Belfast Telegraph

Labour values hold key to a fresh political approach

As workers and pensioners pay the price for millionaires' tax-breaks more young people here are turning to Labour for answers, says Boyd Black

As the Troubles recede into the past, a new political organisation is slowly, but surely establishing itself in Northern Ireland - the Labour Party. For many, the feeling is the time is right for a different type of politics.

People are reeling from the austerity agenda of the Tory-led Government at Westminster. Living standards are under attack and jobs are under threat.

Then the Government, in its Budget, decides to favour millionaires with a tax-break worth £40,000-per-head - paid for by putting additional burdens on ordinary working people and pensioners.

A Labour government would give a fairer deal to ordinary people to help them through the hard times.

And then we have our devolved Executive at Stormont. We welcome the fact the Executive is starting to take some necessary big decisions. But we despair at the communal nature of our shared-out Government. The institutions seem to incentivise communal politics.

Westminster's austerity economic agenda impacts much more harshly on us, because of the costs of division arising from our adversarial, communal politics. That is why we need the Labour Party, which is based on Labour values, not communal values.

The important thing about Labour values is they are shared by ordinary people across the communal divide. Labour values have survived the Troubles and are coming to the fore in this recession.

People are realising these values are more necessary than ever if we are to survive what is an old-fashioned crisis of capitalism.

A shared belief in Labour values can form the bedrock of a united Northern Irish Labour Party, which will stand up for all the people together.

The Labour Party in Northern Ireland started taking members in 2003 and was formally constituted in 2008. The party now has around 350 members, which is quite large by local standards.

An interesting feature of our membership is the large proportion of young people. They can see the attraction of, and need for, a fresh approach to politics.

We are currently building a branch structure. A new North-West branch was recently launched in Derry, following the establishment of a branch in mid-Antrim.

Our aim is to build our support to the point where we can realistically think of running candidates for election. We are currently in the middle of a consultation process with the Labour Party NEC on fighting elections.

Our aim is to develop a new style of anti-sectarian politics and to replace the old-style communal politics with Labour Party politics.

We want to improve people's lives. Our focus will be on looking after people's interests: in the workplace, on housing, on the health service, on crime, on education and skills.

We will have a supportive attitude to the trade unions. We will encourage voluntary and community groups and the development of mutual organisations.

We will be pro-active in promoting business investment and entrepreneurship to meet the urgent need for jobs. However, we have grave reservations about the campaign for a reduced rate of corporation tax here.

In a recent article making the case for a reduction, the chair of the CBI in Northern Ireland did not see fit to mention that a corporation tax cut could result in a reduction of the Westminster grant-in-aid of anything up to £500m.

We are unconvinced that any foreign investment benefits from a tax-cut would sufficiently offset the massive additional cuts in public service jobs and services that would ensue.

The Labour Party offers everyone the opportunity for a fresh start and the chance to build a better future.

But Labour will only succeed if people will us to succeed and give us their support.

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