5 things we’ve learned about One Nation and Labour’s next manifesto

19th November, 2012 8:17 am

Last week Jon Cruddas Guest Edited LabourList, which was an informative experience (and not just in the sense that I had to let go of the site for a week). The contributions that he commissioned showed the range and depth of thinking around Labour’s policy review, and the idea of “One Nation” (a phrase which, like some of you, I’ve seen more than enough lately).  However, what we don’t have yet is a clear set of Labour policies for 2015.

But amongst the pieces that Jon commissioned here last week, there were a few hints as to what might make Labour’s next manifesto.

Here are 5 things we learned last week about One Nation and Labour’s next manifesto: 

Housing – firstly, you don’t choose Jack Dromey as your shadow housing minister unless you want to construct a serious number of houses, so we know Ed Miliband takes housing seriously. But Dromey’s piece last week showed the depth of feeling on the issue, the magnitude of housing crisis and the extent to which Labour now understands it (including the party’s past failings. We should expect a Labour government to commit to a significant house building programme – in the high hundreds of thousands at least. 

Relational welfare – the idea of “relational politics” won’t be new to anyone who has followed the work of Blue Labour (and particularly Maurice Glasman) closely in recent years. It’s the strongest element of the work that London Citizens do, for example, but people had begun to ask how the relational could be made into policy. I still think it’s tough to codify relational solutions to national problems, but with IPPR’s relational state gaining real traction it’s clear that some concrete policy will come from this area. The best place to look? Perhaps relational welfare – as outlined by Hilary Cottam – with local communities working together to provide welfare support. We should expect trials of a more relational form of welfare support – taking (some of) welfare out of the hands of the state. 

Not so Eurosceptic – Ed Miliband may be saying “hard headed” things on Europe at present, and much has been made of Jon Cruddas’s previous calls for an EU referendum, but last week should have taught us to distinguish between criticism of the EU and the “better off out” tendency. Last week Jon Cruddas described a post entitled “Being One Nation doesn’t mean we should stand on the sidelines of Europe” as a “great article“. Labour wants a better Europe – but wants to stay in Europe. We might expect an EU referendum call – but for Labour to campaign stridently to stay in Europe. 

A more compassionate Labour Party – for me, the most affecting post of Jon’s Guest Edit was by my friend Sue Marsh, a truly heroic character who has fought not only her own condition, but a cruel system that attacks and discriminates against disabled people like her. Her post on the reality of disability, and the reality of where Britain stands on disability, felt like something of a watershed moment for Labour. I’ve been posting Sue’s heartfelt (and often heartrending) posts on LabourList for two years now. For such a post to be commissioned by the man behind the next manifesto made me proud to be Labour. We should expect a more compassionate welfare system that more adequately differentiates between disability an long term worklessness. 

One Nation (a home for more than just Labour) – perhaps the most surprising aspect of the last week for me (and to be honest, the most disconcerting) was seeing posts by a Lib Dem (Richard Grayson) and a Tory (Phillip Blond). Of course neither are particularly happy in their current parties at present, and obviously saw an opportunity to shape the debate within Labour. That they were happy to do so (on a Labour blog, commissioned by a Labour politician) suggests that One Nation can be more than just a slogan around which the Labour Party can organise – it can be a banner under which members of other parties can march too. We should expect a reassertion of One Nation ideas within other parties – and/or defections of “One Nation” politicians from other parties to Labour.

The end of Jon’s Guest Edit of LabourList doesn’t mean the end of One Nation on LabourList – we have a few more posts, commissioned by Jon Cruddas, to run throughout this week…

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  • AlanGiles

    “The end of Jon’s Guest Edit of LabourList doesn’t mean the end of
    One Nation on LabourList – we have a few more posts, commissioned by Jon
    Cruddas, to run throughout this week…”

    Don’t you threaten us, young man! 🙂

    Seriously though, Mark “range and depth”?. With the honourable exception of Sue Mrash – which you yourself single out, it was all rather in a monotone, a wish list of non-controversial mumbo-jumbo designed not to offend the right wing and the tabloid readers..

