Together. A word that speaks of common endeavour, shared sacrifice, solidarity, and fellowship. In three syllables it tells you all you need to know about Ed Miliband’s plan for a Britain that, in his own words, has “lost faith in the future”.
In his final conference speech before the 2015 General Election, Labour’s leader set the party an audacious challenge. In fact, he set it six challenges, each epic in scope and breath-taking in ambition: halving the number of those in low pay, bringing the number of apprentices up in line with the number of university students, doubling the number of first-time home buyers, creating one million high tech jobs, boosting wage growth, and rebuilding the NHS.
But the unifying message he wanted delegates to leave with was that it was all possible if the country acted as one. That is Labour’s rallying cry now. One Nation is dead. Long live “Together”.
In fairness, the One Nation brand always struggled for definition. The Young Fabians have done sterling work this year fleshing out Ed’s vision in the course of this year’s Ideas Series, but even as late as our pamphlet launch, a Young Fabian member condemned the message as “woolly” and lacking resonance on the doorstep. Lance Price, former Labour party director of communications, even went so far as to write in the autumn issue of Anticipations that One Nation- absent a coherent messaging strategy- is “sterile political onanism”.
Yet did this speech represent a wholesale jettisoning of the One Nation agenda? Or rather a simplification and rebranding? Time will tell. I do not believe this speech was about weaving together a political narrative for Britain as the One Nation speech set out to do two years ago. It was about setting out a clear and coherent plan not just for Labour’s next 100 days in office, but for its next 10 years in power. For that, activists will have a lot to thank Ed for. Now we can hit the doorstep and promise voters: 3,000 more midwives, 5,000 more care workers, 8,000 more GPs, plus real investment in apprenticeships and house-building, and a promise that the scourge of low pay will be tackled head-on.
This speech was about Ed the Action Man rather than Ed the Armchair Philosopher. Eight months before a General Election, that is exactly the Ed Miliband Labour needs to see more of.
This article, like all publications of the Young Fabians, represents not the collective views of the Society but only the views of the author