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What Is One Nation Labour?

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Ed Miliband's fine conference speech last year was certainly his best as Labour leader, and was perhaps the best by any major party leader in recent years. Since then 'One Nation' has become the Labour Party's favourite catchphrase - endlessly shoe-horned into speeches, press releases and even blog posts.

But what does it mean?

As David Cameron might say, it's Ronseal - it does exactly what it says on the tin.

One Nation is about moving beyond artificial divisions in society to build a better Britain where everyone plays their part and everyone receives a fair share. But the problem with that is it sounds lovely, but is also a little bit meaningless. Most politicians want to move beyond divisions. Most want to live in a Britain where everyone wants to play their part. A better definition (and more definition) is needed.

All sorts of interpretations have been put on One Nation Labour since its renewed prominence in 2012. Some suggested that it was merely conservatism in disguise, whilst others thought it was a rebranded 1950s social democracy and others thought it was communitarianism. Personally I thought it was Blue Labour with the edges taken off. But outside of Westminster-wonk circles, these definitions are completely unhelpful, and a political platform that can only be explained by well-meaning pointy-heads is a platform that deserves to die a swift and unlamented death.

One Nation Labour is better than that.

It has the ability to build on the modern, passionate, progressive nationalism of the Olympic Games. It could be a way of articulating Labour values in a way that appeals to the south as well as the north. It could - if done right - secure a position for Labour as the de-facto party of British government. (After all, it's 21 years since the Tory Party last won a working majority in the commons - and there's little sign of them making the breakthroughs they need in the north, and they've all but given up in Scotland).

So fleshing out what One Nation Labour is about is important. That's why LabourList has today published an ebook One Nation Labour - debating the future, edited by Labour's policy chief Jon Cruddas. Of course a political pamphlet is not the way to take a political idea out to the public - but what this body of work does is point to some of the issues and ideas that matter to Jon (and the One Nation Labour project). Housing, welfare and conservation all play a prominent role. It seems clear that these are areas on which the party will be giving more time between now and 2015.

Working with Jon on the production of this pamphlet has been a real pleasure, especially in terms of his willingness to engage with Labour Party members and supporters on equal terms. Only by doing that - and including them (and the public at large) in the conversation that the party needs to have about the way ahead - can Labour be sure of making One Nation into a way of governing, rather than just a political slogan.

It is my hope that this pamphlet is a step on the way to doing that, and that in some small way this may come to be looked back on as a step on the road to a manifesto for a transformative Labour government. But we're not there yet - bigger ideas are needed to win in 2015, and this pamphlet is but one facet of that. The debate about Labour's future (and future agenda) must continue. At LabourList we'll be ensuring that it does.