2007: New Policies for a New Year
2007 doesn't have to be a repeat of the failures of 2006. New policies are needed at home and abroad.
New Labour isn't working. The Blairite strategy of Thatcherism lite has failed.
A once great party has lost its heart and soul. As 2007 dawns, all that Gordon Brown offers is more of the same. It is time for a radical rethink. Here are 10 policy ideas that might offer solutions to some of the key issues facing Britain and the world in 2007:
1. The withdrawal of US, British and other western forces from Iraq, and their replacement by UN peace-keepers (not war-fighters) drawn from African, Middle Eastern, Asian and Latin American countries. Our presence in Iraq is neo-imperialism. It is fuelling the insurgency. But unilaterally withdrawing western troops is likely lead to an even worse bloodbath. It would be just as immoral as maintaining the occupation. UN peace-keepers, under neutral UN command, are needed to stop the daily sectarian car-bombings, kidnappings and assassinations. Security is the precondition for Iraqis to determine their own future and to rebuild the country's infrastructure. They deserve the same freedom from political and sectarian violence as we, in Britain, deserve.
2. Armament and trade sanctions against Israel
and a boycott of oppressive Israeli institutions, to force Israel's withdrawal from its illegal occupation of the West Bank. When a nation wilfully defies international law for 40 years, something drastic has to be done. An Israeli pull-out from the West Bank, and the creation of a viable, independent Palestinian state, are the key to peace, equality, justice and security in the Middle East - for both Arabs and Jews.
3. Halt the creeping, back door privatisation of the National Health Service
and cut the bloated hospital bureaucracies. Fund frontline NHS services, not managers and consultancy firms. My cousin died in 2005, partly because funding shortfalls stopped her getting fast, hi-tech treatment. Doctors refused her request for a brain scan, which would have detected her tumour. Too many patients are dying needlessly every year because of cuts and closures.
4. No nuclear power expansion
The government should invest in job-creating energy conservation, which could cut our energy needs by 25%, and develop renewables like off-shore wind farms, and wave and tidal power, which could provide at least 50% of our energy requirements.
5. An all-inclusive Equal Rights Act
to standardise all equality laws in a single, comprehensive legal framework. The current uneven patchwork of equality laws is unfair and bad for community relations. It is wrong that some victims of discrimination have lesser legal protection and redress than others. Without universal equality legislation, the new Commission for Equality and Human Rights is bound to be split by divisions and resentments, which will impair its effectiveness.
6. Reform Labour's unjust and merciless asylum system
Detention without trial of asylum seekers is economic madness. Half of all asylum claimants have skills that Britain urgently needs. They should be allowed to work pending their hearings. This will reduce the cost of the asylum system by saving on accommodation and social security payments. Gainfully employed refugees would make a positive contribution to the economy and pay taxes. They would become financial assets, not burdens.
7. No more divisive faith schools
and the phased withdrawal of state funding from existing ones. They are a recipe for sectarian division. Just look at northern Ireland. Let children of all faiths, and those of no faith, mix together and understand their common humanity.
8. An elected head of state
Monarchy is incompatible with democracy. The royals are unelected and unaccountable. Let's have an elected president - a low-cost, purely ceremonial president, like the Germans and the Irish. This would make the people sovereign, not the royals. It would give us an important safeguard: if we don't like our head of state, we can elect a new one.
9. Ban medical research using primate species
Over 3,000 monkeys are subjected to experimentation in the UK every year. Some die; others suffer pain; and all experience extreme emotional distress due to long-term captivity and isolation in tiny cages. Instead, finance a global scientific effort to develop humane (and more efficient) alternatives to animal experimentation, similar to the replacement medical research methods pioneered by the Dr Hadwen Trust www.drhadwentrust.org.uk
10. Proportional representation for Westminster elections
to ensure the number of seats each party wins closely corresponds to the proportion of votes cast for each party. This would make for fairer, more representative government. An effective form of PR is the electoral system for the Scottish Parliament. It includes both constituency MPs and top-up additional MPs. Adopting this model for Westminster would end the political corruption whereby Labour secured less than 36% of the votes cast at the last general election, but bagged 55% of the seats. This isn't democracy. It is a rigged electoral system that echoes some of the notorious tyrannies the government often rages against.
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