Blue Labour founder: “Labour should involve EDL supporters”


by Don Paskini    
8:45 am - April 21st 2011

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Shorter Lord Maurice Glasman, founder of “Blue Labour”:

1. Labour lied about immigration and should recognise that is not the case that everyone who comes to Britain should have equal status with people who were born here. Labour needs to involve people who support the English Defence League within the party as a way of reconnecting with working-class people.

2. In order to do this, Labour should adopt the community organising approach which led London Citizens to mobilise people to call for several hundred thousand illegal immigrants to be given British citizenship.

3. “Blue Labour’s” plan for persuading the Labour Party to adopt a grassroots-led approach and reconnect with working-class people will be via its founder becoming a member of the Leader’s inner circle and a member of the House of Lords, and through contributing to pamphlets published by the Blairite “Progress” pressure group.

If this sounds confused and incoherent – it is. Actually, I think it is nastier than that.

Lord Glasman got his peerage mainly as a result of his work with London Citizens. The success of London Citizens is due, in large part, to migrant workers.

Community organisers who have come to the UK from Colombia, Poland and other countries around the world; minimum wage workers who gave testimonies which moved the powerful to tears and then to act; leaders who mobilised hundreds and thousands to march and take action; inspirational people who built relations and campaigned together for social justice regardless of their country of birth.

Yet Glasman now, apparently, believes that these people should not have equal status with people born in Britain, and that Labour should seek ways to involve the small handful of violent thugs, racists and criminals who support the English Defence League, even though the EDL are detested by an overwhelming majority of working-class people.

It’s always a really bad sign when you find people with a bright new idea who urge Labour to do one thing, and then do the opposite themselves. “Blue Labour” urges Labour to be about reconnecting with working-class people, using relational community organising principles to build up from the grassroots.

Say what you like about Phillip Blond and the Red Tories, but at least he didn’t build his career on the back of the efforts of migrant workers and then turn round and demand that his party acknowledge that migrants don’t deserve equal status with native British workers.

Rather than telling us about their interesting policy ideas, supporters of Blue Labour should try a bit of put up or shut up.

Turning their words into actions might mean a local council candidate or local Labour Party running “Blue Labour” campaigns and improving their local area and winning elections as a result, and then sharing learning about how they did it. Or a council group adopting a “Blue Labour” approach and showing how it is possible to run more effective services.

Or engaging with supporters of the English Defence League in a particular local area and winning them away from racism and thuggery and getting them involved within the Labour Party in campaigning for social justice. Practical examples of Blue Labour in action would actually provide some kind of useful contribution to Labour’s future, and help them ground their ideas in reality.

There is a lot to be learned from the Maurice Glasman whose actions helped thousands of low paid workers earn a living wage.

But a period of silence on the part of Lord Glasman, political strategist, would be welcome, while he and other Blue Labour supporters try putting their principles into practice and finding out if they work or not.

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About the author
Don Paskini is deputy-editor of LC. He also blogs at donpaskini. He is on twitter as @donpaskini
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Reader comments


To be fair, in most countries accross the world foreigners don’t have all the same rights as locally born people, most often displayed in employment legislation. Europe is a bit of an anomaly in that respect, and even then much of Europe still doesn’t follow all European employment law, which itself only applies to EU citizens.

Try getting a greencard for the US, or Australia, or from personal experience, a work permit for South Africa – it’s *very* difficult. I find it a peculiarly British phenomenon of the last ten years that we allow almost anyone to settle and work here without real thought to the consequences.

@1 Not that said restrictions seem to hinder US based racists from blatting on about floods of Mexican immigrants taking all the jobs…

Maurice Glasman started out promising, but his stuff on Billingsgate fish porters was a load of nonsense, and on migration he now sounds like abject surrender is the left’s best option. So much for cosmopolitanism.

Tyler raises an interesting point.

Try getting a greencard for the US, or Australia, or from personal experience, a work permit for South Africa – it’s *very* difficult. I find it a peculiarly British phenomenon of the last ten years that we allow almost anyone to settle and work here without real thought to the consequences.

