The Board of Deputies of British Jews (BoD) published ten ‘pledges’, to be adhered to by every candidate standing for leader of the Labour Party. That intervention was widely criticised, although the Labour leadership contenders were quick to agree to those demands without criticism.
But while antisemitism, where proven, should always be condemned, there are other issues, which affect the whole of society that also need addressing.
I have therefore also written ten demands – for a more progressive and fairer society. While many of these demands are not dissimilar to the policies in the 2019 Labour manifesto, some go on to another level. They are but a beginning.
The BoD pledges
Here are the BoD pledges (demands):
Today we release our #TenPledges, identifying 10 key points we believe Labour needs to sign up to in order to begin healing its relationship with the Jewish community.
We would expect candidates for Labour Leader or Deputy Leader to publicly & unequivocally endorse these in full pic.twitter.com/fN66jv00c7
Read on...Support us and go ad-free
— Board of Deputies of British Jews (@BoardofDeputies) January 12, 2020
But Jewish Voice for Labour was quick to condemn the BoD’s interference:
That this hostile body should be given a prominent – if not dominant – voice in the internal affairs of the Labour Party beggars belief.
And Jews Sans Frontieres went on to point out the faults in each of the ten pledges:
All of the Board of Deputies' pledges are at best questionable, mostly wrong and two are potentially illegal. I don't know who produced this critique but it shows all the Labour leadership contenders to be utterly useless In combating racism & antisemitism. pic.twitter.com/FeomRXrvXF
— Jews Sans Frontieres (@jewssf) January 13, 2020
It could be argued that the publication of the ten pledges by the BoD was an act designed to cause further trouble within the Labour Party, and so exasperate divisions at a time when unity is crucial.
But there are big differences between the BoD demands and that of the MCB, as pointed out by The Canary’s Ed Sykes:
While the former [BoD] seeks to exclude voices it disapproves of, the latter actively encourages inclusivity.
Another difference is that the BoD appeared to target only Labour (a committed anti-racist party), without demanding the backing of Conservative leader Boris Johnson or any other party leader. The MCB, meanwhile, called on “all party leaders” to adopt its pledges.
- End discrimination against anyone because of their ethnicity, gender, sexuality, age or disability. This will be more successfully achieved through education.
- Ensure free movement of people; no borders. (That will likely mean a close relationship by the UK with the EU.) Refugees welcomed.
- All education to be free – from primary through to tertiary; every education establishment to be properly funded; restoration of student grants. Education should be seen as a resource for society, not merely as an obligation by government.
- All utility companies to be taken back into public hands; all water, energy supplies, public transport, communication facilities to be free. No one should ever have to go without water and energy supplies for lack of money; likewise, free public transport and communications – phone, internet etc – will mean we all benefit from unfettered access to those resources.
- No one should be homeless; a massive expansion of council housing should be commenced and properties to be rent-free. Homelessness is a shame on any society; housing is a basic right.
- NHS to be fully funded and dental treatment included (no charges applied, including prescriptions); integrate with social care, including elderly care. No resources should be spared from such an expanded health service; no one should have to worry about how life will be in old age.
- End all zero-hour contracts; minimum wage to be initially increased to £20 per hour and reviewed annually; reorganise welfare payments system, so that everyone in need gets all the support required and no food-banks are needed. The current minimum wage, even with its paltry increase by the Tories, is an insult; it, together with zero-hour contracts and retrogressive working conditions, serves only to consolidate an underclass for the benefit of the well-off. We also need to restore the powers of trade unions and facilitate the collectivisation of workplaces and industries.
- No one should have to work in monotonous jobs; everyone should have the opportunity to improve their skills in whatever field they wish to pursue; lifelong learning for all. No one should have to work in order to eat or find shelter; instead, we should seek a society where work and leisure are integrated.
- A commitment to never go to war; abolish weapons of mass destruction and gradually reduce other weaponry. War is an abomination, justified murder; we need to lead the way and show other countries that war can be dispensed with.
- Do whatever is necessary to ensure the UK plays its part in fighting global warming and establish a greener country. We need to transform our personal lives and our national infrastructure to help ensure the planet is not destroyed by our recklessness.
And that would only be a start. Or as the Situationist slogan of Paris May ’68 went: “Be realistic: demand the impossible”.
We fight on
For right now, we are at war – a class war. And we are all angry.
So, it’s either capitulate, or we fight on until we have won.
Featured image via R2hox/Flickr
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