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Chinese for Labour's Patron, Liam Byrne argues that the left must call time on neoliberalism, move beyond both old-style statism and New Labour and embrace a new entrepreneurial socialism.
 
He sets out proposals for a new Clause IV that puts the fight against inequalities of power centre stage – and in place of top-down solutions of the past, Byrne argues for a 21st century 'opportunity state' with a radical new approach to harnessing innovation and entrepreneurialism to increase people's economic, social and political power.

Entrepreneurial socialism and the case for a new clause IV

Chinese for Labour's Patron, Liam Byrne argues that the left must call time on neoliberalism, move beyond both old-style statism and New Labour and embrace a new entrepreneurial socialism.  He... Read more

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Recent events have escalated the debate around immigration to beyond the corridors of Westminster. From listening to people in my community, the recent rhetoric has been lacking in both substance and form.

The brutal tone and language deployed by national figures of late has tarnished our reputation for compassion and justice words such as ‘abusing’, ‘tough’, relay exaggerated visions of the living dead creeping up beyond our shoreline. Sensationalist headlines accompanied by images of people clinging onto lorries, desperate for a way out, seeing our country as a place of hope, an escape from poverty, pain and brutality. What happened to our compassion and empathy?

“Students, yes. Over-stayers, no. And the universities must make this happen,” said Theresa May.

Some of the brightest and best in the world choose to save up, work and study at our universities and yet we choose to banish these bright young things back home? We need all the talent we can get. Such a view is not only short-term but woefully lacking in foresight. These students are our future teachers, professors, dentists, architects, designers, engineers and entrepreneurs.  I believe the British public will not fall for such empty rhetoric designed to score cheap political points.

Our success as a nation has been built on immigration within the framework of British laws, values and a culture of inclusion. A report published today by University College London’s Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration concluded that immigrants from the 10 countries who joined the EU in 2004 contributed more to the UK than they took out in benefits. They added £4.96bn more in taxes in the years to 2011 than they took out in public services.http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-29910497.

Go to any hospital and look around you at the doctors, nurses and staff to see how immigration has benefitted us. Go to your local high street for a meal and marvel at the collection of world kitchens available for your gastronomic delight. People who settle here and build a life for themselves and their families will be the workers of the future their kids will become our future creating the wealth to ensure our pensions and retirement. This is how we can face the future together, by remembering our values and rejecting divisiveness. Of course we need to ensure fairness and a level playing field for all, policies to enforce the national living wage, clamping down on irresponsible employers and tackling illegal human trafficking.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with people wanting to be British and building a better life. After all that’s what my parents did in 1970.

Vincent Lo is the Vice Chair and Treasurer for Chinese for Labour. If you would like to write for Chinese for Labour, or have any events that would be of interest to our community then please email at alvin.shum@chineseforlabour.org. 

Why Theresa May is so wrong

  Recent events have escalated the debate around immigration to beyond the corridors of Westminster. From listening to people in my community, the recent rhetoric has been lacking in both...

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At the moment, it seems one of the big questions is – how Labour are you really? As we couldn’t have experienced more viscerally than since 7 May, the party that we love covers a huge spectrum of people from all walks of live, with their different experiences, perspectives and approaches. And it’s growing by the day. In an age of such frustration at politics, Jeremy Corbyn can take great heart from and credit for that.

Reaching out to micro businesses and self-employed: The Labour Party Way

At the moment, it seems one of the big questions is – how Labour are you really? As we couldn’t have experienced more viscerally than since 7 May, the party... Read more

Labour will only win election if it represents people who own and work for small businesses, firms employing between zero and nine people. These people are not posh. They’re not privileged. They’re not greedy or selfish or stupid. They work hard, they want to get on, but they also care about their neighbours and the communities we share. They’re our people, and we’re their party - or we are nothing. If we don’t speak for the 0-9ers, we will never win another election.

We have to be the party of everybody, or we’re the party of nobody

Labour will only win election if it represents people who own and work for small businesses, firms employing between zero and nine people. These people are not posh. They’re not... Read more

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Chinese for Labour attended the Annual Co-operative Party Conference in London over the weekend. Gareth Thomas MP and Chair of the Co-op opened the session giving much thanks to the outgoing General Secretary Karin Christiansen. Having overseen a period of change in the Co-op Karin has steered the team through some difficult times and built a platform for future progress of co-op values. 

