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For social democrats, the post-war years are usually seen as halcyon days. Across the Western world, including the United Kingdom, societies became healthier, wealthier and more equal. Inequalities were compressed as the dynamism of industrial capitalism was harnessed by the state – both national and local – and by strong trade unions, in the interests of the many not the few.

Everyone knows that it’s not what’s being said about the political issues that matters. It’s what can be said. Yes, politics is about ‘credibility’ and even more so about what is defined as ‘credibility’. Ed Miliband doesn’t look like a Prime Minister. He never will, unless the idea of what a Prime Minister is changes.

Public policies for private corporations: the British corporate welfare state

With the clock ticking down to the next election the Labour Party faces big questions about how to construct an attractive, plausible alternative to the politics of the Coalition. It needs a narrative which blames the economic crash of 2008-12 on unfet- tered capitalism rather than alleged Labour profligacy, but more than that it needs a vision of the future that can capture voters’ imagination and persuade them that Labour can make a difference in tough times.

In 1994 Dan Corry wrote an article in Renewal on the shape of Labour’s macroeconomic policy (Corry, 1994). After almost twenty years it is striking how relevant much of the article still feels. The original piece was entitled ‘Living with capitalism’ but today’s Labour economic policy appears to have moved beyond simply living with capitalism and is setting out an active agenda of how to change and shape it.

Jacob Hacker interviewed by Ben Jackson and Martin O’Neill. The American political scientist Jacob Hacker has been catapulted into the heart of British political debate as a result of Ed Miliband’s prominent endorsement of Hacker’s idea of 'predistribution'. Hacker is a distinguished and influential scholar of public policy and American politics, who has also been closely involved in public debates in the United States on issues such as health-care reform and welfare policy.


Frances O'Grady, Sarah Hutchinson, Florence Sutcliffe-Braithwaite

Summer / Autumn 2013

Frances O’Grady interviewed by Sarah Hutchinson and Florence Sutcliffe Braithwaite

The early British New Left – a vibrant activist and intellectual current that flourished between 1956 and 1963 and whose brief lifespan encompassed the early careers of many of the most important British socialist intellectuals of the last half-century – has made an unexpected recent return to the political stage.

This essay is about the first New Left and Blue Labour. They are both examples of emergent currents of thinking and action at times of political hiatus on the left. In this hiatus what counts is not policy but the energy of emerging political moods and intellectual currents. They begin to re-orientate thinking and action, reconfiguring existing political fault- lines, and once more connecting people with political agency.

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.