Posts Tagged ‘Maurice Glasman’

Reframing immigration: Ed’s clause four moment?

15/08/2011, 01:31:58 PM

by Kevin Meagher

I had never heard of Maurice Glasman until a year ago. Now this “radical traditionalist” frontman for the blue Labour movement seems to be everywhere.

To his friends, he is the exponent of a viable new politics for Labour, drawing on earlier, non-statist traditions of social solidarity and reciprocity and rejecting New Labour’s fetish for market solutions and, most controversially, the commodification of labour through a decade’s worth of mass immigration.

To his opponents, however, he is a nostalgic blowhard peddling a backwards-looking Labourist version of the big society to a party desperate for any crumbs of intellectual coherence.

Friend or foe alike can agree, however, that Glasman does not mince his words, particularly about immigration. Accordingly, he reckons Labour “lied” to the public about the scale of immigration that the party presided over in government. He warns that Britain must not become an “outpost of the UN”, instead focusing on the welfare of its own workers first, revising the EU’s free transfer of people to that effect. (more…)

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The big monkey and the emperor’s new rainbow

05/07/2011, 07:38:38 AM

by Dan Hodges

Enough now. We’ve had our fun.

Blue Labour. Purple Labour. Green Labour. A veritable kaleidoscope of renewal.

Each, in their own superficial way, has been easy on the eye. The force of nature that is Maurice Glasman, the Labour party’s very own Norman Mailer. The defiant defence of the Blairite bunker, and the refusal of the last tiny band of hard core New Labourites to march quietly into the night. The Compass-ite left’s touching unwillingness to relinquish their dream of a progressive realignment, even as Nick Clegg smashes it to pieces in front of them.

But now the colours which dazzled have become garish. Where once they complemented, now they clash. There is no structure, however abstract, emerging. We are simply producing a mess.

Too harsh? Go and dig out Sunday’s Murnaghan. Relive the spectacle of two Labour shadow ministers, Caroline Flint and Diane Abbott, knocking lumps out of each other as they scrap over Maurice Glasman’s latest pronouncements on immigration policy. It was like watching an episode of the Jeremey Kyle show; “Maurice has been flirting with both Caroline and Diane, and they’re not happy. So we’ve brought them all together to fight it out. Live”. (more…)

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Sunday News Review

15/05/2011, 06:17:28 AM

Chris Hunhe’s dishonourable conduct

Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne’s Cabinet future was in doubt last night after sensational details were revealed of a phone call he made to the person he allegedly persuaded to take his speeding points so he could avoid a driving ban. The phone call, which is corroborated by taped evidence, flies in the face of the Liberal Democrat MP’s repeated public denials of the allegations. It suggests that in private the Energy Secretary is involved in a desperate attempt to cover up the truth to save his political career. In the phone call, which took place in recent weeks before The Mail on Sunday revealed the allegation last week, Mr Huhne warned the person who took the penalty points not to let ‘the genie’ out of the bottle by revealing what really happened. – Mail on Sunday

Mr Huhne’s political career is in the balance following the allegations made last week by Vicky Pryce, whom he left after 26 years marriage for a bisexual Liberal Democrat activist. Senior Conservatives have already questioned whether he wants to remain in his post after he launched a “theatrical” outburst against David Cameron and George Osborne in a Cabinet meeting over their refusal to denounce tactics used by the No campaign in the AV referendum. The claims made by Mrs Pryce, a respected economist, who accused the Energy and Climate Change Secretary of persuading “someone close to him” to accept penalty points for a speeding offence on his behalf are potentially far more damaging. The identity of the person is unclear. A source close to Mr Huhne said he had no desire to pick a fight with his ex-wife in public but would seek to persuade her to desist making further allegations for the sake of their children. – Sunday Telegraph

‘No mercy’ for the NHS

A senior adviser to David Cameron says the NHS could be improved by charging patients and will be transformed into a “state insurance provider, not a state deliverer” of care. Mark Britnell, who was appointed to a “kitchen cabinet” advising the prime minister on reforming the NHS, told a conference of executives from the private sector that future reforms would show “no mercy” to the NHS and offer a “big opportunity” to the for-profit sector. The revelations come on the eve of an important speech by the prime minister on the future of the NHS, during which he is expected to try to allay widespread fears that the reforms proposed in health secretaryAndrew Lansley‘s health and social care bill would lead to privatisation. It has been suggested that Cameron may even announce an extension to the “pause” in the progress of the bill until after the party conference season, amid growing tensions on the issue within the coalition government. – the Observer

