Why Relationships matter

By Jon Cruddas MP
My job is to oversee the Policy Review of the Party. To be blunt this is a massive task. In 2010 we experienced probably our worst defeat since 1918. And history tells us that on leaving office we tend to stay out of office for quite a while.So we have to bounce back quickly after a heavy defeat. To do this we have to be brutally honest. So I want to start with a few basic facts about the scale of that challenge. The Cabinet Secretary recently said we are 20% into the first half of the cutbacks. The average worker is going through a dramatic contraction in their living standards.We are experiencing major cutbacks in welfare provision. There are unprecedented cutbacks in local government provision, and significant generational challenges- in housing, youth unemployment and adult social care. Dramatic departmental budget cuts are here for many, many years. The debt won’t even start to be paid down until 2018. These will change the essential character of the country. Government is withdrawing, safety nets are shrinking and people are suffering. So how do we rebuild social capital? What type of new support can we build; safety nets and services to help people navigate through the next few years? In the policy review we are trying to work this out by putting human relationships back at the centre of our thinking. I want to make ten basic points. The first point concerns the Future. For the last 50 years our economy has averaged around 3 per cent growth and that has allowed the majority of us to improve our standard of living. Since 2010 the growth rates have been basically flat. If this continues there will be continued falls in living standards for some time. Wealth will continue to spiral upward. The poor will get poorer, inequality will keep increasing and the basic political settlement in our country will come under even greater pressure. We will not be able to counter these

trends by just spending more and more money on them. We must find another way of doing things. My second point relates to how our economy dominates society. We have an economic system which has been driven by greed and has been neither socially responsible nor resilient in terms of wealth creation. And we have an overcentralised, bureaucratic state that is unable to build the trust we need to hold society together. We need make our society stronger and more connected if we are to reform our economy and to share our prosperity. The basic infrastructure to achieve this is the relationships between people and the trust they create. You can call it the common life that we all share. The third point is pretty simple. Politics has to change Three things matter to people. Work that is fairly paid to support themselves and their family. Family, because nothing else matters more in life than close loving relationships. And third the place we live which gives us a sense of home and belonging.These are the foundations upon which we as a society need to realize our ambitions and rebuild politics. The fourth point follows from this; people need community. They can be neighbourhood communities or communities of interest.They connect people together and give them value and meaning.But globalization has undermined neighbourhood and community. And the market has invaded social life. Our welfare state cannot protect us from the new social evils: loss of community, loneliness and meaninglessness. It is failing to address the rising levels of mental illness. Nor is it able to solve the problem of social exclusion. My fifth point is we need therefore a politics that values relationships and wellbeing. Instead of demanding more spending we will have to organize people together to improve our common life.It will mean organising political action on the basis of the common good to tackle poverty and growing inequality. But we must also organize to reduce social poverty; a life without meaning drained of hope and ambition.For this we need a politics of wellbeing which is about good health and emotional balance, but also about people having the capacity to find self-fulfilment, to live their life in their own way.It is a politics of contribution and responsibility because it is based on the right of everyone to achieve their own unique way of being human.

Six: the social economy is the foundation for a politics of wellbeing. We need to grow our social economy and pioneer new approaches that put people in charge of finding solutions to their own problems.A social economy is bound by the mutual give and take of reciprocity and a sense of justice that no-one takes too much and gives back too little back. My next point seven, is that this has huge implications for reforming public services. Dealing with the major social problems we face will require us to be innovative when there is less money around. We need radical new ways to use existing resources and we need to put relationships centre stage in service design.The growing relational services of health and care need to be reconfigured around networks, households and co-creation rather than being delivered by centralised institutions. Point 8 relates to where Labour’s Policy Review comes in. Labour is working on the ideas for a One Nation approach to running government. It is based around three organising principles. The first is power for local peoplesubsidiarity - to shape their services and communities. The second is investment for prevention, to avoid the costs of failure. And the third is collaboration between public bodies, not wasting money on bureaucratic duplication For example, Andy Burnham and Liz Kendall have set out plans for an integrated health and care service, based around people’s relationships.Hilary Benn is putting forward his idea for a New English Deal which will offer all English local government more powers and devolution to cover skills, job finding, housing, economic development and investment. We are touring the country looking at how local councils are saving money through innovation and radically reconfiguring services to tackle social exclusion. They are encouraging local people to get involved in budgeting and co-designing services and local development. Nine. We need more than the state. We need collaboration between the public, private and voluntary sectors to avoid silo thinking, silo services and waste. It means helping people to help themselves and each other, and drawing on the assets of local communities to build resilience and break cycles of deprivation.

We are talking to Social Entrepreneurs like David Robinson at Community Links and Hilary Cottam and her organization Participle. Her Backr project networks thousands of people without work into an employment exchange. And her Circle project links older people together to share skills and knowledge to overcome isolation and help people live as they wish to. Another organisation, The Challenge Network, is developing trust and relationships amongst young people in the National Citizen Service. And academics at Oxford University have set up ‘.b’ – ‘stop, breathe, be’ - using John Kabat- Zinns practice of mindfulness in schools to help children become attentive to their feelings and to manage stress. These are just a few of the scores of innovative projects the policy review are talking to – to listen and learn about how we can build social capacity for the future. We need local community-building, multi-purpose organisations that facilitate local involvement and networks of support and activity, as well as provide services from debt counselling to mental health care. Government can’t pass laws to make these kinds of organisations happen, but it can think how to sustain them and how it can help incubate innovation. For example, do we want to endow these kinds of community led organizations that are deeply rooted in their neighbourhoods? How do we build the evidence base of what works? What does this mean for patterns of budget setting, of real devolution? We need to think about funding models and income generation for the years ahead. Too many exist hand to mouth waiting for the next grant. My final point, point 10, goes back to where I started. The need to begin with relationships. What changes lives are peoples relationships. We in Labour have to put our hand up. In Government, over time, we tended to become more remote, technocratic and transactional. In the months and years ahead money will be scarce.But we have a lot of people and their skill. Their ingenuity and determination will be our biggest asset. The stakes could not be higher. Our task, to quote a famous philosopher, is ‘to make hope possible rather than despair convincing’. Nothing could be more important.

Jon Cruddas is MP for Dagenham and Rainham and is leading Labour’s policy review. Political notes are published by One Nation Register. They are a monthly contribution to the debates shaping Labour’s political renewal. The articles published do not represent Labour’s policy positions. To contact political notes, email onenationregister@gmail.com

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