“The kindness of social justice”

Very impressed by this speech by Jon Cruddas. He describes his political hero when growing up as not Aneurin Bevan or Barbara Castle, but Oscar Romero, and he summarises Romero’s message as “kindness… the kindness of social justice”. That’s really what I’ve taken away from Cohen over the past few days.

A particularly striking passage from Cruddas’ speech:

Labour has lost its language of kindness, of generosity, of community, as it’s lost touch with the enduring character of this country. Britain’s culture has never been socialist in the specific ideological sense, but it has always exhibited a strong attachment to an ethic of fairness and solidarity.

The spirit of these words reminded me of the following from Tony Benn’s diary for Sunday 25 January 2004:

I put to him [Tommy Sheridan] that my object wasn’t to cram socialism down everybody’s throat, but to develop policies that honestly looked after old people and young people and sick people and unemployed people, that worked for peace and justice and democracy. For me, socialism was useful, but it wasn’t ideological lecturing.

Yes, that’s it.

I don’t know if Dr Cruddas is the right person to be Labour leader – perhaps a bit too cerebral, too professorial? – but Labour urgently needs a sane and compelling philosophy to guide it, a new ethic, and what Cruddas describes in this speech has to have a strong claim to forming the outline of this. Cruddas as Labour’s new philosopher king? I hope he stands, though, and I’m certainly going to be keeping an eye on him.


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