Mark Britnell, who has been advising the PM on reforms, revealed that the NHS could turn into a US-style insurance system. The former Department of Health bureaucrat said he believed the NHS would leave operations and other procedures to the private sector, with the taxpayer picking up the bill. Mr Britnell, head of health at accountants KPMG, visited Downing Street last week to advise on NHS policy. Speaking to bosses of private health firms, Mr Britnell said: “In future, the NHS will be a state insurance provider, not a deliverer.” He added that a boom time for private health companies was around the corner once the NHS had to compete for services and added: “The NHS will be shown no mercy and the time to take advantage will be the next couple of years.” Labour claimed Mr Britnell’s comments exposed the government’s true intentions. – Sunday Mirror
Glasman undermines Blue Labour project with personal attacks

Maurice Glasman and Ed Miliband do not think as one. But Miliband’s Favourite Thinker™ is an undoubted influence on the Labour party — and, as such, it’s worth tuning into his ideas from time to time, if you have a tolerance for such things. Glasman’s“Blue Labour” philosophy has already enjoyed heavy exposure this year, and he has an interview in today’s Times to explain it even further. If you’re not minded to buy, borrow or steal a copy of the Thunderer, then here are a few observations. First, it’s striking just how much Glasman dwells on the personal. “If you want to know everything that was wrong about Scottish Labour and Labour,” he urges, “then just look at the career of Gordon Brown. He was completely cynical in his calculations, then he dressed it up as the moral high ground.” And Glasman’s brand of armchair psychology even stretches the current Labour leader, whom he suggests “still feels completely guilty” about defeating his brother to the throne. He adds that MiliE has “a real mixture of gentleness, of spirit and stubborness, that is perfect for this moment.” – the Spectator

Ed Miliband’s political guru sparked controversy yesterday by claiming the Labour leader is still racked with guilt after defeating older brother David in the race to succeed Gordon Brown. And Labour peer Lord Glasman poured salt into David Miliband’s wounds, saying he deserved to lose because of his cold, ‘unrelational’ personality. The comments by Lord Glasman, who devised Ed Miliband’s ‘Blue Labour’ initiative aimed at persuading working-class voters to return to the party, provoked an angry Labour backlash. A friend of former Foreign Secretary David Miliband said: ‘Lord Glasman must be the only person who thinks Ed has more charisma than David. He’s warm and witty – and unlike Ed does not sound like a robot with flu.’ The peer, an eccentric Jewish academic who smokes roll-ups, does not eat vegetables and lives above a second-hand clothes shop in East London, told the Times newspaper that ‘gentle’ Ed could win the next Election but must stop fretting about beating his brother. ‘What he has not come to terms with is that he had to do that. He still feels completely guilty. He hasn’t yet had his Man of Destiny moment,’ Lord Glasman said. – Mail on Sunday

Clegg and Osborne unlikely bedfellows on Lords reforms

George Osborne is to become an unlikely ally of Nick Clegg in the battle to reform the House of Lords, as the coalition prepares to steamroller plans through before the next election. Despite Tory/Lib Dem relations souring in recent weeks, the Chancellor is prepared to support the Deputy Prime Minister’s reform plans. Mr Clegg will use the Parliament Act to deliver one of the coalition’s most far-reaching policies. The developments come after pleas by Lib Dem members of the Cabinet to David Cameron to force Mr Osborne to be more consensual – although some close to Mr Clegg may view it as mere tactics. This week Mr Clegg will present a draft Bill to Parliament on replacing the House of Lords. However, in the wake of his defeat in the referendum on the voting system, the Lib Dem leader is anxious to avoid seeming obsessed with constitutional matters at a time of deep spending cuts. Instead, two Tory ministers – Mark Harper and Lord Strathclyde – will take to the airwaves to sell the policy. – the Independent

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David Miliband looks to Labour’s future in DC

07/05/2011, 10:25:03 AM

by Jonathan Todd

On the day before his brother’s attendance at the royal wedding, David Miliband was in Washington DC. This followed his tentative steps back towards the philosophical front line with a speech at the LSE on the decline of the left in Europe. Then, at the centre for American progress, he addressed the politics of identity and fear. On both occasions, therefore, he tackled in an international context issues of profound domestic significance.

This approach, obviously, has the advantage of minimising any sense in which David is stepping on Ed’s toes. But such internationalism is also instructive. The challenges facing Labour are similar to those facing social democratic parties elsewhere. The rise of the English Defence League is not the only instance of the search for identity turning ugly. In different ways everything from the birther movement to the success of the True Finns and Thilo Sarrazins can be seen through the same prism.

