Time for a quick recap

I didn’t want to have to do this, but since the commentators have lowered themselves to a banal reproduction of lists to try and rubbish the existence of the Labour Party and suggest that somehow the centre left of politics is natural ground for the SNP… I thought I’d spend a second to recap on Labour’s list of achievements.

- The National Minimum Wage - increased year on year above inflation
- Written off up to 100 per cent of debt owed by poorest countries
- Dads now get paternity leave of 2 weeks for the first time, mums maternity leave extended and the value of it increased.
- Record number of students in higher education.
- Child benefit up 26 per cent since 1997.
- 2,200 Sure Start Children’s Centres linking the poorest kids education health and welfare services
- Introduced the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
- The Human Rights Act.
-£200 winter fuel payment to pensioners
- All full time workers now have a right to 24 days paid holiday.
- 18 weeks maximum waiting time in the NHS
- 600,000 children lifted out of relative poverty.
- Gift aid was worth £828 million to charities last year.
- Introduced child tax credit giving more money to parents.
- Scrapped Section 28 and introduced Civil Partnerships.
- Lifted the ban on gays and lesbians in the military.
- Goods and Services Legislation
- Banned fox hunting.
- Free TV licences for over-75s.
- Banned fur farming and the testing of cosmetics on animals.
- More than doubled the number of apprenticeships.
- Over 3 million child trust funds established
- Cut long-term youth unemployment by 75 per cent.
- Free Bus passes for over 60s
- Smoking Ban
- Free Personal Care
- Abolition of Feudal Tenure
- Abolition of Warrant Sales
- A Scottish Parliament

I’m boring myself now. These are the reasons I’m in the Labour Party. I believe in social justice and equality of opportunity. The SNP have banned the words “social justice” from their lexicon. Their approach to equality is to embrace the catholic church and their higher echelons’ bigoted views of the world. And as for opportunity, they wont expand apprenticeships, they’re starving the student support fund, their concordat has forced the closure of surestart centres, homelessness projects and disability services across Scotland. Charges for meals on wheels, buses to hospitals, refuse collections all rising. Edinburgh hasn’t seen cuts like this since the 80s and I don’t need to remind you who was in charge then.

I’m proud of Labour’s achievements and Labour’s values and I’m proud to be a member of the Labour Party. It’s the SNP that have an identity crisis, not us.

10 Responses to “Time for a quick recap”

  • Scott @ loveandgarbage:

    No disrespect, Kezia, but a couple of the matters you identify as issues justifying your support for the Labour party warrant some comment.

    First, Abolition of feudal tenure (and its follow up legislation which was rather more important) was apolitical being based on a Scottish Law Commission report - even the Tories were in favour of it having originally requested the SLC to include it in their programme of law reform; and the only person who proposed anything that would have preserved the feudal system in name only (through maintaining the role of the Crown) was Roseanna Cunningham, relying on a legal opinion from Sir Crispin Agnew of Lochnaw. I’ll leave it to you to make up your own jokes on that front.

    I am not sure what you mean by Goods and Services legislation - as recent reforms in this area have again been apolitical being largely inspired by LAw Commission (and/or Scottish Law Commission) initiatives.

    Finally, to state that there has been the abolition of warrant sales is - to my mind - somewhat misleading. It is true that poindings were abolished (initially through Tommy Sheridan’s bill which was opposed by the Executive parties initially - following the lead of Donald Dewar who had been agin the attempted abbolition by Dennis Canavan in 1986-7 during the run up to the Debtors (Scotland) Act) and that as a result warrant sales fell. However, the Debt Arrangement and Attachment (Scotland) ACt which replaces poindings still gives a power to creditors to attach goods owned by the debtor (subject to exceptions for necessary and essential items) - as was the case with poindings, indeed the exceptions are virtually identical to those implemented under the Debtors (Scotland) Act 1987; it still allows creditors to get assets within residential properties (although now an exceptional attachment order is required), - just like poindings; and it still allows a creditor to apply to the court to sell these assets if the debtor does not satisfy the debt - just like a warrant sale.

