Jon Cruddas - The condition of Britain
Below is a copy of the speech given by Jon Cruddas MP at the launch of IPPR's Condition of Britain Project on the 14th February at Community Links in East London.
I’d like to thank Nick. This is a very exciting event and its great to be here at the launch.
And to Graeme and Kayte for organizing The Condition of Britain project.
The IPPR is a great organization that does fantastic work.
I’m a great admirer. This new project launched today will I believe be as big and influential as the Commission On Social Justice which reported in 1994.
That report had a major influence on the New Labour Government that followed in 1997 and I know that The Condition of Britain will make the same contribution: helping us to define a new approach to the challenges that confront the Country.
The project seeks to identify the major pressures facing the British people. But it will also consider how to harness their ambition and ingenuity to tackle these pressures and create a better society.
In that sense it is one driven by hope and optimism about the capacity of the British people to deal with the challenges that lie ahead.
And it’s great to be here at Community Links. I can’t think of a better place to talk about rebuilding society and making a community. You’ve been doing this work for 30 years.
You know what it’s about, so I’ll be taking a leaf out of your book.
The Condition of Britain and The Policy Review
I think from the outset I should make clear my interest.
My job is to organise the Policy Review of the Labour Party. The shape of this is now becoming clear.
First we have the time line :
Actually we have been handed a fixed term route map of some twenty-six months.
Second we have the process:
We have set up three Shadow Cabinet Sub-Committees chaired by Ed Miliband on: The Economy, Society and Politics.
We are building the overarching One Nation framework for that work.
We have agreed the priorities, work programme, deadlines and responsibilities.
Third, the policy delivered by the process.
An Economic policy focused on living standards and a reformed, responsible capitalism that is more democratic.
A Social Policy rebuilt around family and home, well being, duty and responsibility.
And a One Nation Politics anchored around a modern citizenship.
Many of the areas The Condition of Britain will cover - wellbeing and mental health, children, family life, public service delivery and reform, social security and harnessing the resources of local communities - are priorities for us also. There is much common ground.
So I look forward to a productive relationship over the months ahead as we both discuss the contours and challenges facing modern Britain.
The British People and One Nation
The ambition of the Policy Review, Ed Miliband’s ambition, and the task he has charged me with is to make Labour a One Nation party of work, family and society.
When I finish this talk, Ed will be standing up in Bedford to deliver his own speech on building a One Nation economy. An economy for better quality jobs, support for new businesses, and public services that bring people together.
Ed will set out measures for helping to ease the standard of living crisis for families now.
Rebuilding the British economy will mean building the institutions we need to bring people together and create a shared prosperity.
What I want to talk about this morning is the kind of society we need that will underpin this new economy.
About the pressures people are facing and the issues we must address.
For if we want economic growth we need social growth.
A new economy needs strong foundations in society.
Labour will speak for the things that matter.
Our love of home and family.
Our children and the good future we want for them.
The dignity and pride of decent work.
A politics that conserves the good in society.
Stable, secure families which are the bedrock of our lives and which give our children esteem and wellbeing; time for family and friendships; respect for our traditions and culture which give us our sense of belonging.
A good society is one which protects our everyday life together.
A mutual obligation to one another
Love of our children
Respect for our elders
Care for those in need
Pride in work and in our country.
These foundations are vital as we are living through a time of disruption and insecurity:
a deep and profound crisis in our economy
extraordinary international economic challenges
a loss of trust in our system and institutions of government
growing concerns around our system of social security
a country changed by immigration
and an ageing society.
These have created intense pressures and anxieties in people’s lives.
What are the remedies and solutions? Are they the same as those proposed some 20 years ago by the Social Justice Commission?
I think we can all agree that the answers lie with people themselves.
Yet the institutions of government tend not to involve people in the decisions that shape their lives.
So we need to transform how we do government.
Less top down, more trusting in people to get the job done.
Public policy should unleash people’s potential and encourage their capacity for innovation.
Exactly what Community Links has pioneered for decades and what many create social enterprises and charity and community groups are leading on today.
Actually, my favourite example is my own local Police and Community Boxing Club in Dagenham which is partnering up with Reds10 a brilliant social enterprise to deliver fantastic construction apprenticeship programmes across the Borough for local kids.
Elite sport alongside real inclusion whilst teaching great life skills and partnering up to offer great economic and learning opportunities.
Generations before, The Labour Party itself grew out of the mass popular movements of mutualism, self improvement and collective self-reliance.
It was working people organising together to change their lives for the better.
Building their own power and strength.
