One Nation Labour? It’s Blue Labour 2.0

October 3, 2012 3:02 am

I always had quite a soft spot for many of the ideas around Blue Labour. Community, quality work, fair pay, a sense of nationhood and belonging, and a faith (although in my case not a religious one) in something more than the individual. I liked Blue Labour, but periodically it would end up mired in controversy (step forward Lord Glasman), and after Miliband’s former confidante said that immigration should be frozen, conjuring up unrealistic images of hordes on the border, machine guns and razor wire, the Blue Labour project – so intrinsically intertwined with Glasman – appeared to have hit the buffers. Glasman took a “vow of silence” – one he has peridically broken of course – and Blue Labour was declared defunct. And Blue Labour people agreed.

Except was it? With the exception of Glasman – who seemed to be persona non grata at the Labour top table – many of those who were driving the Blue Labour agenda continued to have the ear of Ed Miliband, and continued to drive Labour in a Blue Labour direction. The project itself appeared to have two key presentational weaknesses though – Glasman (still close to them) and the name, which seemed off-putting and tainted. But the ideas never died.

And so it was yesterday that Ed Miliband repackaged and unveiled what is surely the new name for Blue Labour – One Nation Labour. The name may have changed but huge chunks of Blue Labour are still contained within it. Minus some of the baggage of its earlier incarnation…but Blue Labour has been on its way back from the wilderness for some time. In fact it was never in the wilderness in the first place.

The ascendance of Jon Cruddas to the Labour policy throne (though he himself refers to the role as “secretary”) was a clear signal that Blue Labour was back. Although not defined by Blue Labour, he is certainly close to it, working alongside the likes of Jonathan Rutherford (who now works with him on the policy review). Whilst if Cruddas is true to his word he won’t have a say over policies, he certainly has a role in framing. Rebuilding Britain – and the idea of Britain as a grand defining project – is classic Cruddas.

Other more identifiably Blue Labourites are closer to Miliband still. Marc Stears – one of Ed’s closest and oldest friends – collaborates with Miliband on the most personal aspects of his speeches, as well as being a fantastically smart Oxford don (and IPPR fellow). Fellow Oxford academic Stewart Wood – shadow cabinet member, Lord, former adviser to Gordon Brown and one of Ed Miliband’s closest advisers – is sympathetic to Blue Labour.

Others who are more distant from the leadership are still taken seriously by those at the top table. Jon Wilson (who has just produced a Fabian pamphlet that has Blue running through it and wrote an article on Ed’s speech here yesterday) will no doubt gain increasing atttention for his ideas. Similarly the ferociously smart (but reassuringly straightforward) economist Duncan Weldon. And whilst women may not be represented in the Blue Labour realm as much as their male peers – something which has at times formed a critique of it – Rowenna Davis (as well as being a deep thinker about issues around community and politics) is a credible and engaging public voice for Blue Labour ideas, as well as developing and testing those same ideas on the doorstep.

But although I have been aware of the emerging influence of these people over months and years, I did not expect the full rebrand we were given yesterday. Miliband’s speech could have been written by Glasman himself (and indeed he certainly looked pleased when I spotted him afterwards), and rumours abound that Stears has a big hand it its drafting. Faith, family and flag were all enormously significant on Miliband’s big day. From staging to carefully chosen language. From the use of examples (and what those examples were) to the use of unifying Olympic imagery. One Nation Labour is a linguistic representation of much of what Blue Labour was truing to be. And it’s already had a better reception – and better press – than Blue Labour ever did.

The truth is that Blue Labour never died. It didn’t even leave Miliband’s office. But it now has a new name. One Nation Labour. It certainly has a better ring to it – and it’s going from strength to strength.

Remember these names – you’ll be hearing more of them between now and 2015…

  • http://twitter.com/bencobley Ben Cobley

    Glasman was interviewed in the hall for the PM programme and was effusive, calling the speech classic ‘ethical Labour’ and talking about how the One Nation idea is meaningful in terms of getting business and labour together to work out a new compact: hence the need not to be too ‘prescriptive’ at this stage.

    I thought this element of the speech was the most interesting, the way Ed made a direct invitation to business to come and work out a new One Nation business model with Labour before the next election. There is the carrot in terms of doing together, and then there is the threat that if they don’t we’ll have to do it alone, as with the message to the banks. It’s very nicely presented in my view and the CBI’s not unfriendly response was an indication it could work over time. Early days, but it would seem dialogics is in and classic top-down Labour technocracy is out (sorry about the geeky mumbo-jumbo but you can’t avoid it sometimes).