    A rose by any other name and all that? Or I can’t believe it’s not poindings.

    Now, I happen to think that the reforms were sensible - implementing as they did the SLC report on poindings which had been treated so contemptuously by the Executive and Parliament on publication during the consideration of the Sheridan bill - but this is simple tinkering with the system that was there before, and giving it a name change, rather than a fundamental reform.

    Best wishes

    Scott

  • BSH:

    I would like you to consider these critisisms of what you believe Labour has a acheived as it often has not gone anywhere near far enough.

    National Minimum Wage,
    This one of the few godsends of Labour, unfortunately I do not believe it has kept up with inflation at all. This year inflation is above 4.4%, the current change in the minimum wage is 3.6%. In addition Labour moved the goal posts regarding inflation and in the wrong way. There is no point pretending that two partners on the minimum wage can buy a house. If house prices are taken into account in inflation I’d say the rate has been closer to 6-8% for most years, if not higher. Difference between CPI and RPI being spun here.

    Written of debt to poorest countries. Good action, shame we still see starvation and overpopulation of these countries; we need to steer many of these countries onto a more productive path

    Maternity leave. Good move, I like this.

    Record number of students in higher education. Yes, but with myself graduation a few months ago I would like to point out that in a room of twenty graduands I and one other were the only ones without more than £10,000 worth of debt. In addition many of the lecturers are now critical that the number of students have increased but the number of lecturers have stayed static in the face of doubling class sizes resulting in a reduced quality of graduate.

    Child benefit up 26% since 1997.
    Has fallen short of the CPI (27.2% since 1997), not the RPI the un-spun measure of inflation, closer to 50%.

    Sure Start Children’s Centres. Good, shame about the teenage mums filling it up!

    Human Rights, bit of nonsense really, passed by the EU for the most part and even then causing havoc with the legal system, increased petty crime, particularly from teenagers.

    £200 winter fuel payment to pensioners. Great, shame that my gran isn’t eligible because she actually has some savings, how dare she? So now we help her with fuel, so we pay twice in tax for this thank you.

    All full time workers now have a right to 24 days paid holiday. Good policy and implementation, 28 should be the norm though.

    18 weeks max waiting time in the NHS, Didn’t help my mother-in-law with cancer who as a result was bumped from list to list to keep the times low resulting in her now being in a very bad situation. Not only that, as a teacher shes a natural Labour voter! But then again mabye thats just Monklands hospital, which is not representitive of others.

    600,000 children lifted out of relative poverty, and theyre all going to be back at the next budget because we’ve return to boom and bust. Relative poverty is such a gimmick anyway, the best way to reduce child poverty is to discourage teenage pregnancies and encourage at 20-30.

    Gift-aid, good policy.

    Child tax credit, great in theory, why not as part of the pay-e system. Nah higher 1000 accountants in London, overcomplicated forms, low take up. It should be a right to get access to this money, not a privilege.

    Scrapped Section 28 and introduced Civil partnerships. Good policy, took long enough with the civil partnerships though!

    Lifted ban on gays + lesbians in the military, good again.

    Goods and services legislation. I’m confused how is this a left wing policy? This is just part and parcel of government.

    Banned Fox Hunting, I wouldn’t say this is particularly left wing either, its just a way to annoy right winger who primarily live in the country.

    Free TV licences for over 75′s, shame you didn’t scrap them altogether, waste of money.

    Banned fur farming and testing of cosmetics on animals. Good with the testing on animals. Shame all of the fur now comes from China which treat the fur farmed animals far worse than in the UK or in the EU. Surely the solution was legislation. There was an interesting documentary about this a few weeks ago.

    More than doubled the number of apprenticeships, good policy also.

    Over 3 million child trust funds established. Probably not that effective, I can imagine parents cutting payments as the economy gets worse.

