Kelvin MacKenzie shows why One Nation Labour must succeed

9th December, 2012 11:41 am

The occasions when Kelvin MacKenzie needs to shut up and go away are manifold and numerous, and usually it can be assumed that he’s an odious man who should be ignored. But sometimes it just has to be said aloud.

For example, his latest outburst. Kelvin, that famed master of tact and diplomacy, thinks that the south east of England and London do all the work and are carrying the rest of the country, and that someone – he’s a right-winger, writing in the Telegraph; I think it’s safe to assume he means the unreconstructed Tory backbenches – should put the interests of him and his before the country as a whole.

Now, I have many reasons to loathe MacKenzie. As a northerner. As a Liverpool FC fan. As a sane, compassionate human being. And here is no exception. But as well as the obvious sources of outrage, there are some important lessons here for Labour supporters, if we’re willing to look and to learn.

The “One Nation” concept is still undergoing its formative period, but already it is resonating with the country. And it helps that Labour is the only political party which can claim to represent the whole nation. The Conservatives are the party of the south, and don’t exist in any meaningful form in Scotland. The Lib Dems are heading towards not existing in any meaningful form at all. And now the likes of MacKenzie want the focus to narrow even closer onto the people who, honestly, have done the best out of the boom times and apparently the bust.

The irony is that I’m writing this from, erm, the south east.

The reason that I’m here, however, is because for the last thirty years – and probably longer – the exclusive economic focus of successive governments has been on London and the south east. Or at least that’s what it feels like to people living outside those areas. My family moved when I was sixteen because my father was working constantly in the south east. Decades of policy has turned the area into a magnet, drawing talented people out of other areas by the sheer necessity to earn a living.

If MacKenzie was advocating more localised governance — regional assemblies, anyone? – I might have time for it. But he isn’t. He’s calling for further privilege for an already privileged area, a national party – and thus government – which neglects the majority of its people in favour of a self-appointed elite.

Of course the south-east is important. If we want a Labour government in 2015 we have to regain support, votes and seats there. But to pretend that one region is all important or that it somehow carries the rest of the country, is a road to division, social strife, and ultimately disaster.

One Nation, at its core, is a way around this. If we can move forward as a single discrete entity, then we might actually stand a chance of getting out of the economic hole we’re stuck in. People like MacKenzie, reflected in the government’s us-and-them line on welfare and disability benefits, would play different parts of a society they don’t believe exists against each other for their own gain. This outburst is a reminder to the Labour Party of why the One Nation project is important, and why we must make it succeed.

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  • ManchesterMaddy

    I don’t agree with the article either but you haven’t made any attempt to refute what he said – you’ve just complained a bit.

    There is clearly an issue with London sucking talent out of the regions. I also wonder if just moving lots of public sector jobs North is actually a good way of addressing the problem – wealth should still be redistributed from London but perhaps in a different way, one which helps the North to develop its own industries again.

  • MacKenzie’s article was a disgrace. I remember reading that and thinking the Telegraph had done itself a great disservice in publishing it.

    I quite like the idea of ‘one nation Labour’ as an intellectual thought process, but no more. It just won’t stand up to any sort of resistance when the Tories just say ‘er, the economy’.

    Lord Ashcroft, who continues to be Labour’s best pollster, unearthed in his latest research that:

    “Only a handful of participants had noticed Miliband’s claim that Labour was the “one nation” party, and even fewer knew what he meant, let alone understood that it had historically been a phrase used to describe the Conservatives. For many, their best guess was that “one nation” referred to the United Kingdom in the context of the Scottish independence debate”.

    Which is rather worrying, and telling.

    • I don’t agree. Its very much about moving away from this ridiculous concentration on a handful of voters in the south-east, and also the over-use of focus groups too….Labour doesn’t need to win a huge number of south east seats, and we have a way to go in terms of convincing them of our social stances

      What is clear is that the country is very divided, and that there needs to be more co-operation and working together – its a very different message from the Tories, who have been unable to sustain their ‘big society’ slogan and have reverted to the usual dog whistle stuff to hold their core vote together

      The danger is that ‘One Nation ‘ itself will start to be used as a slogan rather than a theme

      • It’s ironic Mike that you like the One Nation theme but at a stroke say the Labour party should simply ignore the south east. See the contradiction?