Creating building societies, cooperatives, sports societies, libraries, education groups and trade unions.
A great force for civilisation in Britain.
It is a tradition that believes in contribution, taking responsibility and the power of relationships.
One Nation Labour will build on this tradition and once again be the movement for a good society.
I believe there is an obligation on us all to rebuild our country.
No more culture of entitlement and no more winner takes all.
But a society in which everyone plays a part and no-one takes too much or gives too little.
The Pressures People are Under
The financial crisis caused by global banking nearly bankrupted us.
It revealed deep structural problems in the economy.
The economy is failing the British people as the living standards of millions continue to fall.
The Resolution Foundation revealed yesterday that the bottom 50 per cent of workers share only 18 per cent of pre-tax income.
Too many people have no work, or too little work or fear losing work.
1 in 5 workers are low paid.
They are often struggling to survive by juggling two or more jobs.
Balancing the cost of childcare and housing whilst supporting our older generations. Often caught up in a welfare system that does not help them and a maze of rules and bureaucracy.
Where often cheap labour has been favoured over investment in workforce development and vocational education.
Across the regions the private sector is failing to generate real growth.
Evidence suggests that inequalities of wealth and status are increasing levels of mental illness, often shortening the lives of those at the bottom and increasing morbidity rates.
In Britain today millions live with long-term, life limiting illness.
Millions are affected by mental illness, debilitated by depression and anxiety.
Indeed hundreds of thousands of children suffer depression or problem behaviours.
Yet often the pain and suffering is hidden away in the privacy of people’s homes.
The social epidemic of loneliness, particularly amongst the old, generates fear, anxiety and hostility to others.
We need to confront the reality.
And that will require moving beyond the old answers.
For thirty years British politics has been dominated by the market and the state.
But we do not live by the managerialism of the state nor by the transactions of the market.
We live in families and relationships and networks of friendships in local places.
Yet we have introduced markets and financial transactions into areas of life they do not belong, especially as regards the pressures on our children.
And we have fallen into the trap of believing that the answer to every social problem is a government programme.
Let me make clear. I do not believe Britain is broken.
This is what we so often hear from the present Government.
This jars in the public’s mind - who are often acutely aware of both our society’s strengths as well as its strains.
Whilst the diagnosis and policies tended toward reinforcing a blame culture rather than a unifying national response.
At the same time, however, we do have to acknowledge that many feel that society no longer belongs to them.
I know from my own constituency that rapid, unmanaged change causes a profound sense of loss:-
the loss of the industries and skilled work that once gave pride and purpose,
the loss of the ways of life that gave a sense of belonging and meaning to life,
the loss of esteem and with it the shame of failure.
When people lose hope, are they vulnerable to the self-destructive behaviours of addictions, alcoholism and violence?
When they no longer know their neighbours, are they less likely to want to work together and find common solutions to their problems?
So how do we reconnect our society by rebuilding a sense of duty and obligation to each other?
How do we work with business and social enterprises to create more resilient communities?
How do we create new forms of social solidarity to integrate different communities and generations?
And how do we reform our welfare system and public services to meet these ends?
These are tough questions, often outside the orbit of Westminster politics.
Politics must ask these questions. I hope that is what The Condition of Britain will seek to do.
Personally, I very much welcomed David Cameron when he began to talk about ‘a social recession’.
His answer was Compassionate Conservatism and the Big Society
He recognised there is more to life than money and markets.
Many admired him for saying that we should hug a hoodie.
He said ‘working together for the common good is the way to create a new and inspiring sense of national identity.’
I believed and supported David Cameron when he said these things. Although from a different Party I believe he was asking the right questions. I still think that.
I fear however, that he could not carry his party with him.
His Big Society was for the economic good times.
The financial crisis has dealt it a mortal blow.
The notion of the Big Society has literally disappeared. Once it was the big idea.
I conclude that David Cameron has vacated this ground and now appears to be putting party interest over national interest.
Yet David Cameron has said it's sink or swim time.
Personally, I don’t want to live in a country where people are left to drown.
And what about on the other side of the political equation?
For me, thirteen years of Labour Government made Britain a better place. Hospitals and schools rebuilt; millions of children lifted out of poverty
But in 2010 we suffered arguably our worst defeat since 1918.
We cannot ignore the fact that not everyone seemed that grateful.
We have to ask ourselves some tough questions.
Did we underplay the importance of relationships and trust between people that should lie at the heart of public services and institutions?
Did we use the market and the state as instruments of reform without real transfer of power, ownership and responsibility to people?
