Next Labour?

It was always going to be a problem. What do you call your new improved version of Labour when the ‘New Labour’ brand has become stale and discredited?

David Miliband is backing ‘Next Labour’, a tag coined by the New Statesman’s James Macintyre in March this year. In an interview with the Observer Miliband said:

New Labour was a reaction to the 1980s but it was trapped by the 1980s. Anyone who thinks that the future is about re-creating New Labour is wrong. I think we’ve got to use this period to decisively break with that. What I’m interested in is Next Labour.

Miliband was so pleased with the new label that he tweeted "I said to Observer that ‘new Labour isn’t new anymore…we need next Labour’. Hope they print it tomorrow."

Meanwhile David’s brother Ed spoke at the at a Fabian Society event titled: Next Left: The First Post-Election Conference. However it may have been David who was first associated with the ‘next left’ label. Along with Tessa Blackstone, James Cornford, and Patricia Hewitt he authored a 1992 paper for the IPPR titled: Next Left: An agenda for the 1990s.

Britain’s liberals ran into this problem much earlier than Labour. By the late 19th century they had already used the ‘new liberal’ tag to refer to a version of social liberalism and this forced other, more market oriented liberals, to refer to themselves as ‘classical liberals‘. Oddly people who think of themselves as classical liberals are often known as ‘neoliberals‘.

Will anyone come forward and announce that they are ‘classic‘ or ‘vintage‘ Labour?

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Rafe
11 years ago

What about another look at the classical liberal agenda? That is, a suite of freedoms, limited government under the rule of law, secure property rights, minumum state and a robust moral framework including honesty, compassion, civility, personal responsibility and civic resonsibility. The good thing about this agenda is that wherever in the world things are getting better on a sustainable basis, one or more of the items on the list are the active ingredients in the policy mix. It also calls for discussion of particulr items in place of the useless debate about neoliberalism which in the hands of people like Kevin Rudd and Robert Manne is so detached from reality that it leads nowhere.

Tel
Tel
11 years ago

Oddly people who think of themselves as classical liberals are often known as ‘neoliberals‘.

Generally by people who don’t understand what a classical liberal is and who want to make it sound like “neocon” and attempt to forge a link with Bush-style Republicanism.

Richard Tsukamasa Green
Richard Tsukamasa Green(@richard-green)
11 years ago

Just be thankful we probably won’t get Labour 3.0 or 3G Labour.

On the other hand, as puerile as they sound, they might be a better choice. Afterall, they imply augmentation, upgrading and adaptation rather than refutation and distancing.

Alphonse
Alphonse
11 years ago

“a robust moral framework including honesty, compassion, civility, personal responsibility and civic res[p]onsibility”

ie Be all things to all people. That’s novel, Rafe.

Rafe
11 years ago

Thanks Alphonse, but do you have a thought that we can discuss?

Rafe
11 years ago

A nice point Don, it is time to stop using “Thatcherism” as a term of disgust and contempt, to see what was helpful in what she did and what was not. But that will call for some historical perspective and analysis of policies and their outcomes, instead of trading slogans and insults. Are the intelligentsia, the commentators, the interviewers and the press gallery up to this challenge? If they are not, then we are stuffed!

Ken Parish
Admin
Ken Parish(@ken-parish)
11 years ago

How about eLabour or even iLabour (given that a court recently found that Apple doesn’t own the prefix for all purposes)? Alternatively the current series of Survivor is called “Heroes vs Villains” so they could append that to Labour and thereby give everyone explicit permission to decide which Miliband is which, or more enduringly which out of righties, lefties or split-the-difference communitarians deserves the appellation.

Rafe
11 years ago

Ken, your suggestion has some merit but is dangerously anarchic and hence unworkable. How can you give everyone permission to decide such fundamentally important matters as the allocation of names to political parties? You should wear a hat when you go out in the sun. Maybe someone else can think of a better way to handle this, but to get the ball rolling I suggest the establishment of a statutory body to convene a representative group of voters to decide on the names of all political parties. The body would have to fairly represent (on a per capita basis) people of all ages, genders, height, weight and other abilities and ableness (sight, mobility, hearing etc), not to mention race, religion ethnicity, social class and linguistic groups (counting regional dialects of course, in addition to all foreign languages, not neglecting the gypsies, whatever they are called these days to avoid giving offence). I appreciate that this proposal would need to be fine tuned.

Ken Parish
Admin
Ken Parish(@ken-parish)
11 years ago

iLabour 2.0. It’s Time!

Rafe, I wasn’t advocating that the public could decide the Party’s name. It would be “Labour Heroes vs Villains”. What voters would have to decide is which faction are the heroes and whether they have the numbers sufficiently to justify giving the Party your vote. I think the concept has got a lot going for it; it acknowledges that Labour is a “broad church” without using that tacky Tory cliche.

Nicholas Gruen
Admin
Nicholas Gruen(@nicholas-gruen)
11 years ago

“iSnack Labour 2.0” should pretty much get the message across I would have thought.

Rafe
11 years ago

Well if the Webbs were alive I bet they would go for my suggestion but under theh circumstances, if you want something this year, then “iSnack Labour 2.0” is the way to go, easily updated in a stroke of pen to version 2.001, 2.002 etc.

Nabakov
Nabakov
11 years ago

Diet Labour – Now With Zero Calories!

And the top job contenders, Miliband, Miliband, Cruddas and Ball, sounds like a Cayman Islands law firm with some very dodgy clients indeed.

Martha Maus
Martha Maus
11 years ago

Even middle of the road UK commentators have been using the name “Liebour” lately and the actual amounts haven’t been made public yet.

The Times did headline a joke note left on the outgoing Treasury Secretary’s desk reading: “Dear Chief Secretary, I’m afraid there is no money. Kind regards — and good luck! ”

Jack Strocchi
11 years ago

neo-Labor?

If political administration is now managerial it follows that policy differentiation is all about “re-branding”. So much easier than the ball-busting business of actually building a better product and selling it to the punters.

It struck me, watching Clegg and Cameron tying the governmental knot on the lawn of No 10, how bland and interchangeable are post-modern political leaders. They looked and sounded like identical twins. Put Blair next to them and one would have three of UKs past and present PMs as virtual clones.

All of them gravitating inexorably to the Centre.

We really are in the Age of Convergence.

Rafe Champion
Rafe Champion(@rafe-champion)
11 years ago

The end of ideology?

Labor Outsider
Labor Outsider
11 years ago

“Wasn’t the whole point of ‘New Labour’ an attempt to distance the party from Labour tradition? It was an admission that Thatcher and others were right — there was something wrong with the policies Labour stood for.”

I don’t think it was an attempto distance the party from the Labour tradition, it was an attempt to distance the party from what it had become during the 70s and 80s and recognise that its committment to socialising the means of production was anachronistic and was never going to happen. In that sense, New Labour was an attemp to modernise the Labour tradition – not walk away from it entirely.

That said, I share the scepticism with the branding that terms such as New and Next imply. It gives the impression that the party is trying to sell a gimmick, not a philosophy of government.

To my mind, the most disappointing thing about the Labour project under Blair and Brown was that it was most damaged by polcies and decisions – Iraq, light touch financial regulation, fiscal profligacy, spin – that were not central to the overall project.