        It’s naive to think that Miliband and Co will stop using focus groups, or indeed just abandon the south, just because they used a clever slogan. Labour doesn’t exist in the south; we polled just 16& across the south west, south east and East of England holding just 12 out of 210 seats in these three southern regions. I think that’s a disgrace and we can’t win without holding more.

        • We need to win more southern seats, but that’s quite different from needing to appeal to the south as a whole. We lost the south in 1997, with the Tories getting twice as many seats as we did from East Anglia, the South East and the South West.

          We still did fine, because we won the southern seats we plausibly could. The southern seats where we’re competitive are not typical of the region as a whole. They’re more urban, poorer and have a greater proportion of workers in either the knowledge economy or manual labouring jobs. We have to distinguish between what we need to do Kingswood or Great Yarmouth and what we’d need to do to win Maidenhead or North Devon.

        • We need to win more southern seats, but that’s quite different from needing to appeal to the south as a whole. We lost the south in 1997, with the Tories getting twice as many seats as we did from East Anglia, the South East and the South West.

          We still did fine, because we won the southern seats we plausibly could. The southern seats where we’re competitive are not typical of the region as a whole. They’re more urban, poorer and have a greater proportion of workers in either the knowledge economy or manual labouring jobs. We have to distinguish between what we need to do Kingswood or Great Yarmouth and what we’d need to do to win Maidenhead or North Devon.

        • We need to win more southern seats, but that’s quite different from needing to appeal to the south as a whole. We lost the south in 1997, with the Tories getting twice as many seats as we did from East Anglia, the South East and the South West.

          We still did fine, because we won the southern seats we plausibly could. The southern seats where we’re competitive are not typical of the region as a whole. They’re more urban, poorer and have a greater proportion of workers in either the knowledge economy or manual labouring jobs. We have to distinguish between what we need to do Kingswood or Great Yarmouth and what we’d need to do to win Maidenhead or North Devon.

          • I’m not suggesting that Labour should sweep all southern seats Edward, just that getting a darn sight more than 12 is an absolute must for the next incoming Labour government. Wouldn’t you agree?

            Like any political party Labour must prioritise where it can win. So you’re right, we shouldn’t be spending time and resources on some of the safest Conservative seats in the country. You don’t really have to be an electroal strategist to figure that one out. But re-gaining the seats we lost in 2010 (which we did well to hold on to in 2005) is a necessity.

          • I would imagine we will win most, but not all of them, in terms of the southern seats. However, I think we will get enough for a majority

        • I don’t think we should ignore it – just don’t think that they should get a different message or different treatment! I want to convert hearts and minds there, not see ours converted – its One Nation LABOUR!
          Why is it a disgrace that we don’t win those seats? Maybe at the moment people living there don’t see our policies as financially beneficial to them, or they disagree with our social stances? Is it a ‘disgrace’ that people disagree with us?

    • The ‘One Nation’ concept will need to be fleshed-out with policy if it is to gain much traction. I’m hoping that Ed’s reported war* on Osborne’s latest proposed benefit cuts will be the starting point – it’s a magnificent high-profile opportunity for Ed to do the right thing and, at the same time, nail the One Nation colours to the mast. Let battle commence!

      As for MacKenzie’s ‘southern party’, if it comes to anything, I reckon UKIP (as the most vociferous pro-cuts – both tax and benefits – party) – will have the most to lose. This could split the far-right anti-tory vote – perhaps this is MacKenzie’s intention.

      * http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/dec/08/ed-miliband-george-osborne-welfare

  • “And it helps that Labour is the only political party which can claim to represent the whole nation”

    Wrong, wrong. wrong. The Labour Party still do not field candidates in 18 constituencies, all of which are in Northern Ireland, thus failing to even attempt to represent one whole constituent part of the United Kingdom. The Tories have virtually no redeeming features but at least they fielded candidates in all but one constituency at the last general election.