    Cut long-term youth unemployment by 75 per cent. Seems a weird phrase and statistic, I don’t know how you can tell a youth will be unemployed in the long term until you get there!

    Free Bus Passes for over 60s.
    And as my gran pointed out at a primary school on election day. Yeah you gave me a free bus pass, then got rid of the bus!

    Smoking Ban. Good policy

    Free Personal Care, good policy.

    Abolition of Feudal Tenure. Great if a complete relic of time.

    Abolition of warrant sales. Good policy.

    Scottish Parliament, Good policy, shame it is not the normal policy of Labour, big centrist government is the game. If it wasn’t for the late John Smith I doubt this would have taken place.

    Okay, were cruel as some of these things are good, but for many the truth is, that once you scratch the surface its been gobbed up at some way or came at a hefty price.

  • Kezia Dugdale:

    Dear BSH,

    Thanks for the lengthy comment. I don’t really see what your point is though as you’ve described the vast majority of these achievements as good!?

    The recent Goods and Services legislation was important because it meant that no retailer or service provider could refuse an individual service on the grounds of their sexuality.

    As for the Winter Fuel Payment can I suggest that your gran was given bad advice.

    http://www.dwp.gov.uk/advisers/sb16/winter.asp#affectwfp

    The DWP regulations here stipulate that there’s NO eligibility criteria for the winter fuel payment and it explicitly says that savings don’t matter.

    Best wishes,

    Kez

  • Tom:

    Yes, these are all good policies. The problem is that Labour hasn’t publicised its achievements enough. I accept that we’ve had to appeal to middle-of-the-road voters in order to get elected, but under Blair in particular it was as if we were embarrassed about having done anything vaguely left-wing and kept quiet about it in order not to scare off the Daily Mail readers.

    As a result, we find ourselves in a position where we’ve made it easy for the SNP to present itself as the better left-of-centre party in Scotland. This is despite the fact that by its very nature the SNP believes that it’s better to spend the money from North Sea oil making Edinburgh bankers even richer than it is to use it to combat poverty in Newcastle.

  • Leaves on the line:

    Kez,

    As with governments of all colours, the Labour Party has indeed done some good things. And yes, things like the Minimum Wage, Section 28, Child Poverty were amongst the reasons why I and many like me voted Labour back in ’97 (and 2001 in my case).

    However… and I don’t want to perpetuate the childish approach… but you started it with this list thing

    I really strongly feel that the Labour Party, particularly in Scotland, needs to come out of its denial phase and accept that a great many policies of the past 5 years - led by the Westminster government - are incredibly right wing and go right against what the membership and core voters stand for. You’ve been around in politics long enough to know that voters don’t necessarily thank you and remember the good things - but they will hold a grudge against the bad things. And no, it is not enough either to try and pretend to yourselves that the SNP is right wing - because the voters know that it isn’t!

    So, what I guess many ex-voters and members are looking for is the Labour Party to take a new approach in campaigning… offer something positive (rather than the silly SNP scare stories), and deal head on with the mostly Westminster led right-wing agenda that poisons the Labour support base. I remember when I resigned from the Labour Party about 2 years ago the CLP secretary Rami Okasha wrote back a very nice letter to say that the Scottish Party did indeed fundamentally disagree with the direction that the UK leadership was taking the party… my question in response to that still remains why then doesn’t the party locally take a stand and develop a distinctive voice? And distance itself from those right-wing policies that I have so helpfully listed for you

    All the best!

    Chris

  • BSH:

    Thanks for the reply Kezia, I’ll get on it.

    Indeed, I’m a leftist at heart, but I feel that the New Labour experiment has failed for two reasons.

    1) The left wing policies seem to run their course… where now?
    2) The left wing policies never went far enough or were inclusive enough.

    My example is always free school meals and uniforms for EVERY child regardless of class or gender. This would be something that people would vote for as it makes sense, everyone benefits and there are potentially collosal efficiency savings.

