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7 May 2014updated 09 Jun 2021 11:15am

Jon Cruddas’s speech on power and belonging: full text

"In our globalised world renewing the country begins in local places."

By New Statesman

Delivered at the ACEVO Gathering of Social Leaders


Thank you for inviting me to speak today.

My colleague Lisa Nandy has thoughtfully outlined our policy approach toward the voluntary sector.

I’ll second her praise for Nick Hurd and Jesse Norman and the Big Society crowd, I’ve always been a fan but I share Lisa’s concerns.

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If Labour wins in 2015 we’ll keep supporting Nick’s excellent work on the Government Digital Service and the Open Policy ideas the Cabinet Office has been working on.


I know that you are interested in Labour’s Manifesto so I’ll follow on from Lisa and speak about Labour and Ed Miliband’s agenda.  

But to begin with I want to make a couple of general comments.

With European and Local Elections approaching two forces appear to be driving national politics.

The first is people’s feelings of powerlessness in the face of rapid social and economic change.

Change which has left the majority poorer;and has benefited only a few.


The second is a feeling amongst people that despite living in a more open and tolerant society something has been lost from their lives which they will never get back – a loss of a sense of belonging.                    

These have created a mood of grievance and blame which is breaking up the consensus of Westminster politics.

People believe that Parliament is theirs; that it is the sovereign expression of their country, but it has ignored them for years.  

So they sense that there is no-one to speak for them; they feel abandoned.

Politics is becoming more turbulent.


UKIP is exploiting this mood in Labour’s English heartlands where traditional ways of life have been devastated.

Often in places still suffering from the industrial and social changes of the 1980s.

UKIP blames this sense of loss on many of the progressive social changes that have made Britain a more civilized place to live.

On a Welfare State which people support in principle but think can be unfair- by failing to reward contribution.

But most particularly on immigration.

Where concerns about the effects on jobs and wages- real enough- mask a deeper sense of people losing control over their lives.


I have always thought that the English are independent minded, sometimes conservative in sentiment, but also radical in outlook.

Like the Welsh and the Scots- but less remarked upon- they are creating their own identity within the United Kingdom.

But they feel powerless to shape the future of their country.

They have lost trust in Westminster politics because it stopped caring aboutthem.


The other day I was reading Tony Blair’s 1995 Conference speech. 

It’s fantastic, full of promise and optimism.

He caught the mood of the country with his vision of the future.

He said of Labour then and now:

‘This is the patriotic party because it is the party of the people.’

It is this nation building and boldness to meet the challenge that underpins Ed Miliband’s One Nation politics.


And I would also suggest that The Tories are becoming a liberal market party of parts of Southern England backed by parts of a financial elite. Their legacy: banks run for short term profit, high streets neglected, town halls marginalized, and public services outsourced and centralized.

Consequently they cannot unite the country around the things people hold in common.

The government it leads busies itself yet the larger the challenge it faces, the smaller its ambition.


We have had the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression;   the biggest bank bailout in our history;                                                                                                                       

and the slowest recovery on record.                                                                                  

Too many in the banking sector have not taken responsibility for the financial crash; there has not been the significant reform we need.

Over the lifetime of this Parliament the trade deficit has grown by £36bn.

The Office for Budget Responsibility calculates government consumption will fall from 21.8 per cent of GDP in 2012 to 16.1 per cent of GDP in 2018.                                                                                       

The lowest level since 1948.                                                                                        

And yet in 2015 George Osborne will leave the country with a deficit close to £70 billion and the national debt still rising.


So a year to go till the election and Britainis coming out of the recession but it is not recovering.  

The link between family income and economic growth has been broken.

People are working harder and longer for less.


In 2015 the country will decide which direction we will move in.  


Here is the choice.                                


There is the future of innovation and wealth creation.

We are on the cusp of a new kind of economy driven by the digital revolution.

New information and communication technologies transforming our economy and society.

New services, products and markets generating knowledge, prosperity and opportunity.

Most of all, a new kind of self-help democracy. Enabling people to build the services they need in partnership with their providers. With huge opportunities to give power back to people.


In short. A creative culture enriching our experience of everyday life, and finding new ways to change it.


And there is the second future in the shadow of the first.

A country scarred by dispossession.

Its great industries gone and with them the skilled jobs and communities of the working class.  

Where poverty and inequality are increasing- especially amongst the under 30s.

Where the public sector is atrophied

People driven from secure full-time jobs to zero hours contracts.

Where social mobility has ground to a halt:

-the younger generation competing for fewer jobs;

-shut out of the housing market;

-living with mum and dad.                                                                                                                     

This is not the future their parents worked hard to give them.

