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Using time in opposition wisely
It is easy to get policy wrong when you are in government. Just look at the Coalition u-turns on fuel duty, the pasty tax, and the caravan tax. Think how they have clobbered pensioners with their granny tax.
When you are in opposition it is easy to promise the earth. David Cameron pledged not to increase VAT, and Nick Clegg not to raise university tuition fees. Then, when you break your word, you lose credibility and public confidence.
So where is Labour heading two years after losing power? To those with long memories, the absence of bitter infighting, as occurred in the 1980s, is cause for relief. There is also a refreshing absence of the “blame the electorate” syndrome. Ed Miliband has helped the party move on by recognising publicly that while the 1997-2010 Labour Government had many achievements to its credit, it also made mistakes.
With themes like the “squeezed middle” and “responsible capitalism”, Ed Miliband has set out his key aims and values and opened the way for new national political debates.
I want Labour to use our time in opposition wisely, so we avoid making rash pledges and prepare credible, workable and affordable policies for when we are in government.
After 13 years in power there are not many Labour MPs left who were in Parliament last time we were on the opposition benches. I have joined forces with four other Labour colleagues – Estelle Morris, John Denham, Malcolm Wicks and Nick Raynsford – to launch a website, Labour Policy Portal, to develop policy ideas while in opposition.
At a time of austerity, made worse by the Government's failure to sustain growth, our group is trying to develop good ideas which would bring real benefits to society, but will not put pressure on the public purse.
Malcolm Wicks is proposing a new Savers’ Charter to end the savings swindle which attracts savers with high introductory interest rates but then dumps them on a default rate which can be as low as 0.1 per cent. Banks and building societies should be required to give savers their best available rate.
Nick Raynsford suggests reforming the rent-a-room scheme to encourage more people to rent spare rooms in their homes by allowing them to keep more rent tax free. This would increase the amount of rented accommodation, and help those tenants with spare rooms who will lose housing benefit under the Coalition’s reforms.
John Denham says supermarkets should be required to release pricing data in a format that can be used to create applications which enable shoppers to compare prices on a smartphone or computer before choosing where to shop.
I have written a proposal for a Patients’ Right to Treatment to counter the postcode lottery in health care. The cash limit for the NHS would not increase but every patient would get access to the same range of treatments. Have a look at our website - labourpolicyportal.org
You will see more about these four ideas. If you have smart, low-cost ideas of your own please let me know at email@example.com