    I think this is the primary problem of the tax credits system.

    The politics of the left should be universal, not robbing the middle/upper classes to pay the poorest. Everyone should be guaranteed a basic standard of living.

  • Allan:

    Well, your party started the rubbishing of the “Labour Party”, by renaming itself “New Labour” and going after the Murdoch/Middle England vote. The ditching of Clause IV was the clincher for me, not in a physical sense, but it was the removal of something that reminded you what you were in this for.

    Personally, after 11 years, i think that your list should be a lot longer, i would also have prefered it if certain ministers (Mandelson) didn’t behave as if oh its just a sop to the proles to keep them onside, which is why some of the examples on your list, are ones where you haven’t gone far enough.

  • Holyrood Patter:

    You will be pleased to know i devoted a whole post on this: http://polipatter.blogspot.com/2008/08/kezia-dugdale.html

  • Sean McLeod:

    The idea that it is the SNP that has the identity crisis is pretty wishful thinking to say the least.

    The Westminster Parliament and the Scottish Parliament have passed some good legislation since 1997 – but it doesn’t mean that this would not have happened without Labour and much should have happened years ago when Labour had the opportunity to legislate but didn’t take it (in the 1970s because they were too busy messing up the economy, for instance).

    The “big policies” on the list are ones introduced in the early years of Labour - Human Rights, Minimum Wage, Scottish Parliament.

    Kinda shows that Labour has no Big Ideas left.

    Is a bit of a tale of doing things which could and should have been done years before, doing things which were done of consent anyway and doing things which were required as a result of membership of the EU & Council of Europe.

    Running through them briefly:

    - The National Minimum Wage - increased year on year above inflation

    Good idea – although you do wonder why Labour never introduced it earlier.

    The US has had a minimum wage since 1938.

    Labour has had its hands on the levers of power on and off since 1924.

    - Written off up to 100 per cent of debt owed by poorest countries

    Don’t think the Jubilee Debt Campaign and others involved in this area would exactly support this statement.

    “Up to 100 per cent” includes writing off 0% of debt owed by some of the poorest countries, presumably.

    The UK still holds £2bn of debt to poor countries.

    - Dads now get paternity leave of 2 weeks for the first time, mums maternity leave extended and the value of it increased.

    Implementation of EU Directive. An implementation challenged in the courts as not going far enough.

    - Record number of students in higher education.

    Continuation of historic trends.

    - Child benefit up 26 per cent since 1997.

    That would be a real decline then?

    Taking child benefit from the children of asylum seekers? – Good left wing policy – I think not.

    - 2,200 Sure Start Children’s Centres linking the poorest kids education health and welfare services

    Decent.

    - Introduced the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

    Equalities part is an amalgamation of bodies which already existed.

    Human Rights part has still to prove it has any teeth.

    - The Human Rights Act.

    Cherie Booth job creation scheme.

    UK just about the last country in the Council of Europe to “Bring Rights Home”.

    Plenty of time available to Labour to legislate years before.

    The Government that introduced the Act, has also been the Government which has found itself breaching Human Rights more than any previous Government – Not exactly progressive.

    Obvious that UK Ministers have very much regretted the legislation but don’t feel they can go back on it because they would just get hammered in court.

    -£200 winter fuel payment to pensioners

    Not worth very much now with fuel prices rocketing.

    - All full time workers now have a right to 24 days paid holiday.

    Implementation of EU legislation.

    - 18 weeks maximum waiting time in the NHS

    Hidden waiting lists anyone?

    - 600,000 children lifted out of relative poverty.

    Good old stats.

    - Gift aid was worth £828 million to charities last year.

    Gift aid was introduced by the previous administration. Labour has actually tightened some of the rules.

    Gift aid is fundamentally the donor’s money - not the government’s money.

    All the Labour government does (and the Tory Government before them did) is/was not tax them on the donation.

    - Introduced child tax credit giving more money to parents.

