I am still convalescing from my recent illness so I was unable to go to the Labour Party conference in Brighton.
It is a pity; I understand it was a lively, invigorating affair. There is a strong sense shared by my Labour colleagues and myself that we may very well be in government soon, and thus will be able make a much bigger difference to our constituents and neighbours.
I did watch some of the conference on television; while it captured much of the spirit of the event, I don’t believe it conveyed all that Labour has to say. In particular, I believe the media, as good as it is as presenting images and soundbites, didn’t talk enough about what Labour has to offer to people who have been labelled “The Squeezed Middle”.
During the 2017 General Election campaign, I encountered many people who were working long hours yet barely scraping by. They were worried about the cost of living, job security, whether or not their children would be able to go to university. They didn’t qualify for benefits, but they also had no savings upon which to rely. The stories and worries were repeated many times over; it wasn’t specific to a particular part of Peterborough.
It is not just a Peterborough problem; trading notes with my colleagues in Parliament has indicated that it is a national phenomenon. There is a lot of worry for the future. When Theresa May spoke in defence of the free market, she didn’t seem aware how the unfettered free market is letting people down, despite their best efforts.
In my experience, when people who play by the rules find that the game is rigged, that can lead to anger; anger is among the most dangerous of political emotions. It can lead to marches for justice, it can also lead people down the dark alleys of extremism.
Regardless of political allegiance, we all have to recognise something is terribly wrong. The present system coddles the privileged; those who are labouring in warehouses, call centres, and supermarkets are paying their taxes and finding it extremely difficult to achieve that which any caring parent desires, namely, to set up the following generation to do better.
We need to recognise that while the free market may give us a taxi that will pick us up at our door at an extremely low cost, we also have to understand that there is another price to be paid in terms of safety, wages, and job security. We make trade-offs of this kind all the time; we rarely stop to ask if they are worth it. We also should ask if we can make better choices.
There is no one answer to what ails our country; the Labour Party has embarked on a long journey to offer creative solutions to these problems.
What makes this time exciting for my colleagues and myself is that we believe these issues are definitely possible to resolve.