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UK Politics

Paul Blomfield: Labour's history has often been of working with others for progressive goals


Support for progressive values is not restricted to any one political party. This might seem obvious to people who look at parties from the outside, but it can be forgotten by those of us on the inside.

Ed Miliband’s ‘one nation’ agenda sets out the radical change this country needs.  Achieving it, and embedding it beyond one Parliament, means building the sort of progressive consensus that the 1945 Labour Government secured in the post-war settlement on the welfare state. That means Labour will need to reach out to others who share our values. And we will find support from the public.

Despite their disillusion with the current coalition, voters still yearn for politicians to work together and be less tribal.  And this increasingly reflects the way that they engage with politics. The days when over 95% of the electorate voted either Tory or Labour are long gone.  Increasing support for smaller parties, switching between parties, and differentiation in local and national voting reflect the changed approach of the electorate. 

But this de-alignment sits alongside a clear consensus across supporters of different parties for the values at the heart of ‘one nation’ politics.  ‘Labour For Democracy’ has been established to build on that consensus. Our new analysis of recent polling shows shared values between Labour and Liberal Democrat voters, which extend to Greens and others. There is agreement on the need for a new economic model, for the role of the state in protecting people from the market, on the need for trade unions, on taxes and benefits, and for action on climate change.

This consensus across supporters of different parties challenges us to develop a more pluralist approach to politics, working with people across parties to achieve radical change.  It doesn’t mean taking politics to the centre through compromise and shabby deals, but building on the views of voters to achieve real change.  To promote this pluralist approach, ‘Labour For Democracy’ will explore the areas of agreement, researching views on key issues and opening up discussion across parties. It’s not about coalitions, but about approaching politics differently.  As Labour members, we will work hard for outright victory in 2015, but even with it the change that Britain needs will require the support of all who share our values.

Existing structures encourage tribalism, forcing politicians to find disagreement rather than agreement, but Labour's history has often been of working with others for progressive goals - in trades unions, community organisations, solidarity movements and campaign groups. Some of the radical changes that we claim with most pride - the NHS, the welfare state and devolution - only happened with the support of people outside the Labour movement.  At a time when old allegiances to political parties are breaking down, yet organisations like 38 degrees are mobilising active support, we need that approach more than ever.

Paul Blomfield is Labour MP for Sheffield Central and Chair of ‘Labour For Democracy’, which will be launched at Westminster on Tuesday ( 4 December). He can be contacted at paul.blomfield.mp@parliament.uk