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Blue Labour: gone and best forgotten

Maurice Glasman really needs help with his grenade-throwing addiction. It is not a good sign when you are so desperate to do it that you casually lob one into your own home. His  interview in the Daily Telegraph in which he aligned himself with the immigration policy of the British National Party and UKIP has destroyed Blue Labour in less than the wink of an eye. This is probably something of a blow for Ed Miliband whose ‘responsibility’ skit seems to have been lifted right of the Blue Labour playbook but that is a story for another day perhaps (incidentally, Ed was going all dog-whistle on immigration before Blue Labour was born, but as I said, a story for another day).  What concerns me is to see leftists actually mourning the demise of Blue Labour. Sunny Hundal puts it thus:

Sunder Katwala is right nevertheless – consigning the ideas behind ‘Blue Labour’ to history would be a shame.

His point that Blue Labour had some vaguely good economic ideas is not untrue but all of them were packaged together with sexism, misogynist and racial bigatory in the ‘Faith, Family and Flag‘. It seems good ol’ fashioned internationalism is dead in the water because the leading lights of the left are, again as Sunny puts it, wanting to talk about;

a language of patriotism, pride and national identity. More diverse societies need a social glue and a progressive patriotism can offer that. But we must start shaping that debate about what Englishness (and/or Britishness) means, rather than letting the right define it.

The problem for Sunny is that these concepts are not ones the left can ever fully claim, own or even ‘define’ without transgressing some pretty basic lines in the sand, like those of solidarity and internationalism. His ‘good society’ will always in some way define itself the external other and is logically an exclusionary (as opposed to an inclusive) concept at some point. History is littered with examples of attempts at nationalist adaptations to socialist and progressive thought and none, and here I definitively mean none, have had plea sent conclusions. They make even less sense in a world which is being ruthlessly globalised by capitalism and turning the clock back on these is probably likely to lead to even more disasterous and ruinious consequences than previous efforts. The thing is, you cannot externalise Glasman’s ideas and prejudices from the entire Blue Labour project. In fact, they form an integral part of it, underpin it, and permeate it to the core. This is why it is good Blue Labour is gone, and it is best forgotten.


  1. oldpolitics says:

    The problem for Sunny is that these concepts are not ones the left can ever fully claim, own or even ‘define’ without transgressing some pretty basic lines in the sand, like those of solidarity and internationalism.

    On this logic, the Attlee government was right-wing.

  2. @Old,

    Well I don’t suffer from the affliction of seeing every government that happens to nationalise as being left-wing in every aspect.

    The policies of the Attlee government re immigration were not what id fully-expect from a progressive government no; but then again I am an open borders socialist and that is the start and indeed the end point for my views on immigration.

  3. Yasin says:

    surely it’s impossible to say it’s the death or born or reborn of any ideaology in the labour party considering all EdBand is and has been doing is opposing things for the sake of opposing.

    Didn’t he learn the Tories tried this for 13 years and it didn’t influence anybody to vote for them?

  4. Yasin,

    You haven’t been paying enough attention to Labour. Maybe that is what Ed was doing but this responsibility thing has turned into a real narrative of his; especially with Hackgate etc.

    True, it is a limited tactic but can work if your opponents is as unpopular as this one is up to a point…

  5. J Liman says:

    1. Actually, you’ll find that Glasman has a traditional concern with wages and the working class that goes back to what Labour is about.

    2. He’s since said he overstated his position regarding immigration. He doesn’t favour a complete halt.

    3. This response to Glasman’s comment is hysterical and knee jerk. It’s the kind of arrogance that has annoyed a lot of voters.

  6. @J Liman,

    1) Touching considering his peerage.

    2) But he is still anti-immigration and is in favour of restrictions and blaming it, wrongly, for problems that have nothing to do with it.

    3) And we didnt even have time to get into his blatant sexism either….

  7. oldpolitics says:

    “Touching considering his peerage. ”

    Which he got for services to higher wages for the low-paid (and which doesn’t come with a salary, you know)…

    Tell us more about his sexism. Really, please do, I’d be fascinated.

  8. Old

    Peerages come with plenty of perks; don’t really see its unpaid status as a proof of sainthood.

    In viewing Glasman as sexist im in reasonably good company, with Harriet Harman in fact, the whole family nonsense element of ‘faith, family, flag,’ criticising women’s economic independence?

  9. oldpolitics says:

    So do you have anything Glasman has actually said or written, or just an appeal to authority (and if you can cite Harriet, that would be great) and a made-up quote?

  10. Old,

    Yes and I think its dire, reactionary stuff to be honest, it’s taking the worst prejudices of people and legitimising them with banal and reactionary appeals to reactionary concepts like ‘faith, family, flag’

    Here is the HH story in the Fail but was widely reported other places

  11. oldpolitics says:

    Oh right, so you don’t actually have anything Harriet said about Maurice, you have something Helen Goodman said about Jonathan Rutherford, after she failed basic reading comprehension and couldn’t understand the difference between someone explaining how society used to be, and someone explaining how society ought to be.