Stella Creasy Labour & Co-op MP for Walthamstow discussed the importance of the Co-op movement for equality and fairness and responsible practice. There were a number of well run breakout sessions and further speeches from people involved in the Co-op. The conference was well attended by people who share similar values and many new friendships were formed.

Chinese for Labour's stand was well attended and many fortune cookies were happily consumed. Our fortune now turns to building a more fairer and equal society were all people including the British Chinese are represented in public life.

Annual Co-Op Party Conference

Chinese for Labour attended the Annual Co-operative Party Conference in London over the weekend. Gareth Thomas MP and Chair of the Co-op opened the session giving much thanks to the...

Chinese for Labour is one of the Socialist Societies affiliated to the Labour Party. We were founded in 1999, affiliated in 2010 and act as a bridge between the Labour Party and British Chinese and East Asian communities. Our activities including fundraising, campaigning for the Party and raising awareness on issues that affect our ethnic communities. With over 400,000 ethnic Chinese in the UK it is the fastest growing ethnic minority population and on top of this are many other East Asians and those of mixed heritage.

As part of the Labour Leadership election campaign we asked the leadership candidates a series of questions. We've split the questions into two parts. The first part contained general questions focusing on BAME issues, while the second released today are specifically related to the Chinese community.

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1. Chinese for Labour has campaigned with others on the issue of problem gambling (which is thought to be as prevalent as Class A drug use) and the proliferation of bookmakers for many years. We think it’s bad for those individuals and their families but also our neighbourhoods and communities. What can and will you do about it as Leader of the Opposition?

LK: Labour needs to win power in order to give it away, so that people have more control in their communities. They are best placed to hear from community concerns about areas disproportionately targeted by bookmakers and other gambling providers - and act where there are local issues.

AB: I understand that problem gambling is an important issue affecting many communities across the UK.  I am committed to giving local authorities more power to control their high streets including over the presence of bookmakers, fixed—odds betting terminals and other gambling establishments.

YC: Problem gambling is a serious issue and we must ensure that this is tackled properly.  As Leader of the Labour Party, I think we should look again at making sure local councils have the powers and resources to tackle this problem.  As part of this, we should push for measures that give local residents more of a say in new licences issued.

JC: The overall provision for help to those with a variety of addictive problems, whether through the NHS or social services, is insufficient in general and for those with addictive gambling problems almost non-existent.  This should be extended as should help to the affected families.

There should be a limit to the number of licences for bookmakers and other gambling outlets in an area and the power of councils to block licenses and applications should be extended, and to limit the prevalence of fixed odds betting machines.

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2. Many Chinese Associations in the UK do a great job in providing services for the elderly Chinese population including lunch clubs, advocacy and healthy living classes. As NHS and social care funding has been squeezed under this government Chinese Associations have had to cut back and some have ceased. How would you close the growing funding gap for the NHS and social care?

AB: Labour created the NHS to free people from the fear of medical fees.  We now need to do the same with care charges.

I am putting forward a radical vision for the NHS and Social Care.  I am committed to applying the NHS principle to social care – where everybody is asked to make a contribution according to their means and where everybody has the peace of mind of knowing that all of their care needs, and those of their family, are covered.

YC: The NHS is under huge strain and staff are bearing the brunt of this. There's a shortage of midwives and nurses, doctors and care workers continue to operate under immense pressure.

It was extremely disappointing to see that the Tories have already broken their promise on capping the cost of social care.  It's clear the Conservatives have no qualms about making empty promises to win elections with no intention of honouring them.  This will impact massively on our NHS, which is already struggling under the weight of crippling social care costs and demonstrates our health service is not safe in Jeremy Hunt and David Cameron's hands.

We need a strong Labour leader who can take on the Tories from day one.  As Labour leader I will always hold David Cameron and Jeremy Hunt to account on their broken promises on the NHS and Social Care.

