Tendance Coatesy

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Posts Tagged ‘Blue Labour

Paul Embery Resurfaces in Row with Jess Phillips and Defence of Danny Baker.

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Pledge card for a post-Brexit manifesto. 

Fire Brigades Union (FBU) official (Executive Council), Spiked Contributor, Full Brexit supporter, and head of the  Arron Banks funded Trade Unionists Against the EU, Paul Embery, came to wider attention this April after denouncing ‘rootless cosmopolitans’.

He was told to shut up by the highly regarded trade union the FBU.

Union official told to ‘cease’ social media after ‘rootless cosmopolitans’ tweet

On the Nigel Farage Brexit Party supporting Spiked site Embery was unrepentant,

This really captures the divide in our society, as I tweeted, between ‘a rootless, cosmopolitan, bohemian middle class’ and a ‘rooted, communitarian, patriotic working class’.

Bohemian, cosmopolitan, all words often in the air down at the Rose and Crown.

In fact not even bleeding used chez Coatesy except in quotes.

Embery continued,

These scarlet-faced witch-finders are a threat to free speech, and they need to be faced down remorselessly.

The labour movement has turned against the working class

Now he continues his battle for free speech:

In a lengthy thread this can be signaled;

In an attempt to cover his arse he added,

Now he is engaged in a war on another front.

Jess Phillips may not be everybody’s cup of tea.

But she often says things that need saying, even if you disagree with her.

She lives in Brum.

Her children go to an ordinary Birmingham state school. She is seen in the local supermarkets.

I have not heard the city called “metropolitan liberal” before.

Wikipedia says,

Phillips left the Labour Party during the years of Tony Blair‘s leadership, rejoining after the 2010 general election. She told Rachel Cooke in her interview in The Guardian it was because her parents stopped paying her membership direct debit. Her period at Women’s Aid made Phillips “utterly pragmatic… I learned that my principles don’t matter as much as [people’s] lives.”In the 2012 local elections, she was elected as a Labour councillor for the Longbridge ward, taking the seat from the Conservatives.

Embery claims he aims to restore a “sense of belonging”,

Where we currently have disunity and atomisation throughout our communities – not least because identity politics proliferates – we must foster instead a spirit of civic nationalism that generates a sense of belonging, patriotism and shared citizenship between all of our people. (How to fix Britain after Brexit)

Beginning by insulting comrade Jess Phillips.

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Written by Andrew Coates

May 11, 2019 at 11:15 am

Morning Star Promotes the “Red Gyms” of Merrie Olde England.

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No St George’s Cross on this banner.

The Red Gyms of England — a new front for anti-fascism

A new movement of socialist fight-sports clubs is smashing misconceptions that the left is a muddle of middle-class milquetoasts, writes JAMES CROSSLEY

English identity is a ready-made collective identity that can help develop a movement for the many not the few.”

James Crossley is Professor of Bible, Society and Politics at St Mary’s University, Twickenham. He writes mainly on religion and politics in the twentieth and twenty-first century and the historical Jesus in the first century.”

I have no idea of what kind of toast is milque but this indicates something:

The story of why this happened is well known. Attacks on trade unions by Conservative and New Labour governments, and New Labour’s obsession with middle-class swing voters, alienated working classes from socialist movements…

..

Enter a socialist culture from below.

..

161 are part of a countrywide re-emergence of “red gyms.” One of the most prominent is women-led Solstar Sports Association, based at the Refugee and Workers Cultural Association, a Turkish and Kurdish socialist community centre in Tottenham, North London. Solstar run boxing, martial arts and self-defence classes for adults and kids. It is based on socialist principles and is always run by three experienced female trainers, presently Ella Gilbert, Paula Lamont and Anna Zucchelli: they argue one of the simplest ways to fight sexism is to have women in charge, especially in what are traditionally male-gendered roles.

Like all their politics, this is a subtle, rather than headbanging approach — and the gym is free of the trite and self-congratulatory sloganeering of liberal feminism: the gym is women-led but decidedly open to all. (Including liberal feminists?)

….

Last month I went to a new gym run by the Cambridge Socialist Club (CSC). The design and socialist aesthetics of the club banner (pictured) might even rival the rightly praised posters produced by Manchester Momentum. Not only is CSC grounded in socialist values, it promotes its links to the trade unions—and if you are a GMB member then you’ll get to train for free.

