Now that Labour has a basket of policies – good policies, and more announced today – the debate around what Labour is offering to the electorate has shifted. That means not just offering “things”, but offering an explanation of what a Labour Britain would look like, framing the choice between Labour and the Tories, and fleshing out the “vision thing”.
At the weekend Jon Cruddas’s frustration with the lack of “vision thing” was laid bare, his recorded words splashed across the front page of the Sunday Times. As I said this morning “His criticism of complex Labour policy often emerging as simplistic headlines was one I couldn’t help but agree with – as annoyed as I was that he’d been caught saying it”. This morning saw a move beyond such simplicity with the complex but transformative Adonis Review. And this evening, Cruddas is spelling out the “vision thing” for himself.
During the last leadership election, Andy Burnham had a slogan “Aspirational Socialism”. As Burnham himself admitted when speaking to the Fabians at the weekend, it never really took off. But if it had, it might have looked something like Cruddas’s speech to the RSA tonight. Full of talk of a hopeful future, of throwing off despair, of a Britain that faces a choice – unity or division, embracing technology and adapting to the modern world or being trapped in a world of low skill and low wages. Far from being downbeat about the policy review – Cruddas argues that it is “the engine of these ideas”. Through it, a more hopeful Cruddas emerges than the one glimpsed at the weekend.
Tonight’s Cruddas speech took place in the rarified surroundings of the RSA, just round the corner from the Playhouse Theatre where an (excellent) production of 1984 is taking place. In tonight’s speech, Cruddas says:
“The socialism of the future will be about creating power together for individual freedom”.
Anyone who has read 1984 knows all about the potency of freedom and the importance of power. Uniting them is potent. You might even call it a “vision thing”.