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Ed’s ‘One Nation’ must be built on working people’s terms

Ed Miliband’s speech to conference this year was excellent. Following on from his speech in Liverpool last year he put yet more distance between himself and New Labour with a commitment to building a fairer Britain and challenging the laissez-faire and indeed “intensely relaxed” attitude to inequality of the Blair years.

This speech followed Miliband’s excellent rhetoric about ‘predistribution. In my view this is an attempt to build a high wage fairer economy as opposed to Blair’s attitude that we could continue the Thatcher economic settlement and simply use some (light) tax income from big finance in a neoliberal economy to ameliorate the conditions of the most vulnerable: an approach which was woefully inadequate in dealing with inequality and has become totally discredited by the crisis of 2008.

I know many comrades might wince at the partial invocation of Disraeli and the term ‘one nation’. Indeed at first I did. The Tory ‘One Nation’ vision was of course to ameliorate the worst excesses of capitalism in order to maintain their own class hegemony. In his work ‘Sybil’ Disraeli identifies that there exists in Britain a nation of the rich and the nation of the poor and I, like I’m sure the rest of the left, have dedicated myself to fighting in the interests of the latter.

However, I think there can be a clear, Labour vision of ‘One Nation’ for working people that is totally distinct from that of the old Tory grandees. I myself support Ed’s vision of ‘One Nation’ wholeheartedly, but it needs to be built upon the terms of working people. To bring down the social corrosion of inequality in this country we cannot seek to come to some sort of compromise with the great vested interests of the one percent, we must rebuild Britain in the interests of working people, for working people.

That means starting with clamping down on tax avoidance by the rich, repealing the Tory NHS privatisation, bringing the utilities and transport back under public ownership to stop consumer robbery by profiteers, rebuilding industry in this country with skilled and well paid jobs and bringing the finance industry under control so it serves the public interest. Labour’s mission should be to build ‘One Nation’ for the ninety-nine percent.

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