These thoughts are inspired by listening to the Radio 4 Analysis programme about Blue Labour.
I should, I think, be sympathetic to the arguments that the proponents of Blue Labour are making. My formative political education was at feet of traditional right wingers in the Labour Party, people who argued that the fundamental role the party should play is to advance the interests of working people and who had little time for liberal social concerns. Just the sort of thing that is captured by the “family, faith and the flag” mantra of Maurice Glassman and the Blue Labour thinkers.
Indeed some of their critique of Labour’s period in government clearly resonates with an awful lot of potential Labour voters. And I’ve seen it myself on the doorstep; one of those crystal clear moments where I lost a little of my political naivety was being told very firmly by Black British lady that her political concerns were about the impact that immigration was having in her neighbourhood.
And it is good to have a coherent political philosophy to test our beliefs against. The challenge that Blue Labour throws down isn’t one that we should treat lightly.
But, in the end I think it’s critique – or at least the one that is offered on Analysis – of New Labour is one eyed. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think most people would say that the problem with New Labour was it wasn’t illiberal enough. Nor were non-metropolitan voices a rarity, David Blunkett and John Prescott were as much a part of the government as Peter Mandelson and Charlie Falkner.
Perhaps more importantly I keep thinking that it is trying to fight the last war rather than offering a vision for the future.
Like a lot of Labour people I’m proud of many of the achievements of the last decade, but I do acknowledge that the flaws in that government were manifold and that it is time to rethink the vision we have of society and how we might achieve it. I think Blue Labour reminds us of the need to build a coalition that takes the concerns of working people very seriously, and to find ways of enhancing mutual aid. But we also need to encompass liberal concerns too. Drawing our vision as tightly as Blue Labour seems to be doing isn’t the path back to electoral success.