Review: One nation: Labour’s political renewal by Jon Cruddas

After previous general election defeats Labour has tended to lapse into self-criticism and recriminations. Not this time.

After previous general election defeats Labour has tended to lapse into self-criticism and recriminations. Not this time

Labour has always sought to challenge the status quo. From Keir Hardie being a pioneer of workers’ rights against an establishment desperate to protect its privileges, to Ed Miliband championing the rights of consumers above the interests of energy companies, a sense of dissatisfaction with the established order is in our party’s DNA.

Labour has always sought to use the institutions of power to change things for the better. But the levers of power that ministers pull in Westminster are increasingly being exposed as rubber levers; the patriarchal sense that whatever is good for everyone in the country can be decided behind a desk in Whitehall makes progressive democrats cringe.

This crisis has been brewing for a long time, but has been mercilessly thrust into the open as a result of the current Scottish independence debate.

Many commentators have opined about how the current system is somehow ‘broken’, and that a rebalancing of the relationship between citizen and state is required.

Until now, however, diagnoses have been in greater supply than prescription. Jon Cruddas and Jonathan Rutherford’s latest book, One Nation, is the summary of two years of policy review within the Labour Party.

After previous general election defeats the party has tended to lapse into self-criticism and recriminations; this book reveals instead the depth and quality of thinking that has been done by the Party about what it is to be a citizen in a global society, with multiple senses of identity and belonging.

At the heart of this is a very welcome recognition of the huge importance of ‘place’. Nowadays where people live is probably the most significant way in which they identify themselves – as a Geordie, a Mancunian, as Cornish.

And Cruddas gives voice to a new form of politics built around ‘place’, not just as a more effective and efficient way of delivering public services but as a fundamental shift in how power should be distributed around the country.

A new role for local politicians as facilitators, enablers and convenors explicitly recognises these are the qualities that have been developed by Labour councillors over the last decade or so.

And the idea of a New Deal for England – further radical devolution of powers and responsibilities to local government – challenges head-on the narrow nationalism defined by UKIP and other parties of the right.

The importance of this book, as a signal of how Labour has developed, should not be underestimated. It answers head-on the question about how to deal with broken political institutions, by proposing radical devolution. It outlines a new vision for doing politics: more local, collaborative and engaging of people as citizens.

And above all it sends a message of optimism and hope that Labour has an alternative vision of society – rooted in social justice and active citizenship -than the consumerism, individualism and poisonous rhetoric of the Tories.

Nick Forbes is the leader of Newcastle Council

2 Responses to “Review: One nation: Labour’s political renewal by Jon Cruddas”

  1. Gary Scott

    I agree but feel that the REAL driver for ‘sense of place’ is the feeling of political disengagement coming from the major political parties failing to address the needs and beliefs of the populace. The parties are often accused of being a homogeneous group. It is most easily seen in Labour of course. Tony Blair ‘modernised’ the party and took it to the right. Many voters would like to see rail nationalisation among other things. Voters talk of services, politicians talk of viability. Until mainstream political parties engage with their own voters (not just party members) then they will both or either address this issue of disconnection by identifying by place or moving to less mainstream parties. Bad enough they should go to UKIP but prior to that BNP gained enough traction to get a decent level of support in England. Once upon a time The Labour Party was new and represented the marginalised, disenfranchised vulnerable members of society that other parties did not represent. About a hundred years ago Communism was strong and more moderate Socialists (Labour) stepped up and pushed the Liberals aside and out of the picture. If something is not done I fear Labour could be similarly pushed out.

  2. PoundInYourPocket

    So the idea is to devolve power down to local councils, such as Rotherham, great idea. What we need is sound joined-up national governance not the chaos of each region, council, town and and estate all shouting and pulling in different directions with power handed over to the biggest loudmouth on the street. Is this the Labour party finally throwing in the towel and saying “We give up, go govern yourselves” ? I’m all for local services being shaped to the needs of local people, but Crudas’ vision looks awfully like the chaos of the mob rather than orderly goverment. A nation of competing statelets each with their own policies and practices, a fragmented and disjointed society that breeds envy and distrust. Precisely the opposite of the national unity that the title “One Nation” implies. Utter muddle-headed nonesense based on the false assumption that a persons identity is all down to “place” eventhough most of live on shifting sands and identity is about much more than “place” wherever that may be.

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