‘I don’t believe we have adequately addressed these phenomena. This is not to suggest that we should turn back the clock. The good work must go on. But we need to add one or two new elements. In fact, I say ‘new’ but they are not new at all. I say we need to go ‘Back to the Future’. We need to continue to modernise, but with more focus on our roots. I have three recommendations. Mildly provocative…
First: we must become less academic and more populist. Policy Network and Progressive Governance have made a tremendous impact by trying to make the concepts and instruments of liberal politics work for progressive goals. We now have to perform the same trick with elements of populist thought. We have to become less focused on the macro consequences of changing policies, systems and grand schemes. Rather, we should take the micro-political consequences as our starting point. This requires an approach that puts concepts of empathy, identity, trust and security at the heart of our political language. We must challenge conventional assumptions about ordinary people’s ability to adapt to change and reform. And we may need to sacrifice some efficiency at the macro-level for concrete gains at the micro-level.
Second: we must become less statist and more moralist. Social democrats have a history of wanting to change the world using legislation. But in an uncertain world, insecure citizens want politicians not only to propose policies. They also want them to take a moral stand. This means we need to develop a politics of morality, values and symbols to a far greater extent than we have already done.
Third: we must go back to the future and rediscover out roots. We will only be successful modernisers if people understand where we come from. We cannot afford to gain new supporters by losing our traditional support base in the process. I believe we have done a great job of incorporating relatively liberal concepts like markets, private initiative, free trade, globalisation, empowerment and choice into social democratic thinking. Policy Network deserves great credit for this. But at the same time, we may have underestimated the tensions that exist between this modernisation and more traditional progressive goals like income redistribution and employee protection. Underestimated the uncertainty it has brought to people’s lives and future prospects and underestimated the ability of the less privileged to take advantage of these new and inspiring opportunities.
Ultimately this is about our ability to modernise. Not just our parties but our societies. Moving forward without leaving anyone behind. Arguing for progress that provides opportunities for everyone. We may be the ones to suffer at first now that societies become more diverse, fragmented and globalised. But we will also be the first ones to benefit, if we succeed in putting the confidence, trust and security back into our societies. This has always been our core business. And we have always been good at it. That is why I am confident we can make this work.’