One Nation – Our nation, the nation this Labour generation seeks to represent and to serve, is a complex and varied place, stretching from coast to inner city, from wooded glade to urban park, from ports and estuaries to high-rise flats and terraced houses.
One Nation Labour is a powerful statement of a Party seeking to acknowledge, understand and to try and address the issues and opportunities of all of these places, and of each of their communities.
Sadly the Labour Party, and sometimes the wider Labour movement can be a bit stereotypical about those parts that we frankly don’t often reach – the market town, the village, the farm, the fishing port, the coastal resort . . .
History shows that in the momentous elections, 1945, 1997 where Britain faces a profound choice we have won these sorts of constituencies.
There is talk of the profound choice that will face the British public in 2015 – can we, again, engage, understand and address the issues and opportunities of those places we don’t often reach? If we can, our ambition to be One Nation Labour will be realised with a powerful majority.
A good starting point is the policy review, another is these very communities and the many Labour members and Labour supporters that are at their heart.
I would set every member of the Shadow Cabinet the gentle challenge of describing their ambition for Britain, and any emerging policies as if they only applied to the communities living in the Counties of England. Of course, contrary to the view of some London-based party members, next year isn’t a year off from electioneering, as it will see County Council elections. In the corresponding elections in 2009 we didn’t do well: our momentum towards 2015 depends on good results next year.
If I were being more challenging I would ask the Shadow Cabinet to describe what their policy would do for people who live a market or coastal town, or in the ancient or planned countryside; what a policy would mean for those whose only means of transport, to get to work, school or any shop is a car that’s a bit long in the tooth with poor mpg; or the impact we would hope to have on the lives of those who can’t afford to live in the village where they grew up . . .
Thoughtful politicians will have good answers to these questions that show we have listened to real people in a great variety of places, understood their needs and come up with something that could work for them, in other words One Nation policies.
Some might say that we don’t really need the votes of people who live in such places – I would beg to differ. From an election perspective we need a good showing in the County Council elections only months away. More importantly a robust narrative that shows we value our villages, our fishing ports and our market towns will be a better narrative for anyone who might vote Labour.
Such a narrative would show we value those people and communities who live and work on the land and the sea, who create and manage our landscapes, who produce quality food for us to savour, and whose lives are lived over miles not meters. And care for them as much as we value the produce and benefits they offer.
Many people will know of a beautiful Ash tree, there are thousands. I know of one on the crest of a hill near the Brecon Beacons. While we value it, the scene it enhances, and are rightly fearful of Ash dieback; we must also understand and value the sheep farmer on whose land it grows, the agricultural worker who tends the sheep and cuts the hay, and the men of the abattoir who bring the lamb to our table. They are as important to that view as the Ash tree.
If, like me, Jim, Jonathan, Mark and Sally you feel the policy review must engage, understand and support these communities and address their issues properly then join us, the founder members of Labour: Coast and Country. We know that understanding the issues of the people of the orchards of Suffolk, the coast of Dorset, the Dales of Yorkshire, the pit villages of the North East and the meadows of Carmarthenshire can ensure we can win in 2015, as One Nation Labour.
Hywel Lloyd, a Founder member of Labour: Coast and Country, was previously an advisor to the Rt Hon Hazel Blears MP and the Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP.