This is a sometimes 'cheesey' blog about British and American politics and anything else which tickles my fancy!

Sunday, 22 March 2009

From New Labour to New Socialism?

I have thought a lot about the article Jon Cruddas wrote in the Guardian this week and I have to say I like the sentiment behind it.

Cruddas understands - and its surprising how few in government do - that a new set of initiatives or policies isn't the solution to Labour's problems. What we need as a Party is a fundamental rethink about what we stand for and where we are heading. Cruddas even suggests a new label: "New Socialism".

What I like is that Cruddas thinks about these things. He understands that the Party needs to find new ways of communicating its values to a different generation of voters. A generation which is much more politically savvy and demanding now. Rehashing the arguments of 1997 or rigidly sticking to New Labour dogma is not going to win us the next election. So we need to revisit what we are for.

I also think he trusts people to make decisions for themselves. He wrote that he wanted to see a new localism, the devolution of public services and proportional representation "not as a preserve of the liberal metropolitan intelligentsia, but as a core mechanism with which to combat a sense of working-class alienation".

Firstly, to talk about devolution of public services and localism is a very Blairite idea. It sounds like he wants people to have choice and to make decisions for themselves. Great. I believe this is a mechanism that drives up quality and standards in public services and is genuinely popular with the electorate. We should steal a march on this before the Tories outflank us with it.

Secondly, he's also trying to find ways of reaching out to the working class, which only him and Hazel Blears seem to be bothered about. Perhaps, it is time that we go back to the idea of electoral reform and reconsider it as a way to do this.

In the same article he also says:

"Labour lost the language of generosity, kindness and community as it lost the tempo of the country. England's abiding culture was never socialist, but as we misunderstood its essential ethic of solidarity we lost our ability to build a politics beyond the market - to mould a radical hope for the country".

I could not have put this better myself. He is not repudiating the last ten years, but he is pointing out that our language needs to adapt and reflect new circumstances. We have to be radical. A positive, forward looking agenda that does seek to build a "Good society" still offers the best hope of winning the next election and staying in power.

At the end of the article he quotes Tony Blair for heaven sake. I think his verdict on Blair is harsher than it ought to be but discovering some of the early radicalism of Blair and using the language of change and hope seems to me to be pretty sensible. He understands this.

At last year's Labour Party Conference in Manchester, I listened to him and Hazel Blears take part in a fringe event. Two politicians, two different outlooks, two sides of the Party. But united by a quality which I think is lacking in some of our politicians: "authenticity". Both of them know what needs to change, both of them say what they think and both of them offer good solutions about how we reach out to people.

In the end, I think that Cruddas just 'gets it'. He understands what needs to be done and his judgement appears good. If he keeps his seat at the next election - and it is a marginal one - this will put him in a powerful position should there be a leadership contest.

No comments: