Belfast Telegraph

Labour's one nation not in Northern Ireland

By Boyd Black

The Labour Party approaches its annual conference next week ahead in the opinion polls, but not in a very confident mood. It needs to raise its game and hopefully it will.

Last year, Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, announced his campaign for a One Nation Labour Party.

He did not mean one nation in the geographical sense of a UK-wide party. Instead, he drew on the notion, associated with Disraeli, the 19th century Tory prime minister, of a one nation Toryism that would successfully appeal to the Conservative working man.

Miliband was audaciously staking a claim on behalf of the Labour Party for the electoral middle ground.

Miliband was also providing a conceptual framework that can be used by Labour to help move towards achieving social justice, after the bruising experience of a Tory-led government.

At the moment, it is little more than a framework.

The task facing Ed and the party is to put more flesh and bones on this framework to give it electoral appeal.

Ed has applied his One Nation theme to the economy.

Hopefully, we are now seeing recovery after a recession prolonged unnecessarily by the Tories' failed obsession with austerity.

Even with recovery, ordinary households still face a cost-of-living squeeze, as prices rise while wages remain stagnant.

A One Nation Labour policy for social justice would encourage employers to pay the living wage of £7.45 per hour.

It would raise the national minimum wage, which has been allowed to decline in real terms. And it would get rid of the 'Bedroom Tax'.

Ed Miliband has also argued for a One Nation kind of politics: "As the Labour Party, we have a special responsibility to stand for a better politics.

"Building a better politics starts by building a party that is truly rooted in every community and every walk of life."

So why then does the Labour Party refuse to let us stand candidates for election in Northern Ireland?


Boyd Black is secretary of the Labour Party in Northern Ireland

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