For Ed Miliband, One Nation was a soundbite. For moderates it should be the rallying cry to take on Corbyn

by Tom Clements

There is much to regret about the leadership of Ed Miliband; not least the election defeat and changes to leadership election rules that have led to the election of Jeremy Corbyn. But for me, it’s the abandonment of One Nation Labour. At the time, I thought that this was the game changer. A genuinely inclusive and unifying offer with which we could change the country for the better.

I was wrong.

It wasn’t a genuine offer or an ideological framework. It was a cheap parlour trick. One that was designed to win a few headlines and embarrass the Prime Minister by taking a conservative idea and claiming it for Labour. That’s what makes me angry about Ed’s leadership.

It could’ve been so bold.

Instead, the idea fell up against the ‘predistributing’ instincts of Miliband. The instinct that the rich weren’t really part of Miliband’s One Nation. They were just there to foot the bill. He fell into that worst Labour tradition of implying that being rich and wanting to be rich was something to resent.

Not that there is anything wrong with the rich paying their fair share. Far from it, it’s the only way that a society can function in harmony. As the brilliant Senator Warren argues “no one gets rich on their own” and it’s there duty to give “a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid that comes along”. And that is right.

And it wasn’t just about the rich.

He forgot about the traditional working class; those who UKIP are trying to woo. We treated their concerns about immigration and benefits with suspicion not understanding. Suspicion that meant that the white van in Rochester was only the tip of the iceberg. Suspicion that meant they stayed at home or put their cross in a different box on election day.

And this is what cost us the election.

Those votes that went to the Tories instead of swinging to us. Those votes that would have won Nuneaton, Pudsey and Thurrock.

But One Nation is the way that we can bring them back.

One Nation Conservatism was Benjamin Disraeli’s response to a very resonant series of problems. An attempt to heal a country divided by poverty, stalked by revolution and a defeated Party. Sound familiar? If we are ever to win back the country, we have to realise the problems we face.

A country divided arguably more so than ever before. Scottish vs English and Welsh. Skiver vs striver. Immigrant vs non-immigrant. And it’s only being made worse by this divisive, uninterested and incompetent Conservative Government.

Our country is crying out for a government to bring us back together. But it won’t wait for the Labour Party. We need to get our act together first.

One Nation is a socialist principle that we have allowed the Tories to steal and have ownership of for far too long. One Nation means collectivism. People working together for good of the many and opportunity for all. It means public services based on need not ability to pay. This is an opportunity for a vision big enough to win back the Party and to change our country for the better.

If we are to succeed, we can’t just take the easy options again. It’s not just about an education policy that offers outstanding education for the whole country paid for from the ending of charitable status for private schools. Or a health policy that integrates social care with the rest of the health service. Or a transport policy that renationalises the railways.

All these are good ideas. They have the potential to be great ideas. But they will never be implemented unless we address the fundamental problems that we face.

We need to bring back the middle class and aspirant middle classes. We need to understand their hopes and not make them feel guilty about it. This was the genius of New Labour. They understood that if higher earners were to accept higher taxes, they had to feel like they were part of the system. That they got something from the state rather than just being expected to bankroll it. That meant universal child tax credits, improved schools and a world class health service.

If we are to return to government, we must focus on these people that turned their back on us on the last election. We must go back to these principles otherwise they will keep us out of power for another generation. We must address their concerns on economic competence, not allow their concerns on security to stick and, above all, give them a positive reason to vote Labour.

Of course this should mean improved schools, a better health service and efficient rail links but we shouldn’t stop there. A People’s Bank to offer support to start ups, SME’s and first time buyers. Tax breaks for small businesses who employ apprentices. And a pledge that we will never take more in tax than people will take home in their pay.

But we shouldn’t stop at the rich for there is another group of voters that we can ignore only at our peril. We must start taking the needs of traditional working class communities more seriously because if we don’t, we won’t just lose power, we might even lose our Party.

Places like Leeds East, Middlesbrough and Deane Valley have always returned Labour members of Parliament because we have always been on their side.  But today, in communities where betting shops and pawnbrokers have replaced cafes and independent shops, we cannot ignorantly rely on their support. We need to remember them and not just expect wealth from nearby cities to trickle down to them.

It isn’t true that these voters will only be won back by a radical left wing manifesto; nor is it true that they are only concerned about immigration. Their concerns are the same as the middle classes. Security, fairness and opportunity for them and their children. But for too many of these communities, they are missing more than this, they have lost their hope.

