Category Archives: Philosophy
England is changing – and to win back power, Labour must change too.
At the last election, England decisively shifted blue. Now Labour now needs a plan for a red shift.
We believe progressive parties win when we own the future.But too many people think we belonged to the past. The electorate is changing rapidly. The world of work is dramatically altered. Communities are changing shape. Generational shifts in values are under way. Many feel left behind. Yet vast new forces of trade and technology are speeding up.
So we need to go back to basics. To draw on the real experience and insights of English people today, inside and outside the workplace. To show how we can re-energise the ways Labour values can transform real lives.
Red Shift brings together a group of English Labour MP’s and activists determined to shine a spotlight on how England is changing, how peoples’ ambitions are changing – and how Labour needs to change to win.
The group will publish its first report – Looking for a New England – on the changing world of work and politics at party conference in September.
You can read the group’s op-ed in today’s Daily Mirror here.
Visit the Red Shift website and tell us what you heard at the General Election here.
You may have seen my piece in the Sunday Times yesterday on lessons for the Labour Party from this year’s election.
You can read it here or below:
You can access a set of slides which sum up my argument; here.
Liam Byrne MP – Sunday Times – 14 June 2015
How Labour rebuilds the radical centre
It was the election that ended one of the oldest myths in progressive politics.
Depressed by decades of Tory dominance, Labour’s 20th century thinkers thought they knew the answer. Reunite the centre left, bring together Labour and Lib Dem visions, voters and voices, and hey presto a new ‘progressive majority’ would be born.
Well now we know the truth. In 2015, the Lib Dems collapsed to the status of a fringe party. And who prospered? Not Labour. But UKIP, the SNP and ultimately the Tories. The jury is in and the verdict is simple. You can’t build a radical centre in British politics around some mythical ‘progressive alliance’ of Lib Dems and Labour. Because it doesn’t exist.
Let me confess I find this a painful conclusion. The notion of the ‘progressive alliance’ has a long and distinguished history on the left. And few were better makers of the case than my predecessor in Stechford, Roy Jenkins. Urged on by Roy, Tony Blair and Paddy Ashdown chewed the fat for years fathoming what might be possible.
But, as Churchill once said; however elegant the strategy it is wise to occasionally look at the results. And the results of the 2015 election are very clear.
Amongst Labour’s target seats, victories were few and far between. The 22 seats we did win - like Cambridge, Lancaster, Bradford or Dewsbury – were by and large alike: they were either home to large numbers of ethnic minority voters or what marketeers call ‘urban intellectuals’ – university educated, middle class, and quite possibly enjoyers of the Guardian.
But let’s look at the target seats we lost to the Tories. There were 74 of them in England and Wales. Here the Lib Dem vote collapsed as we knew it would. But Labour’s disastrous ’35% strategy’ – aka ‘a Hail Mary pass’ – aimed to mobilise a risky, narrow core vote plus a few and had assumed one in three grumpy Lib Dems would come our way. So what happened? Nothing of the sort.
In the target seats we lost to the Tories, the Lib Dem vote collapsed by an average of 6,585 – but more than two thirds sailed right past us and went to UKIP; their vote rising by an average of 4,853. The remaining Lib Dem losses split between Tory and Labour – and the Tories took the bigger slice. We won on average just one in 13 of the fleeing Lib Dem voters. So much for the progressive alliance. Worse, in 33 of the target seats we lost, not only did the Lib Dem vote fall – but the Labour vote fell as well. The Lib Dems quite simply were not and are not a reservoir of closet lefties.
What are the conclusions for people like me who want to rebuild and dominate the radical centre in British politics?
I think three basic ideas stand out.
Number one. There is no substitute to building a bigger stake in what Keith Joseph once called the ‘common ground’ of politics. This isn’t some kind of triangulated, dead centre split-the-difference position between Tories and Labour. As Keith Joseph explained; ‘the middle ground is a compromise between politicians unrelated to the aspirations of the people, the common ground is common ground with people and their aspirations.’ We need to own the common ground – not triangulate with the Tories.