Because this isn’t a feature of New Labour at all, it is just part of Britain’s traditional policy position towards immigration. In fact, New Labour went the furthest the other way and restricted rights of migrants. Maurice wants Blue Laboru to completely abandon tradition, which seems logically incoherent to me.

Pre Aliens Act 1905 there were no restrictions on migration and no economic differences between migrants and citizens.

Windrush-era West Indian migrants were subjects of the British Empire so had full rights on arrival. West African Asians and thsoe from the sub-continent a decade later were in the same boat.

The only period where people have been systematically discriminated against with respect to employment is the last 10 or so years where asylum seekers have been barred from working to stop people saying “they took our jobs.”

The result of that of course was to drive asylum seekers to property crime in desperation, despite other similar migrants not being associated with property crime.

So Maurice (I feel I can call him Maurice because I cited his work on Karl Polanyi in my dissertation) wants to abandon over 100s of tradition to adopt a policy which will cause some of the problems he is trying to solve.

*Slow hand clap* Well done Maurice.

If Labour listens to Maurice Glasman, it might win the next election.

If Labour listens to Don Paskini, it might as well give up.

It is precisely because Maurice lives in the real world, among ordinary working people, that he understands how reasonable their demands are.

Whereas Don Paskini lives in a self-righteous bubble occupied by student union moralisers and liberal slackers with no empathy for the concerns of those trying to get by.

5. Mike Killingworth

[4] If you are saying that the politics of race will always beat the politics of class, you may well, sadly, be right.

However if Labour is going to go down the “Blue Labour” route, what is the point of the Labour Party? What is it that a Red Tory will do that a Blue Labourite would never do? Why do people like Colin believe that all political parties should be right-wing parties?

@4: Think you’ll find that Don Paskini and his bubble-wrapped liberal slacker friends in the Oxford area (though I think he may now have moved) have an excellent trend-bucking electoral track record, from which many local Labour parties could learn quite a lot.

… the last 10 or so years where asylum seekers have been barred from working to stop people saying “they took our jobs.”

… followed by the complaint that “none of ‘em work, they’re all on benefits”.

5 – this IS a class issue.

6 – Oxford is so atypical of the UK that Don’s record, whatever that may consist of, is unlikely to point the way for Labour in Swindon, Carlisle or Lincoln.

You just don’t get it. For you, politics is all about moral posturing; a chance to show off to fellow salon liberals about how decent and superior you are. Maurice works among real people – people whose votes Labour needs.

Good article, Don. I think you’re right about the Blue Labour project representing “the worst example of an inability to explain what it is that they actually want since the Big Society”.

Glasman is very good at pointing to certain genuine dilemmas the Labour party faces – e.g. how do you both address the perceived unfairness of awarding housing, benefits etc on the basis of need rather than desert (‘I’ve paid my taxes and waited my turn; how come asylum seekers get to jump the housing queue?’), *and* give an appropriate level of help to people who desperately need it? But I’ve yet to hear him propose any solutions. In what ways, exactly, does he think (some?) immigrants’ status should differ from the status of people already living here? Rights at work? Entitlements to benefits/housing/pensions/NHS treatment?

I can’t argue with what he says about engaging with EDL supporters –

“The solution, he says, is ‘to build a party that brokers a common good, that involves those people who support the EDL within our party. Not dominant in the party, not setting the tone of the party, but just a reconnection with those people that we can represent a better life for them, because that’s what they want.’”

- *if* this just means recognising that immigration is a ‘class issue’ and the way you win back angry working-class voters is to deal with the real, underlying issues (protecting wages, making sure there’s adequate housing available etc). (This is the Ed M line, I think.) But does it just mean that? Or does it mean making immigrants second-class citizens in some ways?

As you say, a bit of ‘put up or shut up’ would be welcome.

