Which Way’s Left?

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Open LeftBy Graeme Cooke

We launched Open Left back at the start of the summer by asking the simple but central question of what it means to be on the left in British politics today. Since then we’ve had over a hundred people post their views, demonstrating the diversity of reasons that people are motivated and passionate about the potential of centre-left politics. There are some great contributions and you can read what people said here.

Open Left is about renewing our thinking and ideas, in the spirit of idealism, radicalism and pluralism. That means starting with first principles, to consider fundamental questions about the purpose of our politics. Only by being clear about what we believe and care about can we build a powerful and coherent policy agenda. I believe there is a great deal that unites the centre-left today – but we must also address head on the areas where people might reasonably disagree.

We think there are five such areas and we’ve tried to encapsulate them in the following core questions:

* Should the Left draw more on its social democratic or radical liberal traditions in looking to the future?

* Should the equality that the Left now pursues be more focused on capabilities than just resources?

* Should the Left seek to shape a fundamentally different model of capitalism in the aftermath of the banking crisis and subsequent recession?

* Should the Left seek to foster a shared sense of identity, morality and community, or embrace a diversity in each?

* Should the Left be collecting or dispersing democratic and political power in seeking to bring about change?

Confronting these questions is about much more than simply generating an interesting debate about ideas. They speak to the central political questions facing Britain today and in the years ahead. Whether we are concerned with the crisis in our politics, the future of our economy, or the health of our society – from public services and democratic reform, to the nature of capitalism and the response to immigration – our positions on these questions cuts to the heart of any future policy agenda. These are questions we cannot avoid. And the answers shape the future direction of the Left.

To lead the debate, we have asked some of Britain’s leading political thinkers to address these questions – and we’ll be publishing their responses in a collection of papers in the near future. But we think they need to be debated as widely as possible – so we confront the choices and trades off they entail.

Throughout this week we’ll be setting out more details and kicking off a debate about each of these questions on the Open Left site – starting today with the future of our economy following the financial crisis and recession. I really hope you’ll come and get involved and engage with and develop the ideas here on LabourList.

We’ll also be discussing these issues, and wider political and ideological renewal, at a joint Open Left/Labour History Group event on 25th November. At Which Way’s Left? we’ll be asking what lessons from the past we can take as inspiration for the future – focusing on the thinking and politics of RH Tawney, Herbert Morrison, Tony Crosland and Charlie Turnock.

Sign up here to come to the event.



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