    Could we have a moritorium of the use of the words “one nation”, at least for a few days. It has become a worn-out cliche’, much like “The Big Society” – a here today, gone tomorrow cliche’. The phrase on everyones lips – till the next one.

    At least we were spared the weekly outpourings of Messrs Richards and Marchant, so I suppose every cloud has a silver lining.

    • aracataca

      Sue Mrash – Interesting name. Not sure who Sue Mrash is. Could you enlighten us?
      One Nation is of course a relatively new term having only been introduced by EM at conference. As a term it does provide a potent antidote to current Government policies focused on preserving the privilege and wealth of the few while disregarding the increasing plight of the many.
      Happy to hear an alternative slogan which you could offer- but on past form not expecting anything to be offered.
      As I’ve indicated elsewhere it wouldn’t matter what Labour were enunciating you’d be against it.

    • aracataca

      Alan -this Sue Mrash- Is she a person of Middle Eastern heritage whose parents elected to give her a western Christian name or is she of Eastern European descent?

      • AlanGiles

        William/aractaca. Have you really got nothing better to do than make cretinous little “jokes” about letters being transposed via a very small keyboard?.

        If I were you I would get back to your hilarious “FibDem” joke – the dozens of times you have used it, you obviously think it funny, but then, little things please little minds, and I doubt many minds are smaller than yours.

        I notice when the little joke didn’t get picked up, you had to post the same rubbish an hour later. You should get out more.

        • aracataca

          ‘Cretinous little jokes,’ eh? Oooh, that’s me told!!!

          Just to make things absolutely clear, I will continue to call them FibDems, firstly because it seems to annoy you and secondly because it suits them so well.

        • aracataca

          In 13 years of power Labour, and in particular James Purnell, did nothing about small keyboards- it’s all their fault.

          • AlanGiles

            Christ knows how many hours it took you to dream up that little bon mot. Well , yes we can see, TEN HOURS.

            I really would stop the stupid, asinine remarks William – it only shows you really don’t have anything intelligent to say, except adopting your my party right or wrong toadying.

            Anyway, you are pathetic.

  • There has been plenty of good and interesting stuff, true – and Mark picks out some of the best – but I can’t help but point out there’s been a fair amount of not so good stuff too. Much of it has had little or no relation to any meaningful One Nation politics, and some of it has actually been actively contradictory to that sort of aim.

    Perhaps it’s unfair to single out any one article, but since I read it yesterday and it’s fresh in the mind, Chi Onwurah’s article on science yesterday almost made me choke. Picking the title ‘Why science matters to Labour’ and then using the text to have a go at the scientific community for poor ‘representation’ of women and ethnic minorities (while being seemingly unaware of the amount of foreigners – including women – that the industry brings in to fill in its gaps) was, I thought, desperately unfair, lazy and ignorant. It was also just about an object example in how to annoy and antagonise a lot of clever people who might otherwise be sympathetic to you. Not much One Nation going on there.

  • SR819

    Relational welfare sounds like the state will abdicate some of its responsibility towards the unemployed. The focus on the community pooling together resources to provide welfare may sound good in theory, but what if people are influenced by the right wing media’s “scrounger” ideology and collectively decide to deny benefits to certain groups who are considered undeserving?

    One Nation sounds too populist to me, in fact the Labour Party at the moment seem to willing to pander to the right wing. Yvette Cooper seems more authoritarian on immigration and civil liberties than her opposite number, Ed Balls has admitted he’ll not reverse a single cut, on welfare Labour seem to have accepted the false idea that too many people are taking benefits but not contribution (John Denham’s article last week) while on Europe we decided to vote with the Tory right.

    How about we try to change people’s perceptions and views rather than pander to them?

    • AlanGiles

      Quite right. In fact in one of the more dire articles Graeme Cooke said, in effect, that if the public perception of welfare is as it is, instead of trying to educate and inform, we should just go along with it.

