Sunday, April 17, 2011

Blue Labour: a step forward?

From the Daily Mail:

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.


  1. It sounds like Glasman is describing the Australian Labor party from it's foundation until the late 1940's/early1970's.

  2. Yes, at an earlier time the labor movement did better reflect some of the more conservative values and interests of the rank and file. That was lost decisively when the left-leaning intelligentsia and the unions went through a communist phase in the 1940s.

  3. I'm sorry I don't trust him. You know which poster I am, and the name Glasman is a big red flag. How many 1000 of years do we have to repeat this? The USSR,Communism, Neo-Cons. Come on Mark! They just reinvent themselves to worm there way back in the moment they feel we are onto them.

    If he's been Labour's 'chief of staff' and 'SPEECHWRITER' he's known perfectly well what has gone on, and being the speechwriter is just tailoring his speech.

    Furthermore, there is nothing that he said that is conservative.

    What Faith Mr. Glasman? Christianity, Islam, Judaism or Secular Humanism?

    What Family? The interracial family, the non-white family or the white indiginous British family?

    If he's not fighting for Christianity and White Indigineous Britains then he is NOT on your side.

    Mr. Glasman is reading your post right now and going "wow that was easy and I didn't even say anything."

    And if he really believed in the crap he's spewing, that Labour really has betrayed the people...Why is he a member of Labour? Nonetheless a top member of Labour? Do you think the people trying to commit genocide against us that control the Labour party would let him get this high up if he wasn't on their team?

  4. I'm not done ranting...

    Honestly this post says more about you then it does Mr. Glasman.

    This post is about ego. The idea that "Look, our ideas are getting out there and influencing even our enemies. We're starting to be heard and get our point across!" *pat on back, pat on back*

    No. The bad guys want Us Dead. Ok. That's it. The bad guys want us Gone. This is a war to the death, between us and them. So if the enemies that want us dead (immigration is genocide) suddenly start using our arguments, it is just them trying to stay in power longer to Finish Us Off.

    Or even worse, the harsh truth is....That in the US there is no turning back. The bad guys can afford to talk in our language because demographically it is already too late and too many of us have been brainwashed.

    This is not cause for celebration or congratulatory back-patting.

  5. I am always of the opinion that whenever "Labor" places families and society first they are only planning to introduce another 1984..

    I can never see Labor doing anything but trying to destroy society as it was..
    Their famlily friendleness is akin to the "Department of Love" in that same book..

  6. Anon,

    I wasn't putting forward Lord Glasman as a saviour. I was looking at a new political current, one which at least recognises the failings of managerial liberalism.

    As to why Lord Glasman wants a more conservative version of Labour politics, there are a number of possible reasons.

    Perhaps he has recognised that there is little social solidarity in a modern, individualised, open borders liberal state. If you have socialist sympathies and want to see rank and file political action, then that's an issue (Professor Putnam wrote about this effect a few years ago).

    Perhaps some in the Labour Party are worried that the working-class is deserting Labour, for instance, by turning to the BNP.

    Perhaps it's a response to "Red Toryism" which seeks to claim ground that was once occupied by Labour.

    Perhaps Lord Glasman isn't comfortable with parts of London becoming Islamified.

    Perhaps he identifies for historic reasons with the Labour Party but has, at a personal level, some conservative instincts, e.g. he wants to feel particular attachments to where he lives.

    I don't claim to know which factors are most important. I'd never even heard of Blue Labour until today. It's best to see how it develops over time, without putting too much confidence in it.

  7. That during their 13 years in power, the Labour Party encouraged large-scale immigration and kept quiet about it - never disclosing the particulars of their policy in any political manifesto - is common knowledge. And it's too late now to do anything about it except grumble and abandon hope.

  8. Mark this is hardly a new development and you know it! You are Australian, Catholic, older than me, politically interested and live in Northern Melbourne...

    Come on!

    "Blue Labor" is essentially the DLP in Britain minus the Catholic organisational element.

  9. Mark Said...

    ""I wasn't putting forward Lord Glasman as a saviour. I was looking at a new political current""

    While I would disagree that the current is new I would agree that it is experiencing a revival across the world as a belated reaction to the seizure of the left in the west by upper-middle-class university educated wankers who really began to kick everyone else out in the early 80's.

    All of a sudden the group which had been at the centre of left wing ideology since its foundation, the ethnic euro working classes, were kicked to the curb.

    The group which since the middle of the 19th century had been hailed as the new ruling class of the future was in the eye of the elites turned into "Yobs" "rednecks" "Bogans" "Chavs" "White Trash" barely controlled by their betters and thankfully "educated" by the new middle class led union movement and education industry.

    Of course that trend was around a long time before the 80's but at the end of the 20th century with the death of Communism the situation speeded up considerably.

    We may be seeing a small re-adjustment to compensate for overstretch. It will not do much on its own of course, but Mark you are right in noting its possible impact on the political scene at large.

    Well spotted.

  10. "All of a sudden the group which had been at the centre of left wing ideology since its foundation, the ethnic euro working classes, were kicked to the curb."

    Leftists have always despised them deep down. Their roots, their core beliefs, would lead them to taking advantage of the European middle class and then dropping them like a hot sack of potatoes. How is the situation in the UK? Is the working Caucasian middle class involved in drugs or hard crime? A lot of family decay? From what I have seen in the USA the European middle class (now turning lower-class thanks to the coming economic collapse) is adopting the culture of Latinos (South America and Mediterranean), speaking Spanish and intermingling with them (mixed babies between whites and Latinos). On one side I feel sad but at least it's much better than the adoption of black cultural norms such as rap/hip-hop artists, thugs and other things. I wonder what's happening to the white middle class in Australia.

  11. James,

    I hadn't thought of the DLP when I wrote the article, but you're right that the DLP serves as an example of a more conservative labour party, particularly on family issues.


    I don't think there's an easy way to summarise what is happening to the Australian middle class.

    There is a trend toward later marriage and smaller families. There are some early signs that middle-class boys and young men are dropping out of studies and careers in increasing numbers. There is some intermixing going on, particularly amongst European groups, and to a smaller degree with Asians.

    But amongst a section of the middle-class a more traditional lifestyle is still what is ultimately aimed at. A nice home in a nice suburb, two or three kids, mum as the main caregiver and dad as a stable provider.

    If you are an Anglo-Australian man with a good job, you are still likely to be prized by your female peers when they get serious about family formation, that is, if you can stubbornly avoid the demoralisations of modern life.

  12. "if you can stubbornly avoid the demoralisations of modern life."

    This blogger has good posts about modernity ---

    I hope you check it out.