The future of the left since 1884

Britain 2037 – Vol. 2

The second online instalment of Britain 2037, originally published in the Autumn 2023 Fabian Review. Featuring Anas Sarwar MSP, Keir Mather MP and more.



Anas Sarwar MSP on Scotland

Scotland, 2037: a Scottish Labour government at Holyrood is working hand in hand with Keir Starmer’s government at Westminster, devolving power into our communities and leaving the politics of division in the past. GB Energy, headquartered in Scotland, has made Britain a clean energy superpower, cut bills across the UK and delivered thousands of green jobs to Scotland. Poverty has been tackled head-on, with Labour’s New Deal for Working People putting money in the pockets of millions of workers and ending unfair working practices. And once more, the Scottish economy is growing, with government working together with businesses and workers to make Scotland a great place to live, work and do business in.

But how do we get there? Scotland in 2023 is a very different place. After 16 years of SNP control in Holyrood and 13 years of Tory failure at Westminster, the very foundations of our society are crumbing. Our NHS is on life support, with 1 in 7 Scots on waiting lists. Economic growth in Scotland is lagging behind the meagre growth seen elsewhere in the UK. Homelessness – almost eradicated by the last Labour government – is once more on the rise.

And everywhere, the SNP and the Tories are stoking the politics of division and culture war to distract from their failings. After the last period of prolonged Tory rule, Labour said that ‘things could only get better’. Frankly, it is hard to see how things could get any worse than they are now.

It will fall to the entire Labour movement to pull together to create the fairer, greener and more prosperous United Kingdom of the future by addressing the priorities of the British people. We must put the cost of living crisis front and centre of our plans for the country, forcing down bills and putting more money back in the pockets of working people. We must be bold in delivering the publicly-owned energy company that we need to put our country at the vanguard of the green energy revolution and end our dependence on despots like Vladimir Putin.

And we must be clear that we can only deliver better public services by working with businesses to grow the economy – we cannot tax our way out of economic decline.

The scale of the task before us is indisputable. But every time that this country has needed Labour, whether amidst the rubble of the second world war or the privations of the Thatcher-Major period, we have delivered the change that we need.

Let’s get to work, so that once more we can make Scotland the country we all know it can be.

Anas Sarwar MSP is leader of Scottish Labour

Eloise Sacares on climate adaptation

Climate change is happening. Even as Labour tries to reduce emissions and mitigate its impact, the party must recognise that some degree of climate change is now inevitable.

As a result, Labour must think about what the future will look like, accept that the UK is woefully underprepared, and set out robust adaptation policies.

By 2037, even with significant global progress towards net zero, the UK will have more frequent and severe flooding, heatwaves, and drought. This kind of extreme weather threatens the fundamentals of our everyday lives, and the poorest in society will suffer most.

First, health. In the future, extreme heat could risk the health of those people most exposed to it, like builders and kitchen staff. We currently have a legal minimum working temperature, but no maximum. This is something Labour could consider.

Second, infrastructure. We must reduce water demand and leakage, and increase supply – not least by ensuring water companies pay, rather than profit, when they fail to adapt. ‘Natural infrastructure’, like trees, swales and rain gardens will be important to reduce flooding and overheating in urban areas, as well as improving wellbeing and absorbing carbon.

Third, homes. Labour’s plans to improve energy efficiency through retrofitting should also include measures to adapt to climate change, ensuring that homes do not overheat in summer. And they should consider tightening planning rules, to ensure new-build homes don’t require costly retrofitting in years to come.

Climate change now poses a very real risk to our health, our infrastructure and our homes. By 2037, we could either be facing the consequences of business as usual, or have built a climate-adapted Britain. It is up to the UK to choose its path.

Eloise Sacares is a researcher at the Fabian Society

Rory Palmer on crime and policing

Come 2037, it will be more than 40 years since ‘tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime’ became the lodestar of Labour’s approach to criminal justice. This approach will be just as relevant in the 2020s – and 2030s – as it was then. The Conservatives have broken our criminal justice system.

Keir Starmer’s Labour is meeting peoples’ expectations head on. People expect visible, properly-resourced neighbourhood policing and a criminal justice system that does what it is meant to do: secure justice for victims through solving crimes and ensuring perpetrators are punished.

So to 2037: 13 years in office will have seen the next Labour government deliver falls in crime, a rebuilding of neighbourhood policing and the ambitious renewal of the criminal justice system.

