Blue Labour

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Blue Labour
Abbreviation BL
Motto Family, Faith and Flag
Formation 2010
Founder Maurice Glasman, Baron Glasman
Purpose The Labour Party pressure group that aims to put relationships and responsibility at the heart of British politics.
Affiliations The Labour Party
Slogan The Voice of Labour's Radical Tradition.

Blue Labour is a political tendency in the British Labour Party.[1][2][3] Blue Labour advocates the belief that working class voters will be won back to Labour through socially conservative ideas on certain social and international issues, such as immigration, crime and the European Union,[4] a rejection of neoliberal economics[5] in favour of ideas from guild socialism and continental corporatism,[6] and a switch to local and democratic community management and provision of services,[7] rather than relying on a traditional welfare state that is seen as excessively bureaucratic.[8] The position has been articulated in books such as Tangled Up in Blue and Blue Labour: Forging a New Politics.


Labour peer and London Metropolitan University academic Maurice Glasman launched Blue Labour in April 2009 at a meeting in Conway Hall, Bloomsbury.[9] He called for "a new politics of reciprocity, mutuality and solidarity",[9] an alternative to the post 1945 centralising approach of the Labour Party. The movement grew through a series of seminars held in University College, Oxford and at London Metropolitan University in the aftermath of Labour's defeat in the 2010 general election.

Labour figures sometimes associated with the trend have criticised the New Labour administration of Tony Blair for having an uncritical view of the market economy, and that of Gordon Brown for being uncritical of both the market and the state.[10] Jon Cruddas, the Labour MP for Dagenham and Rainham and the party's policy review co-ordinator, argued that New Labour's focus on 'the progressive new' resulted in the party embracing "a dystopian, destructive neoliberalism, cut loose from the traditions and history of Labour".[11] Chuka Umunna, the Labour Shadow Business Secretary believes Blue Labour "provides the seeds of national renewal".[12][13]

Blue Labour suggests that abstract concepts of equality and internationalism have held back the Labour Party from linking with the real concerns of many voters, the concept of equality leading to an 'obsession with the postcode lottery'[7] and internationalism ignoring fears of low paid workers about immigration. Blue Labour, alternatively, emphasises the importance of democratic engagement and insists that the Labour Party should seek to reinvigorate its relationships with different communities across the nation, with an approach based on what historian Dominic Sandbrook describes as "family, faith, and flag".[14]

It has been suggested that the name 'Blue Labour' came from a reaction to an opposite trend in the Conservative Party called Red Tory, but was also chosen to suggest a hint of sadness, nostalgia and loss.[9] The philosophical basis of Blue Labour is a combination of Aristotelianism (especially the concept of virtue) with the critique of market society developed by the Hungarian economist Karl Polanyi.[15]

Blue Labour lost some influence after newspaper comments by Glasman in July 2011 suggesting immigration to the United Kingdom should be frozen, including the renegotiation of European Union immigration rules.[2][16] At a fringe meeting of the 2011 Labour Party Conference, Glasman reaffirmed some of his controversial statements on immigration, argued for half of Britain's universities to be converted to vocational colleges, and criticised the power of public sector trade unions.[17]

On 30 October 2013 Maurice Glasman delivered a speech to an SPD event at the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung in Berlin. Praising the role of Ernest Bevin in building the German economic model after the Second World War, he described the SPD as Labour's most important sister party outside the Commonwealth. He contrasted the British post-war consensus negatively against the German model, claiming the later was closer to the pre-war Labour ethos of solidarity than the collectivism of Clement Attlee which was really just a continuation of the war planning. Glasman concluded that pre-war Labour "improved the conditions of the working class precisely because it was not simply left wing, it was also patriotic, conservative in relation to the constitution of Parliament and the monarchy, very strong in support of family life and contribution with a strong sense of place".[18]


The Socialist Party, a Trotskyist party, saw Blue Labour as an attempt to shift Labour further to the right on social issues, and as a concession to far right political parties over immigration.[8] Opponents of Blue Labour like Billy Bragg argue that the reason Labour is losing working class voters is not because of social conservatism among working-class people, but because of Labour's continuing attachment to free market dogmas and globalisation.[19] Glasman rebuts this, arguing that Blue Labour criticises the domination of capital and promotes democratic Labour Movement resistance to this domination based on a politics of the common good.[20]

In response, proponent of Blue Labour Marc Stears dismissed the criticisms as "self-evidently empty".[21] According to Stears, Blue Labour endorses one simple principle: "that our lives go well only when they are lived in sustainable relationship with others"; the idea people should come together to forge a common good; the idea that our common life improves when schools, hospitals and parks are open to all; the view that some on the left have a horror of cosiness in opposition to the more sensible 'politics of relationships'; and that it is the question of what we owe each other that should determine our moral lives.[21]

Despite being endorsed by the Labour leadership, Blue Labour has received a lot of criticism from many within the party such as Tony Blair, Peter Mandelson, Diane Abbott, Helen Goodman, Yvette Cooper, Roy Hattersley, David Blunkett and Billy Bragg. According to the book Tangled Up in Blue it has also been attacked by feminists within the party, and the deputy leader, Harriet Harman, has also been concerned about Maurice Glasman and Blue Labour's influence within the party's direction.