CSC is based at East Barnwell Community Centre and located well away from the world of Cambridge academics and assorted intellectual posers. Like Solstar, the participants come from a range of abilities and backgrounds—including people from Romanian, Lebanese, Portuguese, and Turkish families.

But Crossley then says,

GMB rep Gordy Cullum was the inspiration behind starting this new red gym in 2018. After seeing a return of far-right violence on the streets in London last year, he decided to take his gloves back off the hook and start a club for the local community. I sparred with Gordy as he trained for his upcoming fight, when CSC met up with 0161 and Solstar for an interclub boxing card in Manchester.

….

I  spoke with Gordy about the role of the St George’s Cross on the club banner—something 0161 have also used unashamedly. Isn’t a national flag and its tainted history something that makes leftists and liberals queasy?

Gordy’s response was that the England flag should not be confused with the Union Jack—the flag of British imperialism. What’s more, his take on the flag is that it does not represent the Queen and all the associated pomp and ceremony. Nor is this the England of the far right, no matter how hard they try to hijack the flag as the far right try to hijack national flags everywhere else.

Instead, the English flag points to something else that has an obvious popular appeal, and this includes a shared, ongoing and ever-changing history. Underlying his point is something important: if socialism is alien to everyday interests of local communities, who do take the English flag seriously, then how can socialism expect to win? Indeed, is it even socialism if a movement remains dominated by academia and middle-class intellectuals uninterested or even opposed to the English flag?

English identity is a ready-made collective identity that can help develop a movement for the many not the few. To succeed, this needs to be a wider cultural socialism that doesn’t just tolerate an English heritage but makes it clear that this is English heritage.

Whatever the merits of the red gyms it does not seem appropriate to tack on these claims about “English identity” to the word red.

If England has no link to the history of imperialism, then, what is this?

“This royal throne of kings, this scepter’d isle, This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars … This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England”.

The “popular appeal” of the St George’s Flag includes its use by the far-right English Defence League, UKIP, and other National Populists.

Saying that any one of these groups “hijacks” the banner is to claim that its rightful owner is somebody else.

Really?

The flag of the St George Cross, is a royal symbol used because St George was considered a “warrior saint” .

A moment’s thought tells you that this, a counterpart to the failed ‘left populist’ attempt by La France insoumise to appropriate the Tricolore, is riddled with problems.

Some people are not too fond of Saints, national symbols, nor, for that matter, boxing.

Taking the “the English flag seriously” as part of a socialist project…….you’re having a laugh.

Unless of course this is a further sign of the pro-Brexit Morning Star’s further descent into the identitarian Blue Labour politics of  Familyfaith and flag.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 2, 2019 at 11:54 am

Giles Fraser: Families for Brexit, “the ability to stay put and care for each other.”

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Said to be Featuring on “This Time with Alan Partridge”.

“….one of the most common—and strangest—ideas found in the Labour-left anti-Market movement was that of Europe’s being somehow more capitalist in nature than Great Britain and the British State.”

Tom Nairn.  The Left Against Europe. 1972. New Left Review. 1/75.

In Nairn’s 1972 broadside against the nationalist anti-EU left, he cited the German sociologist, Ferdinand Tönnies.

Tönnies was concerned to define and contrast two ‘ideal types’ of human society. Society typified by Gemeinschaft or community is natural human society, founded upon the ties of family, kinship, shared labour and territory. It is based on ‘naturally rooted’ relationships, which issue in instinctively accepted common customs and traditions, and are voiced in a natural language or ‘mother-tongue’. Natural community is in this sense the village, the society of a stable neighbourhood—at most, that of a small town. It is rural rather than urban. It is (like the family) not necessarily democratic, and relies on common experience and shared values to balance its inequalities. It rests upon ‘natural will’ (Wesenwille) expressive of real human nature, and laws ‘in which human beings are related to each other as natural members of a whole’. Gemeinschaft stands (so to speak) for the concrete and personal, the ‘fully human’, as against the abstract and impersonal; for habit and instinct, as against artifice and calculation; for the close, the familiar, the inherited, as against the remote, the intrusive novelty, the alien way of life; for the tribe, as against the metropolis.

