This article was first published on Labour List on 30 January 2015.
We can only realise this goal if we build an economy which raises living standards for all working people, not just a few at the top. We certainly haven’t seen this under a Tory led Government, but we are clear that this is the destination of the next Labour Government.
In building a society where everyone can get on, so much depends on the jobs people do. So this must be the yardstick for measuring our success. A strong economy creates secure, well-paid jobs – jobs that offer everyone a chance to train, to get on in life and to live their dreams. And that economy will help Britain succeed in a more competitive world because it is creating attractive, high-value goods and services that people around the world want to buy, drawing on the vitality, creativity and entrepreneurial drive of all our people.
In David Cameron’s Britain we are far from this vision. We see this in the rise of jobs on zero and short hours’ contracts, in the increase of agency work and other insecure forms of employment. There are 1.3million people working part-time because they cannot find a full-time job. I see it in the eyes of my young constituents who can’t get that first chance. Their parents feel it in wage packets that have shrunk by an average of £1,600 a year, struggling and striving to make ends meet. People forget: half the people living in poverty in Britain today are in work.
This might be good enough for the Tories. It is not good enough for Labour. Our vision is that everyone has work that offers dignity and respect, and pays a wage you can live on. We are ambitious and optimistic for Britain and believe, if we make the right calls, we can ensure everyone has a stake in the future. So, across the economy, in every sector, we must do more to support firms to innovate, to raise productivity and to create better designed, better paid, more secure and more fulfilling jobs.
In sectors – like aerospace and automotive, the creative industries and business services, green technologies and pharmaceuticals – Britain already leads the world. These are advantages we must build on, growing these sectors to create more well-paid jobs. Many of our nimble startups, agile growth companies and established players are at the forefront of developing new technologies, materials and processes to deliver better products and services.
Today I am in Hove, with Labour PPC Peter Kyle, visiting the development lab of one such company, D30, an advanced material manufacturer. D30 has developed a soft, flexible shock-absorbing material that adjusts in resistance according to the force that is applied to it. Such a material could have all manner of uses. Already it is being using in the helmet liners and insoles of the kit a soldier wears. It is being used to improve shock-absorption in footwear, and to provide greater comfort and protection in motorcycle apparel. And at the development lab I am visiting, the company employs engineers, chemists and designers to develop and test new applications. D30 offers a compelling story of product innovation, the impact it can have on our daily lives, and jobs it can create. It we are to win the jobs of the future, we need companies like D30 to succeed. And we need there to be more of them.
As technology changes at a fast pace and markets around the world grow rapidly, there are huge opportunities for our nation. Our challenge is to prepare for these opportunities, and claim for Britain the jobs of the future. So in the weeks leading up to the General Election, I will be visiting workplaces in every region of the country to talk with employees and entrepreneurs, business leaders and local people about how we can take Britain forward and create more high-skilled, well-paid jobs of the future.
I will be listening to their ideas, and explaining how Labour’s policies will make work better and help foster the jobs of the future. I will be talking about how we will give young people real hope for the future and to gain the skills and experience employers need: every young person will have a choice between a high quality apprenticeship or a university degree, with new Technical Degrees as a bridge between the two. I will be discussing our plans for a proper British Investment Bank and a regional network so that business can get the finance they need to grow. I will be explaining our support for scientific research and plans to develop the network of Catapult Centres that help businesses turn new ideas into future jobs. I will be asking what more government can do to support innovation, training and local growth through how it spends its procurement budget. And I will be explaining how city and county regions will have the opportunity to get the powers and budgets they need to support growth and create good jobs in their areas.
Along the way, I will be highlighting the fantastic example set by our colleagues in local government. They have shown how you can promote growth in a fair way on a tight budget in different parts of the country. Look at what the Labour Council in Sunderland has done to support the software industry locally. Set up just a year ago, the new Sunderland Software Centre is already repaying the initial investment, having already helped to create more than 300 jobs and responsible for a net increase in regional GVA by £14m. Or look at what the new Labour administration in Southampton has been doing to revitalise the city’s cultural quarter and attract new business. In Knowsley, Business Advocates are working with local small businesses to help identify they support they need and to link them to it. And in Plymouth, the nationally recognised 1000 Club has already exceeded its goal of recruiting 1,000 local businesses to provide work experience, apprenticeships and employment to young people.
This is the way we will create security, improve living standards and build an economy that works for all. The clue is in our party’s name – from beginning to end, it is about jobs. There can be no greater purpose for the next Labour government, and no truer measure of our success.