Renew’s primary goal is to change how politics works in the UK. We want politics to be much more accessible, with a greater turnover of experience, skills and competence. We want politics taken out of the sole control of “professional politicians” and their self-interested parties and put back where it really belongs: with you.
But focusing just on fixing our political culture isn’t enough to explain what Renew stands for. So we’ve set out here Renew’s approach to five key policy areas that we know matter to you and to our ability to thrive as a country, safely and securely. These areas don’t cover all of the issues that matter and which you would want a Renew government to spell out. We are currently a small party and just starting out on presenting this New Approach to you. But it is important to us that we share our thinking at an early stage and as it develops. That’s another way in which we are different as a party.
Here you will find brief explanations of how Renew is approaching each of these policy areas. Following our conference on 9 October, we have started the process of discussing specific policies with our members and wider networks. Through this process we will develop and publish detailed and specific proposals under each of these areas in due course.
We hope the way we have framed our approach in these policy areas will show you how Renew is different and how we are bringing our New Approach to life. If you like what you read here, the chances are that you are a Renewer too! Join us!
Reforming our political culture
Our politics is broken. The public is disengaged. Voters haven’t really had a choice at the ballot box for a long time because of the way our voting system works. Trust in politicians remains staggeringly low. But political parties aren’t feeling any pressure to change. MPs living in the Westminster Bubble are more interested in fundraising for themselves and playing party politics than working together to improve our political culture and solve the problems ordinary people are facing. People care about making things better but don’t have faith in our politics to do this.
‘Professional politicians’ regard politics as an adversarial battle. Anything they can do to talk up their party’s policies and talk down the opposition’s is a job well done, and likely to curry favour with party management in terms of career progression. But this is exactly what turns people off politics. This behaviour tells voters that party matters more than country, and that career matters more than constituents.
Our politics is stuck in a winner takes all mentality when the world has moved on to shared approaches to problem solving.
The root cause of this dysfunction is our political culture. A culture that places party loyalty above all else and which has persistently resisted efforts to bring much needed transparency and accountability to politicians’ behaviour. It is also a culture that has run out of ideas about how to fix the problems we face, prioritising instead the pursuit and maintenance of power for the patronage it confers.
Renew wants to fix our broken politics and change our political culture for the better. Renew would change the incentives politicians face and reduce the power of patronage exercised by political parties. Renew wants to open politics up to bring in high calibre outsiders and independent thinkers, to radically overhaul transparency in our public life, and to put people at the heart of our system in a way that will reinvigorate the development of ideas.
Repairing our social fabric
The disparity and alienation between different segments of our society is much reported. However, it is less acted on than we might hope.
There are clusters of extreme deprivation affecting substantial numbers of the population. An industry has grown up defining and analysing the gaps between us but, for all this, lasting solutions seem hard to come by. Accepting some discrepancies in outcomes is an inevitable aspect of society. That is not what we are talking about, however. The torn social fabric we refer to is visible in the stubbornly persistent, structural divides that effectively exclude segments of the population from playing the part they might like to play in society.
For example, education and training passes this segment by. As a result, finding stable employment is hard to impossible, which means that finances are under pressure and people become more and more reliant on local authority provision of housing, support and even food. Coping with these circumstances, perhaps including the need to move houses (and schools for children) many times in one year adds its own stresses. Trying to cope with these pressures can take a toll on physical and mental health, which creates further downward pressures on people already at the end of their reserves.
In short, our country seems to be working well for some but not at all well for others.
This torn social fabric is not simply a case of the Strivers succeeding and the Skivers not. The structural inequalities are almost impossible to overcome. The help available is clearly not working.
This matters because it says a lot about us as a society. By choosing not to prioritise repairing our social fabric we are tacitly accepting the pigeonholes that we are born to. If we don’t address this, we should not be surprised if the divides in our society deepen, with more and more groups feeling as though they are on the outside and the country is no longer working well for them either (housing problem, anyone?).
There are also economic costs – both in terms of the cost of trying to deal with these issues and the opportunity cost from lost productivity.
Renew would bring radically new proposals to addressing this issue: focusing on support in the early years, reinstating a stronger commitment to the contributory principle, and bringing forward a “Big Bang” of devolving delivery of services to autonomous teams rooted in the communities affected. Repairing our social fabric does not need more money.
Renew would make repairing our torn social fabric a priority. Perhaps it has not been a priority because those on the outside are not regarded as core target voters. They are, however, people.
Our place in the World
Britain has always been an outward-facing nation. We recognise the benefits - economic, social, cultural - that come from engaging with other nations and people. We have been instrumental in establishing many of the rules and behaviours that underpin the international community. Our values, experience and capabilities ensure we can still contribute to a safer, more stable world that benefits us all.
If we want to leave a world fit for our children’s children we need to act cooperatively to address the global challenges we face. But we cannot rely simply on parts of our history to earn a hearing on the world stage. We need to walk our talk and demonstrate that we are honest brokers, acting out of enlightened self-interest. This is not about a choice between putting others first or Britain first. It is about being open, adaptive and resilient.
Renew brings new values and a new approach to politics. Just as this will have a positive effect domestically, it will also help address the loss of respect for Britain internationally that our current political leadership has directly contributed to. Renew wants Britain to be a respected thought leader and problem solver when it comes to regional and global challenges - including for example responding to the refugee crisis - and a trusted partner when concluding international agreements. We will always place the British people at the heart of our decision making, thinking strategically about our interests and acting always for the long-term.
Repairing our climate
Two hundred years from now societies of the 23rd century will look back at the way we treated our environment with much the same reaction that we have when looking back at the horrors of slavery in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Meeting our net-zero commitments is a minimum requirement if we are to help prevent runaway climate change. We look at this as an opportunity to be seized rather than a problem to be dealt with. Adopting more sustainable lifestyles is a critical part of this, which will also allow us to pass on the richly diverse natural world that post-war generations have grown up with and enjoyed. This does not mean “hair-shirt” lifestyles. It means considering the climate and our natural environment together and doing more to involve people in the changes that are required. It means establishing mechanisms that are adaptive and flexible, which will encourage mature green markets to develop in historically carbon intensive industries.
Going green has to be an easy choice as well as the right choice. Done well, it must lead to the creation of jobs and new businesses across the UK. It means providing predictability for investment decisions. It means regulating for harm avoidance and incentivising environmental stewardship. Stewardship of our natural environment takes a long-term view and recognises our dependence on a stable, livable climate and the huge social well-being to be gained from an accessible and thriving natural environment.
Reclaiming our technology
Technology advances and the explosion of social media platforms have transformed societies in ways we did not envisage, far outstripping regulation made for an analogue world. The borderless nature of the internet has allowed big tech companies to separate their tax exposure from the locations where they make their profits. Public spaces online can help increase engagement and bring people together, but also bring out the most unpleasant aspects of human behaviour. Hostile state and non-state actors have manipulated democratic processes in a number of countries.
Renew would update the way we regulate online activity in order to protect individuals, ensure greater trust in our online media and seek fairer contributions from Big Tech for turnover generated in the UK.