This is contrasted with “Gesellschaft” in which (as the common definition goes) “relationships arose in an urban and capitalist setting, characterised by individualism and impersonal monetary connections between people. Social ties were often instrumental and superficial, with self-interest and exploitation increasingly the norm.”

Nairn, who was to pay his own penance on the road to a nationalist Canossa, continued.

The politically crucial point is the identification of romantic Gemeinschaft with the nation. This, surely, is the shared terrain of the left and right wing oppositions to Europe.

Echoes of this distinction can be found in the present Brexit literature, Roger Scruton’s contrast between the impersonal rationalist European law, and the organic British common law, and  Maurice Glasman’s Blue Labour (which re-teweeted the above and published Fraser, Giles Fraser on People’s Vote: what will they say to Walsall’s people?)

Blue Labour ‘s ideas include the following:

The family is the fundamental social institution. It nurtures us from the start of our lives. It is where we learn about love, relationships, and the give and take needed to live good lives. Inspired by the effort of feminism to broaden our idea of worthwhile work, Blue Labour recognises the struggle families face to combine work and car

We want Britain to be a nation of energetic cities, towns and villages, each of which is free to develop its distinct identity. When people feel rooted they can achieve their potential; if power is dispersed, we have the freedom to take greater responsibility for our communities.

The eminent Germanist and thinker Giles Fraser is, in his spare time, a  Canon and Vicar of St Mary’s Newington. 

Fraser’s  political career spans backing for Occupy! at Saint Pauls, floating the idea of a new party, or not (Liberalism has broken us – we need a new party to call Home) and a friendly visit to Syria:

We need to talk about Giles, as a well established rumour has it that he will appear on next week’s Alain Patridge Show.

The priest in residence at Unherd, begins his latest missive.

Why won’t Remainers talk about family?

Last week the Evening Standard – now, of course, a propaganda rag for George Osborne’s Remain-inspired end-of-the-world fearmongering – led with the following front-page headline: “Who’ll look after our elderly post Brexit, ask care chiefs”.

I’m still spitting blood at the arrogance and callousness of that question. It summed up all that I have against the Osborne neoliberal (yes, that’s what it is) world-view. And why I am longing for a full-on Brexit – No Deal, please – to come along and smash the living daylights out of the assumptions behind that question.

Skipping the immediately following ill-wrought paragraph, which include a swipe at Luciana Berger, we come to this.

Fraser opines,

This is the philosophy that preaches freedom of movement, the Remainers’ golden cow. And it is this same philosophy that encourages bright working-class children to leave their communities to become rootless Rōnin, loyal to nothing but the capitalist dream of individual acquisition and self-advancement.

From where I was sitting it is these people – and not George Osborne swanning off to his new £3 million chalet in Verbier – that have got it right. For the attraction of socially conservative and traditional values are that they constitute a highly successful form of mutual care. Indeed, these are the values that have formed the basis for the most effective form of social security the world has even known: family and community life.

The idea that this form of life constitutes “lost earnings” shows how far the Remainer free-market, free-movement philosophy is a threat to the web of support on which the poorer and the most vulnerable especially, have to rely. Remain is all about ever new opportunities for the rich. Brexit seeks a reclamation of something we have lost. The ability to stay put and care for each other.

There is a short response by Steve Peers on the issue of the family:

Family values and Brexit: a reply to Giles Fraser

Fraser’s argument – such as it is – is that children should look after their parents as they get older. To that end, interspersed with three random anecdotes, he criticises “that much over praised value of social mobility”.  The problem is people leaving their communities, in particular in the form of free movement within the EU. But furthermore “it is this same philosophy that encourages bright working-class children to leave their communities to become rootless Rōnin”. I was the first Peers in a thousand generations to be able to go to university. And it seems Fraser would like me to be the last.

In his view, “No amount of economic growth is worth sacrificing all this for”, because “robbed of their most go-ahead young people, working class communities become ghost towns of hopelessness. And this nirvana of social immobility takes a very familiar form: “It is the daughter of the elderly gentleman that should be wiping his bottom”. The rich man in his castle; the poor woman at her picket fence.

