click here to see Thoughts on … Alternative manifestos

 

 

We need some new thinking on the issues that feature in the election campaign. So I’m doing a bit of thinking myself and compiling a manifesto with some rather different ideas in it.

 

There’s no reason why we shouldn’t all be doing this. We should all try to compile some mini-manifestos in our heads or perhaps jot down some ideas on our tablets, or on a piece of paper. If we thought about why we wanted to include certain proposals in our manifestos it would help us reflect seriously on the many issues that affect our lives and the lives of other people. Our proposals need not cover the whole spectrum of human existence but contain just a few of the things we would like to change in society.

 

Unlike the documents drawn up by political parties our alternative manifestos will not be put to the electorate and will not therefore be used to continue the pretence that these documents are a vital part of the democratic process. Politicians like to claim that a manifesto provides a democratic mandate to proceed with the policies contained within it but this is disingenuous and untrue ...

 

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AK’s ALTERNATIVE MANIFESTO

 

Please scroll down for proposals on our system of government and also for our global obligations

 

AIMS AND ASPIRATIONS

 

We must strive to ensure the best possible mental and physical well-being for everyone irrespective of our varied human attributes such as age, gender, individual needs, ethnicity or beliefs.  We should do this in order to enable individuals and families to lead fulfilled and happy lives.

 

We must aspire to create a caring, compassionate society in which everyone is encouraged to be loving, kind, generous, unselfish, neighbourly, gentle, tolerant and respectful.

 

We must fully support those who need help in any way or for any reason. We should do this collectively through the machinery of the state and on an individual basis through our own actions.

 

We must encourage people always to be grateful for what others are doing for them – in the home be grateful to other members of the family, and in life generally be grateful to others who serve our needs through their paid employment whatever form this takes.

 

We must aim to build a fairer society in terms of individual and household income.   

 

We must work to achieve a collective mindset where all jobs are seen to be worthwhile and contributing to the welfare of others.

 

We should encourage home ownership and ensure couples and individuals have sufficient income and access to finance to be able to buy their own homes. We should make certain that everyone has a good standard of comfort and can afford the essential needs and other extras that are required for this. 

 

We must care for, protect and enhance the environment – in our countryside and in urban areas.

 

We must provide an education system that properly serves the needs of individuals by preparing them for work, helping them acquire life skills, developing their well-being, shaping their values and character, teaching them to think effectively, and showing them the pleasure and satisfaction that can be derived from learning about the world around them.

 

In essence we must strive to assist all of us to become good people, leading good lives in a good society.

 

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WELL-BEING

 

Aims

 

Our aim must be to create the conditions in which everyone can attain the best possible mental and physical well-being. We should do this in order to enable individuals and families to lead fulfilled, happy and healthy lives.

 

Proposals

 

The family

 

We will help people understand that a vital component of human happiness and well-being is that of good relationships in families and with loved ones. To further this understanding we will make learning about relationships a compulsory requirement of the school curriculum and will also require schools to teach older pupils about parenting.

We will encourage parents to teach their children, through discussion and through example, the importance of relationships.

When parents feel they are no longer able to live with each other we will seek ways of encouraging them to stay together until their children are 18. Where this is not possible we will seek to ensure that both parents have appropriate access to their children. Voluntary organisations will be asked to offer support to families when there are difficulties.

We will commission a survey into the nature of the family to look at the way it can promote the best possible physical, mental and emotional well-being for everyone. The survey will consider different family structures and how these affect well-being as well as look into how family conflicts can be avoided.

We will introduce measures to encourage a work-life balance within families by heping to reduce the combined hours of work for couples bringing up children. The measures will include raising the minimum wage so that family incomes will be higher and there will be fewer financial worries.

 

Understanding of well-being

 

Educating for well-being will be recognised as a key purpose of education and will become a compulsory aspect of the school curriculum. It will cover physical, mental and emotional well-being.

The furtherance of individual and family well-being for everyone, and the many factors that contribute to it, will be made central to our political discourse and to the delivery of health and social care by the state.

All adults will be invited to attend individual well-being sessions organised by trained volunteers where the principles of well-being will be explained and where strategies for improving well-being can be discussed.

 

The NHS

 

Organisation

 

The NHS will be celebrated and funded appropriately so that it can fully meet the needs of everyone.

