"Owen’s vision is one of an active, enabling government that is prepared to intervene as the world changes"by Lisa Nandy / August 10, 2016 / Leave a comment
Owen Smith speaks during the first Labour Leadership debate at the All Nations Centre, Cardiff ©Ben Birchall/PA Wire/Press Association Images Technology is changing how we live and work, how we interact and travel and how we generate and use energy. Yet far too often it feels like politicians are proposing analogue solutions for a digital world. However, last month I visited the USA to see how politicians and business have used the power of government—incentives, tax breaks and regulation—to turn California into the home of clean energy investment. This is the future and Britain must play a leading role in it. This week Owen Smith set out a vision that speaks to that future. It’s based on the knowledge that good businesses empower people to be brilliant. The most successful companies don’t merely rely on a committed staff; they actively thrive on the participation, energy and creativity of their workforce. For Owen this is a critical recognition. He chose to outline his vision at the Open University whose founder Michael Young foresaw decades ago how the world was changing and how too many people were disempowered and left behind by globalisation. In his pamphlet Small Man, Big World, Young set out the loss of talent that unequal distribution of power creates. It’s bad for our economy and society, and now after the vote for Brexit it’s clear it’s politically unsustainable too. For too long Labour has failed to understand what is happening in the world of work. We cannot afford for this to continue. We are a party founded by and for working people. Work that is dignified, that enables a good life and provides meaning and purpose is part of our common mission and for too long we have forgotten it. Owen was right to highlight this week how pay for top CEOs continues to rise, even despite poor performance. Britain can’t afford a model that devalues hard work and rewards failure. One in five workers are now low paid and far too many do not have decent pensions. The impact of this on local economies around Britain is catastrophic. The social cost is immense too. Owen recognised that for many young workers, who have homes, children and elderly parents, the youth rate of the minimum wage is completely indefensible. For the sake of the economy and wider society, Britain needs a pay rise. Owen launched his leadership campaign with a pledge to launch a British New Deal, delivering £200bn of infrastructure spending on new homes, schools, hospitals and transport networks. It’s based on a clear understanding that the economy needs stimulus, our young people need apprenticeships, and that government does need to step in to help deliver for the common good. This is the sort of analysis we need if Labour is to shape the future. Owen’s vision is one of an active, enabling government that is prepared to intervene as the world changes, to ensure that nobody is left behind and that technology works in our common interest. Britain—and Labour—cannot just be defined by what we are against; we must understand what we are for. It’s time we stopped arguing about the past, and elected a leader who looks relentlessly to the future.