Did we drift into becoming instinctive centralisers?
In terms of Labour’s response.
The answers to our problems do not simply lie in Whitehall.
The thousands of targets and directives to improve this and to stop that, the experts who know best which lever to pull - that can’t be the beginning and end of our answer.
People don’t trust government on its own to get it right.
Britain needs a new social compact that will protect people against risk, devolve power downward and provide opportunities for getting on.
And Labour cannot simply wait for government to start work on this.
That is why we are so supportive of The Condition of Britain Project.
Across the country we are re-building a campaigning movement for change.
And in local Government we are testing ideas to build economic growth and social resilience.
Three core elements can be identified in this work.
First, a strong Economy is vital for a good society
Our ambition is to build together a dynamic economy for people to earn enough for a decent life and for opportunities to learn and to fulfil their ambitions.
We’ll build the resilience of local communities, looking at regional banks and business support to help drive city-led economic growth
- devolving power downwards to create jobs and new forms of production.
And we’ll campaign against loan sharks and pay day lenders; helping to develop community banks, credit unions and building financial literacy and resilience.
We can’t rely on tax credits alone to boost people’s income.
There is not enough money and it subsidizes those businesses willing to make profits but not pay their workers a decent wage.
So we will work hard to develop a national campaigning alliance of labour, business and civil society for the living wage- a policy that emerged from local east end communities asking the basic question: what do we need to keep our families together?
Second, renewing Social Security
People have lost faith in our welfare system.
A social compact would mean a fair contributory welfare policy where people feel they get out when they put in.
It would mean transforming our system of welfare from an expensive, complicated system that often simply contains families in crisis, to one which makes them responsible for the process of their own change.
Reforming the practice of government to recognise the value of people’s relationships.
-new approaches to getting people back to work by developing social networks to find work and move up the skills curve.
-tackling loneliness by building social connections, learning opportunities and practical support.
We’ll protect communities with stronger regulation of the private rental market - giving families the security of tenure they need to plan their lives and put down roots.
We spend far too much on subsidising rents and far too little on dealing with the historic housing supply crisis. It needs to change.
Third, care itself.
80 percent of hospital costs are associated with chronic illness.
Andy Burnham has begun to sketch out a joined up health and care system that will keep people out of hospital and will allow older people to die in dignity rather than being left in hospitals that can’t give them the care and attention they need.
Alongside a national system of good quality childcare to help more women into the labour market
Barking and Dagenham
I tend to think of all these issues in terms of my own community literally a few miles down the road.
The scale of the task before us is daunting as the very character of our community changes.
Issues of demographic change and integration have been with us for years. For a number of years we were the fastest changing community in the country.
In our Borough some £20 million of cuts are having to be made in Council activity.
So the emphasis is going to have to shift from demands on simple state expenditure to campaigns that bring people together and enable them to improve their common life and build their power from the bottom up.
Two days ago, for example, we announced the highest Living Wage in Britain- £9 an hour.
Tomorrow we open our offer for community energy purchase saving residents on average over £100 per year.
We are looking closely at innovative forms of landlord regulation, we are actively nurturing local credit unions and confronting usury.
We are thinking through forms of innovative advocacy following legal aid cuts and CAB cuts. We are trying to tap into the social capital in the community to build new safety nets.
High street campaigns around food, and licensing are emerging which in turn are nurturing new duties and responsibilities in our streets.
We are looking at new forms of volunteering and mobilisation in our streets.
We are seeking to develop borough wide systems of food banking, furniture and clothing distribution.
Four out of five jobs are brokered away from the DWP. How do we create proper partnerships with the corporate sector and procure jobs for local people as we regenerate East London?
These are a few examples. But I do think this is the future. Here economic campaigns and social policy combine in the search for more resilient communities.
To me all roads lead back to Dagenham Boxing Club.
May I offer you an invitation to come and see for yourself.
The IPPR would be made very welcome there.
We need to ask the big questions therefore about what is happening in the country and about what needs to be done.
About what are our duties and responsibilities to each other.
How we build a more connected society.
How we transform our public services.
How we live together and navigate through the challenges of the modern world.
Difficult questions. But vital.
Nick I wish you and your team and your partners in this great project luck and good fortune.
I look forward to working with you on this.
I think it will be a landmark project.
Thanks very much.
Want to write an article like this? If you’re a Compass member you can submit your own articles and start your own debates on the Compass debates member’s section, an autonomous space for our members to initiate debate and discuss ideas.
To keep updated on the latest Compass news, please join our mailing list.