It will be acknowledged as the best way to deliver health care for the following reasons: because of the outstanding service it provides, because as a society we all want everyone to be well cared for, and because it is something where we should all be willing to come together collectively to provide for our own needs and those of other people.

Organisational problems such as bed-blocking and waiting times will be addressed by trialling new approaches such as creating convalescent homes and providing tax credits for family members who need to take time off work to care for elderly parents.

Campaigns to inform people about staying healthy will be broadcast regularly through the traditional media and through social media. There will be unremitting campaigns to educate young people and adults about the dangers of taking drugs and consuming too much alcohol.

A commission will be established to decide how long-term social care should be funded. Strategies will be put in place which aim to keep at home as much as possible those who need care. The integration of services which provide health and social care will begin immediately.

More volunteering will be encouraged to help look after those with health difficulties. The huge contribution made by the charitable and voluntary sector will be recognised and given as much support as it requires.

We will begin a move away from traditional GP practices to health care centres where a number of specialist doctors and nurses will be employed. Some of these centres will be open 24 hours a day.

Private health treatment will exist alongside the NHS but all such treatment will be provided by not-for-profit organisations.

Present screening procedures will be continued and more will be introduced in order to identify problems at an early stage.

Over a period of time pharmaceutical firms will be required to become not-for-profit companies

 

Physical health

 

We will make full physical check-ups available to everyone at regular intervals according to age and health needs.

National and local campaigns on the importance of physical exercise will be broadcast regularly on the media.

We will require schools and colleges to open their sports facilities to the general public in the evenings, at weekends and during school holidays.

We will build an extensive network of cycleways using money acquired by scrapping HS2. People will be urged to make cycling or walking a part of their daily routines.

We will launch a campaign to encourage everyone to become an organ donor.

We will make learning first aid a compulsory part of the national curriculum.

 

Mental health

 

GPs will be fully trained in all aspects of mental health. They will be able to identify signs of difficulties at an early stage and will be obliged to provide advice and treatment as soon as these signs become evident.

Everyone will be educated in how to give appropriate support to those suffering difficulties.

 

Emotional health

 

At school young people will be educated to understand the factors that contribute to their emotional well-being. They will discuss strategies for dealing with negative feelings and will explore the factors that contribute to happiness, fulfilment and contentment. 

 

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EDUCATION

 

We will seek to bring about a gradual transformation in the purposes and priorities of our education system so that it is focused on helping individuals attain the best possible well-being, as well as benefit from, and contribute to, a caring, generous and tolerant society. This will require a phased dismantling of our present exam-orientated, production line system and its replacement with a system that fulfils clearly thought-out purposes.

 

For individuals the purposes will be: to prepare young people for employment; to equip them with life skills; to foster their present and future well-being; to shape their behaviour, values and character; to provide them with the ability to think effectively; and to transmit knowledge and culture to them.

 

For society the purposes will be: to educate people to enable everyone to benefit from a healthy, equitably organised economy and to have a comfortable standard of living; and to educate people so that we have a harmonious and caring society.

 

When these purposes are fulfilled they will produce children and adults with the best of values and the best of character who are fully prepared for their future lives.  They will have a wide and deep understanding of everything in the world around them including the physical and natural world, the world of ideas and the world of political decision-making. They will be able to think carefully and rationally about abstract and practical matters and they will have fully mastered the essential skills of literacy, numeracy, critical thinking and computing.

 

There will be a gradual introduction of two distinct phases of formal education: pre-fifteen and post-fifteen.

 

Pre-fifteen will deliver the highest possible standards in basic skills together with high standards in a wide range of other subjects. Basic skills in English, maths, critical thinking and computing will be rigorously assessed at 15. GCSEs will be brought to an end and replaced with other assessment procedures.

Post-15 education will be vocational for all students and linked to specific occupations or occupational sectors, whether these are building, engineering, health care, teaching or academic research.

 

Parents will be required to do much more to support their children’s learning. They will be expected to be largely responsible for teaching their children behaviour, values and character and teaching them about well-being. They will also be expected to support their children with all aspects of the school curriculum until they are 15. In their early years they will teach them to read and show them basic number processes.

 

Schools will be required to be open for extra learning, and for their sports facilities to be available, in the evenings, at weekends and during school holidays.  

