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“LABOUR has reinvented itself by moving decisively to the left,” TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said in the annual Jimmy Reid memorial lecture in Glasgow last night.
Ms O’Grady praised the “Scandinavian model” of social democracy for demonstrating that “with fair taxation you can deliver world-class childcare and social care,” designing “whole cities … around the needs of children” and accepting that “the great majority of working people should be protected by collective bargaining.”
But the TUC leader pointed out that “the world has changed” and social democracy was increasingly failing.
“Since the crash, many social democratic parties have tanked at the ballot box. In France the Socialists attracted just 6 per cent of voters in last year’s presidential elections … and in Denmark it pains me to say that on immigration the social democrats’ rhetoric seems to be trying to outflank that of the right, blaming the victims of poverty for so-called ghettoes. Scapegoating migrants for society’s ills.”
By contrast Labour had shown “there is an alternative,” she argued.
“Yes, it has its work cut out to inspire the same confidence and hope in blue-collar heartlands that it has inspired among the young. But having started [the election campaign] with 27 per cent support by election day four in 10 people cast their vote for a party with a red-blooded popular programme.”
Jimmy Reid had challenged “the right of any man in business or in government to tell a fellow human being that he or she is expendable” and Ms O’Grady said that should be trade unionists’ guiding principle in a world of “tech giants” seeking “not just to drive down wages and drive up profits but to redefine work itself.”
She added: “Uber is a transport firm but owns no vehicles and employs no drivers. Amazon likes to call its warehouses ‘fulfilment centres’ but it tags staff like cattle.”
But it didn’t have to be that way if the labour movement ensures that “the promised gains from technological change mean more time for ourselves and our families,” she said, invoking the spirit of Jimmy Reid to call for “a new class politics, a new shared identity, a new humane socialism.”
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