    Let’s try again. Anything Maurice Glasman (not Jonathan Rutherford, not Roald Dahl, not Helen Goodman) has written or said which justifies your claim that he is a sexist? Helen Goodman owes Jonathan Rutherford an apology, but that’s neither here nor there, because we’re talking about Glasman.

    Still, nice to know the left now considers family to be a ‘reactionary concept’. How shall the workers be permitted to live, after the revolution?

  12. Old,

    Well given the closeness of their politics and position id imagine its a shared position. Regardless, the politics of paradox which Glasman edited and used as a Blue Labour bible is shot through with sexism and Glasman’s recourse to supporting the family which yes I view as reactionary is rather imprisoning for women don’t you think?

    I would like to think they will be democratically emancipated from such repressive formal power structures and create their own communities based on free association. Glasman, we should note also wanted us to reach out to the EDL, the same people connected with the Norwegian events which exposes his agenda on immigration.

  13. oldpolitics says:

    Right, now we’re making progress. You admit to having no evidence that Glasman is a sexist, you just think he must be because someone else wrote something you think is sexist (even though it isn’t) in a book in which he also wrote something. Excellent. Now perhaps you could tell me where the sexist bits are in ‘the politics of paradox’.

    Meanwhile, your policy appears to be that the apparatus of the state should be used to remove women from the unit that most of them freely choose, and force them to live on female-only reservations of some sort? Do you see why that makes you come across as, maybe, a bit wacky? I don’t know how many women you know, but…

    “Glasman, we should note also wanted us to reach out to the EDL”

    No he didn’t. He called on us to reach out to people who support them and work towards figuring out how we can meet their aspirations for a better life more successfully than the far right can. He was right, but apparently the left had another mass failure of reading comprehension on this too. But well done for bringing mass murder into it – stay classy.

  14. oldpolitics says:

    “Right. Come on Susan, follow me. You’re being democratically emancipated. Wave goodbye to your husband and kids, you won’t be seeing them again. Bet you’re glad to be rid of that repressive formal power structure!”

  15. Old,

    Last bit first. Little difference in my eyes. The EDL are not a political party – the people who go on their marches are the EDL. Quite right I do. This people deserve no succour, no sympathy and should be politically crushed, they are contemptible human beings and have no place in this Party. I dont want their votes or support. Labour is a better Party for not having it.

    Didnt mention the state so dont know what gives you that idea. Many women do not freely choose their family roles – far from it, they have them imposed on them structurally.

    I will get back to you on that.

  16. oldpolitics says:

    You said ‘democratically emancipated’. Since they already have votes, I presumed you meant emancipated through the operation of democracy – therefore, necessarily, the state. Of course some women are with bad partners; that’s an argument for empowering them and educating their partners, not setting up segregated communes like something out of The Book of Dave.

    You’re entitled to your opinion of EDL supporters. I think a fair proportion are fairly ordinary working class people who have been spun a line by a manipulative movement, in a climate where mainstream politics has offered little, and listened less. We can let that movement grow by treating anyone who comes into contact with it as a permanent leper, or we can engage with what is actually making them angry and how it can be resolved.

  17. @Old,

    No, not at all, I mean through their own self-emancipation and participation in direct democracy. Not once did I mention nor did I mean the state.

    I think they are thugs and the most deeply lumpen, reactionary elements of the working class and you want to cuddle them and give them tea and biscuits where as I want nothing to do with them and certainly only want Labour to engage with them to politically crush their ideas. If they insist on being angry then they would be better advised to be angry with capitalism – it caused their problems after-all, not with immigrants.

  18. oldpolitics says:

    “If they insist on being angry then they would be better advised to be angry with capitalism”

    Fine, but how are they going to find that out if you want nothing to do with them and sneer at their lumpitude? Is lumpen what we call working class people we don’t like now that Owen has made ‘chav’ unacceptable?

  19. @Old,

    I don’t know how many ways this can be said. The hard-core and indeed the in its entirety the EDL are yobs – they are not like the BNP who at least make a fist of being a political Party and therefore do attract ‘soft-core’ support from people who are not really thinking through their politics.

    However, in the EDL’s case the people involved are either hard-core racists who people who would otherwise spend a Saturday engaging in professional football hooliganism; politics is simply an excuse for the mayhem they cause. Their following is minuscule and confined to these people so yes they are entirely lumpen.

  20. Mauve Mark says:

    I don’t see any hint of any misogeny, sexism or racial bigotry in what Maurice Glasman wrote prior to this interview. Defining national identity need not exclude internationalism for to define what we are as a country is merely an observation.

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