T. Bale, The Conservative Party from Thatcher to Cameron, Cambridge, Polity, 2011.
Reflections on One Nation Labour
Concede and Move On? One Nation Labour and the Welfare State
Article first published online: 18 OCT 2013
© The Author 2013. The Political Quarterly © The Political Quarterly Publishing Co. Ltd. 2013
The Political Quarterly
Volume 84, Issue 3, pages 342–352, October 2013
How to Cite
BALE, T. (2013), Concede and Move On? One Nation Labour and the Welfare State. The Political Quarterly, 84: 342–352. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-923X.2013.12023.x
E. Clery, L. Lee and S. Kunz, Public Attitudes to Poverty and Welfare 1983–2011. Analysis using British Social Attitudes data, London, NatCen, 2013.
D. Hodges, ‘Iain Duncan Smith might not be able to live on £7 a day. But the Tories have won the argument on welfare’, Telegraph Blogs, 2 April 2013. http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/danhodges/100209941/iain-duncan-smith-might-not-be-able-to-live-on-7-a-day-but-the-tories-have-won-the-argument-on-welfare/ See also P. Collins, ‘Labour can't win if it's on Mick Philpott's side’, The Times, 5 April 2013.
P. Taylor Gooby, ‘Why do people stigmatise the poor at a time of rapidly increasing inequality, and what can be done about it?’, Political Quarterly, vol. 84, no. 1, 2013, pp. 31–42. For some raw data on current attitudes, see http://cdn.yougov.com/cumulus_uploads/document/x3d4a39z0a/YG-Archives-Prospect-Results-welfareReform-120130.pdf. See also S. Hall, 21st Century Welfare: Seventy Years since the Beveridge Report, London, Ipsos MORI, 2012, http://www.ipsos-mori.com/DownloadPublication/1520_sri-21st-century-welfare-dec2012.pdf, which also includes information on trends over time.
B. Duffy, Generations, London, Ipsos MORI, 2012, http://www.ipsos-mori-generations.com/Assets/Docs/ipsos-mori-the-generation-frame.pdf, pp. 6–11.
This was essentially the implication of the coverage of the genuinely shocking trial of one benefit claimant who, with two accomplices, was found to have burned down his house with some of his children still inside. See ‘Vile product of welfare UK’, Daily Mail, 3 April 2013, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2303120/Mick-Philpott-vile-product-Welfare-UK-Derby-man-bred-17-babies-milk-benefits-GUILTY-killing-six.html
D. Alexander, ‘Bedroom blockers and tax dodgers will pay’, Sun on Sunday, 31 March 2013, http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/politics/4867309/Danny-Alexander-Bedroom-blockers-and-tax-dodgers-willpay.html. For Osborne's reaction when quizzed by a reporter about Philpott, see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-22024061.
See, for example, P. Golding and S. Middleton, Images of Welfare: Press and Public Attitudes to Poverty, Oxford, Basil Blackwell/Martin Robertson, 1982. See also K. Bell and D. Gaffney, ‘Social security for everyone’, in S. Jenkinson and E. Wallis, eds, Beveridge at 70, London, Webb Memorial Trust/Fabian Society, 2012, http://www.fabians.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Beveridge-supplement_WEB_SPREADS.pdf
N. Doron and A. Harrop, No Right Turn: Britain's Enduring Support for Public Services, London, Fabian Society, 2012, http://www.fabians.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/NoRightTurn.pdf
For a fascinating insight into the decidedly mixed opinions held by those on all sides of parliament, see H. Bochel and A. Defty, Welfare Policy under New Labour: Views from Inside Westminster, Bristol, Policy Press, 2007.
T. Bale, Sacred Cows and Common Sense: the Symbolic Statecraft and Political Culture of the Labour Party, Aldershot, Ashgate, 1999 (full text available free online at http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=QNkMFRpHkxcC). See also J. Tomlinson, ‘The 1964 Labour government, poverty and social justice’, Benefits, vol. 16, no. 2, pp. 135–145.
See, for example, N. Lawson, ‘Why Britain will suffer if the welfare state pays out only to poor people’, Guardian Online, 5 June 2013, http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jun/05/britain-welfare-state-labour. On how the leadership managed to mute internal criticism by careful and inclusive preparation, see I. Hardman, How Ed Miliband avoided open warfare on welfare’, Spectator Blog, 6 June 2013, http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/2013/06/how-ed-miliband-avoided-open-warfare-on-welfare/
See T. Bale, ‘Through the looking glass? Labour and the One Nation Tory tradition on welfare’, http://labourlist.org/2013/04/through-the-looking-glass-labour-and-the-one-nation-tory-tradition-on-welfare/
See, for example, D. Seawright, The British Conservative Party and One Nation Politics, New York, Continuum, 2009.