    • Brumanuensis

      Yes, I found Cridland’s response very interesting and certainly a distinct change from last year. Predictably, the Institute of Directors opted for a more unimaginative response, but then again, who cares about the IoD other than the IoD?

  • http://twitter.com/Robin_Usher Robin Usher

    Significant, perhaps, that delegates were all issued with small Union Flags at the conference yesterday – unfortunately, mine fell apart.  I hope it’s not an omen!

  • AlanGiles

    I would seriously suggest Labour stops offering “paint colour chart” politics. No more Blue Labour, Black Labour, no more Purple Books (especially no more of them eh, gentlemen?). It confuses true believers let alone the floating voters you need to attract. One of the problems the LibDems have is that you have Orange Bookers and non-Orange Bookers.

    I would stick to plain LABOUR, no New, Newer, 2.0 or what have you; and ensure Labour values predominate.

    • http://twitter.com/bencobley Ben Cobley

       So what do you think about One Nation Labour Alan?

      • AlanGiles

        Good morning Ben. All the more reason to stick to one word “Labour”. Most ordinary voters are not concerned with nuance in sections of the parties – although of course, there is always more than one division in any party, it can lead to misunderstandings (as we have seen on LL).

        I personally think these sub-divisions are pointless, especially for the floating voter.

        One Nation Labour seems a sensible enough and cogent slogan – of course it will need revision if the Scots vote for independence – then I suppose it would have to be British Labour.

        If I can use the example of the LibDems again – the divisions became manifest after the Orange Book nonsense

        • http://twitter.com/bencobley Ben Cobley

          Good morning Alan. I disagree with you on this – self-definition is important, and for better or worse that inevitably involves sloganising/ the use of ‘buzzwords’ (horrible word). Misunderstandings happen yes, but if we were to shy away from them we would never say anything about anything ever. It’s more about people attempting to explain themselves adequately and others taking those explanations in good faith. As we know with all the dreadful faction fighting, that doesn’t always happen!

          • AlanGiles

             You are probably right, Ben. I suppose it is just that I came up in simpler times, when by and large there weren’t these definitions!

          • http://twitter.com/bencobley Ben Cobley

             Simpler and perhaps happier times!

          • AlanGiles

             Yes, for sure!: I suppose thinking back I would have been described as a “Wilsonite”, and I have to be honest, that it pains me to think the values of that very decent and humane man are now regarded by some people on the right of the party as “hard left”. I would just say that I was a traditionalist Labour supporter, and I think that because you had all shades of opinion in the cabinet from the left like Tony Benn to the right like Anthony Crossland, with all shades in between there did seem more tolerance back then, perhaaps because of that mixture it never seemed one side or the other held the whip hand.

        • http://twitter.com/bencobley Ben Cobley

          Good morning Alan. I disagree with you on this – self-definition is important, and for better or worse that inevitably involves sloganising/ the use of ‘buzzwords’ (horrible word). Misunderstandings happen yes, but if we were to shy away from them we would never say anything about anything ever. It’s more about people attempting to explain themselves adequately and others taking those explanations in good faith. As we know with all the dreadful faction fighting, that doesn’t always happen!

        • http://twitter.com/bencobley Ben Cobley

          Good morning Alan. I disagree with you on this – self-definition is important, and for better or worse that inevitably involves sloganising/ the use of ‘buzzwords’ (horrible word). Misunderstandings happen yes, but if we were to shy away from them we would never say anything about anything ever. It’s more about people attempting to explain themselves adequately and others taking those explanations in good faith. As we know with all the dreadful faction fighting, that doesn’t always happen!

    • Jeremy_Preece

      I think that there is language that is to be uesd inside the party when deciding what we are doing and then there is the type of language that we use when talking to the outside world.
      You are right that there is no way that I would ever want to knock at someone’s door and get involved in a conversation over the different brands of Labour, let alone the rainbow of colours and their various associations.  Policy, what ever the process of creating it and thinking it through, can only be pressented as Labour policy and why and how it is different from Tory and/or LibDem or other minor party.

      The voters need to understand only what Labour is offering to do, and why it would be better than the alternative. In short, the voter will vote for us if they really believe that we are different i.e. better than anything else on offer, and morover that putting Labour in government would have a real impact on at least some aspect of their lives in a good way.