    I very much support our “one nation” strategy but it stinks of hypocrisy and the claim that we are the only political party of the whole UK is nothing more than a blatant lie. Until the party fields candidates in every singly constituency of the UK then any claims we make to being a one nation party are hollow.

  • Quiet_Sceptic

    I don’t understand where this reassuring myth that the Tories are the party of the South has come from and why someone hasn’t killed it yet. In 2010 they took lots of seats across the Midlands, the South West, East Anglia and plenty of seats in the North, not just rural but also lots of regional town and city constituencies.

    A similarly critical look at Labour could accuse the party of being the party of the inner city and the post-industrial heartlands. Based on a map of the 2010 election results I think you’d struggle to argue that Labour was representative of the whole nation.

    That’s not to say Labour can’t be the One Nation party but I think it would be dangerously complacent to believe we are already there. We’re not.

  • Dave Postles

    My server is located in Rochdale. I decided on it because the company has been voted the best ISP and service provider by numerous authoritative organizations. We used them first as an ISP (with basic web service), but I have now upgraded to my own server with this company. It has recently expanded its data centre in Rochdale. The opportunities are still there. Recently, high-quality textile production has been relocated back from the Far East to NW England. Do consumers really wish to buy products from companies, like The Gap and Walmart/Asda which allegedly refused to upgrade the fire precautions in factories in Bangladesh, resulting in the deaths of more than 100 employees? My IT kit was assembled to my specification by a company in Holmfirth – the quality and build is excellent at highly-competitive pricing. We can do this.

  • Dave Postles

    My server is located in Rochdale. I decided on it because the company has been voted the best ISP and service provider by numerous authoritative organizations. We used them first as an ISP (with basic web service), but I have now upgraded to my own server with this company. It has recently expanded its data centre in Rochdale. The opportunities are still there. Recently, high-quality textile production has been relocated back from the Far East to NW England. Do consumers really wish to buy products from companies, like The Gap and Walmart/Asda which allegedly refused to upgrade the fire precautions in factories in Bangladesh, resulting in the deaths of more than 100 employees? My IT kit was assembled to my specification by a company in Holmfirth – the quality and build is excellent at highly-competitive pricing. We can do this.

  • Dave Postles

    My server is located in Rochdale. I decided on it because the company has been voted the best ISP and service provider by numerous authoritative organizations. We used them first as an ISP (with basic web service), but I have now upgraded to my own server with this company. It has recently expanded its data centre in Rochdale. The opportunities are still there. Recently, high-quality textile production has been relocated back from the Far East to NW England. Do consumers really wish to buy products from companies, like The Gap and Walmart/Asda which allegedly refused to upgrade the fire precautions in factories in Bangladesh, resulting in the deaths of more than 100 employees? My IT kit was assembled to my specification by a company in Holmfirth – the quality and build is excellent at highly-competitive pricing. We can do this.

  • An odious, disgusting man.

  • Serbitar

    As far as old, fat, mouthy numbskulls are concerned I have to say that I prefer Jeremy Clarkson or Nick Ferrari (at a pinch) to the dreadful Kelvin MacKenzie. If MacKenzie was still on good terms with his old master Rupert Murdoch, I would suggest that Kelvin set off as soon as possible for North America to exhibit himself as a British curiosity on the freak-show that is the Fox News Channel. As far as I can see MacKenzie is a man wholly devoid of any worth.

  • PaulHalsall

    Apparently all the fracking gas is in Lancashire.

    Sod off, the south.

  • PaulHalsall

    The SDLP is our sister party in NI.

    • The SDLP is indeed our sister party but it is not us. It is a party which has very different values from our own and which takes a firm position on the constitutional issue, thus alienating both unionists and those who simply do not want to vote on constitutional lines. Standing in NI in Assembly elections which use an STV system would not take any votes away from the SDLP, in fact it may boost transfers for them from those who would not ordinarily vote for them.

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