WE live in changing times. Global wealth and influence are moving from North to South and West to East. New technologies are transforming the way we live. Power is shifting from states to individuals.
This age of change offers immense promise and potential, but we know it presents new dangers, demands and difficulties too.
We’ve already felt how our livelihoods can be thrown into crisis by property speculators on the other side of the globe. Our wages are being eroded and we’re seeing changes in our communities.
The challenge for all political parties then is how to plot a successful course for Britain in this stormy and rapidly changing world. With less than six months until the General Election, people naturally want to know what our answer will be.
It’s a conversation I’ve had with countless people across the country since I was elected as a Member of Parliament for Barnsley Central. The reality, however, is that complex conversations about our national future don’t always fit neatly into five-second soundbites or snatched five-minute conversations across someone’s doorstep.
That’s why I recently decided to write about it in a book.
Why Vote Labour is a book about the future. It is about the kind of future we choose for our country and the type of society we aspire to be in years to come.
It’s a big story and not one I could possibly hope to tell entirely on my own. That’s why my book brings together contributions from more than 60 Shadow Ministers, independent experts, parliamentary candidates, trade unionists and Labour supporters.
Together we seek to set out Labour’s plans for an economy that works for the many, for an inclusive society where everyone can flourish, and a better politics.
I describe it as an argument for a more powerful Britain.
I do not mean powerful in the 20th century sense of the word, measured by the might of our arms or the size of our treasure. I mean a confident country made up of powerful people, each able to go after our dreams and make the most of our potential, free from the forces that hold us back like ill-health, substandard education or poverty pay.
Take our economy for example. David Cameron and George Osborne will ask you to vote Tory on the strength of their economic record. The truth is they have failed to keep their promises on the budget deficit, failed to protect people’s standard of living and failed to build the type of shared prosperity that Britain needs to succeed in the modern world.
Forecasts show this will be the first government since the 1920s to leave people worse off at the end of the parliament than they were when they took office.
It all adds up to a recovery characterised by powerlessness.
How can people feel powerful in their own lives when going out to work can still mean a life below the breadline?
How can people feel in control if zero hour contracts mean they don’t know how many hours’ work they will have from one week to the next?
That’s why Labour’s ambition is for a smarter and more entrepreneurial economy – one that works for the employees who work the shifts as much as for the employers who create the jobs.
Our economy is unbalanced, wealth isn’t equally spread across the country, growth is too skewed towards particular sectors, productivity is too low, there aren’t enough good opportunities for young people and the link between growth and rising living standards has been broken. We will fix these underlying problems holding our economy back.
Our plan includes giving greater powers to our towns and cities to make them magnets for new and better jobs, homes for the entrepreneurs of the future.
I want the next Bill Gates to come from Barnsley, Brighton or Bristol rather than Beijing, Baltimore or Bangalore.
Labour would triple the funding devolved to city and county regions, transferring £30bn in next Parliament to allow local communities to shape how skills training, employment schemes, infrastructure and transport is delivered in their communities.
And we would respond to the changing needs of our society. That includes ensuring the NHS is always there when you need it, acting on urgent priorities like childcare, caring for an ageing population, and a progressive approach to immigration that delivers fairness for communities and ensures fear of change cannot be exploited by those who seek to divide us.
Above all, I hope my book can help restore confidence in the power of the ballot box to change lives for the better.
We face big challenges as a country, but frankly our greatest obstacle that many people have completely lost trust in the idea that politics of any colour can make a positive difference. They feel that our problems have outgrown our politics. It’s our duty as elected representatives to prove that this is wrong.
Labour has always been at its best when we have put our party at the service of the nation and brought our country together.
There is so much that is right with Britain today, but I believe we can be better.