Posts Tagged ‘One Nation Labour’

What is One Nation Labour?

09/05/2013, 07:00:14 AM

by Peter Watt

One Nation Labour, what exactly is it?  Well according to Ed Miliband on the Labour party website:

“Today, our country risks becoming two nations, with a million young people out of work, the gap between the richest and everyone else getting worse, and hard work not rewarded.  My core belief is in leaving this country a better place than I found it, and that when people join together, we can overcome any odds. We did it during the second world war and we did it when rebuilding the country afterwards. That is the spirit Britain needs today.”

I have quite a bit of sympathy for this.  We certainly needed to refresh our thinking and move on from new Labour which for much of the public had become tainted by ‘spin’.  With the Tories appearing to lack any sort of central purpose or vision other than deficit reduction, it was good to see the Labour Party trying to develop a fresh single organising thought.  The Party wanted a new sense of purpose and Ed’s espousal of One Nation Labour seemed really promising.

Over the last few months there has been some welcome associated rhetoric around challenging vested interests that threaten the living conditions of hardworking families.  So energy companies are challenged to reduce their prices.  Payday lenders are rightly targeted and there is talk of giving local people a bigger say in shaping their high-streets (I’m not quite sure what this means but I think if I did that I would support it!).  Certainly banks and some bankers had become greedy and there is a tiny percentage of the population that has got very rich and who seem very good at avoiding paying tax.  So far so good for ONL.

But then I get a little sceptical.  Firstly there is the fact that the One Nation rhetoric actually seems to divide the nation into three nations.  Of course there is the really rich ‘nation’ that Labour has a lot to say about; and it generally seems to be about taxing them and their bonuses more and then spending the receipts several times.  Then there is the really poor ‘nation’ who need support that Labour has a lot to say about; and it generally seems to involve opposing any reform of the welfare system.  And finally there is the everyone else ‘nation’ – the hard working lot that, as Ed points out, are not being rewarded very well and who feel a bit let down and put-upon.  And One Nation Labour doesn’t actually seem to say much about them at all.

And then there is this whole issue of challenging vested interests; of stepping in ‘when capitalism clearly isn’t working’ for families already struggling.  So banks, energy companies, pay day lenders and so on are all in the firing line.


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Ed needs to be clearer about what one nation Labour is not

18/02/2013, 07:57:43 AM

by Jonathan Todd

“‘You know something? It’s really quite satisfying when you help people to fulfil their dreams like that.’ ‘Christ, you fucking fascist,’ Tim said.”

This exchange between Malcolm Glover, a 1980s building society manager, and his son, Tim, features in Philip Hensher’s sweeping The Northern Clemency and comes after Malcolm helps a couple buy their council house. The formalities of this sale conclude thus:

“‘Goodbye, Mr Glover,’ the husband said, shaking his hand, ‘and thank you.’ He let go and, turning, took his wife’s beloved hand, and together they walked down the stairs. Malcolm watched them go with pleasure.”

The positive content of new Labour sought to appeal to voters like the grateful couple: attentive to their aspirations and eager to serve them. Notwithstanding this positive content, new Labour was immediately vivid because it clear about what it was not: the old Labour, the no-compromise-with-the-electorate vehemence of Tim.

New Labour connected with aspirant voters by relentlessly showing itself to be different from a Labour party that would deem it “fascist” to sell a council house to its tenants. It was new Labour because it was not old Labour.

Of course, this old Labour was always a caricature. The Labour party of Clement Attlee, Barbara Castle and Neil Kinnock was never as indulgent and disconnected as Tim Glover. The right to buy, for one thing, was a Labour policy before it was a Tory policy.

The sense, however, that Tony Blair’s election as party leader marked a year zero was reinforced early in his leadership by painting the past as an old Labour wasteland. Blair was the change that the country needed because he had the strength to move his party beyond the likes of Tim Glover.

The longer Blair was leader the less well this crude and simplistic contrast served him. What had cast him in broad strokes as a new leader came to motivate suspicion about him in the party later in his premiership.


