In his contribution to Political realignment week, Giles Fraser argues for a new party called Home.
The Labour party began as a party for the working class, reflecting the patriotic communitarian commitments of working class people. Many who were not themselves working class were attracted to its values of fairness and social solidarity.
But towards the back end of the 20th century, the party was increasingly taken-over by those who espoused a cosmopolitan and liberal philosophy of individualism that was too relaxed about the effect of market forces and indifferent to the importance of communal life.
There was a dangerous hubris about the way liberals accepted no limit to individual self-assertion. Under the banner of progress and spreading liberal values, we invaded Iraq and brought the world to the very edge of another world war.
Enough is enough. It’s time for a new political party. My one would be called Home. It wants a United Kingdom that is generous at home and reluctant to intervene abroad.
A Home for Everyone
The number one priority for our first administration will be to build half a million new, high-quality council homes – and to encourage the private sector into a renaissance of house building.
Home believes that solid, stable families are the heart of a flourishing society. The way we think about family has changed, our understanding of family life has expanded, but the importance of the family is as important as it ever was. And the best way for the state to support families is to make sure that we all have access to an affordable home.
Successive governments have neglected this. With demand far exceeding supply, the price of the existing housing stock is vastly over inflated. Many ordinary, hard-working people have been completely priced out of the housing market. And many young people despair that they will ever be able to afford a home of their own.
So house building, all over the country, will become an urgent national priority for Home. We will lift the cap on local authority borrowing. We will build on the Green Belt. We will introduce a tax on unoccupied properties bought as piggy banks for offshore investors. Long-term unoccupied properties will be repossessed and there will be higher stamp duty on second ‘holiday homes’.
The word economics derives from the Greek word ‘oikos’ meaning home. The economic policy of the Home party will be to reorder our national priorities to suit the domestic scale. Economics should not be not a technical end in itself, nor a means of pursuing GDP growth for its own sake.
The economy must serve the needs of human beings rather than human beings serving the needs of the economy. And better does not always mean bigger. A fairer, more equal society, one without the huge disparities in wealth we currently experience, would be a society more at ease with itself. Relative poverty is often more important than absolute poverty.
We would enhance the living wage so that it is possible to actually live off it and introduce a higher tax bracket for earners of over £150,000 pa. We would also introduce a Robin Hood tax in the City of London. We would re-nationalise essential public services. And Sunday would be a day off from trade and commerce.
Let’s Concentrate on Home
Home is a party that accepts we are no longer a global power. The empire is long behind us, and, therefore, we do not need an expensive global military to go with it. We would immediately cancel Trident and substantially reduce our budget for the armed forces. We will be extremely cautious about foreign military interventions. Withdraw all forces from the Middle East. We need more police and fewer soldiers.
Exit EU, without a deal if necessary: no to the Single Market, no to the Custom’s Union. We must have a home of our own, and others should respect we have our own way of doing things. We need a British Bill of Responsibilities and Rights. The seat of government should move to Manchester during the refurbishment of the Houses of Parliament, and an English Parliament should remain there when the United Kingdom government returns to Westminster.
A Caring Home
Fully funded NHS. We would refocus the NHS away from expensive medical treatments and specialist research towards a greater emphasis on nursing care. The NHS cannot be a way of seeking to keep us all alive for longer and longer. We must accept that death is a natural part of life and offer quality care appropriate to where we are in life’s journey. We need better funded hospices. More nurses, fewer research scientists.
A Welcoming Home
We would set up a generous immigration system with particular emphasis to those in need rather than those that could survive without our help. i.e. A points basis immigration system in which the most vulnerable get the most points and those who do not need help get the least.
A Learning Home
Our schools should not be factories, concerned only with the training up of young people for the workforce. Education should be more about Shakespeare and less about business studies. We would abolish OFSTED and league tables. We would withdraw charitable status from public schools, unless they could meet an enhanced definition of charitable work. Overall, Home would seek to make a more generous settlement with the Arts.
A Greener Home
We would set an ambitious target date by which all cars on the road would have to be electric. We would abolish farming subsidies and rewild those areas of land that are unable to support agriculture. We would support a vote on the reintroduction of fox hunting. Greater support for historic fabric. We would limit the number of chain shops on our high streets. And offer tax encouragement for small, local businesses.
A Popular Home
Home is a patriotic party. Not narrowly nationalist, but nonetheless proud of our heritage. It believes in stable communities, full of people who are very definitely citizens of somewhere. Deracinated cosmopolitanism, and its accompanying philosophy of liberalism, has transformed us into a society of atomised individuals, cut off from each other and ill at ease together. Home is a proposal for the fightback.