JC: The voluntary sector has always played a vital role in supplementing public provision. The devastating cuts to local government grants, and by an NHS struggling with PFI debts, has had a huge impact on grants to local voluntary organisations - and the communities they serve.

We should bring together Health & Social Care into a single service with ring-fenced funding. The cuts to social care are anyway a false economy: increasing the burdens on NHS A&Es, hospitals and GP surgeries.

LK: This is one of the greatest challenges that we face as a society and something on which have worked closely as a shadow minister. The four policies that I would introduce as leader of a Labour government would be to:

•   Give families the right to choose their own carer.

•   End the scandal of low pay for carers.

•  Outlaw carers not being paid for travel time and having to buy their own uniforms.

•  Close Assessment Treatment Units to protect those with learning disabilities and ensure an improved standard of care.

These policies will be funded by a sustainable and responsible economic policy, not by irresponsible promises.

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3. What are your thoughts on Government policy towards China and East Asia and what would you differently if you were Prime Minister

YC: It is important to build on our strong relationship with China, including efforts to support sustainable growth in the international economy, and to maintain dialogue between our two countries through the UK-China strategic dialogue on human rights and democracy. We should also be working together to seek a stable and non-nuclear Korean peninsula and to tackle climate change.

LK: I want to lead a Labour Party and a country that looks out to the world and shows leadership on the international stage. On issues like climate change, we can’t simply look and act inward but we have to work across borders in order to have an impact. China is the world’s second largest economy and a permanent member of the UN Security Council, so we can’t afford not to keep a good relationship between our two countries.

I want to maintain a dialogue that is positive on co-operation on trade, education and climate change and firm on issues like human rights.

JC: The success of China in rising from one of the poorest  countries in the world to a moderately prosperous society, lifting 650 million people out of UN defined poverty, is an inspiring achievement, all in the space of half a century.

There are many lessons from that we should be open to learning from this success. For too long China was approached with closed minds in the west. Happily this is beginning to change and more people are taking an interest in the culture of one fifth of humanity.

China is a growing trading partner for the UK, which can aid our economy. We also have much to learn from some east Asian countries that have invested in good infrastructure (e.g. rail and superfast broadband) and are reaping the economic benefits of that investment. I agreed with the UK joining the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank despite US objections.

All of this means we should build close diplomatic, economic and trading relations with China, amplified by cultural exchanges and regular government to government dialogue, within which we can discuss all issues of concern between our countries.

The present government has taken some steps on this but more are needed. I am committed to a peaceful world and am concerned about the growing arms build up in east Asia. I am concerned by proposals to change Japan’s constitution to allow it to extend its militarisation. The US has stepped up its military presence in east Asia and the region is becoming much less stable. The UK’s role should be to help ensure peace not inflame regional tensions.

We have a commitment to human rights, and to creating a more peaceful world. So we have to raise these issues, even when we know it may be uncomfortable. I recently visited Iran on a delegation with Jack Straw and Lord Lamont - and raised human rights concerns as well as trade issues. We need an honest and open dialogue with all countries.  

AB: Trade links between the UK and East Asian economies are important and we should encourage investment from overseas.  Andy will therefore continue a healthy and stable development of UK-China relations as well as with other East Asian countries.

 

If you would like to write for Chinese for Labour, or have any events that would be of interest to our community then please email at alvin.shum@chineseforlabour.org. 

Chinese for Labour: Leadership Questions Part 2

Chinese for Labour is one of the Socialist Societies affiliated to the Labour Party. We were founded in 1999, affiliated in 2010 and act as a bridge between the Labour...

Chinese for Labour is one of the Socialist Societies affiliated to the Labour Party. We were founded in 1999, affiliated in 2010 and act as a bridge between the Labour Party and British Chinese and East Asian communities. Our activities including fundraising, campaigning for the Party and raising awareness on issues that affect our ethnic communities. With over 400,000 ethnic Chinese in the UK it is the fastest growing ethnic minority population and on top of this are many other East Asians and those of mixed heritage.

As part of the Labour Leadership election campaign we asked the leadership candidates a series of questions. We've split the questions into two parts. The first part are more general questions directed to BAME communities, while the second released tomorrow are specifically related to the Chinese community.

