Tag Archives: blue labour

The Primacy of the Social and Ethical: Blue Labour Midlands Seminar

A number of CTC Fellows are involved in an upcoming seminar on Blue Labour.  Details, including how to RSVP to attend, are below.  The event organisers write..

The Primacy of the Social and Ethical – How Blue Labour speaks to the social, political and economic situation in the UK in 2012.

6 July 2012, 9.30am to 17.00pm at the Centre of Theology and Philosophy, University of Nottingham

Out of what materials can Labour fashion a compelling vision of the type of country we wish to govern and offer an effective orientation for assured political action?

The Labour tradition is not best understood as the living embodiment of the liberal/communitarian debate, or as a variant of the European Marxist/Social Democratic tension.  Labour is robustly national and international, conservative and reforming, Christian and secular, republican and monarchical, democratic and elitist, radical and traditional,and it is most transformative and effective when it defies the status quo in the name of ancient as well as modern values.

(‘Labour as a Radical Tradition’, Maurice Glasman, 2011)

The aim of this seminar is to gather Blue Labour thinkers, supporters and activists to explore and discuss substantive Blue Labour themes. The aim would be to deepen, enrich and expand upon the themes that constitute the emerging Blue Labour narrative.

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Questioning Attacks on the Big Society

Dave Hodges has posed the question on the Labour Uncut blog whether it is time to stop bashing the Big Society?  He points to an important distinction which many critics of the Big Society fail to recognise: the Coalition’s deficit reduction plan, and the resulting cuts to public services, is not part and parcel of the Big Society vision.  Criticising one does not necessitate rubbishing the other.  As he says,

Aiming fire at the big society is not the answer. It is a positive, idealistic message that we sour with harsh home truths. We are the grumpy person in the corner who perks up adversely to criticise every time the opportunity arises.

At a recent Compass event in Westminster, Jesse Norman MP and Anna Coote from nef clashed over precisely this point.  Jesse Norman, a strong supporter of the Big Society as a vision for a society emphasising mutuality and reciprocal relations, argued that this vision should be separated from the current Coalition plan for tackling the deficit.  Anna Coote instead believed that they were one and the same, and that therefore the Big Society could and should be judged by what is happening now.  The debate will no doubt continue.  But resolving it, and deciding on what grounds the Big Society should be attacked when it resonates so clearly with many aspects of the emerging Blue Labour narrative, would help opponents of the Coalition’s deficit reduction plan have a clearer objective in their sights.

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The Labour Tradition and the Politics of Paradox

A new e-book has today been published representing some of the recent debate about the future of Labour.  It reproduces papers and responses to them from four seminars held in Oxford in 2010-11.  Contributors include CTC Fellow Maurice Glasman and former Jellicoe Intern Stefan Baskerville.  The e-book is entitled The Labour Tradition and the Politics of Paradox and is edited by Maurice Glasman, Jonathan Rutherford, Marc Stears and Stuart White.

One response to the publication has come already from Mary Riddell at The Telegraph.  A mixed but intriguing review of the Blue Labour phenomenom, she identifies the opportunity and the hurdles to overcome in advocating a (small c) conservative turn for Labour’s renewal.

Yet although Mary Riddell refers to this new book as Blue Labour’s ‘Bible’, a more accurate picture is painted by David Lammy MP who describes Blue Labour not as an invitation for factionalism “but as an opening salvo in a conversation that involves people who hail from different traditions across the party”.  The party is increasingly being given material to sink its teeth into as it searches for its misplaced sense of mission.  The debate, regardless of who wins, will be stronger for it.

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When Blue Labour Met the Fabians

As this blog has mentioned before, the Blue Labour movement is attracting more attention and, inevitably, closer examination.  Tim Horton, Research Director at the Fabian Society, met with Maurice Glasman to debate the currently competing strands of thought in the party and to defend the Fabian record against Glasman’s localist critique.

From a Fabian perspective, I’d agree with Blue Labour and others that rethinking the role of the state should be an important part of Labour’s policy review process. A self-critical party must develop an account of where the state over-reached itself as well as where Labour neglected important non-state vehicles for social justice. And of course there are big future challenges to the role of the state that social democrats must take their heads out of the sand and start to confront.

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Bretherton on Blue Labour

Luke Bretherton, a Fellow of the Contextual Theology Centre, has written an article exploring how Blue Labour welcomes religious belief.  He writes:

The demos is not an ochlos, or crowd, in which each does their own bidding; it is a body of people undertaking common action in pursuit of shared goods. And the only real power democratic citizens have is the power of association or relational power: the ability to turn out and act together. Yet people will only act together on the basis of what they hold dear, what gives them a sense of belonging and that in which they discover purpose and meaning.

It does not, of course, automatically follow that religious affiliation is the only form of association which can provide the basis of common action.  But it is clearly for many in society, still, a place of purpose and belonging.  As such it can provide a powerful ground for action, and a deep source of mutual solidarity.

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Billy Bragg: Not So Blue

It is a sure sign that an idea is gaining ground when those opposed to it begin doing so publicly.  Yet it is also concerning when that opposition is based on a fairly fundamental misunderstanding.

Billy Bragg is the latest figure on the left to come out against ‘Blue Labour’.  He describes it as economically liberal but socially conversative.  It’s main flaw, Bragg believes, is the same as New Labour’s: being “too blue”, or “too free market”.  Anyone who has actually listened to Maurice Glasman describe Blue Labour wouldn’t recognise this accusation.

Bragg’s conclusion for what Britain needs, though, is straightforward:

What they want – what they need – is a Labour party that remembers what it is for: a party that defends the ordinary working people against the ravages of the free market; a party that holds those who wield great financial power to account; a party that provides people with a sense of security in an ever-changing world.

Last time I checked, that’s precisely what Blue Labour is meant to be.  Several times Bragg contradicts himself by denigrating the use of tradition, while also plaintively calling for Labour to return to its roots. 

It is perhaps not coincidental that Bragg’s condemnation of Maurice Glasman appears on the same webpage as an article co-authored by Glasman and Jon Cruddas MP entitled “Theft in a City State”.  If you’d just read Bragg’s article, you may well think it was a tirade against new taxes.  But no, it is an attack on the City of London’s treatment of the Billingsgate fish porters.  That sounds a lot like defending the ordinary working people against the ravages of a free market.

This small snapshot of the confusion facing the Labour party as it seeks to determine what it is for (and against) in the post-New Labour era is instructive.  Those seeking positive renewal (defining Labour as being for something, and not simply against what it perceives the Coalition to be doing) of Labour have a lot more explaining, and discussion, to do.  Until those hard conversations take place, expect to see many more straw men.

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Blue Labour on the BBC

The BBC has trailed tonight’s edition of Radio 4’s Analysis which looks at Blue Labour, the left’s response to the Big Society.  The programme will examine the tensions in Labour between a liberal wing which emphasises equality and diversity and a conservative strand, newly resurgent, which emphasises instead solidarity, mutuality and community.

As the BBC article makes clear, the “intellectual godfather” of Blue Labour is the Labour peer and academic Maurice Glasman who is a Fellow of the Contextual Theology Centre.

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