  • http://twitter.com/LouieWoodall Louie Woodall

    There’s an interesting point to make about how tying whole bodies of ideas into a single phrase- like ‘One Nation Labour’- makes them vulnerable to reputational risk.

    Take Blue Labour- you’re right, Mark, it never went away and was so much more than small ‘c’ conservatism. However, as soon as Glasman put his foot in it, ‘Blue Labour’ and everything it represented became discredited.

    All it takes is someone using the phrase ‘One Nation Labour’ in the wrong context, especially in regards to the future of Scotland and immigration, for it to suffer the same demise as Blue Labour as a popular term

  • PeterBarnard

    I don’t think that it is a good idea to attach these labels (“Blue,” “In the Black,” and so on) to streams of political thought in the Labour Party because the labels are inevitably associated with individuals or groups of individuals ; clans and personality clashes are the result, as sure as night follows day, followed by the risk of Labour being seen as a divided party, and worse.

    For sure, it’s nothing new in Labour, eg Bevanites and Gaitskellites. Possibly, (and this is just a thought) that division in Labour was a contributory factor to Labour being out of power for 13 years?

    • http://twitter.com/hopisen Hopi Sen

      “In the Black” was intended as a joke, a knowing nod to this odd obsession with colours (which began with Lloyd-George, I think). Of course, it immediately got taken seriously! Oh well…

      Still, at least we’ll never get “White Labour.”.

    • PeterJukes

      Hi Peter – long time no see

      People keep referring to the Disraeli influence, but overlook a more recent and likely source of inspiration; Barack Obama’s ‘No blue states, no red states… only the United States.’ The stuff about being the child of Holocaust survivors is also a direct echo of Obama’s use of a family story to instil national cohesion. 

      I only caught the second half of the speech, but was encouraged by some of the policies and the overall vision

  • PaulHalsall

    This is tragic.

    We need to fight the class war by the rich with a class war by the 99%.

    • rekrab

      Waxing lyrical? did this tune get played at the karaoke night?

    • Hugh

       Difficult for Miliband to lead that given he’s in the 1%.

      • JoeDM

         So is he a millionaire?  And due the same sort of cheque as Cameron?

        He wouldn’t answer the question on the Today programme this morning, so we can all draw our own conclusion.

        • geedee0520

           Err – the ‘cheques’ are for people who have income above £1m NOT people who have assets of £1m and above. Cameron (AFAIK) does not have income of over £1m so..EM is totally disingenuous about this.

          About 6,000 people in the UK have income of £1m or above, some 350,000 have ‘wealth’ of over £1m (includes EM I think), which I suspect is greater if you include pension pots etc.

        • Brumanuensis

          Even if he was, why exactly does it matter?

          • JoeDM

            It would be a clear case of crass hypocrisy.

             But of course, the comments about each millionaire is being given a £40,000 cheque as a result of the reduction in the top rate of tax from 50p to 45p are nonsense. The comments  deliberately confuse wealth and income.  Estimates are that  there are  6,000 people in the earning £1m a year will benefit to that extent, not the estimated 322,000 people with a personal wealth of at least £1.  Both Cameron and  Miliband are almost certainly in that group simply on the basis of their ownership of property in central London and their pension entitlements as MPs etc.

          • Brumanuensis

            Hypocrisy? 

            ‘The state of promoting or administering virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that one does not actually have or is also guilty of violating’.

            What has Miliband said that fits with this?

          • Brumanuensis

            But your point about millionaires is quite correct, although I suspect the term was favoured because it’s simpler to repeat than ‘people earning in excess of £1 million per year’.

          • rekrab

            rangenumber of taxpayers£4745 to £60001,440,000£6000 to £70001,160,000£7000 to £80001,590,000£8000 to £10,0002,950,000£10,000 to £12,0002,760,000£12,000 to £15,0003,650,000£15,000 to £20,0004,950,000£20,000 to £30,0006,000,000£30,000 to £50,0004,090,000£50,000 to £70,000859,000£70,000 to £100,000410,000£100,000 to £200,000300,000£200,000 to £500,00089,000£500,000 to £1 million16,000Over £1 million6,000
            UK tax payers data from 2004, note the last two in the chart, 16,000, 6,000 from 2004, I can tell you there has been a sharp rise in millionaires from 2008 to 2012, where in Scotland alone that figure is rising by an additional 6,000 per year, now earners at the top end tend to invest pretty quickly for tax purposes but their there in numbers and they’ll all get the tax relief. 

