Orpington Labour Party

Labour Rose

Rebuilding our Optimism and Enthusiasm

At the Compass Summer Lecture last night, I heard Dr Jon Cruddas MP give a rousing speech that captured the disillusionment that many of us feel, but more importantly showed how we can recapture our optimism and enthusiasm. Could this be the future of social democracy?

Cruddas’ talk started with a thoughtful analysis of the history of the Labour Party, comparing todays situation to previous economic downturns when Labour’s poor response led to long periods of right wing government. He also showed how New Labour had embraced a hollowed out view of society as a set of unsentimental and self-interested individuals concerned only with acquisition and consumption.

The talk really got into its stride when Jon began to about policy. He proposed a detailed programme of radical policies focussed on equality, community, sustainability and democracy that would bring back optimism and enthusiasm to the Labour Party. He also called on us all to break out of the narrow centralised control of the current Labour leadership and form broader alliances with all like-minded groups on the left.

Whether these policies can save us from a Tory government is hard to say. But Jon quoted Richard Williams as saying that "to be truly radical is to make hope possible rather than despair convincing." I for one would rather see the party go into the next election with a positive and radical manifesto than to simply drift to defeat with a message that reduces to ‘the Tories will be worse than us.’ As Jon said, "it is better to burn out than it is to rust."

The talk finished with two quotes that I found particularly inspiring:

"Believe in the possibility of building up a sane and ordered society, to oppose the squalid materialism that dominates the world today, and to hold out their hands in friendship and good will to the struggling people everywhere who want only freedom, security and a happier life."

"A nation for all the people, built by the people, where old divisions are cast out. A new spirit in the nation based on working together, unity, solidarity, partnership. That is the patriotism of the future. Where your child in distress is my child; your parent ill and in pain is my parent; your friend unemployed or homeless is my friend; your neighbour my neighbour. That is the true patriotism of a nation."

The first quote is from a speech by Tony Blair in 1994, the other is from The Manifesto of the Labour Party in 1923.

I urge you all to read the complete text of the lecture at the Compass web site.

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