Labour has to win back this terrain with a language that can encompass both cosmopolitan modernity and English conservative culture, linking them together in a sense of national purpose. It would incorporate all the things Blair dismissed as anachronisms: tradition; a respect for settled ways of life; a sense of local place and belonging; a desire for home and rootedness; the continuity of relationships at work and in one's neighbourhood.
England once had this kind of conservative, common culture; it acted as a counter to the commodification of labour and to social isolation. Ruskin provided its rallying cry, "There is no wealth but life." At one time Labour gave expression to this kind of conservatism. It need not be reactionary, right-wing, or sentimental, although it has been all these things. Its political character will depend on Labour's capacity to articulate a progressive and ethical conservatism that embraces difference. It need not be parochial or conformist: England celebrates a rich tradition of volatile, creative cultures.
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Quote of the day