Is it Blue Labour or bust? With Owen Smith, the Blairite candidate, increasingly looking like an even worse prospect than Corbyn, it is worth pondering on whether Blue Labour ideas could help Labour reconnect with England and with working class old Labour voters in its traditional Northern heartlands.
Even some Remain voters are becoming flummoxed by Smith’s talk of holding a second referendum, and the Blairites’ laser-sharp focus and groupthink on the EU has resulted in this faction becoming far too disconnected from non-metropolitan areas and unable to effectively relate to those who view their identity as being English.
Corbyn’s brand of 1970s’ socialism mixed with leftist university politics, and a so-called internationalism which fails to take into account many peoples’ attachment to place and identity, is a non-starter and will not propel Labour back into power.
Blue Labour, the third faction, is very much misunderstood by many on the Left, derided by Blairites as promoting nostalgia and a bygone era, and Labour’s feminist wing perceive it as being a threat to women’s rights and all about “mothers and apple pie”.
The name “Blue Labour” is perhaps unfortunate; however the current political climate shows that we have moved beyond simple left verses right, and social conservatism mixed with radicalism were both very much at the heart of the early Labour movement.
Blue Labour is the voice of Labour’s radical tradition. It mixes innovative ideas on democratic renewal and localism with a respect for the meaningful reciprocal relations and bonds that tie communities together. Maurice Glasman, the architect of Blue Labour, voted Brexit, and he has spoken out against open door EU mass immigration for many years.
Glasman highlights faith, family and flag, and understands the attachment many people have to identity and tradition. He promotes direct grassroots community action because of awareness that the government alone cannot always be a catalyst for change and in order for meaningful change to occur individuals must also participate and contribute, thereby ensuring that the correct solutions are found to problems.
On the welfare state, Blue Labour promotes the idea of responsibility and not welfarism as a way of life.
Blue Labour is not libertarian and is critical of some aspects of capitalism. It also critiques EU corporatism and its commodification of human life, as evidenced through schemes such as open door mass EU immigration, which creates a race to the bottom in terms of wages for low paid workers.
Glasman’s attempt at creating a narrative to connect with the intrinsic desire that many people have for meaning and purpose is commendable.
Blairism, in contrast, just promised that “things could only get better” and various vacuous and empty slogans about progressivism. Many people believed Blair when he said that things could only get better, and then became angry and embittered when the changes that occurred made their day to day experiences more challenging and fraught with uncertainties.
The disillusionment caused by Blairism and the deep mistrust of politicians, which has grown since his tenure in office, has been striking. The rise of insurgent parties and leaders right across the Western world shows that people are tired of technocratic elites and even social liberalism.
The feminist lobby, which is dismissive of the negative impact that third-wave feminism has had on boys and men and is dismissive of the importance of the role of fathers in families, represents a major challenge to Blue Labour properly establishing itself, and for that reason I am pessimistic about its future prospects.
A mix of Blue Labour and Blairism is more likely and could potentially be a winning formula, but only if a wing within the Blairite movement emerges which decides to focus more on England and move away from the laser-sharp focus on the EU. However, that seems unlikely and for as long as Blairites remain arch Europhiles, the Labour party’s future will continue to be bleak.
Will Ukip transform into Blue Labour? That is a possibility.
I am on the centre-right. I am not a Labour Party supporter and I do question the viability of some of Blue Labour’s economic ideas. However, if faced with a Tory party back under the helm of George Osborne and committed to soggy New Labour style centrism and social liberalism verses a Labour Party with Blue Labour ideals at its helm, which promoted ideas like vocational technical schools, then Blue Labour would for me be the far more attractive option.
A conference called “Blue Labour or Bust”, which I will be speaking at, will be meeting at Enfield Town Football Club on 22 October 2016. It promises to be insightful with challenging and engaging debate, and is a must attend for people of all political persuasions.
(Image: Henry Hemming)