Labour’s future in England is conservative. The country’s radical traditions are rooted in the political struggle for the liberty that Edmund Burke describes as “social freedom”. There is a powerful strain of rebellious individualism in English socialism that helped to create a politics of liberty, virtue and democracy and a vast popular movement of voluntary collectivism,
co-operatism and mutual self-improvement. English socialism shares antecedents with Toryism, but differs from it in one significant way. It was a militant defence of a common life, and of individual labour and creativity against the unaccountable power of capital and against the usurpation of the state.
Burke\’s little platoons perhaps, the Big Society even. That great flowering of the English working classes which led to the mutuals, the Providents, Building Societies, the CoOp.
Certainly, would love to see that strand of Englishness resurgent.
But if I might add, purely in a spirit of helpfulness of ourse, that there\’s another strand of Englishness which also needs to be taken into consideration?
The hatred of the petty bureaucrat? Hmm, no, not hatred, for we don\’t really do that except about the French. The mockery of, the despising of perhaps, the man with the clipboard. The \”jobsworth\” is a standard figure of fun here, in a way that the similar civil servant, local council employee, just isn\’t in a more Germanic society.
As an example, I\’m told, although I never quite believe it, that in most of Germany the local council will make rules about how often you should sweep your driveway. The very notion of such a rule in England is ridiculous: the entire population would be howling with laughter at (no, not with) any politician who suggested such. Yet, again I\’m told, such rules strike most Germans as not just reasonable but necessary. But of course such matters should be a matter of local law.
If Labour could grasp this point, that we really don\’t like a controlling army of paper shufflers telling us what to do, along with that voluntary collectivism, then they\’d do much better.
The major problem with this vision is of course that a goodly chunk of those who are the Labour Party are those very paper shufflers.