the burden of social injustice and economic exploitation falls with special severity on women, and that women are very seriously affected by Unemployment, Low wages, Bad housing and by any restrictions on the necessary public expenditure on Education and on the Health and Welfare of Mothers and children. The prevention of Maternal Mortality will be an immediate concern of a Labour Government. (1929)

Britain’s Global Role
A Labour Government which excluded from its foreign policy the ideals of morality, equality and justice, which are at the heart of domestic policy, would soon lose such ideals at home. The Labour Government will, therefore, continue its policy of strengthening international organisations and particularly the United Nations, dedicated to the peaceful settlement of disputes, to the promotion of human rights,to the rule of law and to the improvement of living standards throughout the world. (1974).

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