For mining and manufacturing communities whose soul was ripped out along with the factory that bound the people together are waiting. They are waiting for the Labour Party to come back for them. But they won’t wait too long; they can’t afford to. And if we don’t appeal to them, then they’ll jump on the next vessel that appears and they’ll be gone forever.

This means that we need to build a more balanced economy. An economy that brings these communities, and the people, but to life. This means investment in new and renewable technologies to foster the White Heat of the 21st century. This means tax breaks and incentives for businesses to invest in these areas so that these communities have a chance regenerate. It means technical colleges to prepare the next generation of young people for the next generation of opportunities. It means more apprenticeships, it means more bursaries for later life education and, above all, it means more secure, well paid jobs that people can be proud to hold.

If we are to win our Party back from the Socialist fantasy that we are currently engaged in, we must be bold. As moderates, we don’t have to stick to managerialism or to reluctant policy offers. We can’t let the Corbynites claim radicalism. We have to continue the radical centrist tradition of Attlee, Gaitskell, Crosland and Blair. Only through this can we reclaim the Party and the country. Remember, we are at our best when we are at our boldest.

Tom Clements is a history and politics teacher in Leeds

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26 Responses to “For Ed Miliband, One Nation was a soundbite. For moderates it should be the rallying cry to take on Corbyn”

  1. swatantra says:

    Good point about the Rich, they always seem to be erased from Labour’s mind, as though they didn’t exist in society, and were unwelcome like a foul smell.
    But the Rich will always be with us, just as the Poor will always be with us.
    That is the way Fate deals out the cards. You can’t blame people for being rich or make them feel guilty about being rich, just as you can’t blame the poor for being poor.
    Labour seem to have no place for the rich in their vision of society, and that surely is wrong.

  2. Tafia says:

    Yes but Labour isn’t a One Nation party anymore.

    It’s collapsed in Scotland and will not return to a centre or centre right London-led party. Even it’s leader up there openly acknowledges that.

    It’s nominal ally in Northern Ireland – the SDLP, wants out of the UK, is nearly exclusively Roman Catholic and is openly anti-monarchist.

    It’s Wales branch is recovering because of Corbyn. Prior to him it was in long term decline because the Labour vote in Wales is – like Scotland, more left wing than Labour England. (Carwyn Jones said of Labour HQ that he wants to put “clear red water” between them and Cardiff).

    And to cap it all, the Tories only need England to win – which reinforces the attitudes of Wales and Scotland.

  3. Tafia says:

    It’s nominal ally in Northern Ireland – the SDLP, wants out of the UK, is nearly exclusively Roman Catholic and is openly anti-monarchist.

    It’s also outspokenly and solidly anti-TRIDENT,openly against involvement in Syria, is against the relaxation of Northern Ireland’s abortion laws and it’s party website is ‘.ie’ deliberately.

  4. Anne says:

    Well said- about time – someone with vision – you should be on some policy group putting this into policy – it is most certainly what is needed.

  5. Harry says:

    This is all very good stuff, I applaud everything that has been written but have a number of observations;

    1. Surely Conservative voters aspire to exactly the same principles, they do not have to oppose fairness, the end result is actually wanted by the majority of the population, the question is how to deliver it.

    2. The challenge for any government is to transfer the “fairness” into the country as a whole. The idea of technical training and apprenticeships is absolutely correct, but until we have an environment that actually supports the logical implementation of such initiatives and involves industry in designing the solution, it will forever be stifled by bureaucracy. Believe me, the state is an inflated and hugely expensive drain on our ability to deliver fairness, it will only be led by the private/social enterprises that are responsive to change.

  6. Mike Stallard says:

    I live on the fringes of London in the Fens.
    What strikes me is that where I live is not completely classless. The diminishing number of white British are all equal.
    Beneath us, often striving to rise to our level, is a mass of immigrants of all shapes and sizes. Some strive to fit in. Some are determined not to. Some are criminals, drunks, druggies; some are serious people with marriages and children and houses and steady jobs. And religion, although that too is fading.
    The Labour Party (and the Conservatives) fits in perfectly with this situation with a tiny blob of white people (and some tokens) running the show in their own group-think way and the rest of us taking the medicine.

  7. John says:

    Good, but I’m wondering how much of this Corbyn would disagree with.