The new economy could and indeed should benefit the working lives of everyone.                                              

But without active government to tackle vested interests and the cost of living crisis the benefits will belong to isolated vanguards.                                                                                                    

The majority will be excluded.                                                       

You here today are familiar with both these futures- the opportunities and the profound dangers.


The social economy you are a part of is a major source of innovation.

And you have long experience in tackling deprivation and dispossession.

It is your pioneering spirit that will be a driving force of national renewal.

Like Lisa I believe we must work together as partners, but you must also be able to tell us when we are getting it wrong.


We in Labour must acknowledge that the command and control politics of the old economy will not build the new one.                                                  


We need to learn new ways of organisingthe state and our institutions to make them more accountable, to manage complexity, and to share responsibility and power with people.


Let me give you an example of what I mean.


Last month 100 residents of a town in Essex took part in a local deliberative poll on ways to make their town a better place to live.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Many of you are involved in participatory projects so you know the energy and enthusiasm  they create.                          

The insights shared.                                                                                          

The older people talking about their sons and daughters who have left the town.

The fear expressed that the town had been left behind and was dying .                                                                                                                                                                                

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The young mother who said she told her children, ‘I want you to leave when you have grown up.’                                                                                        

There is  nothing for them to aspire to here, she explained.


But at the same time the loyalty and pride people felt for their town. They drew on their deep knowledge of their home to tackle difficult questions.                                                                                            About who should have new housing and what to do about buy-to-let landlords multi-letting to migrant labour at extortionate rents.

The new supermarket hiring migrant labour over local people.

The anger at pay day lenders – the majority of the 102 knew someone who had borrowed from one.

But closing them down on the high street was not enough – all gave support for national regulation and building local credit unions as an affordable alternative.  


I refer to this because we need more of this approach to policy making.

People want to be included in decisions that will affect them.

Everywhere there are individuals and groups improving their communities, campaigning, and growing the social fabric that binds us together.                                                        

Their energy radiates around our country. But our political system either fails to connect with it  or it just smothers the life out of it.                              

The American community organizer Arnie Graf is helping Labour re-awaken our traditions of political organising.

To renew our politics we must open up our own organisation to people’s energy and participation.

To create policy for durable change we must mobilise people in support of it.

We have to re-imagine how we design policy to make it a more democratic exercise and not just a technocratic one.

Our policy making is governed by five organising principles.                                                                                      


The first is Transformation: we will reform institutions and devolve power to deal with the causes of our economic problems.


Second is Prevention: we will invest to prevent social problems rather than wasting money on reactive high cost services.          


Third is Devolution: we will share power and responsibility with people to help them help themselves and shape their services in response to their specific needs.


Fourth is Collaboration and Cooperation: we will increase the power of local places by building collaboration between and across public services and organisations; pooling funds to stop inefficiency and  avoidduplication.


And finally Contribution: we will promote a model of citizenship based on reciprocity and developing character for individual resilience, good relationships and wellbeing.


You might have heard of the apocryphal story about the ‘Burning Platform’ email circulated to Nokia staff by its CEO, Stephen Elop. 

A man wakes up to find the oil platform he is on engulfed in flames.

He looks over the edge at the dark sea below.

He has seconds to react and as the fire approaches him he jumps 30 meters into the freezing water.

In ordinary circumstances he would never have chosen to jump; it was completely out of character.

But he had to make the choice.

The burning platform caused a radical change in his behaviour.

Elops message was simple: Nokia had to change or it would die.


After 13 years in office, following our worst defeat since 1918 and alongside a global crisis of social democracy this is analogous to the position the Labour Party finds itself in.


We in Labour  have made our choice for radical change.

We will  break with the old way of managing and administrating politics that did things to or for people

We will move forward step by step,  learningas we go about what works, renewing our institutions, building partnerships to lay down the foundations for prosperity for the next decade.


We will use our organising principles to setstandards for a prosperous democracy- transformation, prevention, devolution, collaboration and contribution.  


The first standard is an inclusive economy.  

There is no ‘magic formula’ to solve the cost of living crisis.  But the answer is not to tinker with the system; it needs radical change to make markets work in the public interest.

At the heart of  a One Nation political economy will be institutional reform.

Labour’s New Deal  for England will be the biggest devolution of power to our cities and county regions in 100 years: regional banking, local powers over high streets, and people powered public services.

A properly balanced economy across the country; helping local authorities to implement the Living Wage. 

A top class system of  vocational education and training tailored for local need.

Our Labour Council leaders are changing how the country is governed: linking public service reform to growth;
spending to invest in people to become more productive; and shifting from high cost reaction to long term prevention.

For example, in  Oldham Jim McMahon has set up the Co-Operative Oldham Funda £1m scheme to support the growth of new voluntary sector groups.

Soon we will be publishing full details in Andrew Adonis’ Growth Review which will report in June.


