Sunday, February 07, 2010
We talk a lot about Labour Values, but can often be a bit vague about exactly what they are. Yet, particularly at times like this when hard decisions are called for, it's important we are clear about what we stand for and why!
Our values provide the distinctive basis on which we seek to govern - a better way of doing things.
Perhaps our most important value is fairness. We know life isn't fair - everyone gets dealt a different hand of cards at the start - but we do believe everyone deserves a fair chance in life. That's one of the reasons Labour has put such an emphasis on education.
Fairness is also important when difficult decisions have to be made. People aren't stupid. They know hard times require tough choices, but they want to see the hardship shared out fairly, with the broadest backs shouldering the biggest burden.
Obviously we had to keep the banking system afloat last year - if we hadn't the cash machines would have stopped, pension funds would have collapsed and house repossessions would have gone though the roof. But it's NOT fair that those who caused the crisis carry on receiving massive bonuses as if nothing had happened.
Empathy is about more than being able to see the other persons point of view - it's about being able to see the world as they see it - "if you can walk a mile in the other mans' shoes...."
If we are to win the support of different groups in society we need to understand both how they see the world and why they see it that way. We don't have to agree with them, but we do have to understand them and to do that we have to listen.
Along with this goes compassion. Labour people have always been at the forefront of helping people in trouble or who are down on their luck. It's our natural instinct and it's one to encourage.
Toughness has to be an important value for Labour. If we know something is right we have to stand our ground and face up to the opposition. All our gains, from the NHS to the minimum wage have been made in the face of massive opposition from vested interests.
Solidarity is key for the Labour movement. We believe we achieve things when we work together and when sections of our movement are under attack we stand shoulder to shoulder with them. That's why we believe in Trade Unions and co-operation.
That solidarity leads us to support international co-operation whether it be at the UN or the European Union.
Freedom - from the Tolpuddle martyrs to the campaign against the blacklist and the fight against apartheid, the Labour movement has always been at the forefront of defending and advancing civil liberties. For us the rights and dignity of the individual are crucial. Too many people are only interested in"the bigger picture" without considering how decisions affects people real lives.
Security is of vital importance for all of us. Everyone has the fundamental right to live their lives and go about their business free from fear - whether it's the fear of burglars, muggers or terrorist lunatics. Too often in the past the Tories tried to paint us as soft on crime, when in fact it is working class communities and vulnerable groups who suffer the most.
People also have the right to go to work safely that's why Health & Safety legislation at work is so important.
Many other values underpin our approach to government - working for prosperity, honesty in government. Combining them in our policies can be difficult - how do we match the need for security with civil liberties, the need for fairness with rewards for hard work. There is no easy guide for Labour governance whether at local or national level. When we get it right it can make a difference to the lives of millions of people.