Shadow cabinet minister Jon Cruddas has outlined his party’s vision for ‘rebuilding Britain’, emphasising a focus on tackling social problems over spending.
Cruddas, who is also head of the Labour Party Policy Review, was speaking at NCVO's Evolve conference yesterday.
He said that trends which have seen flat growth rates since 2010 and the poor/rich divide getting wider cannot be countered just by spending more money on them. He labelled our current economic system as “driven by greed” and criticised it for not being socially responsible.
“We in Labour are trying to work this out by putting human relationships back at the centre of our thinking,” he said. “This ‘social economy’ will need to be at the forefront of literally rebuilding our country over the coming years.
“We must find another way of doing things. We need to make our society stronger and more connected if we are to reform our economy and to share our prosperity. And the basic infrastructure to achieve this is the relationships between people and the trust they create.”
‘Politics has to change’
Cruddas went on to say that the very nature of politics must change. He stressed that it should recognise that work, family and community are the most important things to people, and address the symptoms that the problem of neglecting these has produced – such as social exclusion and rising levels of mental illness.
“Instead of demanding more spending we will have to organise people together to improve the common life we all share,” he said. “For this we need a ‘politics of wellbeing’ which is about good health and emotional balance, but also about people having the capacity to find self-fulfilment, to live their life in their own way.”
The minister admitted that dealing with the country’s major social problems requires being innovative when there is less money available.
Labour’s ‘one nation’ approach
Cruddas revealed that Labour is working on the ideas for a ‘one nation’ approach to running government.
This, he said, is based around three organising principles: power for local people to shape their services and communities; investment for prevention to avoid the costs of failure; and collaboration between public bodies, not wasting money on bureaucratic duplication.
“We are touring the country looking at saving money through innovation and radically reconfiguring services to tackle social exclusion,” Cruddas said. “Encouraging local people to get involved in budgeting and co-designing services and local development.
"We need collaboration between the public, private and voluntary sectors to avoid silo thinking, silo services and waste. We need local community-building, multi-purpose organisations that facilitate local involvement, and networks of support and activity as well as to provide services from debt counselling to mental health care.
“Government can’t pass laws to make these kinds of organisations happen, but it can think how to sustain them and how it can help incubate innovation.”
In the audience question session with NCVO chair Martyn Lewis following his speech, Cruddas said that social investment is on Labour’s mind (“It is something we’re looking into”), and that he personally remains “very taken” with the concept of the Big Society: “I’m probably one of the last people standing who still believes in [it], even if it’s probably deeply unfashionable," he said.