    Ill thought out.

    Made a complete hash of introducing it.

    What they giveth with one hand, they taketh with the other.

    - Scrapped Section 28 and introduced Civil Partnerships.

    Was the right move – but more of a totemic section than one which anyone was ever prosecuted for.

    Civil Partnerships good – but likely that some aspects of the existing law would have been challenged anyway in Europe/under Human Rights Act given developing jurisprudence in the area.

    - Lifted the ban on gays and lesbians in the military.

    Inevitable after cases the UK lost in the European Court of Human Rights.

    Denied compensation to members of the military dismissed in the period between the commencement of the Human Rights Act 1998 and the discrimination regulations (McDonald v. Advocate General for Scotland).

    - Goods and Services Legislation

    Essentially required under EU directive.

    - Banned fox hunting.

    Labour so afraid of the position on this, did not adopt an explicit Government line in Westminster.

    Scottish Parliament Member’s Bill by former MSP Watson was co-sponsored by SNP MSP Tricia Marwick.

    - Free TV licences for over-75s.

    Fair enough.

    - Banned fur farming and the testing of cosmetics on animals.

    Introduced ridiculous legislation in Scotland to ban something which no-one did anyway because insanely wedded to idea of parallel legislation.

    - More than doubled the number of apprenticeships.

    Since when? What happened afterwards?

    - Over 3 million child trust funds established

    Not that good take up.

    - Cut long-term youth unemployment by 75 per cent.

    Stat fiddler.

    - Free Bus passes for over 60s

    Fair enough – but no proper budgeting for this or audit scheme put in place.

    - Smoking Ban

    That would be accepting the logic of the Member’s Bill introduced by the SNP then?

    - Free Personal Care

    Only did this because Lib Dems were considering voting with the SNP to force legislation forward.

    Legislation not made clear what covered by personal care – leaving it all a bit unimplemented. SNP left to sort it out – with the hole created by the Treasury’s refusal to pay over Constant Attendance Allowance money.

    - Abolition of Feudal Tenure

    The Labour Party historically failed in the 1970s to grab this particular issue – only managing to legislate on feu duty.

    This was a Law Commission project turned into legislation - hardly a great lefty issue.

    - Abolition of Warrant Sales

    You’re pulling a leg…

    Err – forced into this by knowledge that Tommy Sheridan’s Member’s Bill would attract back bench supporters from Labour.

    Alternative is Warrant Sales by another name.

    - A Scottish Parliament

    Come, come.

    Read and understand some history.

    We would have had a Scottish Assembly in the 1970s, were it not for division in the Labour Party at the time – or if the “Cunningham Amendment” had not been proposed or passed - or if the Labour Party had been able to get Kinnock and others to unite behind the proposal from the SNP Group to vote down the repeal order for the Scotland Act 1978.

    Tony Blair in the Scottish Parliament White Paper promised a referendum on the voting system for the House of Commons.

    Still waiting…

  • boxthejack:

    I would agree that I find the country’s apparent preference for Cameron’s hollow rhetoric mystifying and worrying; meanwhile as someone who voted SNP in 07, I am unlikely to do so next time.

    But Labour has to recognise three elephants in the room which, from a left of centre point of view, are inexcusable and squarely UK Labour’s fault:

    1. Allowing cheap money to become too cheap for too long with disastrous implications for consumer spending, capital investment, inequality, and the availability of affordable housing.

    2. Dangerous encroachments into civil liberties which demonstrate a ludicrous and anachronistic belief that government is essentially benign.

    3. A compromised and confused foreign policy - from rendition and pre-emptive military action, to Saudi Arabian arms deals, to the Middle East, to South Ossetia…etc.

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This site is slowly in transition from a blog to a website which will cover my work as an MSP for the Lothians region. In that sense, I will no longer be allowing comments on my post. If you want to engage in a debate or pass comment, email me. Although I reserve the right not to engage with comments which I deem to be offensive or inappropriate.