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Sunday review on Monday: Ed Miliband’s speech to the Fabian Society conference

14/01/2013, 07:50:12 AM

by Jonathan Todd

The Fabian Society conference marks the new year in Labour politics as the third round of the FA Cup heralds another calendar year of football. No matter how many bore draws football fans shiver through, irrespective of the persistence of interminable political speeches, we summon reserves of hope and forbearance to return.

Ed Miliband, however, thinks activists can have justified hope. We know this because he told pre-Christmas Westminster receptions of the unprecedented position of strength Labour is in for a new opposition. We know this because the Labour Party has announced 106 seats that we are targeting to win, many of which are now a long way from being Labour. We also know this because Miliband chose the Fabian conference to launch a more intensive differentiation of his Labour Party from both old and new Labour.

Andrew Harrop, general secretary of the Fabians, thinks Miliband is right to be hopeful, as he introduced Miliband by anticipating him leading a government as transformative as Clement Attlee’s. Polly Toynbee further reinforced this hope by later saying that Labour would have to try hard to lose the next election.

It is necessary to revisit the launch of a Policy Network pamphlet by Ben Jackson and Greg McClymont to appreciate the significance that Uncut sees in Miliband’s speech.

Here a consensus hung in the air: parties returned to government after only one term in opposition tend to run against not only the incumbent government but against the government evicted at the previous election. Margaret Thatcher ran against Edward Heath in 1979, as well as James Callaghan.


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Time for one nation Labour to reach out to the red Tories

05/12/2012, 07:00:49 AM

by Michael Merrick

The Labour party is changing. Or rather, the landscape in which it sits is changing and the party is trying to keep pace. The last election brought with it some hard truths, while post-election analysis has offered little solace. The party had become too detached from ordinary people, increasingly rejected by that very constituency it always claimed to naturally represent. The Labour party had been abandoned by the people, just as those very same people claimed that it was the Labour Party who had abandoned them.

Clearly something had to change.

Nonetheless, there were and are still many within the Labour Party who screech themselves hoarse at the merest questioning of contemporary party dogma, the core creeds of an activist left not especially representative of the views of many in the tradition they claim as their own.

Yet the “new politics”, if it was ever anything, was a general and as yet undeveloped realisation that the old status-quo was bust. Difficult questions had to be asked. Difficult answers had to be countenanced. The party was too exclusionary, too ideologically narrow, and too doctrinally puritan. One nation Labour, whilst not devoid of internal contradiction, was partly a reaction to precisely this – the recognition that Labour has once more to become the party of the people.

Yet if change is happening, if politics really is on the cusp of a post-liberal settlement as many insist, then the common existence of liberalism across the political spectrum means that it is also on the cusp of post-party politics, since the post-liberal response also finds expression across the political spectrum.

Paradoxically, if Labour is to rediscover the ability to reach out across the social spectrum, it needs to grasp the post-party mantle. It needs to see itself once more as a movement, not a party, meaning it needs to once again build a social and cultural coalition agitating for change. It needs, in short, to throw open its doors and cease barring entry to those it once welcomed with open arms.


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Bring me the head of David Cameron

09/10/2012, 07:00:39 AM

by Jonathan Todd

Kill the body and the head will die, so goes the old boxing maxim. The spine that is the chief whip is banished from conference. The lifeblood that is the party chair does not know who he is. The minister for Murdoch, now minister for the NHS, has distracted from efforts to restore vitality to the body Tory with his views on the bodies of women.

The Tories are taking a pummelling. It has become, to mix metaphors, as easy as shooting fish in a barrel to attack Tory ministers. What is more challenging and much more consequential is to have these attacks stick on the man responsible for these ministers. Up until now the prime minster has displayed a rather Teflon ability to evade calculability for the rolling omnishambles over which he has presided.