 

Small schools and flexible schooling will be encouraged. A voucher and tax credit system will be introduced to enable parents to choose the schools or learning centres they wish their children to attend.

 

For more about education see: Forever Learning – thoughts on the past, present and future of education.

 

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HOUSING

 

We will encourage home ownership and work to ensure that couples and individuals have sufficient income and access to finance to be able to buy their own homes. We will also aim to make certain that everyone has a good standard of comfort and can afford the essential needs and other extras that are required for this. 

 

We will strongly promote home ownership for the following reasons: it gives people more choice and independence in the decisions they make in their lives – in terms of where in the country they wish to live as well as in designing their home to suit their preferences; it allows them to build up a financial asset; it enables housing costs to be removed when a mortgage is repaid; it helps create a sense of responsibility for the appearance of the local neighbourhood; and it can often be a great source of fulfilment, satisfaction and pride.

 

We will promote home ownership by extending the help-to-buy policy, by building more affordable housing, by insisting that banks and building societies offer shared equity schemes to everyone who takes out a mortgage and by allowing local councils to offer loans for house purchase.

 

We will introduce a capital gains tax on house sales to try and limit house price inflation.

 

Although we will work to promote home ownership we will ensure there is sufficient, good quality housing available to rent for those who prefer this option. Housing associations and a properly regulated private rental sector will meet this demand rather than local authority housing.

 

There will be a high standard of delivery of essential utilities to every household at a fair price with price controls when necessary.

 

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THE ECONOMY

 

Structures

 

Interdependence

 

We will build an economy to which people contribute, and from which they benefit, through the paid employment they have. They will contribute to the economy, as they do now, by providing goods and services themselves through the jobs they have, and by spending what they earn; and they will benefit from the economy, as they do now, by being able to purchase a wide range of goods and services produced by other people that they either need for their daily lives or which bring them convenience, comfort or pleasure. Through taxation they will also contribute to services that are provided and paid for collectively by society and they will benefit from these services – services such as the NHS, education and the police.

 

We will strive to help everyone understand that all economies are based on this fundamental, interdependent structure in which everyone is contributing and at the same time is benefiting from each other’s contributions.

 

We will point out that a logical consequence of this interdependent structure is that everyone’s contribution to the economy is important and must be valued accordingly.  This will mean that however unskilled a job may appear it will be recognised as making an important contribution to other people’s well-being and will be properly remunerated.

 

We will argue that we are exploiting our fellow citizens if we pay them low salaries and will also argue that those who receive excessively high salaries are exploiting the rest of us.

 

By recognising the worth of all employment and by seeing employment as a means of contributing to society and benefiting each other we will be widening our perception of employment in a way that will bring an understanding of the fairer society we should be moving towards. 

 

To move in this direction we will put forward a wide range of proposals relating to the various sectors that make up the interdependent economy. We will consider these sectors to be the private, the public and the alternative. 

 

We will argue that the government should regulate these sectors in the interests of everyone in order to create a fairer, more equal society.or

 

Regulation to create a fair scociety

 

We will point out that there is no such thing as free market economy and probably never has been. We will suggest that there are two obvious reasons why this is the case: one being that we do actually regulate the market in a variety of ways including through ensuring fair competition, controlling prices, regulating the delivery of services, and having employment and consumer protection law; the other being that we have a large public sector within our economy operating outside the market.

 

Our regulatory system will work to ensure that society as a whole, through its democratically elected government, must control the management of the economy, not the forces of the supposed free market. It will do this through intervening to set wage levels at the bottom and top ends of the scale, by recognising that labour is more important than capital, by penalising excessive profit, by regulating share holding and share dealing and by bringing currency speculation to an end.

 

In addition our regulatory system will ensure fair and balanced trade with other countries in the interests of our own citizens and the citizens of the countries we trade with.

 

We will regulate the amount of inward investment to the UK.

 

We will make the argument that a sensibly regulated economy will enable businesses to flourish and will not deprive individuals of their liberty either as consumers or entrepreneurs.

 

 

Private sector

 

The private sector is made up of  small businesses ranging from sole traders up to approximately 100 employees,  plus medium, large and global businesses. It will be subject to the regulatory system outlined above.

