Globalisation and its influence on Labour Party policy

Written by Sabina Khan

Globalisation seems to be the buzzword of the day nowadays and the common assumption is that it’s here to stay. From the farthest reaches of rural China to the fishing grounds off Alaska the world seems a smaller place, with markets and opportunities  opening up for both small and big players.

The impact of globalisation has increased the variety and availability of product and services, lowered the cost of goods, increased communication and helped open up new channels to market, amongst some of the benefits seen and experienced.

On the flip side, we have seen the disintegration of traditional industries especially in the West, affecting jobs, wages and manufacturing bases as a result of untrammelled globalisation. What we’ve seen in the USA is an indicator of upheaval, an instinctive reaction from large sectors of the population unhappy with the status quo and the feeling of helplessness in part brought about by the feeling that jobs and industries have been ‘stolen’ from them in the unfettered arena of globalisation.

We should be in no doubt, globalisation and technological advances have put us on the battleground of the next industrial revolution.

 In the UK, traditional manufacturing industry has been on the decline for decades, symbolised by Margaret Thatcher’s ideological attack on the coalminers and subsequent dismantling of the coal industry leading to deprivation in those communities reliant on them.   

Globalisation is occurring at a huge pace and requires countries to adopt global thinking and policies. The Labour party needs to develop strategies for a global Britain, one where it recognises welfare, the NHS, manufacturing and business amongst others need to make use of advancing technology and thinking. Companies such as Amazon & Ebay are ahead of the curve, utilising online trading platforms, new technology and effective information gathering to grow revenue at unprecedented rates. This is in part reflected by the fact that this Government appears toothless in demanding and receiving its fair share of corporation tax and basically ‘gets what it’s given’ from them.

Labour needs to a have a clear & coherent policy response to these problems. It should follow a 3 point strategy to make Britain a stronger, fairer and more equal place.

Firstly, a Labour government should invest very aggressively in technology and manufacturing, well above current rates, by implementing QE funding if necessary. As a country we have plenty of innovation and research – what’s required is the infrastructure and government policies to enable this to be fully utilised i.e. taken to final product or service and remain owned and run by British companies. The aim is nothing less than full employment and a balance towards manufacturing and technology providing high growth, high productivity industries. This in turn will help to eliminate our balance of trade deficit where we import far more than we export.

Secondly, Labour should recognise that some working class people in our heartlands are deserting us as they believe we are not sufficiently looking out for their interests. The evidence of decline is all around us including steel industry, clothing manufacturing and other industries where we relied on exporting which have been in decline for a long time and where these people worked. A Labour government should focus its policies on ensuring export is its number one economic priority – this will increase manufacturing and bring back the jobs and industries we have lost, increase people’s livelihoods and bring back our working class votes to us.

Finally, Labour needs to have policies fit for a global world. We cannot make policies in isolation without taking into account that we are part of a bigger picture. We also need to recognise that there is currently freedom of goods, services and labour which is having an impact on people’s views and perceptions – we need to do more to challenge the negativity surrounding the effects of immigration.

During the 1980’s when steel and other manufacturing industries were closing – that’s when globalisation was rearing its head. The neo –liberalists, conservatives and establishment in the UK were bringing in legislation and policies to close down manufacturing plants and justifying this by saying costs were too high, productivity and efficiency too low. This was the time when we should have had a new vision and strategy to take us into the fourth industrial revolution and tackle globalisation.