Several shadow ministers have been heard to bemoan over the TV and radio lately that the rule for blame allocation in this government is ABC: Anyone but Cameron. Damaged ministers are kept in post for as long as possible to soak up as much opprobrium as possible – otherwise, it might attach to the prime minister. Hapless junior ministers, as far as possible from association to Cameron, are sent out to try to explain u-turns. No humiliation is too great for these dispensable shock absorbers. Their reputations only matter insofar as they impact upon the prime minister’s standing.

It’s no surprise that a man whose only motivation for being prime minister is that he wants to be prime minister is deploying a vain and self-serving strategy. But shallow egotism is not the only motivation for Number 10’s approach. They see Cameron as the Conservative’s strongest resource, which they must preserve over all others.

Even if – as has transpired – the economy tanked and deficit grew, Conservatives reassured themselves with the view that the country would never vote for Ed Miliband and had become content with the idea of Cameron – so natural, so smooth, so born to rule – as their prime minister. Now two things are changing, which worry these Tories.

First, Miliband is starting to look and act a bit more like a prime minister. He leads a party united and determined to make a concerted pitch for the electoral centre ground: two preconditions of electoral success that Tories had assumed Miliband would never satisfy.

Second, Cameron seems less imperious. It’s not that Boris Johnson has won two elections, while Cameron has won none. It’s not that Johnson strikes an easier bond with the Tory faithful. It’s not that a time beyond Cameron has long been in sight. But all of these things matter. It’s that events appear the master of Cameron and his incompetent ministers.


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How will Cameron respond to One Nation Labour?

05/10/2012, 11:38:36 AM

by Jonathan Todd

Damian McBride is right. Jon Cruddas is too. Even Phillip Blond is.

This amounts to a triumvirate of correctness trapping David Cameron. Precisely the position – as demonstrated by seizing the leadership initiative from David Davis with his no notes performance at Conservative Party conference in 2005, his party’s proposed cut to inheritance tax on the eve of the election that never was in 2007 and his snatching of victory from the jaws of defeat by forming a multi-party government in 2010 – from which he is most dangerous.

McBride has picked up a valuable insight from Gordon Brown, who told him in 2004:

“I’ve already had seven years. Once you’ve had seven years, the public start getting sick of you. You’ve got seven years when you’ve got a chance to get people on board, but after that, you’re on the down slope. I’ve tried not to be too exposed, but it’s still seven years. The only chance was getting in next year before the election. Tony knows that. Every year that goes by, the public are going to say: ‘Not that guy Brown, we’re tired of him – give us someone new.’”

McBride goes on:

“Why does any of this matter today? Well, next Wednesday marks seven years since David Cameron’s ‘speech without notes’ at the 2005 Tory conference, so we will soon get a chance to test the theory again. Cameron obviously hasn’t been PM for all of that time, but he was the most over-exposed opposition leader in history, and has undoubtedly been front line in the public consciousness for 7 years.”

Cruddas has reviewed Britain Unchained, a new book by rising Tory stars, and finds it a revealing take on the party that Cameron now leads:

“Scratch off the veneer and all is revealed: a destructive economic liberalism that threatens the foundations of modern conservatism … It is because this faction is in the ascendancy that Cameron is actually failing; he remains captive to an economic reductionism that could well destroy conservatism – in the proper sense of valuing and conserving the nature and assorted institutions of the country.”

It is this embrace of economic liberalism that has so disappointed Blond, one of the architects of the compassionate conservatism that was the intellectual mooring to Cameron’s years as “the most over-exposed opposition leader in history”. Blond moans of Cameron:

“His failure to maintain a coherent new vision has led to spasmodic appeals to vague progressive notions that have further alienated his own base and suggested that the PM is not a master of his own beliefs … Cameron’s thinking is now out of step with public demands and economic reality. People desperately want a new economic and social settlement. But nothing is on offer from the right, so the left has moved into the vacuum.”

The power of Ed Miliband’s audacious one nation pitch resides in capturing the ground that Blond chides Cameron for abandoning.


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