I’m glad to see Ed Miliband, in his Observer article today, nail the lie that there remains a yawning gap between so called aspirational citizens and so called core Labour voters.
Miliband talks instead of self interest and shared interest, and the need for Labour to build on common values rather than make a lame last minute appeal to the presumed self interest of this or that demographic.
Miliband is right to frame the discussion in quite different terms from the Blairite years. We are all aspirational now, in that everyone desires access to good housing, a good education and reasonable standard of living. (The tricky part, of course, is that in this age of instant information, we are all more aware, in a superficial sense, of what those common goals might mean for others which makes equality an ever more complex goal.)
The problem with the old New Labour aspirational model was that it too often ended up sanctioning unacceptable forms of self interest. In terms of the national finances, it condoned excessive greed. In education, despite the best efforts of many, its policies confirmed the creation of a hierarchy of schools, with the panicked middle classes getting their pick from the higher echelons of the state pyramid. In housing, it meant a virtual silence on the need for affordable or social housing.
For whatever reason, Brown’s government feels very different to these early Blair years. It feels like there is a return to the ‘shared interest’ question at last: Labour’s natural territory.
Too little too late? I don’t know. But whatever the electoral outcome, it is clear we are entering a period of much needed renewal within the party. Miliband junior is, quite rightly, turning a possible crisis into a fresh opportunity. There is certainly a desperate need for a new conversation and for fresh ideas to promote social justice, and just as importantly, new respect for older traditions and models.
To that end, I am also glad to see Miliband praise the importance of collective action and talk of the need to create ‘ real jobs in engineering, not just financial engineering.’ Always good to see a politician turn the art of the sound bite to positive political use.