 

A wide-ranging public consultation will be launched to consider how business ownership can work in the best interests of  customers, employees and share holders. The consultation will examine the disadvantages of our present structures, institutions and processes including the disadvantages associated with business instability, the preoccupation with short-term gains, the culture of speculation rather than investment and the culture of personal greed. Among the structures, institutions and processes that will be subject to serious scrutiny and analysis will be: banks, especially investment banks, investment trusts, isurance companies, hedge funds, derivatives, financial services, share-holding and share-dealing, take-overs and mergers, and currency dealing.

 

The consultation will also look at ideas which will bring about changes to the system which will benefit everyone.  Reforms will be proposed which achieve this end and put to parliament and/or the direct vote of the electorate.   

  

Employees in the private sector, whether in small, medium or large businesses, will be required to have a financial stake in their business in the form of a bonus from profits, a profit-sharing scheme or an ownership scheme.

 

In businesses over a certain size individual employees will hold shares in their business and have the right to vote on decisions that are taken. In many cases they will hold the majority of shares. 

 

In order to increase economic activity in the private sector we will keep corporation tax at current low rates.  We will also review the system of business rates.

 

We will nationalise RBS instead of selling off our stake in it. If desirable at a later stage we will divide it into a number of mutual challenger banks.

 

Public sector

 

We will not consider all parts of the public sector in the same way but will look at which parts should be better funded collectively by the taxpayer and which parts might begin to move away from being entirely collectively funded. The NHS and social care will be in the former category whilst education will be in the latter since it is long overdue that parents should take more responsibility for their children’s education and not leave everything to the state.

 

We will encourage voluntary schemes and charitable bodies to extend their support to the public sector especially in the areas of health, social care and looking after the environment.

 

We will continue with the policy of outsourcing but will undertake a review of its cost benefits and where necessary advise a return to the use of direct labour.

 

We will review the scope of local government and as a priority begin the transfer of social care services to the NHS.

 

Although we have reservations about the concept of localism, because we believe in a high standard of services throughout the country, we recognise the potential of local government to produce useful initiatives.

 

We will review salary levels in the public sector with the aim of reducing senior management salaries but increasing the salaries of those on low rates of pay.

 

We will move towards flat rate pensions, not final salary schemes, for public sector workers.

 

Our aim will be to eliminate the budget deficit by 2025.

 

We will work to create a climate of opinion in which everyone understands that it is both a civic duty and an act of kindness (albeit reciprocal) to pay taxes in order for people to be able to benefit from collectively funded public services.

 

Alternative sector

 

We will support the expansion of a vibrant alternative sector of the economy. This will include not for profit businesses, cooperatives, social enterprises, mutuals and employee owned businesses such as John Lewis.

 

We believe that these alternative models for providing goods and services, and for adding value to the economy, offer significant benefits amongst which are: a sense of ownership which acts as an incentive to contribute one’s best to a business; a more equitable distribution of the fruits of employees’ labour; giving employees a voice in their firm’s decision-making; reinforcing the idea that a business is not just about ever increasing growth and maximising profits for shareholders; and generally creating a feeling that one’s paid work is worthwhile and makes a contribution to society that one can be proud of. 

 

Enterprise

 

We will put in place more measures to encourage enterprise across all fields of economic activity. Business start-ups will be supported with suitable incentives.

 

There will be additional incentives for business start-ups in the fields of science, technology and engineering.

 

We will seek to strengthen our manufacturing industry with government loans and tax incentives for small, medium and large manufacturing companies. Our aim will be to manufacture a wider range of products in the UK than is the case at present. Electric cars, domestic appliances, clothing and self-assembly homes for export will be some of the products that will be considered for development.

 

We will establish whether sufficient public funding is going into research and innovation in science and technology.

 

We will encourage the export of cultural activities: the popular culture of music, television, film and sport, plus the traditional culture of books, theatre and classical music.

 

All businesses will be supported in their efforts to make the most of the opportunities for global trade that will open up after we leave the EU.

 

Employment

 

Properly remunerated employment for everyone of working age will be at the heart of the economy.

 

All jobs will be viewed as making a valuable contribution to people’s well-being and will need to be remunerated accordingly. We will aim, therefore, to increase the minimum wage to £12.50 an hour over a period of 5 years.

 

We will also aim to create a salary culture in which levels of pay are more equal.

 

A high minimum wage and narrower wage differentials will reflect our belief that we should aspire to a society with more equal levels of income and be less concerned about having a society with equal employment opportunities – which, in effect, means equal opportunities to be unequal.

