Harriet's Progressive Promise

You would have thought that Gordon Brown's Labour Party is in such dire straits that it is far beyond rescue. You would have also thought that the only credible and principled MPs are those that stepped down from senior positions and/or resigned and demanded that Brown does likewise. Yet Labour's Deputy Leader, Harriet Harman, has some interesting proposals amongst which is the so-called 'progressive promise' to citizens in Britain. Theoretically it is an idea to reform democracy in Britain yet it is also one desperate but interesting attempt at fashioning Labour into a credible political force now that Britain is a year shy from general elections.

Harman, like most politicians, is not uncontroversial. One pitiful idea was that she tried to pass a motion to hide MPs public expenses but it seems that she is beyond that. Speaking in a conference organized by center-left think tank Compass she has reiterated the need of legislation that will usher in complete transparency in all MPs expenses, an authority independent of parliament to monitor MPs expenses and the payback of all claims that went beyond the legal limit. She has also questioned whether MPs should be allowed to have second jobs arguing that MPs must be primarily focused on representing their constituents and that second jobs might create conflicts of interest.

At the heart of the 'progressive promise' is the vision for the future of Britain and the politicians' understanding of the hopes people have for the future. She claims that the global economic recession "will precipitate a new economic order which we must shape so it will usher in a new social order which must be based on fairness and equality." The deputy leader demands that there must exist a universal equality the objective of which is to be inclusive of all in that no person should be shunned, bullied or undervalued because of his or her race, gender, age, sexual orientation, etc.

"Renewing democracy is not just solving a problem or a means to a progressive end but it is an end in itself that there should be a sharing of power as well as a sharing of wealth as part of our progressive promise." To this end Labour is pushing for a reform of the House of Lords, a written constitution a new voting system for Westminster and tackling the "monstrous inequality" of 3 million voters not on the electoral register.

Harman also spoke about values and principles which the Labour government brought forward such as the national minimum wage and the right of women to become MPs. She admits that such values were populist but did not "shrink away from controversy". It is in this spirit that Britain must not shrink from controversy over the EU debate; Britain needs a close relationship with the EU as it is the only way forward for the economy, the environment and security. Neither must Britain shrink away from action needed to sustain the environment. Finally Britain must not avoid debate about strengthening democracy and enhancing equality. The Equality Bill which was drafted last April will place a legal duty on all public authorities to narrow the gap between rich and poor. Equally important is the introduction family friendly measures such as the creation of more child and youth centres in all neighbourhoods so that parents will feel safer about their children and this will also give them a chance to work.

The same Equality Bill will also take to task the fascist BNP which saw its popularity soar in the MEP elections. The BNP's membership clause states that it represents a collective of Anglo-Saxon, Celtic and Norse folk communities and the European race resident Britian. Basically it is a party for indiginous caucasians only. The Equality Bill would make it illegal for political parties to operate a clause that rejects black persons and asians because according to Harman "we cannot have political apartheid in Britain."

Finally Harman harshly criticises Tory leader David Cameron. She argues that a Tory government in 2010 would be devastating for Britain. Cameron's conservative party has for starters said no to the Equality Bill which she holds so dear. Secondly Cameron now openly supports a 10% reduction in public spending as well as a marked reduction in inheritance tax much to the pride and joy of the wealthy folk. Her final message is that if there is anyone out there who believes that Cameron will take the Conservatives to the center, favors equality and public spending, is fair on taxes and unemployment he or she better think again.

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