Second, we have got to renew our radical roots and win back support from the radically minded, often collectivist, anti-establishment voters who today see UKIP, the SNP and the Greens as a better home than Labour. They should be ‘our voters’. And unless we make it so, we’ll be in opposition for ever.
This means we need not Blue Labour, but ‘blue collar Labour’. Blue collar workers dominate the seats where both the Lib Dem and Labour vote fell – seats like Burton, Nuneaton, Dover, and Harlow, where I grew up and started my working life in McDonalds, later spending a happy summer as a white van driver. Labour’s share of the skilled working class – once 50% back in 1997 – is now down to just 32%. It barely improved on our disastrous 2010 performance. This is why the Tories blue collar Conservatism is such a smart move. Yvette Cooper is right when she says: we have to win back the towns once again.
To this we need to add ‘Green Labour’, because in 43 of our target seats the Green vote went up by more than the Labour vote. I spent most of the campaign on the road with the Labour Students minibus. Our amazing younger activists were very blunt with me: if we want to own the future we have to become far greener in policy and character.
Third, we have to be the party of older voters and not just the young. I’ll put this as gently as I can: Labour is facing a demographic time-bomb unless we transform our standing with older voters.
We had a brilliant offer for young people at this election. Our Youth Manifesto, co-written by young people, was magnificent. At its centre was our most expensive £3 billion pledge: to cut tuition fees and raise grants. But we had little to offer the over 65s – and what happened? The Tory majority amongst over 65s soared to almost 2 million votes – more than the overall Tory Majority.
We had almost nothing to say to older voters beyond our warnings about the imminent collapse of the NHS. Meanwhile the Tories hammered away about stability, Ed Miliband, the triple lock on pensions and access to pension piggy-banks that sounded like free gold for a golden retirement.
We must never again fail to be the party that speaks for older Britain. And the conclusion for our leadership debate is quite simple. If the next Labour leader does not connect with older people – especially older women – then quite simply we will lose again. Remember at the next election there will be 1.5 MILLION more voters over 65 as the baby boomers retire – and 40% of voters will be over 50.
If there’s one thing I learned from my political hero Tony Blair, it’s that when modernisers stop modernising we fail. We have a mountain to climb to win back power. But Labour’s history tells us that we’re great mountain climbers when we dare to face facts, grasp nettles – and change. Today, trade, technology, the world of work, and demographics are completely re-shaping the radical centre of British politics. The coalition we need to win back is now clear.
Let Labour’s change begin.
Commenting on the letter from Universities UK (UUK) to the Times newspaper, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Universities, Science and Skills Liam Byrne MP said:
You can access the study here.
Time to Start Backing and Stop Attacking Our Young People – My speech to Burnt Mill – Tuesday 16 December 2014
I am also delighted to say that the visit was covered by YourHarlow – here.
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————————————————————————-PPC outside Burnt Mill Academy with staff and pupils
Time to Start Backing and Stop Attacking Our Young People
Speech to Burnt Mill [Academy], Tuesday 16th December 2014
Rt Hon Liam Byrne MP
[Thank you very much.]
It’s a big relief to leave the turmoil of the capital and find the calm of your campus.
Back in Westminster, there’s so much doom and gloom it feels like the government wants us to live in some kind of Narnia: always winter and never Christmas.
Everywhere, there’s cynicism when we need a bit of idealism.
Too much fear, when we want hope.
That’s why it’s brilliant to be back in Burnt Mill, the place that set me on my road.
It’s been brilliant to watch your star shine in the years since I left
It’s been incredible to watch your turnaround under the amazing Helena Mills
It’s a really proud moment to speak here in what’s now an Outstanding School
That’s a testament to your hard work, your parents’ support and some amazing teachers.
But what I love about Ms Mills approach is this
She’s ambitious for you to be able to compete anywhere in the world: here in Britain, in Europe, in China, in America
I’m here to say that I think it was time politicians signed up to same ambitions as your teachers and parents – and stopped running you down and started backing you up.