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1. What should Labour’s response be to the Immigration Bill coming forward in this Parliamentary session?

AB: Immigration has made an important contribution to the UK, our public services and the diverse country it makes us, but we must address the real concerns of people across the country.  That is why I am seeking to reform EU rules.  Under my leadership we will continue to support free movement, but freedom to work will not be a freedom to claim benefits before contributing.

I will hold the government to account in delivering a package of reform that meets public concerns.  If David Cameron fails to address these concerns, he risks sleepwalking the UK into EU exit.

YC: Britain for centuries has been an outward looking, diverse nation – that is what has made it possible for our small island nation to punch above our weight on the world stage, for British inventions to lead the way from the industrial revolution to the world wide web, for the English language to become the dominant worldwide currency. In today’s global economy, that outward looking approach is more important than ever and migration is more important than ever.

But if we are to maintain it we have to tackle the challenges that globalisation brings, and the real problems in our immigration system which are in danger of undermining confidence. That means stopping the exploitation of low-skilled migration that hurts everyone, starting with making exploitation a crime. It means tackling abuse of the visa system to make sure confidence is upheld, and it means sorting out the Home Office so the system works properly and efficiently.

 JC: We should oppose it. The proposal to expel migrant workers who are not on a certain salary level is simply unjust.

If workers are underpaid then exploitative employers should be punished not the workers themselves for a second time. 

Expecting landlords to police their tenants is unworkable. It will increase discrimination towards BAME people in getting tenancies, as landlords will see non-white applicants as ‘risky’.

LK: For all the benefits that immigration brings, we should also recognise the impact of globalisation on everyone in society. Eliminating low pay would be one of my top priorities as leader, and I want to see more done so that workers cannot be exploited by unscrupulous employers.

The tough talking from Theresa May and the Tories on issues like student visas has been seriously misplaced. The UK’s universities are recognised around the world for their outstanding quality, and our efforts should be put in to making sure they continue to succeed, not making foreign students feel that they are not welcome to come here to learn.

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2. BAME voters have been part of Labour’s core vote over the past few decades, yet polling by British Future and Survation has suggested that they are beginning to swing away from Labour to the Tories in large numbers. This will obviously be significant (especially in marginal seats) as the BAME population is set to grow. What should Labour do to get them back?

YC: In the Labour Party we pride ourselves on our commitment to fairness, equality and social justice. But with over a million ethnic minority voters choosing the Tories at the last election, Labour cannot be complacent.   If we are not representative of our voters, how can we hope to keep their support

The Parliamentary Labour Party still falls short when it comes to the representation of BAME communities. As Labour Leader I will put that right. I want to see Labour more than double the number of BAME MPs in a Labour majority Parliament. I will oversee a taskforce engaging with BAME MPs, councillors, NEC members and local Party activists, to ensure a step change in support for BAME candidates and activists.  Labour’s BAME taskforce will report to me and will also look at measures such as bursary schemes to support aspiring candidates with training and support with selections.

LK: As an MP who has spent years building trust and respect in a constituency with a hugely diverse community, I was concerned to see that at the last general election our support declined amongst BAME voters. I have no doubt that this cost us the chance of winning many seats. There are many people out there who clearly didn’t trust Labour with their vote, many of them in the BAME community.

 We need to rebuild trust in our party across the electorate. That starts by building a credible alternative to Conservative government that works nationally, but we need to also understand how we can win back voters at a local level.

As leader, of course I want to see many, many more Labour MPs after the next election and I want more of those to be BAME MPs. I want to hear more from groups like Chinese for Labour on how we can address that issue of trust at a local level. I also want to hear how you think we build the national campaign needed the win a broader spectrum of the BAME vote next time around.

JC: Labour has a proud record of tackling racism and defending migrants' rights. We are the party that introduced the Race Relations Acts and the Equality Act.

But Labour has lost votes right across the country and from all ethnicities. We have lost touch with our supporters, been cowed by the press and powerful commercial interests. We need to reconnect with our communities right across Britain, involve members, affiliates and supporters in making our policy, and be proud to stand up for what we believe in.

