The future of the left since 1884

Britain 2037 – Vol. 1

The first online instalment of Britain 2037, originally published in the Autumn 2023 Fabian Review. Featuring Charles Clarke, Catherine West MP and more.



Charles Clarke on rebuilding the state

The past 13 years of Conservative government have eroded the confidence of millions of people in our essential institutions and in the basic fairness of our society. NHS waiting lists are unacceptably long; post-Covid, our education system has lost its vitality; the transport system is riven by incoherence and inconsistency; and the criminal justice system has lost the confidence of the population it serves.

As such, the top priority for the incoming Labour government is to restore confidence in and stabilise these core dimensions of every household’s basic existence. Resources and political energy have to be targeted, with the needs of the consumer at the forefront. This is the foundation upon which our country’s growth and productivity will be rebuilt.

The second stage of Labour’s plan for power will involve three big reforms, each of which, in its own way, is at least as great a challenge as the establishment of the NHS and the welfare state in the 1940s. They are:

  • The creation of coherent, high-quality education and care for children between the ages of 0 and 5. Labour’s Sure Start programme was an immense and popular step in this direction which the Conservatives vandalised.
  • The establishment of a system of long-term social care in old age in order to give the whole population confidence in their futures.
  • Root and branch reform of housing to ensure that individuals and families get the housing they need at the appropriate phase of their life.

Each of these ambitions need resources, and what all three have in common is that the resources need to be fairly provided by a combination of public and private money. People already spend large amounts on these things without getting good value because of the incoherence with which they are currently organised.

That means facing up to the incompetence of our whole system of taxation and public spending in order to ensure that the people’s money is spent on the purposes to which they give value.

Labour will green our national life and reform our local government and parliamentary institutions so they serve the needs of the country. And Britain needs to rediscover the respected place in the world which it lost after 2010, largely but not only because of Brexit.

Charles Clarke was Home Secretary from 2004–6 under Tony Blair

Catherine West MP on foreign affairs

More than a decade of failed Tory prime ministers and endless rounds of economic mismanagement has left our country poorer, more unequal, and with a growing sense of national malaise.

This is particularly true in foreign affairs. Boris Johnson and his followers often talked of ‘Global Britain’, but the truth was very different. Under Johnson, Truss, and Sunak, the British government threatened to break international law, abandoned our global leadership on climate action, and walked away from the top table, with Rishi Sunak skipping the keynote UN gathering of world leaders in September.

We can – and we should – do better. Under a Labour government, the next 13 years can offer a renewed sense of optimism and conviction for Britain’s future. David Lammy, the shadow Foreign Secretary, has outlined our ambitions to reconnect Britain with the world and put climate action at the centre of Labour’s foreign policy, alongside reinstating our respect for international norms, ensuring global corporations pay their fair share and defending multilateralism. Taken together, these priorities point towards a Britain which, by 2037, will have returned to the global stage as a confident and reliable partner, world leading in climate diplomacy and giving hope to a new generation.

Catherine West is the Labour MP for Hornsey and Wood Green and a shadow minister in Labour’s foreign affairs team

Pat Cullen on healthcare

The next general election will be a pivotal moment for the future of nursing. By 2037, we must ensure that we have fair pay for nursing and safe staffing ratios in a well-functioning NHS in every UK nation. It is what our patients and nursing staff deserve.

In 2022, nursing staff took industrial action for the first time in the RCN’s 107-year history. After years of underinvestment and real-terms pay cuts, nursing staff felt they had been pushed to the edge. There are over 40,000 vacant nursing posts in the NHS in England alone, which has created unsafe conditions, with far too few nursing staff per patient. This leads to a vicious cycle; taken together with a lack of career progression and professional development, such conditions mean that more nursing staff leave the profession. Recruitment is suffering, too – students are being put off ever entering nursing because they will be saddled with high student debt and a salary out of line with their skills.

All political parties should be aware of the changes our profession needs to see when writing their next manifestos and we will be unapologetic in our asks. Regardless of which rosette those in charge wear for the next 13 years, we need to ensure that training, safe ratios, and pay are addressed so that we can begin to rebuild our nursing workforce.

For many years, we have been undervalued and undermined. We have been subject to unprecedented challenges, including a global pandemic that came on the back of NHS underfunding and years of below inflation pay deals. The 13 years to Britain 2037 cannot be like the last 13.

Pat Cullen is general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing

Jatinder Hayre on the NHS

Third world medicine in a first world country: it’s 2023, and this is the state of the NHS after 13 years of Conservative mismanagement. Under the previous Labour government, the NHS was the jewel of the nation and the envy of the world. Now, our beloved health system is suffering from challenges historic in magnitude: an ever-growing waiting list of 7.6 million, each individual representing a person suffering and the total number representing a nation in ill-health; a workforce crisis, with a shortage of 12,000 hospital doctors and 50,000 nurses; and record underfunding, the likes of which have never been seen in any developed nation. Never before has a government been so contemptuous of the health of its nation. Through equal-parts incompetence and ideology, our NHS has been understaffed, underfunded and underappreciated.

There is one hope: Labour. Only a Labour government can heal a broken health system and a nation that is suffering. The architects of the NHS can also engineer its healing.

So, let’s look forward to 2037. Labour has won its third successive term in parliament with a respectable working majority. The last 13 years have seen record investment into the NHS; medical school places have doubled, as has the number of trained nurses; the NHS is thoroughly digitalised, with integrated AI workflow; and GPs can be accessed within two days – unheard of in the Conservative years. The NHS has been restored to its rightful place as a national treasure: a source of unifying pride for the nation.

The fight for the survival of the NHS after the regressive decade of Conservative government was two-pronged, relying on both restoration and revolution. The basic restoration of of the NHS had to take place first. Then, 13 years of Labour revolutionised the NHS, with predictive medicine, genomic therapies, and innovative imaging – and, perhaps more significantly, a paradigm shift towards preventative medicine and tackling health inequity across all domains.

Jatinder Hayre is an NHS doctor, health inequalities researcher and journalist. He is a national spokesperson for Keep Our NHS Public

Melanie Smallman on the environment

2037 is a key date for the UK. As per legislation passed in April 2020, it is the legally mandated target for reducing carbon emissions by 78 per cent compared to 1990 levels. Although it passed said legislation, the current Tory government is making negligible progress, risking us being left behind in the global race for a low carbon economy and the growth it will bring. The first 13 years of a Labour government, then, will be crucial for our planet – and for our economy.

Under Labour’s Green Prosperity plan, by 2037 the UK will have had clean electricity for seven years already, with the publicly owned GB Energy helping deliver clean electricity nine times cheaper than imported fossil fuels. Bills will be stable and low for households and business. And with public investment in the green economy having reached £28bn a year, around 1m new green (and unionised) jobs will have been created, with more in the pipeline as the private sector releases capital to invest further in our low-carbon future. Energy independence will also be transforming foreign relations, with the UK no longer reliant on oil imports from unstable or authoritarian regions and environmental standards built into international trade negotiations.

After 13 years of Labour government, the UK should be winning the global race for the green industries of the future, growing the economy in all parts of the UK and leading the struggle to save our planet.

Melanie Smallman is a former chair of SERA and a member of the Labour party national policy forum


Illustrations: Matt Holland

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