          • rekrab

            Are you telling porkies Joe? are you saying Britain hasn’t produced any millionaires and multi millionaires since 2004? Puka…eh!!!!!

  • PaulHalsall

    This is tragic.

    We need to fight the class war by the rich with a class war by the 99%.

  • PaulHalsall

    This is tragic.

    We need to fight the class war by the rich with a class war by the 99%.

  • Amber_Star

    One Nation Labour is not remotely like Blue Labour. The whole Blue Labour thing was about white, working men (emphasis on men); a pandering to elements behind the rise of UKIP & the English Defence League.

    Yesterday Ed rescued a few, major & worthwhile themes from the political ghetto of Blue Labour.

    Family = society; all of it. And it definitely includes women & young people!

    Faith = a mission; not a religeous doctrine.

    Flag = a symbol which represents all our citizens as opposed to the parochial, ‘little Englander’ (Blue Labour) approach.

    Properly interpreted, the speech was a dazzling rebuttal of Blue Labour. I’d like to think that is what Glasman & Cruddas were secretly hoping for all along; that rather than ignore ‘Blue’ themes, Ed Miliband draw on his family history; his own sense of self & his admiration of the achievements of women; of civil rights campaigners; of immigrants who add to the culture of Britain; & make a speech like the one which he made yesterday.

    Ed still has so much to do; to unite the party & the country behind the themes outlined in his speech; a mission to finish what the Olympics & Danny Boyle’s awesome opening ceremony started.

    One Nation Labour – Not old, not new, not borrowed from the Tories & definitely NOT blue.

    • http://twitter.com/bencobley Ben Cobley

      Amber_Star, I’m afraid you fell hook line and sinker for the lazy and hostile caricature of Blue Labour. It was none of those things you say. Mark is absolutely right – just look at the people who helped on the speech; it is those around the (informal) Blue Labour scene.

      • rekrab

        With a touch of Australia……..ism? Ben!  

      • Amber_Star

        I’m afraid you fell hook line and sinker for the lazy and hostile caricature of Blue Labour. It was none of those things you say.
        ———————
        It was all the things which I say! It was pale, male & definitely stale; it said nothing to me about my life, that’s for sure.

        • http://twitter.com/ElliotBidgood Elliot Bidgood

          Amber Star, a couple of weeks ago Maurice Glassman and Rowenna Davis spoke at my CLP about Blue Labour. Rowenna also gave me a copy of her book, “Tangled Up in Blue”, and though I’m only half way through it, I’m so far blown away by what I’m reading. I’d urge you not to judge it on a false caricature.
           
          I didn’t agree with Glassman’s EDL comments, but  Glassman is big on preventing to exclusion of disaffected elements, lest they linger and fester. His intent was good, even if the product of those intentions was questionable. As for the concerns about the exclusion of women or young people or the imposition of religious doctrine, I hear them raised alot, but they are unfounded. Glassman’s conception of “faith, flag and family” is not that of US Republicans, whatever liberals on this side of the Atlantic may (understandably) fear when they hear that expression. Rowenna Davis’ support for it is indicative- twentysomething professional female Guardian writers generally aren’t in the business of promoting reactionary doctrines.
           
          Blue Labour essentially argues that the state has its role but can be too monopolistic and can fail to empower people, which we must admit sometimes true. It also argues that Labour can be pro-business while also recognising  unbridled neoliberalism harms our society. It brought the living wage campaign to the fore in the Labour Party, which should earn it some respect from any progressive, and argues that we should trust unions and mutuals and voluntary organisations and community empowerment again, which was a core part of Labour’s heritage pre-1945. It argues that we can restructure our economy and society to be a bit more like the German social market, essentially (which is a fairly attractive proposition right now, given that their economy and society is just about the only one in Europe that seems to be functioning at the moment!)

        • http://twitter.com/bencobley Ben Cobley

          So you’re having a go at Blue Labour (falsely, and ridiculously) for being racist and sexist while using a slogan (pale, male & stale) which is…racist and sexist. Classy stuff.

    • http://twitter.com/joejervis89 Joe Jervis

      I think One Nation Labour places itself where the Blue Labour project should have placed itself to begin with. So Blue Labour 2.0 is pretty accurate.