We can win back support if we draw on our greatest strength: our people, listen to them and provide credible policies that meet their concerns.

 

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3. The government has resurrected Labour proposals on helping to close the gender pay gap by increasing pay transparency. How should Labour close the ethnic pay gap and how can we ensure that there is fair promotion and progression of BAME people in the both public and private sector jobs?

 JC: As well as the gender pay gap, there is an ethnic minority and disability pay gap too. That's why I have proposed equal pay audits be published by all employers so that discrimination cannot be hidden, both within pay grades and across staff structures.

By raising the minimum wage to a living wage and giving all workers equal rights from day one, we can address the low pay and exploitation that affects workers in many sectors.

But we know that there is further discrimination against BAME people.

YC: Equality for all goes to the very heart of my politics.  We must always do everything we can to improve diversity across both public and private life.

As Labour leader, I would place a legal requirement on police forces to increase diversity and will change the law to allow New York-style “affirmative action” in recruitment policies.  For our Armed Forces, we need change so that recruitment processes reach out to all areas of British society.  BAME representation in the civil service is still below the national average, especially at senior levels. So as Labour Prime Minister, I will require annual updates on progress from every Government department to improve BAME recruitment at all levels.

LK: The working-age population of ethnic minority groups is growing faster than the average but on current projections by 2022 the existing ethnic inequalities in the labour market will remain stubbornly persistent.

So as leader Labour I'd champion increased BAME representation across the public and private sector - working with businesses and the public sector to make all organisations - including the Labour Party - far more representative of the country itself.

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4. How can we encourage more diversity in the arts and media?

YC: We cannot underestimate the importance of diversity in the arts and media and more needs to be done in this area.  For example, we need to put the arts and media back at the heart of education, so children from all backgrounds have access to these fields throughout their lives.

I want to smash the glass ceilings of British society. Because it is only by improving diversity and increasing opportunities across all areas of society that Britain can finally become a country where people are able to fulfil their potential regardless of background, colour or their start in life.

LK: It’s essential that schools teach pupils about chances in life they might not know exist - there should be no door closed on you simply because you didn’t grow up in London, or that your parents didn’t know the right people.  Arts and media should no more be a closed shop to the BAME community than science and engineering should be to young women.

JC: The bias in arts funding against ethnic minority and diverse assets has been exacerbated by the cuts to the Arts Council. 

The first thing that’s needed is an economic policy to restore growth that can increase the funding available to government for the arts in general. We need an end to the Tory approach that only the market should determine what arts are available. This inevitably advantages the most commercial, mainstream and profitable cultural products and undermines minority, community and more diverse assets.

We need government to be a vocal champion of greater diversity in the arts and media. 

Our party has made great strides in becoming more representative of British society (and groups like Chinese for Labour have helped us achieve that), but there are still challenges to overcome in our party, in politics more widely, and in all fields of British life.

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5. Chinese for Labour has always held a strong interest in immigration policy and its links to the labour market. For example, during the early 2000s we lobbied for a points-based immigration system and a Gangmasters Licensing Authority. We’ve heard a lot from Leadership candidates about dealing with challenges of immigration. What do you think the benefits of immigration are and how would you maximise them?

AB: Over 80,000 of China’s brightest and best students come to study in our universities every year.  I condemn the current government’s unfair policy towards international students and believe we should instead look to develop our relationship with communities and connections around the world.

YC: Over many centuries Britain has benefited from the ideas and talents of those who have come here from abroad – including from the Chinese Community. We need managed migration to get the top talent and investment we need, for our world class universities to compete internationally, or to meet skills shortages in the NHS.

We need more brilliant students coming to study, to make sure we can get the top talent to grow our businesses, and ensure skills shortages are filled. And British citizens need to travel and trade to promote our exports, and seek new opportunities.

JC: Immigration has been of great benefit to our country economically, socially and culturally - and we must protect freedom of movement in any EU renegotiations.

We also need to improve the procedures for non EU migration. The attempts of the last coalition government to limit immigration to an arbitrary target figure meant they could not take account of business needs, undermined family reunions, and attacked economically beneficial migration such as students coming to study here. It has also undermined tourism from newly emerged economies like China, when visitors are put off by the hurdles they have to go through to get a visa.

