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Coffee House

The test of Ed Miliband’s One Nation brand

29 October 2012

3:43 PM

29 October 2012

3:43 PM

Labour has been pushing its One Nation branding campaign with quite some gusto in the past few days. Stephen Twigg announced at the weekend that ‘One Nation Childcare’ could include co-operative nurseries, and today Ed Miliband has given a speech on what One Nation means for mental health services, with the party launching a mental health taskforce. As well as trying to drop in as many mentions of the phrase as he could into his speech to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Miliband continued to make direct links with One Nation’s founder, Disraeli. He said:

‘But just as Disraeli was right back in the nineteenth century that we could not build One Nation unless we addressed public health, so it is true today we cannot build One Nation unless we all speak out about mental health. The next Labour government will reform our health service to guarantee that mental health enjoys real equality of status.’

He also took pains to make it clear that tackling the problems that those with mental illness still face would fall ‘as much to organisations like British business and the CBI as it does to the Royal College of Psychiatrists’, adding:

‘In fact, everybody has a part to play. Only a nation acting together can overcome the challenge we face. That is what One Nation is about.’

There’s not a great deal in the Labour leader’s overall sentiment that discrimination against those with mental health problems must end and that the health service must ensure it caters adequately for those with mental health needs. But what will prove whether One Nation is a mantle that Labour can wear all the way to the 2015 election is whether Miliband can adapt it to issues where the solution doesn’t just involve everyone trying harder but decisions which will be unpopular with one group while pleasing another. Will there be a launch of a One Nation rail fares campaign in Guildford, for instance? Can Miliband adopt a One Nation approach to spending cuts? If not, the approach will only be wheeled out when Labour wants to make a feel-good announcement about working together rather than anything tougher. That is, of course, assuming that Labour plans to make any tough announcements this side of 2015.

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