The blindingly obvious omission here is that EU membership enhances family reunion for those who exercise the right to free movement. There’s a right of admission for spouses, children under 21 or dependent, and dependent parents or parents-in-law. This literally matches the extended family in one of Fraser’s anecdotes (and see the actually relevant anecdote of how free movement can facilitate care for elderly parents here). The EU withdrawal agreement would preserve this position in a limited form, but the position would be more difficult for families in the no deal outcome that Fraser says he longs for. As for future relationships, while some people will still move between the UK and EU, family reunion rights will be more restrictive, not less. With friends like Fraser, family values don’t need any enemies.

More vehemently,

A shit argument for Brexit 

The broader point Giles was trying to make, the one I am struggling to get to through the crap, is that freedom of movement breaks down families because it makes it easier for people to move away. There was of course not the slightest recognition in his piece that ending freedom of movement breaks up families. Neither was there any awareness that the Brexit fetishisation of tackling immigration has led to thousands of children being separated from a parent, many thousands of spouses separated from their significant other, countless grandparents separated from their grandchildren.

But no, in Brexitland we can all be stuck in the towns and villages of our birth, trapped by a lack of opportunities and the newly valueless nature of a British passport. And then we’ll be able to wipe our parents’ backsides when they become frail and incontinent because the arse has been ripped out of social care services by the very same right wing politicians who are so keen to foist the hardest possible Brexit upon us.

Brexit supporters once promised us the sunlit uplands. They promised shedloads of cash for the NHS. Now they’re reduced to making the argument that suffering is good for us, that we should be nostalgic for antiquated gender roles, and telling us to restrict our horizons and not to dare to dream of spreading our wings and flying.  Now they’re reduced to sophistry and telling us that Brexit is good for you because you too can get to wipe the arse of an infirm relative. Giles’ article is quite literally and in every sense of the word, the shittiest of arguments for the shitshow of Brexit.

Apart from being fucking well said, this should put an end to all the gobshite about a Hard Brexit Britain being some cosy Gemeinschaft.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 23, 2019 at 12:48 pm

Skwawkbox Goes Patriotic Labour: Brexit was “genuine democratic revolt” for “self-government, identity, community, sovereignty, patriotism.

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Skwawkbox: We’ll Beat that EU Elite with a Patriotic Call to Arms!

Patriotic Labour supporter Steve Walker publishes Blue Labour:

‘Guest Post’ by Andy Searson: GUEST ARTICLE: A WORKING-CLASS REVOLT.

Writing from the hard chalk face Teacher Searson blubbs,

Brexit was a genuine democratic revolt. Millions of ordinary citizens came out to use democracy and suffrage to have a say on issues that affect their daily lives. They voted for self-government, identity, community, sovereignty, patriotism. It was the elite versus the people, The average citizen versus an establishment that wasn’t listening any more! A detached set of establishment elites. The expenses scandal exacerbated the feeling of political alienation – and if the elitist, powerful few renege now, trust in Parliament will be destroyed for generations.

Do we need, the eminent pedagogue continues, the projects of “charlatan posh boys”, from the Labour Remainers to Johnson, Gove and Mogg, to tell us what to do?

Nay lad!

We need a Brexit that works for those left-behind communities and working-class areas. We cannot sign up to more neoliberal structures, rules and treaties that make it impossible for Keynesian economics in terms of state intervention, re-nationalisation and sovereignty over our own nation’s economic needs.

A Beacon, in short, a light to the world,

We need to look towards ourselves as leaders and answer a patriotic call to arms to fight poverty and need, homelessness and hunger, rip-off energy companies and corporations. We need to fight for fairness and decent living standards for all not just the few.

All it needs is will-power and plenty of elbow-grease.

Just like our kith and kin in America we need the courage to stand firm:

As for Project Fear, let us also remember Roosevelt’s words as he faced with the threats and merchants of gloom from the establishment and stood up for the people over the establishment status quo:

This great nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.’

We have nothing to fear but fear.

It is hard not to feel that this nationalist rant, promoting “our nation” against the “elites” would find a friendly audience here:

But…..

Written by Andrew Coates

December 20, 2018 at 1:43 pm

English Labour Network, a “Patriotic” initiative.

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Identity Politics?

Jean-Luc Mélelenchon perhaps set a precedent.

