Leader: Liberalism now feels inadequate in this new age of insecurity
The stakes could not be higher.
BY NEW STATESMAN PUBLISHED 27 MARCH 2013
Ever since the Thatcher era, British politics has been defined by forms of economic and social liberalism. The right won the argument for the former and the left the argument for the latter, or so it is said. Yet in the post-crash era, this ideological settlement is beginning to fracture. ...
Two thinkers, Phillip Blond and Maurice Glasman, and their respective factions – the Red Tories and Blue Labour – were quicker to recognise this than most. Mr Blond may no longer have the ear of the Prime Minister, if he ever did, but since the appointment of Jon Cruddas as the head of Labour’s policy review, the Blue Labour faction has emerged as the dominant intellectual influence on the Labour Party.
With his support for a technical baccalaureate, employee representation on remuneration committees and a new network of regional banks, the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, has embraced elements of the German social-market model long championed by Lord Glasman. At the same time, Blue Labour has encouraged the party to begin to articulate concerns on social issues that have long been neglected by the left and to speak about culture as well as economics.
In a recent speech to the Fabian Women’s Network, Diane Abbott, the shadow public health minister and once on the hard left of the party, spoke out against the “sexualisation” of childhood. “For so long,” she said, “it’s been argued that overt, public displays of sexuality are an enlightened liberation. But I believe that for many, the pressure of conforming to hyper-sexualisation and its pitfalls is a prison.” Ms Abbott concluded: “We’ve got to build a society based on open-minded family values and not ‘anything-goes’ market values.”
More contentiously, in the case of immigration, Blue Labour has provided Mr Miliband with a language in which to engage with what went wrong under New Labour. According to Tony Blair’s globalist narrative, an open immigration policy was an unalloyed good. The interests of workers who saw their wages undercut and who felt confused and left behind by the pace of change were subordinate to those of the corporations that benefited from a larger and more flexible labour pool. Mr Miliband appears to have accepted the argument of Lord Glasman, Mr Cruddas and others that the Labour Party was too slow to respond to such anxieties among its natural supporters in working-class communities. He has argued that Labour was wrong not to impose transitional controls on migration from accession states such as Poland, as other members of the EU had done. He has pledged to ban recruitment agencies that operate exclusively by bringing in foreign workers to Britain without trying to fill vacancies locally. If it is true that immigration has had a generally beneficial effect on aggregate output, it is also true, as Mr Miliband has observed, that: “People don’t live their lives in the aggregate.”
Lord Glasman has found himself on the less privileged side of the central ideological divide of the 21st Century—a gap that sprawls across the more familiar ideological chasms of the 20th Century. The crucial question is no longer capitalism vs. communism, but globalism v. localism, imperial centralization v. self-rule, cosmopolitanism v. patriotism, elitism v. populism, diversity v. particularism, homogeneity v. heterogeneity, and high-low v. middle.
Barack Obama, for example, epitomizes the first side of these dichotomies, especially the high-low coalition. By being half-black, he enjoys the totemic aura of the low, but has all the advantages of the high. He has never, as far as anyone can tell, had a thought cross his mind that would raise an eyebrow at a Davos Conference.
In contrast to the President, Glasman is certainly an original thinker. But anybody on his side of these new dichotomies faces a tactical disadvantage.
Because globalists want the whole world to be all the same, they share common talking points, strategies, conferences, media, and so forth.
In contrast, because the localists want the freedom to rule themselves, they often don’t even realize who else is on the same side of this divide.
For example, to most Americans, "socialism" is a very foreign-sounding word. To a lot of Brits, however, socialism is what their grandfathers looked forward to while they fought WWII and then came home to create the National Health Service. ...
Glasman recently described Orwell as "a conservative patriot working in a socialist tradition," and much the same could be said for Glasman himself.