 

We will guarantee that everyone has a job, with a minimum of 35 hours a week, and will encourage social enterprises to help achieve this. We will also use the state, in the form of the public sector, as the employer of last resort and will embark on a programme of welfare assistance, public works, small-scale manufacturing, horticulture, and environmental enhancement to create useful and necessary employment.

 

Because we will be guaranteeing employment for everyone we will aim to reduce unemployment benefit by a considerable amount.

 

We will continue to support flexible patterns of working.

 

We will encourage job satisfaction by asking employers to offer bonus payments, to provide generous holidays, to give employees varied jobs, and to establish calm, harmonious workplace environments. 

 

We will ensure that young people are well-prepared for employment by having a thorough mastery of basic English, maths and computing, and through having acquired essential attitudes. There will be an expectation that after the age of 15 all students will undertake extensive work experience and later on, if possible, paid part-time work.

 

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ENERGY

 

We will continue to increase the amount of energy that is supplied by renewable sources. These will mainly be solar, tidal and geothermal as we believe that wind turbines can be detrimental to the landscape – or even seascape.  Tidal power will be based on small-scale lagoons and barrages supplying nearby localities, not on grand projects such as the Severn Barrage.

 

We will look to invest in any solar businesses generating electricity that are set up in North Africa with a view to being supplied directly from them via cables running through Spain and France.

 

We will retain an element of nuclear power in the energy mix until such time as it is no longer needed.

 

In terms of ownership there will be diverse provision of energy production and supply. This provision will consist of companies which are private, publicly owned, not for profit, or owned by local communities.

 

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TRANSPORT AND ROAD SAFETY

 

We will support the development and production of electric vehicles and extend the electrification of the railways.

 

HS2 will be cancelled.

 

Traffic free cycleways will be built alongside main roads and in urban areas. A priority will be to create networks of completely traffic free routes to schools.

 

All speed cameras will be switched on and all speed limits will be enforced in urban areas, outside urban areas and on motorways. We will make sure that many more messages about the dangers of speeding will be broadcast and will aim to change the whole culture of driving at speed.

 

We will restrict the speed limit on roundabouts to 10mph and consider whether to make stopping at mini-roundabouts obligatory.

 

We will generally aim to promote consideration of others when driving.

 

We will encourage the use of high-vis clothing when out at night.

 

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ENVIRONMENT

 

We will strive to create a pleasant and healthy environment, in both rural and urban areas, in which people can live, work and enjoy their leisure.

 

Protecting our natural environment will be a high priority. Educating about the diversity of our countryside, how it has been formed and how it should be looked after will be made part of the national curriculum in schools.

 

Where necessary landowners will be given funding to manage and preserve the countryside. Voluntary organisations will be assisted with appropriate grants in order that they can continue and extend the work they do.

 

We will run campaigns to encourage more people to visit and enjoy our countryside and coast. These campaigns will include strong messages about not damaging the environment in any way.

 

In urban areas we will ensure new housing developments include large areas of open space, only a limited number of through roads and a network of footpaths and cycleways. We will also work towards achieving these aims in existing settlements.

 

We will require every tier of local government to maintain all parks and open spaces to the highest standard so that they can be enjoyed by everyone. Extending the use of voluntary groups to help with this will be encouraged.

 

We will work to reduce traffic pollution and traffic noise wherever they occur.

 

All school pupils will be reminded regularly that it is anti-social to drop litter.

 

We will ask local councils to provide financial incentives to businesses which keep their premises tidy and attractive. Local councils will also be asked to continue, and perhaps expand,  their floral displays.

 

Every village, town and urban area will be required to have a minimum number of public conveniences which are maintained to the highest possible standard and cleaned regularly

 

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AGRICULTURE

 

We will recognise and celebrate the vital contribution that British agriculture makes to our lives.

 

We will work to ensure that food production in this country is beneficial to consumers and farmers. To this end, post Brexit, we will keep existing subsidies in the short-term but review the use of them in the longer term.

 

We will aim to produce more home-grown food, especially vegetables and fruit, but will continue to import a wide range of food from many different countries.

 

We will continue to promote a flourishing export trade and seek new global markets.

 

We will seek to persuade the consumer that slightly higher food prices may be necessary in order to support British agriculture.