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“They nourish national vanity and the love of supremacy by force. “We alone,” they say, each behind his shelter, “we alone are the guardians of courage and loyalty, of ability and good taste!” Out of the greatness and richness of a country they make something like a consuming disease. Out of patriotism–which can be respected as long as it remains in the domain of sentiment and art on exactly the same footing as the sense of family and local pride, all equally sacred–out of patriotism they make a Utopian and impracticable idea, unbalancing the world, a sort of cancer which drains all the living force, spreads everywhere and crushes life, a contagious cancer which culminates either in the crash of war or in the exhaustion and suffocation of armed peace.”

Under Fire: The Story of a Squad, by Henri Barbusse, 1917

Denham and key Corbyn ally join forces for “patriotic” English Labour initiative

A former Labour cabinet minister has joined forces with one of the leading lights of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaign for the launch of a “patriotic” initiative to give English voters a voice.

John Denham, the former communities and local government secretary under Gordon Brown, has set up the English Labour Network in an attempt to help the party win again in the largest of the home nations.

The network aims to build on Labour’s progress in the June general election and allow it to take the seats in the “large towns and small cities”which are necessary to be able to form a government.

It will provide “practical support” rather than be “yet another internal party group lobbying for individual policies or individual candidates”, Denham writes on LabourList today.

George Orwell famously distinguished between patriotism and nationalism. “Nationalism is not to be confused with patriotism. Both words are normally used in so vague a way that any definition is liable to be challenged, but one must draw a distinction between them, since two different and even opposing ideas are involved. By ‘patriotism’ I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people. Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally. Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality.” (Notes on Nationalism. 1945)

It is unclear if things are so clear cut, we find plenty of people talking sentimentally about ‘their’ nation, places and culture, in good times,  but using these to defend the superiority of their way of life against all others. Or simply giving priority to ‘their’ ain folk. It surely is not a coincidence that the ‘identitarian’ movement in the European extreme right tries to connect the two.

Orwell is nevertheless useful when we realise that it’s issues of power, that is the state, which mark nationalism. Sovereigntist ideas, on the populist right, and sections of the left which try to create their own radical populism, which see the capture of national sovereignty by the ‘people’ as the premise of political success, have a tight link to nationalism. If the right bases itself on the People against a variety of Enemies, from Globalised elites, to migrants, the left version targets Oligarchs and claims to ‘federate’ the people. There is some convergence in  that both could be said to reflect something of  Zygmunt Bauman’s idea that today, in ‘late modernity’  “the settled majority is ruled by the nomadic and exterritorial elite” (Liquid Modernity 2010).

David Goodhart’s The Road to Somewhere (2017), is perhaps  the most recent attempt to put forward this themes in British terms.  His  writing, on  the opposition between ‘somewheres’ and ‘anywheres’, talks of the need for the left to take up the concerns of ‘decent populists’. He argued for the importance of the ‘restless’ anywheres who dominate Labour policy making to take up the concerns of those, who vlaue   “group identity, tradition and national social contracts (faith, flag and family)”. 

Drawing on this feeling for “a particular place and way of life”, in the line of  Blue Labour, along with “work family and community”, the English Labour Network, now proposes the following.

Labour Vision interviews John Denham on launch of English Labour Network. He tells us: “No Labour manifesto in my time has gone as far as this year’s in recognising the political identity of England”

Sam Stopp ” a Labour councillor in the London Borough of Brent and is the Chair of The Labour Campaign to End Homelessness. He has written regularly for LabourList, LeftFootForward, Progress Online and Open Labour. “

