Building the table
Where do I fit in and belong? Who are ‘we’? Anxieties and conflicts around identity and culture are a reaction to the disruption and insecurities created by three decades of global economic transformation. The transformation of our cities and the cultural and economic devastation caused by deindustrialistion and unemployment have meant for many the loss of our grandparents ways of life.
The country is changing. People are learning to live with new and different cultures. Many live alongside strangers; their own families distant. Politics today is not just about economic justice and redistribution it is also about the recognition of people’s ways of life and creating a shared sense of belonging.
Right now our country is deeply divided. Immigration and unprecedented demographic change has led to widespread cultural insecurity and anxiety over where people belong in the world. A populist mood divides the country into ‘us’ versus ‘them’: rich against poor, young versus old, London against the rest of the country, our big cities against our towns, the North versus the South, Leavers versus Remainers.
Now more than ever Labour must create a democratic politics that can build a broad national coalition. It must be based on a reconciliation of our differences. Reconciliation does not mean avoiding the real political conflicts that exist. Unity cannot be forced. Labour needs to create at all levels of its organisation, the kind of political leadership that can build bridges, respect difference and reconcile opposing interests. Working together does not mean surrendering our own values. Consensus has to be worked for. Labour must be the space where we can create relationships in which we each know our difference and we each recognise the difference in the other. We have our own identities but we also share a common bond. Our party needs to function like a table where each can keep their own identities while working together to find common ground and work out how we can belong.