Liz Kendall has launched herself as a fresh start for the Labour Party. Far from proposing a fundamentally new direction however, Kendall’s ideas are old-fashioned, and intrinsically contradict some of the values we in the party hold dear.
There are certain things I like about Liz Kendall. I believe she cares passionately about politics and wants the best for this country. She engages people, and is a courageous campaigner. However, none of these attributes are exclusive to the Labour Party, and that is Kendall’s ultimate failure.
Immigration has been a central issue in the British collective consciousness for a long time. Liz Kendall’s policy is to have a points-based immigration system (similar to the Australian system). As in the UK, immigration is a volatile political issue in Australia. The Australian government avoids processing thousands of migrants who try to enter the nation every year – sending them instead for processing in Indonesia. Australian culture is often racist, and very inhospitable even to aborigines. The Australian government has been criticised quite considerably by other countries for the way it treats migrants. Is this the kind of policy we wish Britain to adopt? Do we firmly seek to undermine our tolerant, multi-cultural history? Liz Kendall’s immigration policies are designed to recapture traditional Labour supporters who abandoned the party for UKIP in May. As a party, it has never been our strategy to bend our welcoming and tolerant values for the sake of a few more votes. Kendall's is a particularly dangerous and divisive strategy that will alienate more progressive voters.
Liz Kendall has said that, as a nation, we should focus more on “white working-class men”. Such language is extremely sectarian. While I can understand the intention behind it, this rhetoric will merely serve to alienate minorities who live in this country. Liz Kendall’s supporters will justify this sentiment by highlighting the poor performance of underprivileged white, working-class children. However, whether deliberately or not, drawing political boundaries on the basis of race risks dividing the nation. It is undeniable that our education system needs improvement, but to concentrate on one ethnic group controverts the essence of a national political project.
In addition to education and immigration, Kendall has proposed to accept some Conservative spending plans – particularly those relating to welfare. Osborne’s welfare cap reduction, designed to ensure that families can claim no more than £23,000 in benefits a year (potentially £20,000, outside the South East), will create an even greater dependency on food banks. The government should not be punishing people without work, and it is completely alien to the values of the Labour Party to support these brutal Tory plans. The inevitable consequence of Osborne’s axe will be more crime, as the poor will be marginalised (both economically and psychologically) from mainstream society.
Labour should defend the most vulnerable in society and ensure that every citizen possesses the right resources to subsist. If elected leader, Liz Kendall would strip the Labour Party of its ideological essence. Without strong values and a worthwhile cause to fight for, many members of the party will simply refuse to fight alongside Kendall in 2020. This will irrevocably damage Labour’s chances of success.