We have just seen the ridiculous spectacle of the British government defending Ai Wei Wei in China then having to apologise for blocking his visa to come here. The tourism visa for visitors from China had to be overhauled. We should stop treating Chinese tourists like potential ‘illegal immigrants’ and start treating them like the high spending visitors they actually are. Rather than the hangover colonial attitude to China we should treat it and its citizens with respect.

The grounds for skilled migration need to be changed to include skills like Chinese cuisine and cookery. 

The proposal to expel long term migrants who are not earning above a certain amount is ridiculous and must be opposed. As well as the obvious injustice it will impact on the NHS in particular and on workers in restaurants and hospitality industry which need diverse language and cultural skills.

But we need to do more to prevent the exploitation of migrant workers: strengthening workplace and trade union protections; putting extra resources into enforcement of the minimum wages; and extending the remit of the gangmasters licensing authority.

We also need to ensure that the housing crisis is tackled by allowing councils to borrow to build a new generation of council housing. We must explain how austerity is a political choice not an economic necessity, and oppose any attempt to scapegoat migrant communities. We must never pander to xenophobia and racism, but address issues in a rational and open way.

LK: I’m very proud to represent a constituency in one of the UK’s most diverse cities. Immigration has not just been good for places like Leicester, it has been essential to them maintaining their place in the national and global economy. In order for that to continue, we need to make sure that we have an immigration system that is fair for all concerned. I think, for example, that Chinese for Labour were absolutely right to advocate a points-based immigration system as a means of making sure that we have the necessary skills for our economy to grow.

Tomorrow, our second set of questions to the leadership. If you would like to write for Chinese for Labour, or have any events that would be of interest to our community then please email at alvin.shum@chineseforlabour.org. 

 

Chinese for Labour: Leadership Questions

Chinese for Labour is one of the Socialist Societies affiliated to the Labour Party. We were founded in 1999, affiliated in 2010 and act as a bridge between the Labour...

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Chinese for Labour is proud to announce that our Vice-Chair Ashton McGregor is running as a prospective Labour candidate for the City and East seat on the London Assembly. The ongoing selection process to is to replace London Assembly member John Biggs, who was elected as Mayor of Tower Hamlets and will be stepping down from his City and East London seat. It's a fantastic step for the Chinese community towards greater representation in our political system.

The next step for Ash is a formal nomination from at least one of the parliamentary constituencies that comprise the City and East area (City of London, Bethnal Green & Bow, Poplar & Limehouse, East Ham, West Ham, Barking and Dagenham & Rainham). If you want to help Ash get elected as the Labour candidate for City & East then please contact Ash at ashlbth@hotmail.com or 07703 438881. Here's more from Ash:

Dear friends,

I'm writing to introduce myself as a prospective Labour candidate for the City and East seat on the London Assembly.

The seat will become vacant next year when John Biggs steps down. John has represented us brilliantly at City Hall since it came into being 15 years ago, across policing, transport and economic development. I shall especially miss the sight of him getting under Boris' skin during Mayor's Question Time!

Making a Home in East London

 I wasn't born a Londoner but - like so many people in East London - chose to become one. I made a positive choice to study, work and live in this city of opportunity: a magnet for people from hundreds of different cultures and backgrounds. 

Like so many private renters I moved all around the city, finally settling in Tower Hamlets nearly two decades ago. I've lived in Whitechapel, St Katharine's, the Isle of Dogs, Bromley and Mile End and I've been privileged to represent the Labour Party as a local councillor in Limehouse. It is in Tower Hamlets where I ran Jim Fitzpatrick's successful General Election campaign, finally getting rid of the divisive George Galloway from the borough once and for all. 

I love London but increasingly we see its divisions and strains; the huge gaps of wealth and opportunity rising under this Tory Government and Mayor. It's not just the poor who are being left behind. In a Labour London everyone must have a fair share in our city's success. 

My Public Service

For the past fourteen years I have worked for the Metropolitan Police Service - expanding neighbourhood policing into every single ward across London, securing funding for Sexual Assault Referral Centres (including for East London at Whitechapel) and settling up the Security Programme for the Olympics, the biggest peace-time security operation this country has ever seen. 

