i Editor's Letter: Aspiration really does matter


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The Independent Online


Thank God it's all over. So, what have we learned from the party conference season? Nick Clegg will probably survive – until his party does not at the next election. Ed Miliband can memorise his lines as well as the next leader, apart from the little matter of forgetting his section on the environment. But didn't every leader forget their section on the environment? Miliband's speech was a real leap forward – from a large step back.

What of David Cameron? Some of you are so ill-disposed towards Cameron, George Osborne and Boris Johnson that the mere mention of their names is enough to induce apoplexy, no matter what they say. But, look beyond bias (the same applies to Clegg, Miliband and Balls haters, for that matter). There were moments of the speech that make one want to throw a shoe at him: "We are the party of the NHS"; the silence about the IMF's warning on the UK economy; trotting out the usual hints about an EU referendum he doesn't dare to hold; and the "compassionate Conservatives" claim that the rest of his party spent the week disproving. Nevertheless, there is something in his central thrust. Not the "make or break" time for Britain guff – we all know he is making political capital out of crisis there. But "aspiration nation" matters.

It was refreshing to hear the word used so nakedly. Why on earth anyone on the left would have a problem with it is beyond me. I have said before that I think the politics of envy is a fundamentally debilitating aspect of British life – political, social and cultural. We need to uphold aspiration as a universal positive for Britain, and only then can we debate honestly how best to achieve it.