I daresay you’ll call the distinction specious, but Glasman doesn’t say “EDL supporters”, he says “people who support the EDL” – I think in politics we do mean different things by those phrasings, and it’s far more likely that he means “people who hear about them and think ‘yeah, that’s speaking to my concerns’” than he means people who are signed up attenders at their rallies, still less the ones who use them as cover for violence. The core point that Labour is much more open to (indeed has at times been run by) people who are out of tune with its core values economically than people who are out of tune with its core values socially, seems to me unarguable, in terms of how a branch would engage with a new member.

As to the challenge for a Blue Labour Council group, you know as well as I do that isn’t possible. As Glasman says, “everything I have ever written or done has 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.”

Councils in Britain are a million miles away from being able to resist the power of finance capital; firstly because it is concentrated within the area of one, undemocratic, Council, and secondly because they don’t have the power to do so – at best they can use soft influence and outsourcing codes of practice to try and raise the wages of low-paid workers, but apart from simple service delivery their core function as decreed by Government is as promoters of inward investment to their area, not resisters of its effects.

Which is why although such attempts as you describe have, I think, been made in electoral terms, they’ve more often been made cynically and dishonestly by Liberal Democrats – but have collapsed when confronted with a) the realities of powerlessness in local government, and b) the realisation on the part of the working class in the newly yellow wards that they have been duped.

I think this is a bit unfair.

First, he should expand on what he means by not meaning equal – because the Prospect article moves swiftly on without asking him to elaborate. And he could have given a fairly straightforward explanation.

As the son of Jewish immigrants himself, I highly doubt he’s saying that people who come to this country should not be given the same rights. After all, Citizens UK is still fighting for an amnesty for irregular workers.

Secondly, the point about EDL members is also being misinterpreted I think. I’m not in favour of reaching out to EDL members but the sympathisers? There are *lots* of them and the mentality to me feels rather differently to the BNP. Can we ignore them? Well, there’s been several cases of Labour campaigners in Birmingham, Stoke, Dagenham etc – persuading BNP voters to come back to Labour. I assume the same applies here?

Rather than telling us about their interesting policy ideas, supporters of Blue Labour should try a bit of put up or shut up.

I think its a bit too early for that. I don;t think Glasman thinks purely in electoral terms. The first step would be to build relationships, as he would say.

To that extent the party is training up organisers Stewart Owadally is doing that. Once the relationships are built, then the campaigns come. Such is the Saul Alinsky way.

“Maurice works among real people – people whose votes Labour needs.”

Worth noting that Maurice spends part of his time working in the House of Lords and the rest lecturing in political theory at London Metropolitan University, which has one of the highest international student populations in the UK.

Paul – when you were increasing the Labour vote by 600% in a formerly safe Tory area, did you do so by explaining how native Brits should have greater rights than recent migrants, or adopting any of the other policies which Blue Labour has been suggesting?

Excellent critique of “Blue Labour” here from Lynsey Hanley
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/apr/19/labour-working-class-gillian-duffy

15. Luis Enrique

is the job of the Labour Party to reflect whatever “the real working class” think on any given issue?

that’s debatable, but assuming it is, the first thing we need to know is what “the real working class” think on this issue.

Anybody know of good polling data?

fwiw, and on a tangental topic to the OP, I reckon that even the most immigrant friendly amongst us ought to be able to consider the possibility that the good/bad effects of immigration likely vary with how much immigration of what type happens how quickly, meaning that a notion of “absorption constraints” probably makes sense, meaning that immigration controls shouldn’t be opposed on principle just because you are “pro” immigration.

@8 Re: “real people”, are you suggesting that the people Don worked with in Oxford are figments?

17. Mike Killingworth

[15] Indeed. Back in the day, “no immigration controls” was a surefire way to tell a Trot infiltrator into the Party…

Don @12: Ha, no, I don’t remember using that strategy particularly. More’s the pity. I would no doubt have been much more successful.

I do remember residents (including myself) engaging positively with migrant worker families, especially around the school, such that we now have some children of Polish and Portuguese parents contributing and benefiting from a great education and parents who are valued members of the community. Clearly that was a terrible mistake which we will all no doubt live to regret.

