We have a responsibility.
A responsibility to critique, suggest and propose; to share our thoughts and ideas; to inspire, discuss and contribute.
All of us have the ability to take part – and we should embrace the opportunity to do so.
A new age of political engagement and interaction is possible – and it’s already begun.
Social media, smart phones and laptops provide the tools to discuss, debate and organise in a way never before seen.
Each week, we will propose three policies. Policies we believe Labour should advance to win the next general election, and that Progressives should support on a cross-party basis; forming the foundations of a progressive alliance.
Without a common platform of policies, a progressive alliance remains both untenable and undesirable.
It isn’t enough to say “we broadly agree; let’s unite.” We need guarantees that defeating the Tories is rooted in common purpose; that our cause is greater than the Conservatives we oppose.
So, for our first set of policies, we suggest the following:
- Free school uniforms for all Primary and Secondary students.
- Free school meals.
- Free dental care.
- Free school uniforms. Almost all students are required to wear school uniforms. Uniforms are designed to ensure equality among pupils; removing socio-economic status from the school environment. However, given the variety of school uniforms, supplied by supermarkets and clothes stores; quality varies and – because quality varies – equality varies too. A kid with Timberland shoes demonstrates more financial security than a kid with shoes from Primark. Not only is the purpose of uniform corrupted through private enterprise: the cost remains eye-watering for most parents. The Conservatives are so out-of-touch with the cost of schooling they had to pay the private sector to research the cost of school uniforms. The Department of Education didn’t know. Shouldn’t the department responsible for our childrens’ education know how much it costs? The average cost of school uniform – including PE kits – is just under £300 per pupil, per year. A family with three kids is going to pay just under £1,000 a year to clothe their children; not to mention time (and money) spent washing their clothes at the weekend, ready for the next week. These costs are a millstone around the necks of most parents in the UK. They should be scrapped. The cost to the Department of Education would be £2.5 billion (8.4 million students x £300. A small price for clean clothes, equality and more money for families.
- Free school meals. In addition to uniform costs, the average parent spends £437 per child, per year, on school lunches. Parents with three children in Primary education need to find £1,300 a year to provide their kids with lunch, in addition to just under £1,000 for their school uniforms. Providing free school meals to all Primary pupils would cost just under £2 billion. Rolling this out across Secondary education, provision of free school meals would cost an estimated £3.5 billion. For £6 billion, all pupils could receive free school uniforms and lunches, saving families thousands of pounds a year. This is a common sense solution for two of the many pressures families face.
- Free dental care. Average spending on dental care was £90 in 2013/14; most of which was paid by individuals to the NHS or private sector. The burden of cost remains with individuals and families; not with the government. £5.8 billion was spent on dentistry across the year; with £3.6 billion on the NHS and £2.2 billion on the private sector. The dental industry suffers from almost 40% of its services controlled by the private sector; something we haven’t yet seen in the rest of our National Health Service. For £6 billion, the NHS could cover the cost of all dentistry in the UK. This would be the first step to re-nationalising dentistry in the UK, ensuring the government regains control of an inefficient and costly private sector.
Total increase: £12 billion.
While tax rises in the top rate of tax, bank levies or a wealth tax would easily accommodate this increase, so could diverting funds between departments.
Central government spends £8 billion more on Defence than it does on Education. A simple re-balancing would provide two-thirds of the cost, with the rest coming from tax rises or savings elsewhere.
These measures would provide a much needed break to millions of households across the country and possess the broad appeal required to unite the Left in a practical, accessible and purposeful way.
Our policies need to be geared toward this accessibility so people can see its practical use and purpose in every day life.
This is, after all, what we are in politics to do. To make things better, fairer and more accessible, for all.
We will be publishing three policy ideas a week, so if you have anything you wish to contribute or discuss, please contact us via our Facebook Page, e-mail or Instagram. (Links at the side!)