It’s time for a government that stopped attacking you and started backing you.
Right now there’s just too many people who want to tell you that’s nothing possible, when you live in a world of possibility.
The truth is the future is going to be amazing.
But that future is going to be unlocked by you.
Your generation holds the key.
By the time you’re my age, you’ll have seen a revolution in artificial intelligence, robotics, mapping our own genome to personalise our healthcare, generating energy, storing it. They’ll even invent smart-phones that don’t run out of battery by 4pm.
Massive changes in infotech, in biotech, in nanotech will not only change the world, they’ll create extraordinary new products, new services, new jobs, new companies and new opportunities for you.
When I was here back in the 80s, we had one clunky old Commodore PC in the science lab upstairs that you could sneak on at lunchtimes when the physics teacher Mr Dunbar let you.
Today, Britain’s computer gaming industry is £2 billion big and gives jobs to thousands of people.
It’s bigger than our film or music industry.
Its technology is hard-wired into our most advanced products from smart phones to planes to cars.
I’m told the infotainment system in a Range Rover is now worth more than the engine.
Like you, I had some great teachers when I was here.
One of the teachers inspired my love of science. In fact she ended up as head of science here.
Ruth Byrne wasn’t just my teacher. She was my mum.
And when she died of cancer aged 52 she left me with a vivid sense not only of how much science has done – but how much left science has to do.
And beating cancer is just one of the things you’ll see happen this century.
You’ll be among the leaders of this revolutionary change in the years to come – if you get the backing you deserve.
We are amongst the greatest pioneers on the planet.
Here in Britain we cracked the atom, decoded DNA, invented the world wide web.
Today it’s an old Burnt Mill boy, Michael Arthur, who now leads one of the world’s greatest universities, University College London.
He started his education sitting where you are.
If people like me can make it into the Cabinet, if Michael can lead one of the world’s greatest universities, then so can you.
But here’s the BUT.
If our country is to help unlock this amazing new future we need you to do well.
The truth is the prizes in the future are going to be bigger.
But the race is going to be tougher.
You have to compete in a world that is far harder than I did.
When I was here, I don’t think we worked as hard as you.
We spent a lot of time thinking about the fights with Netteswell down the road.
Or how to get served in the off-licence at the Willow Beauty.
Music was as important to us as it probably is to you.
I was totally into the Jam and the Clash – and you’ll find this hard to believe now, it inspired me to get a mohican not long after I left. Those were the days.
You’re in a much tougher race. A race where the competition is global.
This Easter, I was in Bangalore.
I spent a Saturday afternoon with the Chief Executive of a major British manufacturing company on the shop-floor of his Indian joint-venture.
‘Here in India’ he told me ‘I’ve the choice of 850,000 engineering graduates every year.
Let’s say 15% are fit to hire – actually the real number is 50% – but let’s say its 15%. It means I have hundreds of applicants for every job. Quality wise they’re just as good as my apprentices in [the Midlands].’
‘What are they paid?’ I asked.
‘About £5-7,000 a year’ came the reply.
That kind of challenge means we have to work harder to keep you ahead of the game. Because unless we constantly get smarter we will get poorer.
Your head is a great teacher because she’s determined that you’re equipped to win in this world.
But that is why we need to stop running young people down and start backing them up.
With new answers to help them get on in life.
Look at how the cards are stacked against young people today.
Young people today are now more likely than pensioners to be living in poverty.
Young people today are the first generation in a century to be poorer than the generation before them.
One in six young people are still out of work.
There’s over 5,000 fewer apprenticeships for young people than there was three years ago.
It is now harder to get into BAE Systems’ apprenticeship programme than to get into Oxford.
If you get into university, you leave with £44,000 of debt that takes until your early 50s to pay off.
Those lucky enough to get work, have seen their earnings fall by over £1,600 a year on average since 2010.