19. DisgustedOfTunbridgeWells

@16

are you suggesting that the people Don worked with in Oxford are figments?

Ever noticed how ‘real people’ in the ‘real world’ always seem to massive twats?

Odd, that.

“I think its a bit too early for that. I don;t think Glasman thinks purely in electoral terms. The first step would be to build relationships, as he would say.

To that extent the party is training up organisers Stewart Owadally is doing that. Once the relationships are built, then the campaigns come. Such is the Saul Alinsky way.”

Right. And what I’m arguing is that they should try this approach, get some successes, then come and tell us about what they did and how it worked. Rather than assert that this is the correct way for Labour to go without evidence and in a crude and counter-productive way which runs contrary to their values.

We don’t know, for example, if the Alinsky approach is very good for running election campaigns (or, indeed, how well it translates to a UK context rather than an American one). Or if there is any point in trying to get EDL supporters involved in Labour. Or any of Glasman’s/Blue Labour’s other ideas actually work in practice.

There are all sorts of people right across the Labour Party – from Jim Murphy or Siobhan McDonagh to John McDonnell to the Birmingham Edgbaston team to Paul Cotterill and many more, whose opinions are worth listening to because they did the hard work of putting their principles into practice, winning elections and improving their local communities – and only once they’d proven their ideas in practice advocated that others adopt them.

Maurice Glasman has lots of experience of civil society campaigns, but has never been involved in a winning election campaign. Once he has been involved in a few, I confidently predict that his ideas will be different and sharper, and he’ll be able to communicate them a lot better.

21. Robert Anderson

We had blue labour for the alst 13 years peedling their version of free market filth that has alienated decent working class people like myself. Unlike a very small minority who have never grown up politically and will always find solace in some spurious notion of superior nationalism, most working class people I talk to want standards!

Good local NHS, education, public transport, public services and dare I say it an end to playing migrant workers off against indigenous workers. Sadly we are rarely listened to as it makes good politics to either demoniaze us as benefit scroungers or exreme right wing national zealots! Grasman would not know a working class person if he ever condescended to look farther than his own middle class nose!

I think he’s advocating a political philosophy rather than advocating a political campaigning method.

Hell, I’m happy to put some meat on the bones of what Blue Labour means to me – I too am a big fan of that direction. I’ll do that in the next few days

Robert: “We had blue labour for the alst 13 years peedling their version of free market filth”

Glasman: “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.”

Is it just me who is confused?

“Is it just me who is confused?”

No. As you have pointed out in the past, Blue Labour is a deeply stupid name for what Glasman’s on about. It would be much easier to understand if supporters had tried it out in practice at a grassroots level, and then built it up to influence the policy debate, rather than this attempt to impose it from the top down.

“Hell, I’m happy to put some meat on the bones of what Blue Labour means to me – I too am a big fan of that direction. I’ll do that in the next few days”

Look forward to it. I suspect that the reasons why you are a fan and Colin is a fan will differ wildly, though!

Much though I have lots of faith in Ed, the Labour Leadership’s track record of listening to good ideas from the grassroots, as opposed to ones in newspapers and pamphlets and at seminars isn’t that great, in recent history.

And my reasons are what, Don?

“And my reasons are what, Don?”

You tell me. I reckon they are going to end up being different from Sunny’s, though.

29. Luis Enrique

Colin

on the basis of your comments @4, I’d guess your reasons would be that Glassman is listening to the reasonable demands of real people.

@8 Colin

“Maurice works among real people – racists whose votes Labour needs”

There, fixed it for you.

@ 2 Cylux

It is you who put the word racist in there. Is it that unreasonable to suggest that people are unhappy about losing jobs too people who have illegally entered the country, are working illegally and are not paying taxes?

Such illegal immigration doesn’t affect the rich, it does affect the poor, who do end up being undercut for jobs because illegal workers do cost less – less taxes, less red tape and no employee benefits.

Your description of racist implies white Americans being so. Would you say the same about poor black Americans if they shared their white working class counterparts views?

@3 Left Outside

It has been a feature of the British system to let effectively everyone settle and work.