  8. Anne says:

    I am from Cumbria, and am very proud of the way my county has managed the resent floods – much work undertaken by volunteers – demonstrating good community spirit My county is also known as the energy coast. There are proposals for five barrages across estuaries from the Solway to the Lancasire coast – this will improve infrastructure but also provide hydro power. These projects should be encouraged. I feel the Labour Party has forgotten about working people – the very people the party was set up to represent. It is managed by a small group from London. I hope the next leader of the Labour Party comes from outside of London and truly considers the needs of our nation as a whole. I would suggest they take on Tom Clements on as an advisor.

  9. paul barker says:

    What a lot of words to say so little of consequence. Labour Uncut is supposed to be a site for Labour Centrists, it should be the site of discussions about whether Labour is lost to moderate politics – if so, where to go ; if not, how to seize power in a Party where two thirds of the members are against you. Actually both seizing power & splitting amount to the same in the end – two Parties of which one, both or neither would get The Labour Name. If that name is really worth fighting for then The PLP majority need to develop some guts.
    If you think a Civil War would leave nothing but ruins, not worth having then you all need to decide whether to form a new party or join The Libdems. Articles like the one above are simply a way of avoiding hard decisions.

  10. Mike Homfray says:

    Its mostly stuff we could all agree with

    The problem from your point of view is that NL paid for it by growth and borrowing

    Now, it would need to be paid for by higher taxation and borrowing, at least for the first few years. And its only the Labour left who are honest enough to state this clearly.

    And Harry’s point about who delivers is also correct, but he is entirely wrong in thinking that the private sector will do anything at all without being forced to. They are not interested in investment, just profit.

  11. Sean Connor says:

    The disabled and the employed, and the unions are under attack by the Tories. Yet all this writer can is attack Jeremy Corbyn and praise Tony Blair. This writer should join the Tories and take Labóur Uncut with him.

  12. Bob Robinson says:

    Senator Elizabeth Warren is a lady. A lady with class and vision. The full quotation of which you cite a part is worth reading,marking and inwardly digesting:

    “There is nobody in this country who got rich on their own. Nobody. You built a factory out there – good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory… Now look. You built a factory and it turned into something terrific or a great idea – God bless! Keep a hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”

  13. Harry says:

    Mike (Homfray) – what makes you so certain? Have you empirical evidence? My life is about bridging the gap between the private and the public sector, and I will give you just one example;

    One industry (5 major organisations) wish to introduce a Higher Apprentice pathway, 5,000 students annually, all guaranteed employment, upskilling, qualifications awarded (meaning free higher education for students), ready and willing to fund the entire programme because it would ease their difficulties in recruitment, yet it has taken the public sector 3 years to even sit down and discuss this. Savings for government probably £15 million. For public sector think of all the beaureaucrats that are at the heart of Whitehall and associated satellite organisations.

    And Mike, read my message again, I said private and SOCIAL enterprises, I live and breathe this world and have evidence, please do not dismiss fact unless you have equally valid facts at your disposal.

  14. James Martin says:

    I’m confused. Do you want to take on the Tories or ‘take on Corbyn’? If the latter why, when most of what is in this article Corbyn supporters like me could easily agree to? Are you trying to make differences where none exist? And why say one minute that “One Nation is a socialist principle” and then the next conclude that you want to “win our Party back from the Socialist fantasy that we are currently engaged in”? Tom, it says you are a teacher, but boy oh boy your confused and contradictory essay makes no sense – what would you give one of your students for such a poor attempt? An E for effort perhaps, or is that being too generous given the complete lack of coherent argument on show? Must do better!

  15. Peter Kenny says:

    Most votes from the 1997 landslide were lost in 2005 and 2010. Labour gained votes in England in 2015 – not even remotely enough but that is what happened.

    What Miliband actually did was to hold off the reckoning in the party about NL, whose “genius” shared responsibility for two catastrophes – Iraq and the crash of 2008 and Labour will carry those Albatross’s for years. – so Ed gave the impression that we could glide relatively painlessly from NL to something better.

    What I don’t see in articles like this is any idea about your part in your failure but hey nothing changes there.

    Anyway – split or stay?

    FFS make up your minds.

  16. John P Reid says:

    Well sean if we’d had a blairite leader, we may have wion in May and wouldn’t have your worries, but wouldn’t taking labour -uncut to the Tories,increase the Tory majority?

  17. Andrew says:

    The Labour Party cannot move on until it is brave enough to come out and publicly condemn the cowardice of Ed Miliband in running away the day after polling and leaving the party in chaos. The wider public watched this happen and that is how they will view any potentialLabour leader until such time as it is dealt with: as ‘spineless cowards only driven by self-interest’. Not the sort of person the average UK voter would choose to rely on in a real crisis. This underpins everything and will come back again and again and be shouted loud in 2020

  18. Tabman says:

    This website is a homage to that Clash classic “Should I stay or should I go?”.