  •   Labour has to aim to win England for two reasons. One is that, despite the strength in Wales and the fact we’ve recovered in Scotland, we can’t rely on sufficient MPs from those two nations to give us a UK majority. But the second reason is that it will be harder for Labour to implement policies that will be controversial in England if it doesn’t have an English majority, or is a long way behind the Tories. So we have the aim for an English majority.”
  • The second (point) is a constitutional and democratic point. The Welsh and Scottish Labour parties have a great deal of autonomy from UK Labour, but there is no place in which England is actually discussed. And I think the history says that one of the reasons that England has remained so centralised … and all of the failures to devolve have failed … is that the whole thing is being governed by the interests of Wales and Scotland, rather than the ideas of England. So I think we need to have a clear place for England within the Union and a clear decision on how we’re going to devolve inside England. And that is now long overdue.
  • The third thing”, Denham tells me, “is the cultural one, which is that Labour lags in support among English-identifying voters. Now, that’s going to be particularly critical. If you look at the seats that we need to win at the next election to form a government and the ones that we have to defend if the Tories get their act together, they are largely seats that are actually pretty evenly balanced between leavers and remainers and more of the older, working-class leaver voters than the places that we won at the election. And so to lag behind amongst those voters is very dangerous. And the reason that identity is important is that people want to be respected for who they are.”This is where Denham gets passionate and it seems as though this third issue is the one that stresses him the most. “If somebody feels English”, he goes on, “nobody ever acknowledges that they feel English. It’s a clear way of saying that we don’t understand you, or we don’t know where you’re coming from. The irony is that we live in a society where all sorts of multiple identities are possible, but it’s almost as though Englishness is the one that’s not legitimate. If Labour behaves as though there’s something inherently wrong with being English, we’re never going to reach those voters. When we talk about the importance England and Englishness, nobody is suddenly going to vote for us because of this, but it opens the door to discussions about public services or industrial strategy or austerity or spending and all the other things.”

offers some important critical reflections.

Labour has slipped rightwards on immigration. That needs to change

 

Both Denham and Liam Byrne stress that they want good, not bad, patriotism. But Byrne also asks us not to dwell on “dusty history”, as if the toxic nature of modern jingoism isn’t derived precisely from the predominant chauvinistic version of our nation’s past. It will take more than a half-baked rebranding exercise to deal with these deep-seated issues. After Brexit, the idea that our national identity should be simply celebrated rather than critically re-examined is not only irrational but deeply irresponsible. Currently, the ELN looks more like a triangulating appeal to rightwing voters than a serious project for reimagining and building a more inclusive England, with all the difficult conversations that will necessarily involve.

This is connected to a wider strand of thinking in and around the Labour party that sees xenophobia and racism as confined to a minority of cranks on society’s fringe, with the current high levels of public antipathy towards immigrants being due for the most part to nothing more than the “legitimate concerns” of primarily working-class voters. It’s a view resting on spectacular naivety about the true nature and breadth of prejudice in Britain (which is in no way class-specific), as well as the misconception that it is experience of, rather than prejudice about, immigration that drives this antipathy.

This narrative becomes a shade more sinister when the dubious category of the “white working class” (apparently neglected more due to its whiteness than its class) is elevated to the status of Labour’s “traditional” support – the “core vote” residing in the “heartlands”. One wonders where in the pecking order this leaves the non-white working-class residents of Grenfell Tower, for example. It would be unfortunate if the answer to that question were to be found in the expressions of sympathy one hears from some Labour figures for people “anxious about … the rate of change of communities”. Labour neither has nor deserves a future as the party of those who don’t want black and brown people moving into their street.

We suspect that the problems lie deeper than this.

It is not just the cultural issues Wearing rightly highlights and which make a mockery of efforts to revive a ‘national identity’  from the left.

Brexit has been followed by the attempt of some inside the Labour Party to assert their own brand of sovereigntism.

Calling on support from ‘anger’ of the anti-EU camp, the sturdy “northern working class” to the people of England who have not spoken yet, these forces – they have a name, and that is those within the Lexit campaign, and supporters (who include Labour leadership advisers) wish to mobilise the ‘people’ against any commitment to oppose the Tories’ Hard Brexit. They believe that they can ‘federate the people’ around a new version of the old Alternative Economic Strategy, Keynesian economics administrated by  a ‘captured’ state.

The real difficulty is that the world is too ‘liquid’ economically and culturally, for any radical left  government both to moblise popular enthusiasm and to build the links we need with ‘other’ nationalities, other peoples with their own loves of place and “particular ways of life”, without at the very elast making direct agreements across Europe, inside and outside of the institutional structures of the EU.

Blue Labour Comes Back and Wants (more) Welfare ‘Reform’.

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Not for Blue Labour.

Radio Four last night examined Blue Labour’s plans for welfare reform (You can hear it here. Transcript here).