More recently though, immigration has increased dramatically – much more so than other European countries. The questions in that need to be asked are why, and is it good for the country?

My guess is the good (in comparison to most of Europe) and easily accessible benefits system here does make a difference, as does the relatively lax and intractible legal system for removing people. It’s fairly easy for those with the will to appeal a removla order many times, and delay till indefinate leave to remain is granted. Which makes a mockery of the immigration system in the first place.

Open European borders also clearly is a factor.

What effect has the open doors policy had on the UK as well? Multiculturalism has been lauded as a good and ideal thing in its own right by the last Labour government, but it’s benefit is very hard to define. A lot of people haven’t seen any benefit, community cohesion doesn’t seem to have increased (if anything, there are more tensions between communities now) and it’s making a lot of people feel alienated by the very leaders they look to to look after their interests.

That’s before you start talking about the strain it has put on services, how about 70% of net new jobs created under Labour went to immigrants and the secondary issues of how the welfare state has been struggling to keep up with those who haven’t benefitted from the massive influx.

I’m not saying all immigration is bad – far from it. Realistically though, it doesn’t benefit everyone, and when there limited resources, be it jobs, housing or services, people are going to fight over them. We can’t help or save everyone, and in the real world somewhere a line has to be drawn.

32. Mr S. Pill

Less talk & more action please.

@31 Some African Americans probably are racist toward Hispanics, however it’s mainly the teabaggers that are very concerned about Mexicans crossing the border. Blacks are currently somewhat thin on the ground in that there movement. Which is probably why a number of White baggers had their picture took with the 2-3 black fellas who turned up in support of Glen Beck’s rally for honor, you know, to prove they ain’t racist.
I imagine the overlap the tea partiers have with birthers won’t help out with that one.
/offtopic

Cylux,

Have you got evidence for the Tea Party (I presume that’s what you mean – I can’t see why fans of a particualr sexual fetish would oppose Hispanic immigration en masse) being opposed to immigration? As opposed to just some members – it is an anti-government movement, not a political philosophy, so you can find just about every strand of opinion in it.

35. Planeshift

“so you can find just about every strand of opinion in it.”

Do some of them believe in higher taxes then?

@34 Which Tea Party Org? There’s a few of them. Given that their membership is apparently off limits. (Most of the orgs have websites that require registration & login information, I’ll be damned if I’m handing over my email details over to that kind of paranoid fruitcakes unless I really have too)
The Koch Brothers, however, who are the main backers of them all, are a much simpler find.

The Tea Party are an ” anti-government movement ” otherwise known as bog standard Republicans. They are only against government spending when that spending is on poor minorities. Absolutely no problem with government spending on white middle aged and elderly people. Like themselves. Keep the government hands off my Medicare is the rallying cry. Anti-gay, anti-immigration, anti-choice, anti-evolution anti anyone who is not like them means they are indistinguishable from social conservatives because they are social conservatives. A new whine in old bottles for the contemporary version of the John Birch Society.

39. paul barker

Suggest you read Dan Hodges over on Labour Uncut arguing that morality has no place in Political campaigning. Labour, & especially The “Old Right” has always held a lot of EDL types. Think of former Labour Minister Phil Woolas.

4.colin, spot on, Infact Galsman say’s laobur should involve people who suport the EDL, that’s not the same as saying labour should get EDL supporters, Ie members, I see people who say the EDL aren’t the BNP, htey may have hidden footblal hooligans , but on paper the EDL;s genuine concern about islamic extremism, is right,

‘how about 70% of net new jobs created under Labour went to immigrants’

Except that they haven’t, this is a myth created by the scum press:

http://www.fivechinesecrackers.com/2011/01/apologies-and-foregin-workers-again.html

Labour lied about immigration and should recognise that is not the case that everyone who comes to Britain should have equal status with people who were born here.

I really need to hear him explain this more fully. As it stands, or seems, it’s not workable, and not right either. Not liking losing your place in some queue for housing and services because there are others in greater need is just tough.
A fair question might be, should all the people in greater need be in the UK.