 

We will promote the expansion of small-holdings and small farms and look into the advantages and disadvantages of large-scale enterprises.

 

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DEFENCE

 

We regard nuclear weapons as the greatest folly of humankind and will not support the renewal of Trident for the simple reason we would not be prepared to use it.

 

We would not use it because it would kill millions of innocent human beings. We would not use it either in a first strike or if we had been attacked. In the latter situation there would be no point in using it as it would have failed in its primary purpose as a deterrent and destroying millions of other people who would die as well as us would be mindless vengeance.

 

We will remind everyone that the vast majority of countries in the world do not possess nuclear weapons, including Germany, Spain, Italy, Australia and Canada.

 

We will remain in NATO in the short-term but consider whether we should withdraw sometime in the future if we can help eliminate the need for great power politics.

 

We will, however, consider whether it is viable to develop an effective defensive anti-missile system to protect ourselves against a hostile nuclear attack.

 

We will conduct research into producing advanced technology which does not involve any loss of life when conflicts arise.

 

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GOVERNMENT

 

Although our present political system on the whole enables most individuals to lead comfortable lives we consider there is room for considerable improvement that will advance the well-being of everyone and help bring about a more harmonious society.

 

It is our view that our current political discourse exhibits insufficient wisdom and intelligence and displays a lack of clear thinking on many issues. It also exhibits a woeful lack of maturity on far too many occasions.

 

We will therefore move to introduce calm, rational and sensible debate to political discussion as soon as possible. A new culture of political discourse will be established in order to organise our society and govern the country in a way that delivers the best possible well-being for everyone.

 

We will remove the outdated tradition of tribal politics from our system and replace it with a mature and rational approach to discussion and decision-making. We will encourage everyone to listen carefully to each other’s point of view and where necessary adjust their own viewpoints to reach conclusions rather than rely on engrained beliefs and prejudices.

 

We will strive to create a society where all citizens are fully informed on all issues and on the arguments for and against particular courses of action.

 

After extensive public consultation we will draw up a written constitution which will embody a statement of each individual’s rights and obligations as well as the behaviour and values that will be expected of them. This constitution will form the basis on which society is organised and governed.

 

Our constitution will be designed so that we move away from our present system of unrepresentative democracy to one that will always deliver fairness and at the same time be responsive to the wishes of most people. It will also safeguard the rights and ways of life of minorities.

 

We will work to persuade people that the constitution should include the following: more referendums on key political issues; the abolition of the House of Lords; a new voting system to elect members of parliament; and procedures for coalition governments which, under the new system, would become the norm.

 

In terms of those who represent us we will move to replace political parties with groupings of like-minded people. All votes in parliament will become free votes and it will be quite normal for MPs not to vote in the same way as their colleagues. If a vote is lost in parliament this will not be regarded as politically significant.

 

There will be no official opposition as all MPs will be expected to be intelligent enough to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of proposals that are discussed.

 

Prime Minister’s Questions will be ended as the behaviour it engenders is desperately immature and unintelligent.

 

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OUR GLOBAL OBLIGATIONS

 

Our aim will be to work unceasingly for a better world in which all our fellow humans, in whichever country they happen to live, have the best possible mental and physical well-being.

 

We will have the same aims and aspirations for our global society as we have for our national society. These will include aspiring to create a caring, compassionate global community, supporting those who need help in any way in any part of the world, and seeking to bring about much more equal individual and family incomes.

 

We will strive to achieve these aspirations through aiding other countries directly, through supporting their economies, through trade, and through candid and rational discussions about how they should organise their societies. Where necessary we will use sanctions as a means to try and persuade countries to move towards meeting our aspirations.

 

We will aim to ensure there is no element of exploitation in our economic engagement with other nations.

 

We will not sell any armaments to other countries.

 

It will be our mission to help forge a new, much stronger and much more effective role for the United Nations. We will argue for it to become the sole global arbiter in all conflicts. We will want it always to endeavour to find peaceful solutions but, if necessary, want it also to be prepared to take military action to protect those who need protection.

 

In the longer term we would like to see the role of the United Nations expand still further and become what would be called the Global Congress. This body would represent the views of all nation states and legislate on matters which affected the whole of humanity such as arms reduction, climate change, human rights, fair trade, and currency speculation.

 

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