See L. Byrne, ‘Why Conservative benefit cuts won't get Britain working’, The Observer, 7 April 2013, http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2013/apr/06/liam-byrne-tory-benefit-cuts; G. Cooke, ‘Contributory welfare’, Soundings, no. 52, 2012, pp. 45–52, and K. Bell and D. Gaffney, ‘The contributory welfare debate’, Soundings, no. 52, 2012, pp. 55–62, http://www.lwbooks.co.uk/journals/soundings/pdfs/s52cooke.pdf. See also Bell and Gaffney, Making a Contribution: Social Security for the Future, London, TUC, 2012, http://www.tuc.org.uk/tucfiles/292/Contributory_Benefits.pdf and N. Timmins, ‘Something for something’, in Jenkinson and Wallis, eds, Beveridge at 70. Free-thinking Labour MP Frank Field makes a similar argument, adding that relatively open borders and large-scale immigration render a primarily needs-based (as opposed to contributions-based) system of allocation extremely problematic, not just in cost terms but also regarding public legitimacy: see F. Field, ‘Welfare reform in austere times’, Beveridge Lecture, Queen Mary, University of London, 27 March 2013.
See S. Fielding, ‘What did “the people” want? The meaning of the 1945 general election’, Historical Journal, vol. 35, no. 3, pp. 623–39.
For more on the practical challenges of policy-making in opposition and government, see http://www.psa.ac.uk/political-insight/blog/policy-making-and-out-power-dozen-lessons-drawn-experts
On the generic challenges of opposition see N. Fletcher, ed, How to be in Opposition, London, Biteback, 2011.
A useful insight into those thinkers, and their thinking on welfare, is provided by a BBC Radio 4 Analysis programme broadcast in May 2014, the transcript of which is available at http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/radio4/transcripts/20130527-analysis-labours-new-newjerusalem.pdf See also R. Davis, Tangled Up in Blue: Blue Labour and the Struggle for Labour's Soul, London, Ruskin, 2011.
I outline some of the problems below. For another, more detailed take, see I. Mulheirn, Beveridge Rebooted: Re-engineering Contributory Welfare, London, Social Market Foundation, 2013, http://www.smf.co.uk/files/1513/6973/2760/20130528_Chapter_3.pdf
P. Diamond and G. Lodge, European Welfare States after the Crisis, London, Policy Network, 2013, http://www.policy-network.net/publications/4320/European-Welfare-States-after-the-Crisis. See also G. Esping-Andersen, Incomplete Revolution: Adapting Welfare States to Women's New Roles, Cambridge, Polity, 2009.
For at-a-glance comparisons of perceptions and reality, see http://www.tuc.org.uk/social/tuc-21796-f0.cfm and http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2013/apr/06/welfare-britain-facts-myths
D. Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow, London, Penguin, 2012. See also D. Westen, The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation, London, Public Affairs, 2008.
J. Freedland, ‘Labour must draw the sting from welfare, or lose in 2015’, The Guardian, 5 April 2013, http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/apr/05/labour-draw-sting-welfare-or-lose-2015
‘Let us face the future’, quoted in A. Adonis, 5 Days in May: The Coalition and Beyond, London: Biteback, 2013, p. 178.
- Issue published online: 18 OCT 2013
- Article first published online: 18 OCT 2013
- Cited By
- Labour Party;
- One Nation;
- Conservative Party;
- contributory principle
The idea that Labour has already lost the argument on welfare with the Conservatives, and with it the general election, is probably overplayed. If truth be told, Labour's construction and subsequent defence of the welfare state has always been something of a double-edged sword for the Party, earning it brickbats as well as support, and sometimes as stranding it in the past, committing it to promises that were undeliverable and ultimately self-defeating. The political response by Ed Miliband and Ed Balls to the welfare trap set for them by David Cameron and George Osborne owes as much to New Labour as it does to ‘One Nation Labour’. That said, the latter does seem to be informing the Party's policy response, in particular its emphasis on restoring the contributory principle. Whether, however, this is practical politics given the inherently hybrid nature of Britain's welfare state and its heavy skew toward help for the elderly is a moot point. And whether ‘One Nation’ actually helps or hinders the Party in its quest for workable policies and a winning electoral formula is similarly debateable. Certainly, however much it is tempted to do so, Labour shouldn't waste too much valuable time trying to counter widespread myths about welfare. Nor should it overreact and obsess about the issue—or, indeed, pour out detailed policy too soon, if at all. Obviously, Labour needs to provide a direction of travel. However, that should focus not so much on welfare itself but on what the Party is proposing on the economy, on housing and on wages.