Young people’s household income is down by a fifth – in effect, they’re working Friday afternoon for free.
When I left school, a deposit for a house took six month’s pay.
Now you have to save every penny you earn for more than two years. A house for a first time buyer cost £36,000. Now it costs £190,000.
Result? Only one in six of under 35s now own their own home when it used to be more than one in four – and there’s half a million more young people living with their parents than in 2010.
Oh, and just for good measure, young people are now expected to work three more years before they get their state pension.
You have to ask yourself: can they make it any harder for young people?
That’s why it makes me so furious when people decide to add insult to injury, and start moaning about young peoples’ attitude.
There’s one writer who calls this generation, Generation Wuss.
Last year, Jamie Oliver, who I generally like, was labelling young people ‘whingers’, ‘wet behind the ears’ and ‘too wet for work’ – and the Mayor of London promptly backed him up.
The Daily Mail is always running stories about companies like Greencore complaining that they have to employ East Europeans because Brits won’t take low paid jobs.
And it wasn’t so long ago a group of Tory MPs actually wrote a book [Britannia Unchained] claiming ‘lazy’ Brits preferred a lie in to hard day’s work.
And a while ago, a Tory minister was saying that our young people lacked ‘grit’
How dare they!
While you’re slogging hard – they’re sloping off putting Parliament on a three day week and playing Candy Crush in committee hearings.
When is this going to stop?
Have you noticed, when you hear politicians slagging off young people, it’s never their own kids they’re talking about? It’s always someone else’s.
I’m sick of it.
Our country needs your rebellious optimism now more than ever before.
We need politicians to stop attacking young people and start backing young people.
I’m someone who’s done every job under the sun.
I started working life frying chips in McDonalds in the High.
I’ve been a white van driver for Johnsons, which I managed to smash up by reversing into some scaffolding. I’ve swept floors. I’ve picked fruit. I’ve sold suits. I’ve sold photocopiers – badly. And I’ve started a hi-tech business that created jobs for others.
I’ve learned that any job is better than no job.
But a good job is better than a bad one.
And right now we need more good jobs – and you need more help getting them.
That’s why there’s one big change that is top of our ‘to do’ list.
The biggest change in the professional jobs market has been the boom in unpaid internships.
There’s now around 100,000 internship opportunities a year; most in London and many unpaid.
And more than one in three graduates employed by firms have worked for the firm before – often as an intern
But here’s the challenge.
The average unpaid internship is three months long and can cost over £930 a month.
If you’re from a low income background you just can’t afford to do that.
The result is that the best jobs are getting locked up by those with the richest parents.
That isn’t right. It isn’t fair. And it needs to change.
This change has got be part of a wider ambition to once more put the power of government behind you – and not against you.
Like a new Tech Bacc, so young people who want take a professional and technical route to work, have got a gold standard qualification.
A Youth Allowance to support anyone under 21 studying at college.
More high-quality apprenticeships so by 2025 as many young people can start an apprenticeship each year as enter university – and new Technical Degrees so apprentices can study up to degree level skills.
More university degrees which cost less to study.
A jobs guarantee for the under 25s so no-one is ever again left to languish on the dole.
A minimum wage at £8 an hour and a ban on exploitative zero hours contracts.
And action to build 200,000 homes a year by 2020 so you stand a chance of getting a place to call your own once more.
These are the changes we WILL make if we’re elected next year and they’re changes that will put government back on your side once more.
ANGER AND OPTIMISM
You might call this an action plan for optimism.
It’s definitely a plan to put government behind you – not against you – once more.
It’s a plan that’ll help you build a future for all of us.
I feel so strongly about this because growing up in Harlow taught me that in politics you need more than anger.
You need optimism.
Here in Harlow I learnt most of the lessons that lasted me a lifetime.
My Mum and Dad came here in the 1970s.
They were drawn by a sense of idealism.
When I talk to my Dad about why he came, he said what he loved about Harlow was that it was a leap of faith.
A new town, built by a can-do spirit.