If you started from the view that what happens to people in Britain is of less consequence, because at least no one was starving and most people had a roof over their heads, while millions aren’t in our enviable position, and that we should allow more and more poor people to come here to share our resources with them …. then I guess that’s where this Blue Labour might say that was not on.

43. Mike Killingworth

[42]

If you started from the view that what happens to people in Britain is of less consequence, because at least no one was starving and most people had a roof over their heads, while millions aren’t in our enviable position, and that we should allow more and more poor people to come here to share our resources with them

There is a name for that view: morally compulsory. Anyone who goes into politics has already signed up for the idea that what benefits British people is more important than benefitting indigenous people in other continents. There is no ethical justification for such a view whatever – it can only be defended by some sort of appeal to “human nature” as in “it’s only natural for a woman to care more for her own children than other people’s” etc etc

Once you accept that argument (and the likes of Sunny Hundal and Arianna Huffington do accept it, make no mistake) you have lost all right to be proposing an ethical politics. As the shade of Robin Cook would tell you if he could, there’s ethics and there’s politics and there’s precious little overlap.

Depresssingly, the Guardian tells us that Ed M (desperate to look more like his brother and less “red”) is going to “engage with” the ideas of these appeasers of racism and the free market.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/apr/21/miliband-blue-labour-speech

@42

and that we should allow more and more poor people to come here to share our resources with them …. then I guess that’s where this Blue Labour might say that was not on.

Well first you would have to believe that Labour did in fact open the borders for all and sundry to come here.
At best this accusation can only honestly be levelled for the 2004ish Eastern European EU influx, which might, it’s worth pointing out, have been exacerbated by France,Germany and others restrictions.

Briar – got a link to where Blue Labour is about “appeasement of the free market”? I only ask because when Glasman, its founder, says “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” it sounds quite incompatible with ‘the free market’ to me.

Labour governed as the BNP plus water, so is anyone really surprised that they now embrace “thought” along these lines?

@45

Well first you would have to believe that Labour did in fact open the borders for all and sundry to come here.
At best this accusation can only honestly be levelled for the 2004ish Eastern European EU influx

Well it’s them – or him, who has raised the issue of immigration here.
Some parts of London have had very large numbers of non EU immigrants.
Africans outnumber people of Caribbean origin now I have heard. Much of the African population is quite new to Britain.

But it’s perhaps the projections that might concern these Blue Labour types.
Immigration led population growth, pushing the figure for the UK up towards 70 million.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
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  27. Anthony Parker

    @RedFabian http://bit.ly/js6hsJ

  28. Anthony Parker

    @tomwilliamsisme here is the article i read http://bit.ly/js6hsJ

  29. Kelly

    @mattb_uk @lisaansell like this: http://t.co/zMfsAdz that's how I read it, although I could be wrong!

  30. deyika

    Who would not change a raven for a dove… Better #green than #bluelabour http://bit.ly/lmH6Ma

  31. Douglas.

    @IconicImagery Yeah: http://t.co/bo7ASmK And @Ed_Miliband is taking Glassman seriously, I believe. I despair.

  32. Tentacle Sixteen

    @IconicImagery Yeah: http://t.co/bo7ASmK And @Ed_Miliband is taking Glassman seriously, I believe. I despair.

  33. DarkestAngel

    @katabaticesque yep he is >> http://t.co/BEBIqILj

  34. Willard Foxton

    @fredacowell "The Tories" links = one councillor. "Labour Links" = Your leader's chief strategist. http://t.co/WwvXopWW

  35. Economic credibility and ethical socialism | Left Futures

    [...] perhaps contradictory, constituencies to appeal to them), but his delivery – notable of which was his talk of incorporating the EDL into ideological [...]

  36. New Year, New Labour | The Great Unrest

    [...] with the triumphant fanfair, and is at least an improvement on Glasman. The Baron wrote and said the sorts of things that would make you choke on your bourbon biscuit in shock as you casually perused the Guardian website over a cuppa. Byrne is the kind of character who might [...]





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