One of the most exciting fronts in Labour’s renewal is the burgeoning debate about Englishness. Thanks to the work of politicians like John Denham and Jon Cruddas and thinkers like Jonathan Rutherford and Sunder Katwala, there is now an excellent line of argument pointing the way to how Labour re-attaches itself to a history, ideas, and a wellspring of inspiration that got lost somewhere in the new Labour days.
Let me confess, I approach the debate with the passion of a convert. For much of the last Labour administration I was a leading advocates of ‘Britishness’; a debate led by Gordon Bröwn, with much passion and merit. We did some good work, especially in citizenship reform. But we were swimming against the tide. The truth is that Scottish and Welsh devolution, the pace of social change and the seminal decline in trust accelerating across all western societies, has provoked a crisis of Englishness which Labour need to address, shape and crucially draw rejuvenating energy from, like water from a well.
The Brexit vote is a sign that we have to get our skates on. In a world that is changing faster than ever, there is a constant risk that than ever people get left behind – faster than ever – fuelling a sense of frustration. So here’s the progressive challenge: in the age we’re sailing into, the need for collective solutions is going up – yet levels of social trust are going down. We are a party that believes we achieve more together than we achieve alone. As we argue in Red Shift, Labour is a ‘we’ brand. We are defined by that New Testament challenge: ‘who is my neighbour?’ In the Labour Party we genuinely believe ‘my neighbour is anyone in need’. But how do we inspire people to cooperate in a world where people feel cooperation is making them poorer? How do refresh fraternity in a country that seems to be turning inward?
I think Englishness is part of the answer.
You can read the full report here: “What Goes Into the New English Socialism Project?“