Some commentators suggested that Blue Labour could be a potential alternative to David Cameron's Big Society, the "big idea" that might even "define Miliband's leadership".[22] Glasman has been described as Miliband's "Guru" by right wing political commentator Matthew D'Ancona, who suggests that while the party may not adopt the full programme of Blue Labour (particularly its criticisms of consumerism and globalisation), the trend is helping "the Labour leader forge a language in which to express his championship of the NHS".[23] Many would argue that Blue Labour has been influenced by old Labour tradition of self-help and mutualisation which was inspired by R.H. Tawney, GDH Cole, Keir Hardie, William Morris and even back to William Paine. They would also argue that, that old Labour tradition was both sceptical of the market as well as the state and wanted to redistribute power and wealth to communities rather than expand the state to redistribute wealth which is where Blue Labour's criticism of the 1945 Labour Government comes from. Some have argued that, certain figures in the Labour Party such as Frank Field have also been an inspiration for Blue Labour.[24][25]

Key publications

The Labour Tradition and the Politics of Paradox: The Oxford London Seminars, 2010-2011[26] is a collection of articles by Glasman, Stears, and Jonathan Rutherford, and commentaries by many leading Labour figures, including David Miliband, David Lammy, Hazel Blears, Jon Cruddas and James Purnell, which looks at the way an attachment to neoliberalism and globalisation cut Labour off from some of its community traditions and ignored the importance of human relations.[27]

The book has a supportive preface by former Labour Leader Ed Miliband, who states:

Even in the aftermath of a profound economic crisis, politicians of all parties need to realise that the quality of families' lives and the strength of the communities in which we live depends as much on placing limits to markets as much as restoring their efficiency. And for social democrats in particular, the discussion points to the need to ask how it can support a stronger civic culture below the level of Whitehall and Westminster."

The book, Tangled Up in Blue, by Rowenna Davis explores the extent of Blue Labour's influence within the Labour Party and how Glasman's ideas influenced the leadership campaigns of both Ed Miliband and his brother David Miliband. It talks of how Glasman was initially working for David Miliband's campaign and put forward ideas on much more community devolution and the Movement for Change. It alleges that the living wage campaign masterminded by Ed Miliband's supporters was as a result of Glasman's involvement in Ed Miliband's leadership campaign at the same time. It also suggests Glasman used ties with Stewart Wood and Patrick Diamond to put forward Blue Labour ideas in Labour's 2010 manifesto such as community land trusts and a living wage as well as writing Gordon Brown's speech. The book further reveals alleged links between Glasman and Phillip Blond and similarities between their politics as well as how Glasman and Blond were cooperating together to promote their "radical conservatism" with both Labour and Conservative Parties.

Blue Labour: Forging a New Politics, edited by Ian Greary and Adrian Pabst, was published in 2015. The book is another collection of essays on topics ranging from political philosophy, to an analysis of European models of capitalism, to immigration in Britain, from a theoretical position that is for the most part indebted to Catholic Social Teaching. Contributors include David Lammy, John Milbank, and David Goodhart.

In the 2015 Labour leadership election, Blue Labour did not endorse a specific candidate however most senior figures within the movement backed Liz Kendall for the leadership and Tom Watson for the deputy leadership.

See also


  1. Wintour, Patrick (21 April 2011). "Miliband Speech To Engage With Blue Labour Ideals". The Guardian.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 Dan Hodges (20 July 2011). "Exclusive: the end of Blue Labour". New Statesman. Retrieved 16 June 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Stratton, Allegra (28 September 2011). "Ed Miliband Speech rehearses 'good society' guru's lines in conference speech". The Guardian.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Goodhart, David (20 March 2011). "Labour can have its own coalition too". The Independent.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Barrett, Matthew (20 May 2011). "Ten Things You Need to Know About Blue Labour". LeftWatch.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "A nation of shoppers". The Economist. 19 May 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. 7.0 7.1 Grady, Helen (21 March 2011). "Blue Labour: Party's radical answer to the Big Society?". BBC News.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. 8.0 8.1 Score, Steve (30 March 2011). "Review: Blue Labour". The Socialist.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Stratton, Allegra (24 April 2009). "Labour: Now it's kind of blue". The Guardian.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Derbyshire, Jonathan. "Voice of the Heartlands". New Statesman. Retrieved 11 September 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Cruddas, Jon (7 April 2011). "A country for old men". New Statesman.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Mary Riddell (16 May 2011). "Does Blue Labour have what it takes to be a vote-winner after all?". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 13 September 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Chuka Umunna (15 May 2011). "One Nation Labour". Retrieved 13 September 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Sandbrook, Dominic (7 April 2011). "Family, faith and flag". New Statesman.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Mary Riddell and Tom Whitehead (18 July 2011). "Immigration should be frozen, says Miliband adviser". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 20 June 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. Stratton, Allegra (26 September 2011). "Blue Labour Peer Returns With Call To Look Again At European Immigration". The Guardian.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. Bragg, Billy (7 April 2011). "Labour is already too blue". The Guardian.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. Glasman, Maurice (8 April 2011). "I'm blue – and true to Labour's roots". The Guardian.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. 21.0 21.1 Stears, Marc (29 June 2011). "These attacks on Blue Labour are hollow – Marc Stears". The Guardian.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. Helm, Toby (16 January 2011). "Maurice Glasman; The peer plotting Labour's new strategy from his flat". The Observer.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. D'Ancona, Matthew (9 April 2011). "The door is open for Ed Miliband to pose as the defender of our cherished institutions". Daily Telegraph.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. "Labour: Lord Glasman and Jacqui Smith on Purple Book". BBC News. 23 September 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. Edemariam, Aida (3 July 2010). "Frank Field: 'Labour has always been conservative'". The Guardian.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. Glasman; et al. "The Labour Tradition and the Politics of Paradox: The Oxford London Seminars, 2010-2011" (PDF). Lawrence & Wishart.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  27. Wintour, Patrick (17 May 2011). "Ed Miliband endorses blue labour thinking". The Guardian.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links