The next industrial revolution

Alex Sobel

Green, high-quality jobs are vital for the future

After the historic and unexpected general election result we must reflect on what brought us success and where we can improve to deliver a Labour majority at the next election.

The result came as a shock to many within the media and polling industries. However, to those of us campaigning on the ground, knocking on doors and talking to people from all walks of life, it became obvious that the Conservative message wasn’t resonating. Labour had an offer and a direction of travel which were much more popular than the polling or media output suggested. Every day we saw more and more people either discovering or returning to Labour. This was largely driven from the national level. Our manifesto went down very well. However, another major factor, especially here in my constituency, was the hard work and dedication of the hundreds of volunteers who came out doorknocking and leafleting. The energy was palpable, most obviously when Jeremy Corbyn came to the constituency and around 5000 people came out to see him. The ground campaign was coupled with a social media campaign which highlighted the issues in which local people would be interested – whether school cuts for parents or tuition fees for students. Perhaps most importantly, the volunteers were able to engage many unregistered and disengaged residents of the constituency and encourage them both to register and then to vote. This led to us having the biggest increase in the number of people registered to vote in the country, and pushed up overall turnout on the day.

But while we were able to win in Leeds North West, gain 30 other constituencies and increase our share of both seats and overall votes, we still have work to do and issues to address in order to form a government.

Labour needs a transformative programme – one which brings real change to the communities which have lost out in the last 30 years due to post-industrial decline. Our industrial strategy, launched during the campaign, recognises this. Many communities across our country have been forgotten and the people there are rightly angry and disillusioned with politics and politicians. Our post-industrial society is weighted towards the service sector over manufacturing and towards industries which are less labour-intensive with a lower skills base and poorer pay than the jobs they replaced. This loss of skilled jobs and loss of organised workplaces has led to a fragmentation of communities and a disconnect with other parts of the UK as well as the EU. All of this needs to be addressed.

We need an overall target for industrial growth, combined with rebalancing targets focused on employment, research and development, high-tech skill training, quality of workplace rights and reduction of carbon emissions – taking full advantage of the opportunities offered by the green agenda for new, high-quality jobs. Our commitment to ensuring that 60 per cent of the UK’s energy will come from low carbon or renewable sources is crucial here. We should see manufacturing as a key element of growth, with a manufacturing revival fit for the 21st century – one which maintains sustainability and the preservation of our environment as central goals and which works towards decarbonising industry entirely and producing a greener generation of workers.

As our industrial strategy says, the green and sustainable energy sector should be a major element of any manufacturing initiative Labour puts forward. We should aim to create an ‘energy revolution’ by taking steps such as reforming ownership of the grid – including common, state and innovative forms of ownership – which will open the energy market to smaller companies and create a more competitive market. Fossil fuel penalties would support the use of renewables across the manufacturing, business and domestic energy sectors. The UK has the potential to be a world leader in the building, development and manufacturing of green and renewable technology.

I am so proud of what we have achieved as a party over the last few months, but there is still more to do. We ran a great election campaign, produced a great manifesto setting out a fairer, more equal society and have been rewarded with our new seats, such as mine in Leeds North West. We need to use these victories as a springboard to help our manufacturing and renewable industries and the left behind communities of Great Britain. Labour must build a new industrial revolution that puts the environment and the workers of our country at its heart.


  1. John Cox

    Hi Alex,

    Congratulations on a great election victory.

    Employment & industry are such difficult areas. If we want to transform our communities their need for new “products” are likely to diminish as consumers are saturated with stuff they don’t need & probably don’t want. The products we do want to push will be green products but my feeling is that the state, in whatever form, will have to initiate & promote products which support environmental & ecological sustainability as in a competitive market place they are likely to be less well marketed & possibly more expensive.

    More important to me is how we employ people in activities which have a purpose and are based on mutual support & integration. In a University ward I am sure you fully appreciate the importance of education & higher education. Making Leeds a world class centre for learning would be a fine aspiration & would lead to ethical inward investment. Developing social care provision & maintaining the highest level of health care provision through the National Health Service is a vital industry that needs to be properly publicly funded..

    Reducing the cost of living is achievable by reducing the overall cost of housing, but this would have a huge effect on the revenues of banks & building societies. Unless we were able to show that a balance could be maintained between reduced land prices, lower house prices & smaller per person mortgages and an overall increase in demand for mortgages to make up for this loss to the financial institutions it is hard to see any fundamental change to the way housing is used as a market for borrowing rather than as a right to a home can be made.

    I think the Conservative party has shown in the past seven years that they have no vision for our country. This gives Labour an opportunity to, as you write, provide a transformative programme. Let us hope it is one that will increase our quality of life and increase personal self esteem by providing useful and rewarding employment.

    Again congratulations on your election and best wishes for the future,

    John Cox.

    • John Cox


      Sorry to write so soon again but I woke up thinking of regeneration. The next industrial revolution may well be a cultural & artistic one. We in Leeds are blessed to be the birthplace to one of the greatest living artists in Damian Hirst. As a city should we not be looking to provide a permanent home & a working space to our greatest artist? If Bradford offers an artistic home to David Hockney should Leeds not do the same for Damian Hirst.

      Just a thought,


  2. Helen Toft

    Great article Alex, which tells the story of your election fluently, and lays your Eco credentials out succinctly. Many in the service industries support your desire for a much better environment, like a mate who was asking me what would you do for a hard working but not highly paid young man like him? He is a highly regarded chef who has taken a local, environmentally aware cafe job over working in the ‘Big Smoke’ as he’s looking for a better quality of life. So (with my proviso that you could do little till Labour were in actual power) he was very keen on your ideas around much better transport systems for nights out and connections abroad; lowering pollution on our local crowded roads as well as making owning a home more affordable and sustainable for him and his peers. I know you will do your hardest to fight for these for him and everyone, thank you.

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This article originally appeared in the Summer 2017 issue of the Fabian Review.