An inclusive economy is both pro-worker and pro-business.

Making sure there is a balance of interests between workers, employers and government for the common good, for example by having employees on Renumeration Committees.

And we will explore how we can reform our markets using the idea of ‘skin in the game’.                                            

People who have power to make decisions on behalf of others should share in the risks, not just enjoy the rewards.

Only then can they be truly accountable.

The second standard is an inclusive society

Emotional life is at the heart of the ties that bind society together and family is its bedrock.                                                                                

But many families are under pressure and family life is changing. We need a whole family approach to policy making that uses the power of relationships to strengthen the capacity of men, women and children for resilience, love and care. 

We will help families with 25 hours free childcare for all working parents of 3 and 4 year olds.

And support people to manage their own long term health problems, keeping them in their families and out of hospital.  


Families need homes and we will tackle the broken housing market by making sure 200,000 a year get built by 2020.

We will bring greater security to people living in the private rented sector.

And we will look at alternative forms of ownership that give people a stake in their homes.


Across the country Labour Council leaders are leading the way in strengthening society:

spending to invest in people to become better able to take advantage of future opportunities; shifting over time from high cost reaction to long term prevention, and so reducing future demand on public spending.                                                                                            

We have two major reports to be published in next couple of months.                                            

The Local Government Innovation Taskforce led by Manchester’s Sir Richard Leese, Sharon Taylor from Stevenage and Hackney’s Jules Pipe is planning how to organize  better services around the places people live in rather than institutional silos.                                                                                                                  

And the IPPR’s Condition of Britain report will set out a comprehensive social policy strategy.                                                                                                                                    

An inclusive society is about contribution and responsibility. We need to improve social integrationand shared values and language to make sure our immigration policy is fair :

reforming transitional controls when new countries come into the EU;

enforcing rules to protect agency workers ;

and prioritising English language teaching for newcomers.

We will renew the bond of trust between people by restoring the contributory element in our social security system.


And we will encourage a citizenship of  reciprocity that promotes the virtues of character for resilience and wellbeing.                      


The third standard is an inclusive politics

Our political parties are slow to respond to our complex and fast changing society.

Traditional tools of policy making – money and top down government regulation –  are not always effective.

We won’t have the money to spend and thistechnocratic approach excludes people andstifles initiative.


The future of politics is innovation and participation and Labour will start with ourselves and pioneer new ways of doing politics and making policy.

We are building networks to connect with the great array of small scale innovations in society that anticipate alternative directions for policy.


Instead of imposing change on communities we will use their insights and experience of what works and what doesn’t.


For example, Shadow Home Office Minister Steve Reed is leading the way by developingLabour’s response to violent gang crime.

Three Open Space events around the countrywill bring politicians, police and professionals together with victims and their families and offenders and their families.

Together they will define the problem, set the agenda, and work out possible solutions.

It will mean real ownership of the solutionsby the community and better decision-making by the authorities. 


The internet is a tool for political change and we need to use it in our policy making.

eople need digital access to rebalance power between citizens and the market and between citizens and the state.

Services can be redesigned to give politicians the hour-by-hour feedback they need to understand the impact of their policies on people, and adjust services within days.

We will continue the work of the Cabinet Office which has pioneered the Government Digital Service using open data and new technology to call to account institutions and services.


An inclusive politics is about building interests into coalitions for a common good.

We will share power and responsibility with people to help them play an active role in representing their interests and solving their own problems.


Personally, I thought the Big Society was a good idea.

There was an understanding that politics wasdominated by the centralized market and abureaucratic state.

People live in families, in local places, and politics had deserted them. 

But David Cameron made the mistake ofbelieving that Margaret Thatcher had won the economic revolution; now he wanted towin a social revolution with the Big Society.

But the economy is broken and the Big Society has failed.

You can’t give people power in their communities and not power in the economy.

This government is stripping back the state and giving power to big corporations not to people.


The Big Society was governed by voluntarism.

That is not enough.

It was about society versus the state.

That is wrong.

It failed to share power with people


The future is a social economy that combines elements of the state, the market , the grant economy and the household, governed by social values, not just profit.                                                                  Its principle is reciprocity; the give and take which establishes a sense of justice.

Its task is to create social wellbeing, and new models of services, production and ownership.                                                                                  

Politics is about sharing power with people to help them develop their capabilities and fulfil their ambitions.

And it’s about building a sense of belonging and purpose and pride in one’s country.

In our globalised world renewing the country begins in local places because they are the agents of political change, the places of belonging, and the sources of identity but also of innovation and creativity.

One Nation or a divided country; that is the choice before us in the elections ahead and in the General Election one year away .

Labour wins when it is bold and patriotic.

When it has pride in its past and hope for its future.

The stakes are high.

Thank you.