A close ally of Ed Miliband has attacked Labour for ‘lying’ about immigration.
Lord Glasman – a leading academic and personal friend of the Labour leader – said that the previous Labour government had used mass immigration to control wages.
In an article for Progress magazine, the Labour peer wrote: ‘Labour lied to people about the extent of immigration...and there’s been a massive rupture of trust.’
Labour let in 2.2million migrants during its 13 years in power – more than twice the population of Birmingham.
Maurice Glasman was promoted to the House of Lords by Mr Miliband earlier this year. He has been dubbed the Labour leader’s ‘de facto chief of staff’ by party insiders and has written speeches for him.
Lord Glasman, 49, had already told BBC Radio 4 recently: ‘What you have with immigration is the idea that people should travel all over the world in search of higher-paying jobs, often to undercut existing workforces, and somehow in the Labour Party we got into a position that that was a good thing.
‘Now obviously it undermines solidarity, it undermines relationships, and in the scale that it’s been going on in England, it can undermine the possibility of politics entirely.’
The academic, who directs the faith and citizenship programme at London Metropolitan University, criticised Labour for being ‘hostile to the English working class’.
He said: ‘In many ways [Labour] viewed working-class voters as an obstacle to progress.
‘Their commitment to various civil rights, anti-racism, meant that often working-class voters... were seen as racist, resistant to change, homophobic and generally reactionary.
‘So in many ways you had a terrible situation where a Labour government was hostile to the English working class.’
I'm impressed. Here we have someone associated with the Labour Party leadership in the UK speaking very openly and clearly about the negative consequences of large-scale immigration, including the effects on wages and social cohesion.
I was sufficiently intrigued to do a search on Lord Glasman. It turns out that he is an intellectual figure who promotes a politics he calls "Blue Labour" - meaning a more conservative version of Labour Party politics.
If I understand correctly, Glasman dislikes a model of society in which people behave passively as individuals, whilst their lives are organised by unconstrained market forces and by the state. He seems to understand that people form a sense of community, at least in part, through local associations and traditions and he wants these to be defended.
Here are some quotes to give you a sense of what Glasman means by "Blue Labour":
Glasman describes Blue Labour as "a deeply conservative socialism that places family, faith and work at the heart of a new politics of reciprocity, mutuality and solidarity"...
"Society as a functioning moral entity has, in effect, disappeared."
Glasman says a Blue Labour party needs to reform around the family, faith and work, and place..
Then there's this:
He wants to foster a "Labour big society" based on ideas of "family, faith and the flag" and nurtured through cherished local institutions – everything from churches to post offices, banks, hospitals, schools and football clubs.
He reels off long lists of academics and political thinkers, from Aristotle to the lesser-known Hungarian intellectual Karl Polanyi, as influences. The latter, he says, taught him that capitalism, though a force for good if controlled, could also be a menace if not. Labour now had to "rediscover" the need to tame the markets as part of its mission to make individuals feel valuable again.
He objects to the idea that it was New Labour that was the problem – arguing that the party started leaving people like his mother behind after 1945, when the National Health Service and the welfare state were created. It gradually became elitist, managerial, bureaucratic in its style and thinking. Socialism became statism. Labour became "nasty".
"It became cynical because it was about a certain view of what was realistic; it was moralistic in the sense that if you did not agree with their discourse you were opposing progress. It was disempowering because of its administrative form. It was hostile to human association because it was about every individual entitlement, not people doing things together."
The nadir came in the ghastly encounter between Gordon Brown and Labour supporter Gillian Duffy on the campaign trail in Rochdale last May, when the prime minister angrily dismissed Duffy's views on immigration as "bigoted". Glasman believes Brown's dismissal of Duffy summed up Labour's internal crisis. "Labour had reached a situation under Brown where most of the people in the party hated one another and they hated people outside the party too."
He says Cameron's "big society" is in thrall to a free-market philosophy that leaves communities and individuals at the mercy of forces that respect profit far more than tradition, custom and a sense of place. The "blue" in "Blue Labour" comes from a conservative conviction that market forces, unconstrained, play havoc with the fabric of people's lives. It is the Labour party's task and vocation to provide a "countervailing force" protecting communities against wealthy, powerful interests.
And here's a really interesting quote from Glasman about the two previous Labour leaders:
Brown ended up defending the state, Blair ended up defending the market, and there was no concept of society
So is Glasman a step forward? I think so. It's not that Glasman is articulating an especially deep version of traditionalism. But he does recognise the corrosive nature of modern liberal managerial societies, and he's right too that capitalism can be a force for good but only if the power of the market is intelligently harnessed to serve social ends.
I suppose the danger is that a future Labour government might use Glasman as camouflage, by talking about family, faith and flag whilst continuing with the same radically liberal philosophy and policies. But Glasman himself, if his forthright comments on immigration are any indication, seems sincere about the idea of Blue Labour.
At any rate, it's an interesting development to keep an eye on.