There are more police, with 13,000 new frontline recruits on the beat, equipped with the modern resources needed to ensure policing is responsive to the complex digital challenges of the 2020s and 2030s.

Labour’s missions to halve violence against women and girls and halve knife crime have been driven through cross-government approaches, underpinned legislatively and through new specialist units.

Progress has been secured year on year in these crucial missions. People feel safer, and confidence in the police is on a consistently upward trajectory. Through a whole-society approach and empowering local systems, Labour has broken the costly cycle of reoffending. The collapse in charge rates has been reversed through innovative joint arrangements between the police and the Crown Prosecution Service and the Victims’ Commissioner has new powers to strengthen support for victims.

Recognising the grave state injustices of the past, Labour has put a Hillsborough law on the statute book.

After 13 years of decisive leadership and intelligent statecraft, the next Labour government will have secured what the public expect: safer streets, properly-resourced, responsive neighbourhood policing and a rebuilt, effective justice system.

Rory Palmer is the Labour and Co-op candidate for police & crime commissioner in Leicester, Leicestershire & Rutland

 Julie Ward on Europe

The EU is likely to look radically different by 2037, with a swathe of new members including Ukraine, Moldova and possibly Georgia, as well as the remaining Balkan states, whose isolation outside the bloc is increasingly problematic given the Kremlin’s imperial ambitions. The broader international picture will be different too: the EU-ACP partnership looks set to usurp the Commonwealth as former colonies, taking a lead from Barbados, loose the shackles of British sovereignty.

What could this mean for the UK? Cut off from our nearest neighbours, we already struggle to exert significant influence at an international level. The fabled ‘pork markets’ of China and other hyped-up trade deals have failed to generate the lucrative returns promised by Brexiteers. A generation of young people denied opportunities afforded by Erasmus+ will demand its reinstatement along with freedom of movement.

The Labour party must therefore play catch-up with a public who increasingly favour rejoining the EU. Cooperation with Scottish, Welsh and Irish independence parties will be necessary for a functional government (with a possible referendum on Irish reunification and a new Scottish independence referendum) and this will come with pro-EU conditions.

The path to rejoining will be slow, not least because the bloc will be more cohesive, and so less inclined to entertain an unreliable and temperamental partner. A Labour government’s first task must be to rebuild trust. Appointments to key positions such as Europe minister will be hugely important.

By 2037, most Brexit harms could be undone – for one, the inappropriately named Windsor Framework could be replaced with a new St Brigid’s Framework, in honour of the patron saint who supported abortion on demand (and could turn water into beer!). We would be back in the customs union and single market, Erasmus+ and Creative Europe. Newry and Dundalk would be named joint European Capitals of Culture. We would regain key roles within Horizon research programmes. Furthermore, Labour could lead the way on creating safe and legal routes for all those seeking sanctuary across Europe, thereby ending the obsession with small boats, floating prisons and deportation flights for good, setting new European and international humanitarian standards.

Julie Ward is a former Labour MEP for North West England

 Keir Mather MP on industrial strategy

If Labour earns the right to govern for 13 years, we will have the opportunity to implement a modern industrial strategy to build economic growth, protect UK interests and enable British firms to compete on the world stage.

Getting there will require genuine partnership between business, government and trade unions. A Labour government will build this new consensus on deeds, not words.

Reforming business rates and the apprenticeship levy will allow firms to play their part, investing more in innovation and equipping workers with futureproofed skills. The New Deal for Working People will empower trade unions to fight for growth that is both pro-business and pro-worker. Our Green Prosperity Plan and commitment to make, sell and buy more in Britain will enable a Labour government to rebuild our industrial base, win the race to net zero, and protect our energy supply from autocrats.

Right now, UK firms are suffering under a rudderless government too weak to deal with labour shortages, supply chain disruption and price hikes that define the cost-of-doing-business crisis. In 13 years, Labour could offer an antidote to this chaos, providing UK PLC with a long term industrial strategy, regulatory certainty, and reassurance that we share their ambition to lead the world in green investment, AI and advanced manufacturing.

The opportunities for business in the next two decades are Britain’s for the taking. It will be the duty of a Labour government to seize them.

Keir Mather is the Labour MP for Selby and Ainsty


Illustrations: Matt Holland

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