Our grandparents founded this town while we still had rationing.
It didn’t stop them.
Couples came from the bombed out East End in search of a job and a home and somewhere to raise a family and build a new future.
They were pioneers.
And great public servants like my mum and dad came because they wanted to help build around those families a strong community.
Like the sports scene that gave us one of the best local football leagues where Glen Hoddle, the most famous Burnt Mill boy trained.
Or the arts scene that grew-up around the Playhouse.
Or the incredible voluntary sector that gave the town a real sense of compassion in action.
My mum and dad wanted to part of that great effort to build a better place where people could get on.
A town of ambition and aspiration and compassion in action.
When I was growing up here there was a lot of anger about the government that seemed determined to divide working people.
Everyday I used to hear my parents talk about how tough it was doing their best when the government was cutting everything so hard.
From them I learned my sense of compassion and anger at injustice – and that’s what inspired me to join Harlow Labour party when I was 15.
But back in the 80s, we also had a sense of optimism and aspiration.
Optimism born of a confidence that things can be better.
And that’s what I came to see was the most important thing of all.
But when people give up hope they turn to extremists – as they did in our country back in the 1930s – and which many are doing again today
Today I serve one of the youngest constituencies in Britain.
Everything I learned in politics has taught me that right now, there isn’t anyone better to inspire us than you.
But our job in politics is to match your optimism with a plan.
That’s what the builders of Harlow had back in the 1940s.
They had a vision of a better country.
Not just for some.
But for all.
Those dreamers built this town.
They built this school.
And they built a better, richer, fairer country.
A country where people could build better lives.
As they did here in this town.
Today we need to rediscover the optimism, the idealism and the impatience of the people who built this school and built this town,
That is how futures are really built.
That’s how you will build once again a greater Britain.
#InclusiveGrowth14 – No Place Left Behind: A debate on the future for regional growth with Lord Heseltine and Lord Adonis, chaired by Katja Hall of the CBI – 2 December 2014
I am delighted to share news of this afternoon’s inaugral conference of the APPG on Inclusive Growth.
The day before an Autumn Statement expected to be full of announcements on regional development and growth Michael Heseltine and Andrew Adonis, the two leading advocates of regional and local devolution, regional growth and business engagement discussed the topic of regional growth – chaired by the brilliant Katja Hall, Deputy Director of the CBI.
The debate continued on twitter at #inclusivegrowth14
You can still view a video of the debate here: www.policyreview.tv/video/1000/7715
It’s well worth a watch!
After the debate we were joined by Sir Bob Kerslake, head of the Civil Service for a number of private seminars on a range of topics.
Today was the inaugural event of the APPG on Inclusive Growth.
The All Party Group on Inclusive Growth brings together senior politicians from across the main parties to discuss Britain’s economic future.
In July 2014 a cross-party group was set up to establish the All Party Parliamentary Group on Inclusive Growth. The APPG is now working with business, finance, trade unions, faith groups and civil society with the aim of forging a new consensus on reform of markets.
For more information about the APPG on Inclusive Growth please visit our website here: www.inclusivegrowth.co.uk
I have enclosed some photos of today’s event below.
With all best wishes
I have just returned from the West Midlands Labour Annual Conference at Warwick University in Coventry.
It was an excellent couple of days with great opportunities to engage with fellow MPs, members and regional staff.
One of the most important things to come out of the conference was the final draft of Labour’s West Midland’s Economic Plan which I helped work on.
You can download a full PDF version of the plan using the link below.
All the best
You may have read my interview in the Birmingham Post this morning entitled; Midland mayor “could run policing, transport and support for business”
The news that Manchester has got the green light for a metro-mayor is great. As Chief Secretary to the Treasury in the last government, I worked hard to accelerate the devolution of powers to Manchester and its neighbours – and the model Manchester has designed ensures strong accountability of any new mayor to local government leaders.
Birmingham should control it’s own destiny too and a metro-mayor for the West Midlands would make a huge difference.
