Magazine article Soundings

Speaking for England

Magazine article Soundings

Speaking for England

Article excerpt

In this issue we continue discussion on a number of themes that are critical to rethinking left strategy and developing opposition to Coalition government policies - extending democracy across the regions and nations of the UK, a new welfare settlement, and a new political economy.

Our first three articles explore Englishness, regionalism and localism. As Paul Salveson argues, reconnecting with local and regional traditions of socialism is a crucial way of renewing left politics all around the country, as well as feeding into the national renewal that is so needed. And at the same time getting back in touch with local socialist traditions meshes naturally with the rethinking on Englishness that Anthony Painter is calling for. For it is in the regions that people are most likely to find their sense of place and identity.

All this points to the strong connections between issues of Englishness and democracy: and as Ken Spours argues, there is a socialist politics of localism that offers an alternative to New Labours centralising tendencies while also rejecting the Tories' idea of a small (and therefore non-redistributive) central state. If we can revive a distinctive socialist take on local politics, at the same time as rethinking the distribution of decision-making between the centre and the regions, we will have gone along way towards beginning a national renewal of the left, while also making a major contribution to twenty-first century thinking on Englishness.

The next three articles continue our discussion on the public sphere, and in particular our efforts to alert readers to the massive withdrawal of support by the government for those living with incapacity or disability. Kaliya Franklin and Sue Marsh spell out this withdrawal in a frighteningly long list of benefits that the government is either reducing drastically or dropping all together. As they argue, at the same time as the government is urging the disabled to seek employment, it is taking away all the supports people need in order to be able to work. Declan Gaffney points out that neither the previous New Labour government nor the present Coalition seem to be able to come to terms with the idea that a normally functioning welfare state will always need to provide for people who are either temporarily out of work, or prevented from working by sickness or disability. As he demonstrates, current levels of incapacity benefit payments reflect the numbers of people living with incapacity. …

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