Mukul Devichand opened with this,

These voices are the gurus of a new circle at the top of the Labour Party. They’re highly influential: in charge of writing the policies for Labour’s next manifesto and crafting Ed Miliband’s key speeches. And if you thought Labour would simply tinker around the edges of welfare, and reverse some of the cuts, you’d be rrong if this group had its way. Labour long ago jettisoned the idea that the central government could run industry. In this week’s Analysis, we’ll explore how this group also wants the central state to walk away from a top down model of welfare.

Following this Maurice Glasman opined, “The state is necessary, but as a external administrative neutral force it undermines relationships. It can undermine humanity.”

If that is an indication of the quality of New Labour thought we socialists on the dole can rest easy in our beds, till late afternoon if we wish.

The state is a relationship that can undermine humanity, might have been a more coherent idea.

But we let this pass.

Sir Robin Wales, Mayor of Newham then took another step backwards.

Here are his thoughts on the Welfare state,

I think the problem has been we forgot what it was originally set up for. It cuts people’s legs off. It rewards people the more need they can demonstrate. It does things for people and that’s a mistake. So for example on housing, if you come in and say, “I’m homeless, I’m in need,” we’ve rewarded in the past, we’ve rewarded people. The more need they have, the more likely it is we’ll support them. So you’ve got to show, you’ve got to prove that you can’t do things. That’s the wrong way to do it.

Perhaps Sir Robin has found a way of abolishing need.

Apparently so,

He began by stating,

The Soviets learned in 89 that it didn’t work. We still think we should run things centrally and we’re one of the most centralised states and a democratic state in Europe. It’s nuts. We need to do more in terms of pushing power and responsibility and opportunities down locally, and I’d argue that if we’re going to make the welfare state work there needs to be a much stronger local element where the community and the values of the community can be put to work. You cannot put something that meets an individual’s needs, you cannot structure that from the centre.

As Devichand wryly observed, the Soviets are not around to answer back.

He by contrast has set up Workplace, a local alternative to Job Centres,

The government’s Work Programme is a disaster, and it’s a disaster because it’s designed by civil servants to be run nationally and you don’t start with the employers. We go to the employers and say could we present people to you who are job ready, who are the right people you want? And the result is that not only do we get five thousand people into work; half of them are long-term unemployed, a large number are young people.

The Work Programme is in fact thoroughly decentralised.

It is delivered, in scores of different ways, by private providers, mostly companies, but including ‘social enterprises’ and charities.

This is the result of extensive lobbying by these providers (who’ve become the ‘unemployment business’) as first encouraged by David Blunkett, closely linked to one company (he served on its Board after setting the system up), A4E).

The system is unemployment business driven and nobody knows exactly what they’re going to get.

It is also news that Workplace is unique in going to employers, since that is exactly what all Work Programme providers do.

The root problem is deeper and simpler: there is not the work for the unemployed to be fitted into.

To test the success of Newham’s scheme we got people saying that they agreed that graft should be rewarded and skivers left out. This was not ,

a gathering of the local chambers of commerce; it was a crowd of the recently unemployed in East London, albeit hand-picked for us by Newham Council….

We are reaching the realm where the inhabitants of  Cloud Cuckoo Land go to get away from their mundane lives.

It is a sad indication of the ‘debate’ set up by Blue Labour that it was up to the Fabian Society General Secretary,   Andrew Harrop,  to talk some sense.

That the reasons why welfare is ‘centralised’ (that, is we all have the same rights and benefits are aligned to need) is that Beveridge,

wanted a uniform, consistent system, so that it was based on your citizenship rather than more arbitrary factors, and there’s still a lot of truth in that insight.

Polly Toynbee pointed out that if we decentralise welfare  in the way Blue Labour want

 In the end you might get some councils who say actually we care more about our municipal flowerbeds.

This is not a joke.

A percentage of  Council Tax benefit has been made payable by those on benefits and  decentralised under the Liberal-Tory Coalition.

Those in Liberal or Tory areas can pay twice or event three times what you pay in Labour ones. Poor areas have high charges, rich right-wing ones, despite their reserves, still shift the burden as far as they can onto those on the Dole.

Toynbee later observes,

I think Labour MPs know so well, they are so rooted in their own communities, many of which are very poor, what can’t be done. They know very well that you can’t take money away from the very weakest and very poorest and they won’t let it happen. So I’m pretty confident that this will end up being a creative policy with a lot of good ideas, that it will spark all sorts of things off, but don’t let’s imagine it’s a new 1945 settlement.

