David is an assiduous observer of political trends and in his essay, ‘A Postliberal Future’ he brings together with great skill his own analysis and the various strands of thinking that grew in and around Blue Labour, and which emerged out of critical engagement with it. The most significant of these being One Nation Labour which Ed Miliband established in his 2012 Conference speech.
I will make three general comments.
The first is that the original idea of One Nation emerged out of the Condition of England question and the moral and political response to the first phases of the Industrial Revolution in the 1840s. Ed Miliband’s One Nation politics which is concerned with the condition of the British people has deep historical roots in our country.
Britain, the first country to industrialise, has been one of the first to experience deindustrialisation. As we leave behind our industrial economy and society there is the excitement about the future taking shape around digital culture and new technologies. At the same time there is widespread concern about the cost of living and how the country will pay its way in the world. As new ways of life develop there also exist anxieties about the loss of old ways of life, about immigration, welfare and moral character.
Industrialisation created the labour interest that gave rise to the Labour party. It was characterised by intense agitation for working class democratic representation. Today the cultures, identities and social institutions that were built by the labour movement are a shadow of their former selves. Political association and popular cultural activity is richer and more varied than it has ever been, but it tends to happen elsewhere. There is no popular clamour for representation within the current political system, just disillusionment with it.
New Labour and its Third Way philosophy driven forward by a Clinton-style election machine was about renewing social democracy. The political project of One Nation Labour with its One Nation philosophy built around the party as a political movement is about rethinking it. It is a politics that values our traditions as a guide to a transformational politics of national renewal. Our focus on the cost of living crisis is about opening the door to the larger debate about how we build a new economy and then again, about the kind of civilisation we are and want to be in the future.
Which leads to my second comment. Globalisation and deindustrialisation have increased the cultural, social and economic divide between the governing elites who tend to subscribe to universalist and often abstract values, and large parts of national populations whose values are more conservative and rooted in the places people live. Across Europe social democratic parties have become rootless and marooned within the elites and the state. They have lost connection with significant parts of the electorate who were once their working class supporters.
Many of these voters are concerned about identity and belonging and are open to a radical politics that protects and conserves the values, cultures and places that matter to them at the same time as stressing fairness and reciprocity. Ed Miliband’s One Nation addresses this dilemma in being a politics that is both conservative and radical. One Nation is about national renewal which begins locally with people’s families, the work they do and the places they live. It is a journey back home, to our best traditions that root us in society, to our patriotism, and to a moral world of character and virtue; not doing good but making good.
My last point is that One Nation is a politics that puts people first, and a commitment to this politics is widespread across society. Over the last eighteen months coordinating the Labour policy review, I have listened and talked to literally hundreds of people from business to community organisations, from those running national organisation to those using public services. The desire to be part of building a better country, and to have a moral politics rooted in the local and familiar, and respectful of people, is widely felt.
One Nation is a politics that is building a coalition of interests. It is for more democracy and popular participation, not more state administration or more market transactions. It is both pro-worker and pro-business, for equality and for quality. It will tackle the cost of living crisis by reforming the economy so that it creates innovation and wealth, and works for all working people. That means reforming the state so that government devolves more power and responsibility to people. It is about a model of citizenship that promotes a sense of belonging and obligation to the country, and it is about a society that encourages the virtues of character for individual resilience, self-discipline and wellbeing. David’s essay sets out this politics.
Jon Cruddas is MP for Dagenham and Rainham and coordinator of Labour’s Policy Review. He is on Twitter @JonCruddasMP