You can read the Birmingham Post story using the link above. My proposal for a West Midlands metro-mayor and a backgrounder from my time at the Treasury is below:
I’ve been delighted by the response to my pamphlet, ‘Robbins Rebooted’, where I set out the terms for a 21st Century debate on the future of higher education. Below is a short selection of responses so far from higher education stakeholders.
- The Higher Education Policy Institute referred to the pamphlet as ‘wide-ranging and well-informed’. Their full comment can be seen here.
- Million+ stated that ‘Nine months ahead of the general election it is good to see political parties contributing to the debate on higher education policy’. Their full response is here.
- University Alliance ‘welcomed this timely addition to the higher education debate’. See their response here.
- The Russell Group felt that Robbins Rebooted was a ‘…thoughtful addition to the higher education debate.’ See their comments here.
- The University and College Union (UCU) said this ‘contribution…should kick-start the debate’. Their response is here.
- The 157 Group welcomed the ‘the continued emphasis on creating sustainable high-quality vocational pathways for more and more young people’. See their response here.
- The Association of Colleges (AoC) welcomed the review saying, “higher education needs to change…” See their response here.
Liam Byrne publishes ‘Robbins Rebooted’ – laying out a vision for 21st Century Higher Education and university reform – 28 August 2014
Today the Social Market Foundation (SMF) has published my pamphlet entitled ‘Robbins Rebooted’.
You can view an electronic version of the pamphlet here.
In it I set out options for reform of Britain’s universities to boost the country’s knowledge economy and open high paying technical and professional jobs to the ‘forgotten 50 per cent’.
These options draw together hundreds of conversations that I have had with university and college leaders, academics and students over the last six months in Britain, Europe, India and China.
Invoking the ‘white heat’ message of Harold Wilson’s government, elected 50 years ago this year, I argue that reformed universities are now key to fostering more high paid jobs in the ‘light speed’ global digital economy.
The following are the ‘big five’ ideas which university and college leaders, students, teachers and researchers want to hear debated:
1. ‘Technical Universities’, a collaboration of employers, major university science and engineering departments and colleges, offering students the chance to study a new ‘earn while you learn’ ‘Technical Degree’
2. A revolution in links between colleges and universities based on the US-style community college movement.
3. Reform of research funding to support British universities in creating global ‘Star Alliances’ of the world’s best scientists with longer term research support.
4. A big increase in university enterprise zones to better link universities to regional growth.
5. A new revolution in access to higher education, with a new national advice service to support young people into higher academic and technical education, support for university-school trusts, an expansion of the Open University’s Massive Open Online Courses and a new partnership between the Workers’ Education Association and UnionLearn.
I would love to hear your reflections on the pamphlet so please do get in touch.
With all best wishes
‘The market is failing – we need a new way forward’ my piece for the Evening Standard – 17 July 2014
Earlier this week I became Chair of the APPG on Inclusive Growth at the group’s inaugural meeting.
To mark the occasion I have written a piece for the Evening Standard which was published this afternoon. See below.
All the best
Liam Byrne: The market is failing – we need a new way forward
A fresh consensus is emerging about how Britain must think long-term to remain globally competitive
The puppets are for the chop. Earlier this week, Wonga’s loveable grandparents flogging payday loans on children’s TV were dispatched in the UK by the firm’s new chairman. It comes at a time when shareholder activism is on the rise, with a number of eye-wateringly large pay deals for top executives shot down by shareholders. The conscience of corporate Britain is rumbling as unease with Britain’s malfunctioning marketplace deepens.
So it should. With this week’s good job news has come fresh evidence of the squeeze on pay packets. Inflation has jumped to a five-month high. Meanwhile, the Institute for Fiscal Studies reports that the under-30s lost 13 per cent of household income, from 2007 to 2013 — nearly twice the hit taken by the older generation.
