Jon Cruddas and “belonging”
Jon Cruddas, Ed Miliband’s policy head, gave an interesting speech at the Resolution Foundation yesterday. It was entitled “Earning and Belonging”, which sounded ominous, and indeed there was a lot of Cruddas blah in the speech. It also started with an alarming and unwarranted attack on Alan Milburn, one of the most important New Labour ministers in the Blair government:
In January 2005 the head of election strategy was asked what is the purpose of Labour?
He said this: “What we want is for more people to be able to earn and own. That is what people want. It is what Labour policy in the end is all about.”
But is to ‘earn and own’ the essence of Labour?
Is it really what people want? Does this give our lives true meaning?
Here what we aspire to consists of the impulse to accumulate and consume, severed from a deeper sense of responsibility to others and society as a whole. It is a bit one sided.
Cruddas went so far as to describe Milburn’s view as the ‘economistic tradition’ in Labour, as opposed to the ‘progressive tradition’.
You can see what Cruddas was getting at. “Earning and owning” does sound a little crude. But there would surely be nothing wrong with, for example, “earning, owning and belonging”. To take “owning” out implies a hostile disdain for the desire of most normal voters to own their homes.
Actually, Cruddas came to the right to buy later on:
Think of council housing. It used to be, in the docking areas of East London that a council flat was passed on through the mother. Seamen were away a lot of the time and maternal inheritance was the norm. It gave a stability to families, a place in the world. With the arrival of new immigrants it was unfair and unjust to deny homes to impoverished large families and this required public authorities to distribute on the basis of need, not of customary practice or length of habitation, or seniority.
Consequently there was no recognition of inter-generational solidarities. Need trumped tenure. That had little to do with earning or belonging and it generated a sense of dispossession and abandonment. No new houses were built and the right to buy spoke to that anxiety of not leaving anything to your children, of not belonging. There was a rupture of trust with Labour.
This just seems confused to me. At this point Cruddas seems to have accepted that “owning” can be part of “belonging”.
If this is where Labour’s policy review is going, it is not going well.
There is far too much waffle in the speech. “The institutions that generated the crash are still predominant within the economy.” What does that mean? End capitalism? Abolish banks? Suppress the business cycle? “We need to actively rebuild solidarity and sense of duty and obligation in society.” All right, just as long as we don’t do it passively.
Almost the only “concrete step” (as promised by Ed Miliband) in it was a “concrete hint” of the contributory principle in welfare: “One Nation Labour will renew our welfare institutions and the key building blocks are relationships, contribution and responsibility.”
Still, Cruddas did say:
Simply opposing the cuts without an alternative is no good. It fails to offer reasonable hope. The stakes are high because when hope is not reasonable despair becomes real.
On that, at least, we can all agree.Tagged in: alan milburn, Jon Cruddas
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