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Labour’s national mission

Ed Miliband is right to assert in today’s Guardian that Labour needs to set out a clear national mission. There has been a lot of talk recently about a new ideological vision to win back the five million votes lost between 1997-2010. Some on the conservative Right, like Blue Labour with its emphasis on family, flag and faith, want to minimise even further the role of the State in favour of a Cameronesque commitment to civil society. Many of us in the party think this is a lopsided direction to go, that it ignores the real economic fundamentals about what is wrong with contemporary Britain, and that it would still leave the interests of at least a third of society unmet and largely disenfranchised. It is in fact little more than a variant of the current cross-party consensus. So what would the alternative look like?

What would be the strategic framework to overturn current Coalition policies at the next election? At a minimum it would contain several inter-connected elements which address what is now profoundly wrong and offer an entirely new economic and social vision:

  • getting the macro-economic fundamentals right (a jobs and growth strategy to replace the current massive cuts policy),
  • redressing the present skewed imbalance between State and markets, with the State neither 1970s command-and-control nor 2000s facilitator for the private sector, but rather a partner where private markets have failed – in housing, pensions, health, education, energy, transport, banking.
  • restoring Britain’s century-long loss of competitiveness (focus on high-tech manu-service enterprise rather than banking, much higher baccalaureate standards for schools, increased R&D, re-establishing a sustainable industrial base currently hollowed out),
  • instilling a new vitality into a power structure which has stagnated around the City, mega-corporations and Murdoch by restoring effective accountability,
  • new social cohesion based around a different set of values, as a counter to exclusively neo-liberal capitalist market values, and greatly reduced inequality top and bottom,
  • meeting the planetary imperatives by leading on climate change, the energy crunch and over-exploitation of natural resources.

Each of these need to be fleshed out in detail – which is why I’m intending shortly to publish a book setting out A Vision for a Better Britain to replace the broken model of neo-liberal capitalism based on unfettered markets, de-regulation, privatisation, growing inequalities, and centralisation of power. We need a real focused debate within the Labour Movement to support and feed into Ed Miliband’s self-declared readiness to listen.


  1. Which nation is he talking about? When he blathers on about Britain in fact he means England, as Scotland, Wales and the Six Counties are striking out on their own paths, and as for my nation -Cornwall- Labour has never taken an interest.

    Perhaps if Labour stopped with this ‘Britain’ thing and came to terms with the naturally occurring national and regional identities (nations) that exist in this wonderfully rich and diverse Atlantic archipelago.

    Rediscover subsidiarity, European federalism and internationalism and leave imperialist, centralist British nationalism to the 20th century where it belongs.

    1. Jon Lansman says:

      I can’t agree with Philip Hosking about nation. Identity, “natural” or otherwise, so much more complex than he suggests. I am first and foremost a socialist and an internationalist. I do feel European and Jewish (culturally, not by religion — I am an atheist), and a Londoner (not least because of its diversity). I do not feel in the slightest English though Britishness is somewhere there in the mix. I identify with my immediate community and my family. I am utterly unmoved by any sense of nation though I am entirely comfortable with subsidiarity to politics at regional and sub-British so-called “national” level but I cannot understand why a continued British politic is in any way politically incorrect.

      I appreciate that it was Michael Meacher who introduced the word “national” but only because Ed Miliband had used it, and he is after all the leader of the British Labour Party which engages in politics at, amongst other levels, the level of the British parliament. What is wrong with that?

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