“Ideas and action, theory and practice, one without the other has little impact”

15th January, 2013 2:18 pm

[Today we launched our first pamphlet “One Nation Labour – debating the future”, edited by Jon Cruddas MP, which you can download here. This is Jon’s introduction:]

We had a tremendous response to the One Nation Labour debate on LabourList. Over fifty contributors and tens of thousands of hits have helped open up Labour’s Policy Review to wider involvement.

The Policy Review is about constructing policy for 2015 and the structure and process for doing this are both up and running with three Shadow cabinet sub-groups each responsible for one of the three themes of the review: One Nation Economy, One Nation Society and One Nation Politics.

Each of these themes is broken down into work streams around specific policy objectives, overseen by a Shadow Minister. This core activity of policy making is framed by the larger story of One Nation Labour and its priorities and values. The story determines the policies we construct and in turn the policies define the story of One Nation Labour.

Integral to this process is reform of the party and the integration of the policy review into its structure. Labour needs to develop a culture of participation and involvement and become a party of political organising that begins with the value of people’s relationships with one another. To be effective it must also be a learning and knowledge making organisation.

Ideas and action, theory and practice, one without the other has little impact.

To meet the challenges ahead Labour needs to broker new and durable alliances across civil society, developing its digital communications and initiating and sustaining campaigns that build up its capacity for electoral success. To achieve this, the policy review cannot just be an internal affair of the party nor can it wrap itself up in our own jargon and preoccupations. We need to go to where the people are and listen deeply to what they are saying, not just to the things we want to hear about banks and bonuses but to what we find difficult to hear, for example people’s sense of the unfairness of the welfare system and the recent years of immigration. And we need to respond to people’s concerns by creating public debates that engage with the issues. In the process we will define One Nation Labour and the political life of the country.

The contributors in this ebook offer ideas and themes for this debate which, in the year ahead, needs to grow and take shape both in and beyond the party.

In 2013 the Policy Review will be building the story of One Nation Labour and creating the policies that will give it detail and substance. There will be seminars and conferences, debates about political philosophy, political economy and the condition of Britain, and there will be discussions on specific policy priorities. Integral to this activity will be campaigning and community based organising. Labour’s new website Your Britain (see below) provides a means for people to get involved.

If we are to be effective we will need two vital ingredients: people’s energy and their enterprise. Out of these will grow new initiatives, a sense of hope and a belief that Labour can make real change for the better in people’s lives. It might mean for example starting up a blog or website, organising a local reading group or house meeting on One Nation politics or a public event or campaign, reaching out to community groups and other political organisations to establish campaigning alliances and helping develop local leadership.

Small is important, begin locally – relationships come first then the politics. As Iain McNicol says in his article in this ebook the Labour Party needs a huge culture change. People’s fear of doing the wrong thing – or their anxiety about upsetting the status quo – will be the biggest obstacles to the change we need.

Our ambition is to build a country in which everyone feels that they have a stake, and where prosperity is fairly shared. It will be one in which we conserve our common life by valuing and reforming the institutions that bind us together. This is a big ambition and we will need to take the best of Old Labour and New Labour to develop a One Nation politics.

First, it is a politics that is both radical and conservative. We organise for change to conserve the good in people and in society. It means looking after and protecting what matters in peoples lives – a sense of belonging, self-esteem, relationships, family, local place, social security. It also means reform to bring to account vested interests and activities that are damaging to society (for example the banks, tax evasion, loan sharks, bad private landlords, and the energy markets). Our institutions both private and public should work for the common good.

Second, it is the practice of a democratic politics of the common good. The common good is not some pre-existing idea imposed on people by a ruling elite or a domineering state. It is the agreement of a common ground reached between different groups and interests that is the outcome of deliberation. The politics of the common good negotiates the distribution of power in society and the economy with the aim of making sure that no one interest or group dominates over others. It is the basic practice of politics: a democratic process that is never completed and always contingent .

Third, the politics of the common good is governed by reciprocity. Reciprocity is the bond of trust that holds together both society and the market. It is an ethic of give and take which establishes a sense of equality and justice in relationships. The unjust person is ‘the one who takes too much in terms of advantages or not enough in terms of burdens’. It is not just the give and take of rights and obligations , but also the moral imperative that one does not do to others what one does not want done to one’s self.

Fourth, it is a politics of being together. The traditional phrases were solidarity and fraternity but neither work well for the changes in our country. Solidarity calls upon an underlying shared identity which no longer has the same broad reach in our post industrial, plural and diverse society. Fraternity in contrast does emphasise a diversity amongst equals but it is a sentiment that excludes the political relationship between men and women and between women. The politics of togetherness is a way of talking about the ‘we’ while holding to the uniqueness of each individual. It emphasises how our individual freedom is secured by the equality of constraint we share.

As Ed has described in his Fabian speech on One Nation Labour, it is an idea rooted in the history of the country. One Nation politics belongs to the Labour movement’s traditions of collective self help, co-operativism and self improvement. It values these traditions as the basis for building a hopeful future which will include everyone as citizens in the life of the country. The inclusion of all and the recognition of the worth and contribution of each is the meaning of One Nation.

The Conservative tradition has been a powerful national force. In spite of its paternalism, it gave many people meaning, value and a sense of belonging by respecting their place in the hierarchical order of property and status. It is a tradition in danger of extinction in today’s Conservative Party which is ideologically dominated by the inheritors of the free market liberalism of the Thatcher Revolution. But for all its good, One Nation Conservatism grew out of the landed interest and relied on class privilege and deference to secure its power. In contrast, the Labour One Nation tradition grew out of the Labour interest and the popular aspiration for self determination and democracy. Its extraordinary historical energy powered the best in modernity by giving working people a place at the common table and representation in the government of the country. It is time to reassert the right of working people to that representation and the obligations which go with it.

The Policy Review has started the One Nation Register detailing events and links to articles contributing ideas to the policy review. If you would like to subscribe to it, please email, onenationreg[email protected].

To get involved in the Policy Review go to Your Britain, Labour’s policy hub at www.yourbritain.org.uk

Jon Cruddas MP, January 2013

You can download “One Nation Labour – debating the future”, edited by Jon Cruddas MP here

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