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Blue Labour: more Old Labour than it thinks

I have not been able to track down the origin of the slogan ‘family, faith and flag’. But if somebody told me that it was first advanced by an obscure Croatian proto-fascist splinter group in the 1930s, I wouldn’t be at all surprised.

Given Blue Labour’s patently puerile desire to secure column inches by the adoption of a catchphrase most recently used by Sarah Palin and the Tory hard right, maybe it should go the whole hog and invoke ‘blood and honour’ while they are about it. Perhaps they will get round to that after concluding their dialogue with the English Defence League.

A detailed critique of the latest intellectual fad gripping some sections of the commentariat will have to wait until key thinker Maurice Glasman produces a substantial justification of his ideas in book or pamphlet form. But I have gone through Phillip Blond’s ‘Red Tory’ cover to cover, and it is widely been claimed that Glasman has to some extent stolen Blond’s act.

The principal argument seems to be that both Thatcherism and New Labourism were socially corrosive, the former by turning its back on genuine Conservatism’s Burkean heritage, and the latter by its incorrigible statism.

While such a critique does yield some insights, the problem is that it obscures the more important commonality between the two ideologies, which were both ultimately expressions of neoliberalism.

That Glasman cannot see this is evident from his resort to impeccable quasi-Marxist rhetoric in response to his critics. Hey, this is a guy who has obviously read ‘Capital’, or at the very least volume one:

In everything I have ever written or done I have criticised the domination of capital and argued for the democratic renewal of the Labour movement to resist its power. That is all I stand for really. Resistance to commodification through democratic organisation. That’s the position. Labour as a radical tradition that pursues the common good. That is Blue Labour, and the rest is commentary.

Labour is not the liberal party. It resisted that fate. It understands finance capital as a power and promotes the democratic resistance to its domination.

Eat your heart out, Rudolf Hilferding. But if Labour in office really has promoted democratic resistance to the domination to finance capital, I must have missed that meeting.

To most of the reality-based community, it looked awfully like they did everything they could to promote its untrammeled power. Brown even prided himself on the City’s ability to market itself as the regulation lite alternative to Wall Street.

The way to counter the dominance of finance capital is surely through democratic socialist policies. If Glasman has any concrete proposals here, I have yet to hear them.

And while Blue Labour disavows any affinities to Old Labour, the parallels are plainly there on social issues.

It has to be remembered that the common usage of the term as essentially a synonym for Bennism is completely inaccurate, applying to only a few years in the late 1970s and 1980s.

The real Old Labour, which I can remember from my days as a zealous young Bennite, was the Old Labour of Freemason-dominated Newham Council and Bob ‘I have never been an anti-racialist’ Mellish.

The truth is that this traditional Labour right – and in this respect, it did largely reflect the working class communities in which it operated – was often overtly racist, hang ‘em and flog ‘em on law and order, and somewhat less than enlightened on homosexuality.

While I’m all in favour of reconnecting with the core vote, which is surely one of the party’s most urgent tasks, stepping up the far right rhetoric is rather a risky way to do it.


  1. oldpolitics says:

    Worth a link to the version of this post on David’s blog, since it has an interesting comment thread (I declare an interest, one of them is my own).

  2. Mick Hall says:

    The truth is that this traditional Labour right – and in this respect, it did largely reflect the working class communities in which it operated – was often overtly racist, hang ‘em and flog ‘em on law and order, and somewhat less than enlightened on homosexuality.

    With respect you have to come from a middle class background to write such a stupid thing, the last thing most WC communities were was supporters of hang ‘em and flog ‘em on law and order.

    I fail to understand why are you singling out the working classes for such an attack, are you seriously suggesting all of the above was not more true of the middle classes and continues to be right up to this day?

    Homophobia was never deeply imbedded within the working class, how could it be when a sizeable section of WC people were gay, even if they were married, if you scrape just below the surface there was great tolerance and understanding there and unlike the middle classes we never institutionalised it by passing laws, etc.

    As you say the old labour right were in the main bigots, but the catholic church played a big role here and free masonry in the LP leaked in via the lower middle classes.

  3. Matty says:

    re comment 2, I’m pretty sure that Dave Osler has written before that he was from a working class background, his Dad was a railwayman.

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