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During his conference speech in Manchester in October Ed Miliband said the words ‘One Nation’ 46 times. By using the phrase made famous by the Conservative Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, Miliband was not only rolling his tanks onto the Conservatives’ lawn, he was also trying to claim the mantle of national unity for Labour.
Three recent works, each (in their way) representative of some lively streams in contemporary academic and political practice, might help us to understand what’s really at stake in our current condition, by building discussions of debt and money in to meditations on history and political theory.
Jon Cruddas may have been asked to lead the Labour opposition’s policy review but the Dagenham MP is not, truth be told, especially interested in policy. ‘What interests me is not policy as such; rather the search for political sentiment, voice and language; of general definition within a national story. Less The Spirit Level, more what is England’, he said, speaking on ‘the good society’ at the University of East Anglia (Cruddas, 2012).
Robert Kuttner interviewed by Ben Jackson. As the US presidential election enters the home straight and the British political class over- indulges in the minutiae of Obama’s re-election battle, Robert Kuttner provides a more radical appraisal of the American political scene than is usually purveyed to a British audience.
Ferdinand Mount’s The New Few is fascinating. This is as much for who is writing the book as for what he has uncovered. Part national analysis, part personal revelation, The New Few charts how the excesses of the rich have become so gross that, by page 213, we learn that Mr Mount, in 2010, switched his current account from Barclays to the Co-op!
To leaf through the back issues of Renewal is a gripping but disquieting experience; it brings back the mixed political emotions of the last twenty years. The excitement, and relief, of the run-up to 1997, with the end of the long Conservative night and the emergence at last of a viable centre-left governing project.