A creative policy?

The Analysis programme  did not go far into this.

But the rest of Blue Labour’s ideas, about contributive benefits, are equally askew. They would create a gap between sections of the unemployed. They would (and are) be hard and expensive to administer.

Countries that operate these schemes , like France, have had to introduce minimum levels of benefit to all, regardless of contribution, and still suffer from continual deficit crises in their systems.

The Living Wage is equally no panacea for low pay. With rents still rising, and the inflation rate on goods that the less well-off buy going up, it does not mean the good life for all.

Jeremy Cliffe, of the free-market Economist concludes,

The Attlee government, Labour’s perhaps most venerated and mythologised government, set in place a Welfare State which involved the benevolent state pulling levers, transferring wealth from those that had it to those that didn’t, and this involves moving on quite dramatically from that. And I think there are many in the labour movement, perhaps understandably those who have worked in the Welfare State, who see their constituents dependent on support in various forms from the Welfare State, those who are close to the trade Union Movement which is obviously rooted in the last fifty or so years of British political economy who are not comfortable with this.

Dropping the reference to the “benevolent state” (Cliffe just couldn’t resist saying that, could he? Still who can deny that  a 1st Class Degree from Oxford teaches you things) and what do we have at fault?

That there is a “transfer of wealth“.

Is this something Blue Labour is against?

Ed Miliband Goes Blue Labour.

with one comment

Priority for Tenants Who Are Good.

Blue Labour supporter Jonathan Rutherford  argued in May  that (here),

A covenant around welfare begins with a contributory insurance principle that protects everyone against the risks of unemployment, illness, disability

In a speech today to “answer his critics” Ed Miliband is set to declare,

In his speech at a neighbourhood centre in London, Ed Miliband will focus on responsibility and promise to champion one of the core principles pioneered by the architect of the welfare state William Beveridge: the welfare state should reward those who contribute.

Aides stressed this is reviving the principles behind Beveridge’s thinking and does not denote a new national insurance system. “We will be a party that rewards contribution, not worklessness,” he will say. 

Guardian Here.

Ed Miliband will announce today that people in work will be given priority on social housing waiting lists.

In his speech at a neighbourhood centre in London, Ed Miliband will say that Labour ‘will be a party that rewards contribution, not worklessness’, and that the Welfare State should reward those who contribute.

‘One area where people’s sense of fairness is under threat is social housing,’ he will say. ‘In Manchester, as well as helping the most vulnerable families and disabled people with housing, they prioritise households who are giving something back to their communities – making a contribution – for example, people who work for or run local voluntary organisations. They also look to reward people who have been good tenants in the past and who have paid their rent on time and never been involved in any antisocial behaviour.’

Inside Housing  Here.

To crown this turn to the ‘hard-working’ people who dislike lazy-bones, there is this half-baked policy, to be announced by Liam Byrne.

Plans to make unemployed benefit claimants work harder to find a job will be unveiled by Labour‘s policy review chief, Liam Byrne, on Monday.

The shadow work and pensions secretary will also set out new ideas, drawn from the Australian prime minister Julia Gillard, requiring long-term workless households with pre-school children to attend compulsory employment workshops in return for childcare costs.

The public he will say “want a government that is a bit more muscular with markets and a bit more sensitive to society; more attuned to traditional feelings of community, identity, reciprocity.”

Here.

Or as Blue Labour founder Maurice Glasman calls them,

The “older associative Labour traditions, of ‘reciprocity, mutuality and solidarity’”.

Frank Field (via here) who speaks  for the working class and has a unique grasp of its  ‘moral economy’ says

“Ed Miliband today begins to redefine what Labour means by fairness and so begins the long haul of building a new coalition of voters straddling both working and middle class voters. It signals the end of Labour’s attack on the working class moral economy that has always believed benefits should be largely based on contributions and not decided simply on terms of need. It is difficult to overestimate how significant today’s speech is.”

Those simply in need take heed!

‘Traditional feelings’ will decide, for Blue Labour, what you should get.

Louise feels very strongly about this – here.

Written by Andrew Coates

June 13, 2011 at 10:54 am