So Much for Blue Labour

David Runciman

It’s slightly less than a week since my piece on Maurice Glasman and Blue Labour went to the printers, but slightly less than a week is a long time in the crazy circus that currently passes for British politics. Ed Miliband has won a victory of sorts by getting David Cameron to admit that he should never have hired Andy Coulson, but now he has the problem of knowing what to do about Tom Baldwin: if he gets rid of him, he rather diminishes the victory; if he keeps him, he allows the Tories to taunt Labour with being the party that hangs on to its News International insiders. Miliband’s riposte to questions about Baldwin in parliament today – that Baldwin’s line manager when he worked at the Times was Cameron’s education secretary, Michael Gove – is ingenious, but only adds to the sense that the story is descending into farce.

Meanwhile, in recent days Glasman has made some ill-advised comments about immigration (i.e. suggesting that it should stop) that appear to spell the early demise of Blue Labour – according to reports in the New Statesman Miliband is planning to pull the plug and letting it be known that Glasman’s influence with him was never as great as some people have supposed. Maybe so, since nothing Glasman has been reported as saying (including that his agenda is influenced by Aristotle, Miles Davis, Lionel Messi and the pope) would come as a revelation to anyone who had actually read the essay in The Labour Tradition and the Politics of Paradox. That Tom Baldwin and Maurice Glasman should both turn out to be capable of embarrassing Miliband is hardly a surprise. Nor is it a great surprise that Glasman is the one being ditched first. As I said in my piece, the movement does tend to get sacrificed on the altar of electoral expediency.


  • 21 July 2011 at 7:50pm
    Phil Edwards says:
    That's "Aristotle, Miles Davis, Lionel Messi, Aldo Moro and the pope" - which, as I said when I first saw the list, effectively cashes out as "Aldo Moro", none of the others being contributors to twentieth-century political thought. What he actually said about Moro is interesting, too - he suggests that "the Moro/Berlinguer dialogue and their possible alliance ... could have allowed the best parts of the Communist and Catholic traditions to unite in a form of 'radical traditionalism'". This is wishful thinking on stilts - and we get a sense of just how high the stilts are when he refers to Moro's politics as "a form of Christian Democracy based on subsidiarity, solidarity and the Workers' Statute (statuto dei lavoratori". It's true that Moro spoke in favour of a guarantee of workers' rights in 1963, but the actual Statuto was brought into being (in 1970) very largely by the efforts of Socialist and Communist MPs, under pressure from the unions after the Hot Autumn of 1969. Aldo Moro was Foreign Minister at the time.

    (I keep saying I'll kick the 1970s Italian habit - there certainly aren't many jobs in it - but what can you do, they keep showing me the dirty pictures...)

  • 23 July 2011 at 7:23am
    childrenofabraham says:

    Dear Mr Miliband

    We are writing as British Jews and Muslims, rabbis and imams and community leaders, in an open letter which we are forwarding to the media of both our communities.

    We share a commitment to fighting racism, antisemitism and Islamophobia wherever they are found – including within our own communities. This position is informed by Jewish and Muslim ethical teaching on equality and human dignity.

    We wish to express our concern at some of the statements on English national identity, immigration and the English Defence League, made by your close advisor, Lord Maurice Glasman, Labour peer and founder of “Blue Labour”.

    He has spoken of his vision for Labour “to build a party that brokers a common good, that involves those people who support the EDL [English Defence League] within our party”. He has said that it is not the case that “everyone who comes is equal and has an equal status with people who are here”. And he has also called for a complete halt to immigration, and implied that he is against asylum (“Britain is not an outpost of the UN...”).

    These comments have caused such offence and concern with the Muslim community that some mosques have announced a prohibition against Lord Glasman entering their premises.

    We are extremely worried by Lord Glasman’s pronouncements and use of language. Whatever his intentions, these sentiments and soundbites on such an emotive topic as immigration just give fodder to extremism.

    We feel that it is important for you to dissociate yourself from these comments, and we call on the Labour Party to reaffirm its best traditions of anti-racism, equality and compassion for all people in our country.

    Yours sincerely

    Sheikh Dr Muhammad Al-Hussaini, Lecturer in Abrahamic Religions at Al-Azhar College, Al-Azhar Al-Sharif

    Sheikh Professor Mohamed Elsharkawy, Secretary of Scriptural Reasoning Imams Council

    Dr Edie Friedman, Executive Director of the Jewish Council for Racial Equality

    Imam Shahid Hussain, Head of the Interfaith Department, Regent’s Park Mosque London

    Rabbi Reuben Livingstone, Chair of Children of Abraham, Jewish Chaplain to H M Armed Forces

    Imam Dr Abduljalil Sajid, Chairman of the Muslim Council for Religious and Racial Harmony UK

    Rabbi Jackie Tabick, Chair of the World Congress of Faiths

    Rabbi Elizabeth Tikvah Sarah, Rabbi of Brighton and Hove Progressive Synagogue

    ENQUIRIES TO: enquiries AT childrenofabraham DOT org DOT uk

    (Children of Abraham is the national charity for rabbis and imams, the Jewish Council for Racial Equality is the national body in the Jewish community on asylum and immigrant rights, the World Congress of Faiths is an international interfaith organisation, Al-Azhar Al-Sharif founded in 960 is the oldest centre of Islamic learning in the world, Scriptural Reasoning is the practice of Jews, Christians and Muslims meeting to study their sacred texts in order to foster understanding and respect for religious differences. Maurice Glasman has been a leading exponent of Scriptural Reasoning, and used this as the "Faith" justification in Blue Labour's "Faith, Family and Flag")

  • 26 July 2011 at 1:11pm
    M Schwartz017 says:
    It would be a terrible mistake for Milliband to get rid of Glasman. His advice is eminently sensible and exactly what the Labour Party needs.

    Instead it looks like some people have reacted in a pathetic knee jerk manner to a comment about recruitment/immigration levels, which he has actually admitted he overstated.

  • 26 July 2011 at 11:17pm
    N Steinberg says:
    ***(“Britain is not an outpost of the UN…”)***

    How could this innocuous statement create offence? What is more offensive is the group above attempting to deny a country, and its citizens, the legitimacy of its own borders.

    Do they extend the same advice to Israel or Muslim countries that it is illegitimate for them to ever reduce their immigration levels?

  • 3 August 2011 at 3:14pm
    Rights in Context says:
    Blue Labour: The future of other Socialist Parties in Europe?