    “If I stay there will be trouble … if I go there will be double!”

    Paul Barker – who is Official Labour and who is Provisional Labour?

  19. Ex labour says:

    Tom Clements would do well to research some of his comments. As I have stated here before, Labour and the left in general have always tried to push the UK towards a “collectivist” position. However social researchers have constantly found that our cultural attitudes are “individualistic” in nature and in fact we are one of the most individualistic nations in the world.

    Labour moderates talk about aspiration, but do not recognise this as part of being individualistic. They wrongly assume that everyone is collectivist and that all who believe in collectivism are aspirational. They are putting two and two together and making five.

    As for the rhetoric on immigration, correct me if I’m wrong but wasn’t it a moderate Labour government who had an open door policy ? I watched an interview with Alan Johnson in his pro-EU role last night and he has still not grasped the fact that immigration is a major issue to traditional Labour voters and is changing the face of our communities.

  20. Anne says:

    Most unions did not back Corbyn as their first choice for leader of the Labour Party.

  21. Mike Homfray says:

    Social enterprise is an oxymoron – and everything Harry the Lime says just sums up why I really couldn’t care less which Tories are in power – the real ones or the LINO’s.
    Thats why I shall continue to support Jeremy Corbyn and oppose anything remotely approximating to New Labour.

  22. ed the m says:

    Please change the record. I know the grieving process has to run its course but it is taking an unconscionable time and a plethora of repetition. Take Jeremy on if you liks but it willonly increase your anguish. You will lose. Ther’s no going back.

  23. Harry says:

    Mike (Homfray) – do you never engage in a factual discussion or are you just driven to criticise things you don’t understand? It doesn’t matter whether someone is to the left of Chairman Mao or to the right of Attila the Hun, it strikes me that without a factual debate we will never progress beyond the infantile. And the word “factual” is particularly important in this context!

  24. Tafia says:

    Most unions did not back Corbyn as their first choice for leader of the Labour Party.

    The big unions did and he took 57.6% of the affiliate vote – which is basically the union membership. (Burnham took 26%, Cooper 12.6% and Kendall 3.7%)

  25. WHS says:

    The author of this piece claims to be a history teacher. What history has he been reading?

    “One Nation Conservatism was Benjamin Disraeli’s response to a very resonant series of problems. An attempt to heal a country divided by poverty, stalked by revolution and a defeated Party.”

    Disraeli did not come up with One Nation Conservatism. His phrase, in Sybil, is “Two nations; between whom there is no intercourse and no sympathy; who are as ignorant of each other’s habits, thoughts, and feelings, as if they were dwellers in different zones, or inhabitants of different planets; who are formed by a different breeding, are fed by a different food, are ordered by different manners, and are not governed by the same laws: the rich and the poor.”

    But having put out that epithet he did nothing with it. It’s the One Nation Group of Tory MPs who came into Parliament in 1950 (including Ted Heath, Reggie Maudling, Iain Macleod and Enoch Powell) who appropriated the phrase and applied it to the Tory policies that came out in the late 1940s, after the Tories had been beaten by Labour.

    “One Nation is a socialist principle that we have allowed the Tories to steal and have ownership of for far too long. One Nation means collectivism.”

    One Nation Conservatism is not a socialist principle [sic], it is an avowedly anti-socialist anti-collectivist system of thought (go and ask Macleod and Enoch Powell if they thought themselves socialists!). You have not allowed we Tories to steal it because it is not yours; it is ours and always has been.

  26. TrT says:

    “Class sizes to be cut to 30 or under for 5, 6 and 7 year-olds by using money from the assisted places scheme.

    Fast-track punishment for persistent young offenders by halving the time from arrest to sentencing.

    Cut NHS waiting lists by treating an extra 100,000 patients as a first step by releasing £100 million saved from NHS red tape.

    Get 250,000 under-25-year-olds off benefit and into work by using money from a windfall levy on the privatised utilities.

    No rise in income tax rates, cut VAT on heating to 5 per cent, and keeping inflation and interest rates as low as possible.”

    That was what Labour promised the nation to get back in to power.

    Reduction in benefit

    All of the above came with clear achievable goals, not vague statements about a better world, voters dont care that you “heart” the NHS, they care that they can be treated and their life saved if they have the have the ill manners to fall ill outside the 9-5 monday to friday hours the Doctors Union finds convenient.

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