It is becoming harder than ever to earn a decent living — and if we don’t fix this soon, we’ll face not just an economic problem but a profound moral challenge. Hard work is hard-wired into Britain’s psyche and our moral code. This was supposed to be the deal: hard work got you on in life. Yet Britain’s families are working harder and going backwards, £1,600 a year worse off now, on average, than in 2010.
It’s not just a question of fairness: it doesn’t make business sense either. As someone who established my own company, I know very well that virtues such as trust, integrity and stability drive consumer confidence. They are the keystone of capitalism.
We can’t go on like this. Nearly 30 years ago, Ronald Reagan spoke for a new generation of neo-liberals, declaring that “government is not the solution to our problems, government is the problem”. Today the market is the problem: together, business and policy-makers are going to have to fix it.
So this week a cross-party group of parliamentarians has come together to find answers to the challenge of how we fix our malfunctioning markets and reconnect hard work with getting on in life. Our goal is simple: to build a new consensus on how we can change the rules of the game.
Since the Second World War we’ve enjoyed two grand phases of consensus that connected business and government in pursuit of the common good. After the war, we called it “Butskellism”, a marriage of ideas epitomised by the calm moderation of the Tories’ Rab Butler and Labour’s Hugh Gaitskell. The second phase was the neo-liberal consensus, born in the storms of the late Seventies and now in its death throes.
It’s time for a new approach: a “third wave” of consensus to reset the rules. There’s already plenty on which we can agree.
First, business and politicians know money markets need to act for the long term rather than the short term. The disastrous behaviour of the interest-rate riggers and the high-frequency traders portrayed in Michael Lewis’s new book Flash Boys epitomises a fill-your-boots piracy that destroys a firm’s ability to think long term.
It’s not just capital markets that need reform — it’s labour markets too. Unless we boost skills, it’s hard to give workers a pay rise. I think there’s wide consensus about what needs to change.
Lord Baker’s work on university technical colleges exemplifies an ambition to build a high-quality vocational route to better skills. Ed Miliband, Tristram Hunt and I have put that at the core of a new offer for a vocational path to degree-level training for the “forgotten 50 per cent”, those who do not want to pursue the traditional academic route.
Third, we can agree that a bigger, better business-government partnership in science and technology is vital to winning the race to the top, boosting productivity and jobs in and around Tech City, the Crick Institute and the spin-outs around London’s universities. The foundations of this “supply side” boost were built by Peter Mandleson and Lord Sainsbury, and were respected by the Tories’ David Willetts, who left government this week.
Abroad, business and government should agree that “good growth” is easier if markets are bigger, which is why we should be at the heart of Europe. At home, there is broad agreement that a radical devolution of power is vital if big parts of Britain aren’t left to languish. “Inclusive growth” is not just about who prospers, it’s about where prospers — an idea championed by Lords Adonis and Heseltine in their plans to return power to our cities.
We cannot avoid some issues where consensus will be harder but where the status quo is not an option: making sure companies pay their taxes and don’t rig markets to short-change consumers and cheat their competition.
Indeed, hard-headed Tories such as Lord Heseltine and Richard Harrington, who have real experience of running large businesses, recognise that the market needs to work in a more sustainable way. It needs to respect its consumers and its employees, making a profit while not becoming immersed in a race to the bottom that, in the end, hurts most businesses as much as it hurts working families.
From boardrooms to Westminster, we need to crystallise this “new consensus”. For a decade and more, the price and prize of globalisation have not been fairly shared. Yet we risk a new era of inequality if we don’t get our act together. The new potential of trade and technology is accelerating the “second machine age”, where from driverless cars to automated checkouts, technology wipes out both blue and white-collar jobs, concentrating riches in the hands of a tiny global elite.
The founders of the greatest traditions in British capitalism — leaders such as George Cadbury, William Lever and John Spedan Lewis — knew that “enlightened self-interest” was always the best way to do business. If we want to build a great society in a global economy, reformers need to join together now: we’re running out of time.
Rt Hon Liam Byrne MP is chairman of the newly formed All Party Group on Inclusive Growth.