I have also worked across the NHS to tackle inequalities in health; improving access to services for young people, women, black and minority ethnic communities and those with disabilities. 

Why I'm Standing

I've been lucky. Despite not having the easiest of starts in life I was able to get on with the help of an incredibly supportive family and a good comprehensive school education. This allowed me to come to London and study, to get a decent job and to settle down here. It is a travesty that too many of our children in London do not have the same life chances I've had. 

Labour must be ambitious for London. A Labour London could be a place where every child has the opportunity and security to succeed, where our transport system is affordable and works, where we deal with London's housing crisis for all renters and those who want to buy, and provide a better quality of life for a growing city. 

Through working in our public services and as a grassroots Labour activist and councillor, I have fought tirelessly for Labour values and for the people who depend on us to stand up for them. It would be a privilege to do so for you on the London Assembly. 

 

Vice Chair Ash McGregor for City and East

Chinese for Labour is proud to announce that our Vice-Chair Ashton McGregor is running as a prospective Labour candidate for the City and East seat on the London Assembly. The...

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Firstly, we should applaud the Chancellor for finally agreeing with some of Labour’s policies. An increase in the minimum wage (even if he called it the ‘living’ wage), an increase in the number of free hours for childcare, and agreeing that the principle of non-domiciled tax status is unfair, are all policies that Labour first campaigned on. Now that the Tories (and the right-wing press) are in agreement with our side of the argument on these issues, we should push them to move faster and harder.

However, we should not get away from the fact that the Tories have unfairly punished the poorest in our society. The Chancellor attempts to obfuscate the issue by declaring the increase in the minimum wage, the ‘living wage,’ but the increase is well short of the actual living wage. Currently the 2015 living wage in London is £9.15/h, with the Chancellor promising to increase the minimum wage to £9/h by 2020, still less than the actual living wage. Furthermore, the Living Wage takes into account tax credits, many of which have been abolished or sharply curtailed. No matter how you look at the issue, the increase in the minimum wage cannot replace the loss of tax credits.

While, the Chancellor is right to ensure that our welfare budget is spent appropriately, withdrawing tax credits from those in need, without anything to replace them with is to vindictively punish the poorest in our society. The Chancellor has put the cart before the horse, choosing to remove tax credits without solving the underlying issues that necessitates their need.

The reality is that the Chancellor has produced a policy for short-term political gain, rather than long-term economic benefit. He has done little to address the long term economic problems with the levels of productivity less than France and Germany. True, the apprenticeship levy will help encourage businesses to invest in their personnel and help develop higher value and more productive workers. However, the Chancellor has little to say about addressing critical infrastructure issues. A mention of the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ in the budget statement sounds little more than rhetoric after the cancelled plans to electrify the northern railway network. Labour’s election pledge to allow for capital spend borrowing, makes increasingly more sense as it would have allowed for proper investment in our country’s infrastructure.

Yet the biggest indictment of Osborne’s short termism, is an alarming attack on the under 25s. The move from maintenance grants to loans, the loss of housing benefit and the ‘living’ wage only applying to over 25s all serve to punish the youth and will in the long term harm our economy. Is it fair for the poorest in our society to be priced out of education, when education is the most important factor in social mobility?

While the budget may be garbed with some of Labour's progressive policies, we should not shy away from the fact that the Chancellor has punished the poorest and youngest in our society for short-term political gain. If he truly wants to deal with the number of tax credits being claimed, then he must address the underlying issues, not remove them and hope for the best. 

Alvin Shum is the Communications Officer for Chinese for Labour. If you would like to write for Chinese for Labour, or have any events that would be of interest to our community then please email at alvin.shum@chineseforlabour.org. 

Budget Response

Firstly, we should applaud the Chancellor for finally agreeing with some of Labour’s policies. An increase in the minimum wage (even if he called it the ‘living’ wage), an increase...

Britain is a rich country. But not since a century ago has so much of our wealth been docked from so many to enrich so few.

