If you had asked me before the end of last September about One Nation politics I would have pointed you in the direction of Benjamin Disraeli and the One Nation tradition in the old Conservative Party.
I say “old Conservative Party” because One Nation as a Tory philosophy is dead and buried. It was steamrolled by Margaret Thatcher who asked her party members “Are You One of Us” and if you replied “I’m a One Nation Tory” you certainly weren’t in her gang.
That was last year’s Labour Party Conference in Manchester when party leader Ed Miliband captured the concept of One Nation for the socialists. He did it just a stone’s throw from where Benjamin Disraeli had first used the term in a speech at the Manchester Free Trade Hall some 140 years before on April 3 1872.
Now I presumed at the time this was the second coming of One Nation politics but I was wrong. It was the third. The second happened in the mid-1990’s when Tony Blair became leader of the Labour Party. It was part of his New Labour journey from One Nation politics to the Stakeholder Society to the Third Way.
Nobody refers back to the Blair One Nation vision but it is there and that is why I ask “is One Nation Ed’s third way?” He is certainly not a Disraeli Tory and he is now in his speeches distancing his One Nation Labour Party from many of the core beliefs of both Old and New Labour. Ed has grasped One Nation politics and is proposing a new way of doing things.
So to his speech at the Fabian Society on Saturday January 12. The last time I saw Ed Miliband speak in public was to the Labour Party Conference when his unscripted address was without doubt the best speech I have ever sat and listened to. In contrast his speech to the Fabian Society was more low key, was scripted and even in places hesitant. Perhaps being in front of a supportive crowd, the largest Fabian Society conference in modern times, lessened the drive compared with his Manchester tour de force where critical union leaders were in the stalls.
Certainly the Fabians were anxious for flesh to be put on the One Nation bones. Did Ed achieve that? He certainly did for me but then I have long embraced the notion of One Nation politics, so for me it was a case of “welcome Ed, where have you been all this time?” Some of those around me shared my satisfaction but others didn’t and I wonder if they are waiting for Ed’s One Nation to fit their agenda, which I am not sure it is ever going to do.
I was interested to see that Ed reprised in his speech the remarks he made in Manchester about faith. Ed is an atheist which in some people’s eyes disqualifies him from the concept of faith, which is of course abject nonsense. He told the Fabians:
“I talked about it in my Labour Party conference speech a few months ago about why I came into politics.
“It was because of my personal faith.
“A faith that we are better, stronger together than when we are on our own.
“A faith that when good people come together they can overcome any odds.
“For me, that’s what One Nation Labour is all about.
“This faith isn’t unique to me.
“It is deeply rooted in our country.
“One Nation Labour is different from the current government.
“And from New Labour and Old Labour too.
“It will take on the vested interests in order to reshape our economy in the interests of all.
“It will insist on responsibility throughout society, including at the top so we can build a united, not divided, Britain.
“It will strive to spread power as well as working for prosperity.
“We must build One Nation.
“It is what the British people demand of us.
“And, together, it is what we can achieve.”
I asked someone close to Ed Miliband and the “faith” concept had he helped script the speech. He replied: “No. He is really there.” It now remains to be seen whether the nation becomes one behind Ed’s One Nation beliefs.
To read Ed Miliband’s speech in full click on the Labour List website link below:
http://labourlist.org/2013/01/ed-milibands-fabian-conference-speech/Tags: Domestic (UK)
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This post was written by David Eade