New group of Labour MPs prioritise self-employment

Thursday 23 July 2015

With the Labour leadership campaign entering uncertain waters, many contractors will be wondering about what the party will be able to offer them when it has selected its new figurehead. Particularly in light of the recent 48-strong rebellion over a key vote on the Conservative’s budget, the self-employed may well be concerned about which party seems to have their best interests at heart.

Of course, there is no way to definitively say who will win the upcoming leadership poll, and which direction Labour will take as a result. However, in a bid to answer some of the more pressing questions, four Labour MPs calling themselves “Red Shift” have published a statement on a new website of the same name, along with an article in the Daily Mirror. In these pieces, they say that the party must reconnect with self-employed voters in order to stand a chance of winning the next general election in 2020.

The new group seems to be a response to Labour’s performance in the general election in May, where the party lost a net 26 seats, largely due to the Scottish National Party’s unprecedented success north of the border. This led to the first Conservative majority government since 1992 being formed.

The article was penned by Shabana Mahmood, the MP for Birmingham Ladywood, Liam Byrne, MP for Birmingham Hodge Hill, Heidi Alexander, MP for Lewisham East, and Nic Dakin, MP for Scunthorpe. Ms Mahmood served as a shadow minister for business, innovation and skills between 2011 and 2013, and Mr Byrne is currently the shadow minister for universities, science and skills.

Interestingly, these MPs represent relative newcomers within the Labour party, as they were all first elected to their seats at the 2010 General Election.

Ms Mahmood said that Labour’s view on self-employment was “out-of-date”, and needed to change to support job and wealth creation. She added that in the past, the party had only celebrated the self-employed “when they have succeeded”, without providing practical help or acknowledging the significant time and effort required to forge a strong career.

Mr Byrne suggested that there would be more self-employed people than public sector workers by 2018, which meant that more support needed to be offered to those choosing to set up as sole traders or limited companies. He said that Labour needed to be the party of “mumtrepreneurs”, highlighting self-employment’s potential to provide flexible working to women trying to balance family life with an enjoyable and profitable job.

He also claimed that the new direction sought by Red Shift was a result of major generational differences in values and priorities, which implies that the group will seek to harness the enthusiasm of young, dynamic contractors in looking at ways to encourage people working outside of a traditional employee structure, although details remain uncertain at this stage.

Red Shift says it plans to publish a report on changes in work and politics, titled Looking for a New England, in time for the party conference in September.

By Victoria McDonnell

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