Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

One Nationism in education

In his speech on Tuesday Ed Miliband conceded that the concept of One Nationism was first espoused by Tory prime minister Benjamin Disraeli.

Disraeli’s version of One Nationism was born of a belief that members of society have obligations towards each other. Fine so far. But Conservative One Nationism accepts and even promotes a stratified class-based society with the less well-off in receipt of support from the wealthy and powerful.

This paternalistic approach is not dissimilar to the culture of America where philanthropy is often seen as an alternative to progressive taxation. This can represent a form of redistribution but with the wealthy and powerful determining who benefits and how – usually the ‘deserving poor’.

Under this traditional vision some wealth is redistributed but power remains in the hands of the few. Miliband’s vision needs to outline how not only wealth but power can be redistributed under a future Labour government. In his speech he made references to challenging the poor practices of the banking sector, to dealing with the privatised utilities, and to the worst excesses of some sections of the media, hinting at a redistribution of power, but this vision needs to be expanded and explained.

Lessons can be learnt from across the labour movement. Cooperatives and trade unions, for example, are both based on the principle of redistributing both wealth and power.

Over the course of the last Labour government, the NASUWT and other trade unions in the education sector worked in social partnership with government, bring the views of hundreds of thousands of education practitioners to the heart of national policymaking – sharing power. The result was better policy, better practice and a workforce committed to the reforms. This social partnership was one of the first initiatives to be abolished by the coalition government.

The principles of One Nationism should not be restricted to the national level. The belief the members of society have an obligation to one another requires that cooperation is prioritised over competition between schools. Both Miliband and Stephen Twigg referred in their speeches to their own comprehensive schooling. A comprehensive education system must be at the heart of One Nationism – resisting the fragmentation the coalition is inflicting through academies, free schools and the break-up of other parts of the public sector.  All schools should work together to ensure that every child in every community attend a good local school, are surrounded by a team of teachers and other professionals and given all the support they need to to succeed.

An education system in which cooperation and mutual obligation are the norm and a society in which both wealth and power are redistributed would represent not just One Nationism but also a clear commitment to a bright future for all young people.

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Chris Weavers is principal official (parliamentary and trade union liaison) at NASUWT and tweets @ChrisWeavers

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Chris Weavers

is principal official (parliamentary and trade union liaison) at NASUWT

1 comment

  • An analogy I read regarding neoliberal capitalism was the “feeding the pony” illustration. The more the pony’s fed, the more its likely to excrete – offering more “scraps” for the sparrows! Thatcher, waving Hayek’s ideas into our faces, believed in the “cascading down” effect of wealth created by the “free market”. The premise being that at least “some” of that wealth had to benefit all of mankind. However, Hayek forgot to mention the (very) human characteristic of greed! The more individual’s have, the more they want! We have an addiction to wealth because with it comes power. And with addiction comes problems. The people with wealth become blind to the effects of lack. A recent survey found that the wealthy could not even guess the price of supermarket food items, or any other products used in every day living for most people. The recent outrage from Iain Duncan Smith boasting that he could live on £53 per week is an example of wealth-blindness.

    What also gets forgotten is not only what the ‘pound-in-your-pocket’ is actually worth, but what the most valuable asset is to this and any other nation. It is the people. Without whom, there is no wealth. It is the people’s effort and work ethic that generates wealth. But this same work ethic is gradually being eroded by constant cowering to the power of wealth. For an ideology such as neoliberalism, which demands less regulation and government “interference”, they certainly pile on the regulations – to keep the poor, poor! We are returning to the Victorian age of being “grateful” for a job, no matter how little we’re rewarded for our labours.

    Skirting over the concept of cooperative working does not deal with the issues. Check out Italy’s Macora Law. Why could such a thing not happen here in the UK? Why could manufacturing not return to this country under the semi-entrepreneurial efforts of cooperatives? Would it not benefit the government, in the longer term, to use Welfare monies to help set up and support cooperatives until they’re profitable? Surely more money could be collected through income tax if more people are paying income tax? And if more people are earning enough to pay substantial income tax, then more people would be in a position to purchase, not just the essentials, but more luxury goods gaining more taxes through VAT and the like, surely? The country’s economic crisis was brought about by rich people wanting more, wasn’t it? Not people “refusing to work”. Jobs have become scarcer because manufacturing has headed East to a cheaper labour market. Innovation gets bought by the richest bidders in the world and marketed by the same, (usually the USA!) And people’s hopes get beaten. We have a situation today so far unprecedented in history – our children’s mental health is deteriorating. One in three children experience serious depression! Mostly through “lack of hope”, or a sense of “hopelessness”. Even their parents have less hope for their kids than any other previous generation!

    ‘Think-tanks’ and the like are just committees for the sake of committees if their ‘thoughts’ are not actioned! We need a strong government bent on turning this country around and away from the greed of corporations, shareholders and the few who exercise their power over the many! Let’s start making our own cars, our own toys, our own clothes, our own technology, and provide our own services. Then we can pay for our own health services, our own education and our own military – not this part-time army the Tories seem to favour!

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