Back in the 1910s, the richest 1% took home almost 20% of the income of this country. But from the 1920s on, along with the emergence of the Labour Party as a real political force, things began to change. By the 1970s, the top 1% earners were pocketing not 20%, but about 5% of all income. More money went into the pay packets of ordinary workers and more investment was put into public services for the benefit of all.

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All this changed with the ascendancy of Thatcherism and its plutocratic legacy. After 1979 the richest 1% were once again getting an ever larger share of our national income, and in the 2010s, we’re heading back towards the 20% share they held back in the 1910s. In 2012, the chief executives of the 100 largest companies on the London Stock Exchange were getting an average pay rise of 49% compared with average increase of just 3% for their employees. If we take financial assets as well as income into account, the richest 1% today own as much as the poorest 55% in the UK.

Is this because handing a larger share of our country’s money to the richest few is the only way to generate significantly higher growth? The reality is that from the founding of the NHS and the welfare state in 1948 to 1978, UK’s average real per capita GDP growth rate was 2.17%. The corresponding average growth during the Thatcher years of 1979-1990 was just 2.05%.

And do the top executives, who pay themselves 145 times the average pay of their employees, really work 145 times harder or endure 145 times more stress than the workers who have to struggle to get by in lowly positions with inadequate pay? Or are they just much more powerful because those in government have increasingly looked after their interests at the expense of everyone else?

Money is the most potent form of power in society today. It can buy up public assets, fracking licences, propaganda, litigation expertise, market advantages, not to mention political influence to shape laws and policies to suit the wealthiest 1%.

People work together to generate the wealth of this country, and they expect the fruits of their labour to be shared out fairly. Historically it has been the Labour Party that has been at the forefront in striving to secure this outcome. And it is time for Labour to be bold and clear in declaring that it stands for the 99%.

Four Core Commitments

To do this, it needs to be unequivocal about four core commitments.

First - the commitment to true enterprise. We don’t want the enterprise of the con-men whose one talent is to manipulate others into making money for them to siphon off to off-shore tax havens. We want Labour to promote true enterprise where genuinely beneficial talents and hard work, including the vital work carried out by countless carers at home, are rewarded fairly because they are of great value to society. Labour should give everyone a greater incentive in making their enterprise a success by promoting worker participation and ownership. And it should have clear plans for clamping down on corporate fraudsters and tax dodgers.

Secondly - the commitment to real security. Terrorist attacks threaten lives, but so do malnutrition, living in squalor, inadequate healthcare, domestic violence, delayed ambulance services, and riots fuelled by social divisions. We want to see Labour enhance the security of the people of this country, in relation to every from of life-endangering threat. And to achieve this, Labour must be ready to invest in the improvement of public services, the building of affordable homes, and the rebuilding of our NHS after the trauma it has been put through in the last five years.

Thirdly - the commitment to a sustainable economy. Deregulating the finance sector so much that banks could gamble away people’s savings and wreck the economy is a Thatcherite legacy that must be corrected. Financial schemes that take reckless risks with our money while dressed up as investment opportunities are not a substitute for the production of goods and services that meet people’s needs. Instead of contrived profits concocted for the few, Labour should support the development of renewable resources and zero-marginal cost productions so that everyone’s quality of life improves along with better protection for the environmental assets on which we all depend.

Last but not least, the commitment to honest democracy. Instead of talking about being localist but keeping power in Westminster, Labour should be fully dedicated to devolving more power to Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, London, and the diverse regions of England. Labour should be the leaders on political transparency and make MPs answerable to their constituents by having to declare and explain to them their expenses, external earnings, and gifts and donations received. It should also put an end to Ministers taking on any form of paid role with companies that have benefited by their actions for at least ten years after they leave office.

Henry Tam is Director of the Question the Powerful project, lecturer at Cambridge University and visiting professor at Birkbeck College, London University.

The article was originally published in February 2015 edition of The Orient - Chinese for Labour's bi-annual publication. If you have an idea for an article, or an event to share then please email alvin@chineseforlabour.org.

The Orient Archive: Labour for the ninety nine percent

Britain is a rich country. But not since a century ago has so much of our wealth been docked from so many to enrich so few. Back in the 1910s,...

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