Its a simple fact of life that answers to questions, right or wrong are of not meaningful if they are irrelevant to the problem they purport to dissect and resolve. In this case the problem Cruddas and Labour via their policy review are trying to solve is: how can we build a society that provides economic justice and security to all of its citizens?
In attempting to solve this problem Jon Cruddas’ recent announcement that Labour “got it wrong” in 2010 is hardly earth shaking news. Nor is it surprising to hear that he believes there is a “powerful sense of grievance and dispossession”. However, it would appear as though these hardly revelatory insights are the only answers the Labour Policy review offers before posing and answering questions that fail to address the problem they aim to solve. Cruddas and the “Blue Labour” sages have zeroed in on two questions they believe lie at the heart of the problem:
How can we manage immigration differently?
How can we support working families?
They have quite legitimately arrived at these questions after listening to the concerns of voters (not in itself a bad or insensible thing), who have complained of the problems caused by immigration and the pressures they face balancing work and family. Sadly there has been no inclination to dig deeper to understand what manifests these concerns and the locate “relevant” questions. The effects of pursuing the path identified in answering these “irrelevant” questions causes two problems. First of all leaving the “relevant” questions and their answers (right or wrong) out in the cold leaves the underlying problem untouched and uncared for. Second the answers identified re-enforce the existing right-wing media agenda that vilifies immigrants and the amplifies the pseudo-crisis of family values further obscuring the real problem, but more of that later.
It would be easy to attribute the reasons for this failure to ask “relevant” questions to a fear of challenging business interests and the right-wing media but this doesn’t fit with what we’ve seen from Ed Milliband to date. For the first time in more than a generation a British politician (Milliband) has challenged rather than courted and cow-towed to the right-wing media, and in proposing a cap on energy bills he has directly challenging a powerful corporate sector. So it would appear the problem is simply a failure to consider whether the concerns voters have identified have antecedents.
Cruddas’ review spends time looking at one of the core institutions in society, namely the family and the pressures it faces for both men and women but in doing so he in one stroke ignores a large section of society who are feeling similar pressures but are not members of familial groups that he would recognise when he refers to the “family”. But more profoundly he has failed to recognise that the pressures this ancient institution faces are being applied by an altogether newer and more malevolent one: the corporation. Let us not forget that corporations are owned and controlled by the very richest in society and as such are essentially used to further their interests.
For it is the corporation in the shape of the right-wing media that has presented the agendas pressing the case for cessation of immigration and the preservation of the family. And like it or not we are all more or less susceptible to the promptings of the media baseless or no.
Moreover the very real concerns expressed by voters when they feel short of time and money to spend with their families is not something that can be addressed by looking at their families and society’s views on the roles of its respective members. But by challenging their employers to make a more equitable settlement in terms of both time and money.
So the relevant question becomes how can we repurpose the corporate institution for the 21st century? I’ll stop short of offering answer but if we start with a right question we can at least hope to have a “relevant” answer.