      Sadly Blue Labour felt like a move a step to far towards a populist stance on immigration and appeared to deny the positive elements of globalisation, or indeed accept it as a reality.

      I suppose whether you see ON as a new version of BL will depend largely on what you believed BL philosophy actually was (and whether it was dead).

      If BL was solely community, identity and belonging then it was never dead in my eyes – it featured in almost every conversation I’ve had over the past year. Also, this definition is pretty loose.

      If BL was the full, comprehensive philosophy of Maurice Glasman then it formed the third point of the Labour triangle (alongside Old and New). Again, to me this third way has continued in the party – but for those who felt BL was dead, the similarities between ON and BL may mean that ON is simply BL 2.0.

      I personally see ON as a breakaway; a hybrid of blue, old and new (but with the best, and only the best, of Blue right at the heart and running through the veins). A big dot in the Labour triangle placed closest to the blue corner.

      I also think this because I read Ivan Lewis’ chapter in the Purple Book and that hit the nail on the head; just the right % of blue in ON.

      But whether you see ON as  BL 2.0 = much of a muchness and irrelevant… because its brilliant eitherway. (But lets make sure we call it ON yeah?)

  • wycombewanderer

     I don’t think any of you have the slightest clue what is going on in the real world.
     You can gabble on about your newblueoldonenationlabour all you want and you’ll find you have even less to offer voters in 2015 than you did in 2012.

  • Amber_Star

    A One Nation railway network? Or will Labor lose its bottle before the conference paint (of any colour) has time to dry.

    Maria Eagle, looking as if she hits the bars rather hard on Tuesday night (good lass), seemed not to want to go beyond saying that neither Virgin nor First should be running the line during the ‘pause'; I hope Labour quickly decide to back a ‘no new franchises’ policy. Nationalisation by stealth… yes, if that’s what it takes!

  • Amber_Star

    A One Nation railway network? Or will Labor lose its bottle before the conference paint (of any colour) has time to dry.

    Maria Eagle, looking as if she hits the bars rather hard on Tuesday night (good lass), seemed not to want to go beyond saying that neither Virgin nor First should be running the line during the ‘pause'; I hope Labour quickly decide to back a ‘no new franchises’ policy. Nationalisation by stealth… yes, if that’s what it takes!

  • Amber_Star

    A One Nation railway network? Or will Labor lose its bottle before the conference paint (of any colour) has time to dry.

    Maria Eagle, looking as if she hits the bars rather hard on Tuesday night (good lass), seemed not to want to go beyond saying that neither Virgin nor First should be running the line during the ‘pause'; I hope Labour quickly decide to back a ‘no new franchises’ policy. Nationalisation by stealth… yes, if that’s what it takes!

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Homfray/510980099 Mike Homfray

    I think its Blue Labour meets Compass. I have always considered that to be where Ed is heading

    • Newscritter

      How bloody dire.

  • PeterBarnard

    That’s a bit rich, Peter J ( ‘ … long time no see … ‘) given that I’m still a twice a week contributor to these pages …    :-) 

    But, thank you for the ‘like,’ which I did notice (thank you), and my apology for the late reply. It’s all the fault of Disqus …

    I dunno about Disraeli nor President Obama (but I understand your point) , but I do know that the grand march of history (in the mature western democracies, that is) has demonstrated a gradual accretion of human dignity for the mass of the people over tens of centuries now, and I would propose that this accretion of human dignity (in the mature western democracies) was accelerated both in the early 20C ( Lloyd George and Churchill), and certainly post-1945.

    I think that I mentioned this some time ago?

    History also tells me that Manchester Liberals (which is what we should properly call the Conservative party post-Thatcher and Joseph) – and the rest of ‘the haves’ throughout history –  have resisted dignity for the mass of the people. Indeed, many (in the 19C) resisted universal education because it would have the potential to place ideas of challenge to the status quo in the heads of too many people.

    For sure, the Conservative party after 1979 is not the Conservative party of Churchill, Eden, Macmillan and Butler – indeed, those Conservative  politicians would have found themselves on the left of New Labour …

  • PeterBarnard

    Well maybe, Hopi Sen (In the Black, a joke), but I think that Mr A Painter – a strong proponent of In the Black of did not see it as a joke?

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  • Newscritter

    Blue Labour is New Labour with just slightly more attention paid to localism. The neoliberal cabal are still very much in the driving seat…

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