Jack Straw stated that although the political divide at times may seem opaque, the ideological divide is still as clear as ever. The parody of the left by the right is that that the democratic left stood for equality of outcome. The former foreign secretary stated that the democratic left did not stand for equality of outcome, but equality of opportunity and equality of capability, and this must be done by further investment in education. However the pursuit of equality of opportunity must be paired with reduction of crime. The former home secretary stated that crime reduction was a necessary element to creating higher standards of education and therefore increasing the equality of opportunity. He stated that where the previous Conservative administrations had failed, anti social behaviour, violent crime, education etc, the Labour government had succeeded.
The justice secretary then moved on to the much talked about area of constitutional reform. Laying his cards on the table Jack Straw immediately dismissed the idea of Proportional Representation (PR) as an electoral system in the Westminster elections. Jack Straw stated that he believed that PR would fundamentally undermine UK democracy, as it would allow walk governments with poor mandates to rule for decades and make it almost impossible for the people to remove them. He argued that the arguments for PR are entirely false, the PR system would not put more power in the hands of the people, it would create a tyranny of the minority. However he stated that although he thought that the First Past The Post electoral system was the best, he was not entirely opposed to the Alternative Vote system as suggested by Gordon Brown. He conceded that there was a need for constitutional reform but PR was not the way. He said that he believed there should be more done to get the people involved in the legislative system and give them a sense of agency about politics. He stated that the government must look at a variety of programmes from the Swiss plebiscite system to New England style town hall meetings.
In the question and answer session Jack Straw was asked what his vision for the next 5 years. The former home secretary stated that he would like to see 100% of school leavers with 5 GCSE’s, better life expectancy, a reduction in antisocial behaviour, and finally that he would like to see a fully elected House of Lords. He also reiterated his call that we must find a way of getting more people involved in politics so that they will have a feeling of power over their lives.
In conclusion Jack Straw stated that we must communicate Labour’s many achievements to the people. Indicating that it was all very well talking about Labour’s achievements in an intellectual manner he said that we must learn to express our achievements and the differences between Labour and the Tories in simple language, using a phrase one of the audience members used, the Tories put money first, Labour put people first.