Cllr Shaz Nawaz, leader of the Labour group on Peterborough City Council:
There is a misconception, often fostered by those on the right of the political spectrum, that if you are a socialist, that you are required to don a hair shirt and not only eschew the fruits of your labour, but to denounce anyone who has been successful as somehow immoral.
This falls down the moment we look at advanced countries which have adopted policies which would be called “socialist” in the United Kingdom.
Would we say the people of Sweden are living lives of purposeful penury? Is Denmark a country that doesn’t know how to live well? Is Finland a nation that favours the red star over the Rolex?
I am a businessman; I own an accountancy firm. I worked for many years, putting in extended hours, to make it what it is. Yet, I am also a proud member of the Labour Party: this is because I believe that everyone should have the opportunity to achieve their equivalent of what I did. Indeed, I would like to see even more people in our city succeed.
As an accountant, I see very clearly how the system is stacked against the individual businessman. If one of my friends came to see me tomorrow and presented an idea that would rival Amazon or Google, I’d have to tell him or her, soberly, that they faced formidable obstacles to achieving their dream. Not only do Amazon and Google have the relative advantages of size and scale, they also are able to shift their resources around the globe to gain competitive advantage. In effect, my friend would be facing an arduous challenge.
Furthermore, the government has hindered the business from the get-go: if he or she wanted to hire programmers, the education system isn’t providing sufficiently skilled people to fill the roles. If he or she wanted to hire people from abroad, the government’s immigration strategy, or lack thereof, is making it more difficult to hire people from France or Spain. Additionally, a business like the one I’m talking about would be hindered by bad infrastructure: if my friend set up office in Peterborough, as I would encourage him or her to do, I’d have to add a few caveats. First, the transport links between Peterborough and London are degrading thanks to chaos on the rails. Second, broadband speeds, which I submit are crucial to the success of almost any firm in this country, are less than optimal.
A report in Wired magazine from last August suggested that the UK has the 31st fastest broadband speed in the world.
This is odd, considering the UK’s huge contribution to Information Technology: Babbage, Turning, and Berners-Lee should be names every child knows.
Both local and national government should do much better; it must ensure the economy works for all. Hence, I’m a socialist and a Labour Councillor. Not to destroy wealth, nor suggest it is evil, but to ensure that everyone can achieve it.