      • Steve Griffiths

        That’ll be the Graeme Cooke who was ‘Expert Advisor’ to the Secretary of State at the Department for Work and Pensions between 2008 and 2009: so fingerprints all over the social policy tragedy that is welfare marketisation, with tragic consequences for hundreds of thousands of people who are unable to work – that was about when Lord Freud was brought in by the Labour Government, and when James Purnell belittled medical evidence of incapacity to work. The latest inheritance of his contribution would be:
        The People’s Review of the Work Capability Assessment. One Nation In Denial. You can have all the pretty policies to enable people you like, I’m all in favour, but you’ve got to have what we in the Stone Age called a ‘safety net’. A little humanity almost universally abandoned in the ‘thinking’ echelons of Labour.

        • AlanGiles

          Exactly Steve, and that is why I think the Cruddas “review” is nothing more than a PR exercise. A rebranding of New Labour. If Miliband wants to prove us wrong the first thing he could do is sack Byrne as Shadow DWP Minister, who endorsed all of the Purnell/Freud rubbish

          • Serbitar

            With such a blotted record (and at least partial responsibility for some of the most mistaken and deadly welfare policies I have ever seen made law by any government) why is a character like Graeme Cooke still being courted by the Labour Party at all? Whatever next? Hiring King Herod as a “special adviser” in respect to Labour’s child care policies?

    • Serbitar

      Relational welfare existed in England for a couple of hundred years or so, during the sixteenth, seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, when paupers were forced to go “On the Parish” in order not to starve, i.e., apply for relief, locally, from local people. The hardship and suffering that resulted was incredible as anybody with even the most rudimentary knowledge of British history would know. It really is difficult not to fall into despair when you realise just how brainless many of the people currently steering Labour Party policy really are.

      Disturbing, frightening, and tragic beyond words.

      (But the bouncy mule-headed stupidity is unbearable.)

  • Simon D

    It would be good if LP members had a say in our next manifesto. The idea that we are ‘one nation’ in which billionaire oligarchs share a common interest with people surviving on minimum wage was a pretty rubbish idea when the Tories used to push it. That we are having this forced on us at a time when inequality has never been so great, and without any democratic discussion is pretty depressing.

    • AlanGiles

      Let alone from having a say in the manifesto Labour 2012 has on at least two occassions inflicted a short list of two candidates, rather than let their local CLP make a decision on who should be in the short lists. I think they need to practice democracy before they have the cheek to preach it.

    • Jayne Linney

      I’m with you Simon

  • Serbitar

    For a moment listening to Ed Miliband’s speech in the recent past hope flickered into life from the ashes of an all but extinguished fire, until I read the series of dubious, flimsy and meaningless articles commissioned by Jon Cruddas on LabourList last the last week. All is darkness now. Goodnight.

  • Dave Postles
  • There is no coherency to One Nation and appears to this weary cynic as an attempt at re-branding. The phrase will mean all things to all people and allow the leadership total freedom in determining what is and what isn’t an One Nation approach much in the same way Blair determined New Labour was whatever he said it was. If One Nation goes the way of the Third Way we can always resort to New New Labour or even New Old Labour if we leave it in the hands of branders or we could try resorting to simple social democracy. Now there is a thought.

    • aracataca

      As the last week has indicated One Nation is a work in progress and part of an internal debate and is also a themed antidote to tax cuts for millionaires etc. Which social democracy are you talking about?- UK circa 1968, Sweden, post-war Germany, David Owen’s ‘social democracy’, Correa’s social democracy in Ecuador, even the Bolsheviks were part of the Russian Social Democratic Federation before it split.

      ‘Social democracy’ has always been pluralistic in outlook and long may that be the case.In realpolitik it has always been about protecting the most disadvantaged from the worst effects of capitalism. It has also always been concerned with providing practical help for people in the here and now. In this context thematic names are not so important.

  • Will Labour be producing an English manifesto as well as a Scottish, Welsh and “UK” manifesto? If we are to be “one nation” then surely all home nations should be treated the same?

  • David Brede

    Apart from housing I do not think there is much here to get the voters running to polls to vote for us.


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