Liz Kendall offers the New and blue that Labour needs
One of the missed opportunities of the ancien regime was an alliance between New Labour and blue Labour. The potential was there. Maurice Glasman, the blue Labour godfather, wrote an e-book called Labour’s Radical Tradition which included contributions from New Labour luminaries such as James Purnell, Tessa Jowell, Philip Collins, Hazel Blears and David Miliband. The Purple Book was endorsed by Glasman who singled out Tristram Hunt and Liz Kendall for praise. Both New and blue are descendants of Labour’s ethical socialist and revisionist tradition and therefore share more in common than most people commenting on Labour’s future. There is still hope, and Kendall ‘gets it’.
Kendall understands the need and the importance both for ideas and why they should be central to Labour’s renewal. On the economy, Kendall marries the best of blue and the best of New as shown by her speech to Reuters: worker representation on company boards, an expansion of the living wage, a local banking system akin to Germany’s, an expansion of employee share-ownership in companies, a strong focus on vocational training, fiscal devolution from Westminster and Whitehall. This brave, and somewhat blue, agenda for economic reform is underpinned by a clear understanding of the need for fiscal discipline and wealth creation.
However, this is not the only example of Kendall’s radicalism. It was a pleasure to watch her speech at Brixton Livity where, once again, she demonstrated her ability to unite the two estranged traditions. Her Labour party would be one that abandons its debilitating proclivity towards ‘regulating, restricting, fixing or banning’ and instead returns to its early traditions of co-operation, community action and popular power. Those who question whether this is a true Labour vision should bear in mind the words of Keir Hardie: ‘Socialism is not help from the outside in the form of state help. It is the people themselves acting through their organisations, regulating their own affairs.’ By invoking the spirit of Labour’s first leader in her campaign to be its next, Kendall paid respect to our nation’s radical heritage and the importance of English cultural and national identity. With her support for Jon Cruddas’ call for an English Labour party, as part of a wider British party, she proved that she is the only candidate who can speak to England – the nation that New Labour won but Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband lost. While Kendall rightly embraces the opportunities of global and digital change, she also recognises that Labour cannot be cavalier about globalisation and needs to ensure that everyone prospers in our brave new world.
Kendall offers a genuinely radical, but electable, patriotic Labour party, one that speaks to all of Britain, one that reforms both the market but also public services in order to disperse power to the people. She offers a party that believes people’s sense of fairness is ‘give and take’, not just need. Hers would be a party that is just as pro-business as it is pro-worker, that is fiscally disciplined, and which believes in both aspiration and the common good.
The embryonic alliance between New and blue was never born because Miliband was forever trying to split the difference between the party’s left and right and, unfortunately, Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper have given little sign that they will be different. Kendall can offer Labour what it needs: something New and something blue.
Renie Anjeh is a member of Progress
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