Miliband identifies “a backlash against globalisation. In the context of a big shift in power from west to east, there are no votes in being an internationalist and there are votes in being nativist”. The west-east shift is involved with a deepening of the global economy, but political impulses form a counter-reaction to this. They may be less pronounced where economies are strong. Canada’s economy is relatively healthy and Bloc Québécois, who might be considered a nativist element in Canadian politics, suffered in recent elections.

(more…)

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Blue Labour needs a dose of realism and a spin doctor

13/04/2011, 07:00:10 AM

by Dan Hodges

Blue Labour has been getting a bad press. First, there was Billy Bragg in the Guardian:

“Labour is already too blue. Blue Labour won’t win back voters. The party must remember it stands for ordinary workers and oppose globalised capitalism”.

Then David Aaronovitch in the Times:

“Dreaming of Merrie England wont help Ed. Blue Labour feels like Blackadder without the jokes”.

Finally, we had Progress, the in-flight magazine of Blairforce One. “Blue Labour isn’t the way forward for New Labour or for our party”, wrote Stephen Bush. A “political promise that offers a defence of yesterday, not a better tomorrow”.

Maurice Glasman, blue Labour’s architect, might be forgiven for thinking that if he’s got both Billy Bragg and David Aaronovitch gunning for him, he must doing something right. I think that would be a mistake. Blue Labour contains a narrative with much to offer. But it’s also in need of a good spin doctor. (more…)

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Nick Cohen is wrong about religion

12/04/2011, 12:00:00 PM

by Sunder Katwala

I think the Observer’s Nick Cohen was trying to polemicise against fundamentalism in his column on Sunday.

That made this rather sweeping claim, as part of his challenge to Sir Martin Rees’ acceptance of the Templeton prize, all the more surprising.

“Like millions who should know better, Rees is not religious himself but ‘respects’ religion and wants it to live in ‘peaceful co-existence’ with it”.

An eye-catching contribution from a very different position came from Maurice Glasman, who recently declared at the Christian socialist movement’s Tawney dialogues that the most important figure in the history of the British Labour party was Jesus of Nazareth – showing how blue Labour plans to put faith firmly back on the political table.

As a matter of historical fact, I suspect that Glasman is probably right, though I am not sure by what method we could accurately test or weigh Glasman’s claim for Jesus against possible counter-bids on behalf of Keir Hardie, Robert Owen, Robert Tressell, Beatrice Webb, RH Tawney, GDH Cole, George Orwell, Clement Attlee, Nye Bevan, Tony Crosland, Barbara Castle, Neil Kinnock, Nelson Mandela or even Tony Blair as sources of inspiration for various generations of Labour political activism.

In most European social democratic parties, the answer would be Karl Marx. But he is not a front-runner in a British Labour party which famously owed more to Methodism than Marxism.

Nick Cohen is perfectly entitled to advocate universal disrespect for religion, even if a couple of billion people may beg to differ. The publication of AC Grayling’s recent secular bible, the Good Book, had been taken as a rather encouraging sign that the “new atheism” was going to shift the emphasis to its positive humanist case. Nick Cohen remains very much in attack mode. In also proselytising against “peaceful co-existence”, he would seem to posit an active moral duty for non-believers to  constantly agitate in a secular culture war against faith, perhaps on a “this planet’s too small for both of us” principle.

So is a culture war about the role of religion unavoidable?

Nick Cohen’s argument depends on his belief that any notion of “respect” for religion or seeking “peaceful co-existence” with those of faith must entail granting it a “private” status which puts religion beyond public criticism or scrutiny, so rejecting fundamental human rights. Nowhere that I have seen does Rees make or endorse such an argument, though Cohen attributes it to him.

“The notion that Lord Rees so casually endorses – that you must respect the privacy of ideologies that mandate violence, the subjugation of women and the persecution of homosexuals, and treat them as if they were beyond criticism and scientific refutation – is the most cowardly evasion of intellectual duty of our day”.

Yet the notion that Nick Cohen so casually pursues – that any “respect” for religion inevitably means rejecting human rights by putting religion beyond any scrutiny – involves such a leap of logic that an examination of his column reveals that he has failed to explain or argue this at all.

Only if any “respect” for religion entails what Cohen claims would what he appears to argue follow: that the only way to prevent theocratic limitations on human rights is to engage whole-heartedly in a project determined to banish all traces of religion not just from the state and the public sphere, but from human society entirely.

But many of us would define “respect” for religion or “peaceful coexistence” entirely differently from Cohen, and indeed think that fundamental human rights require this.

Fundamental freedoms of conscience, speech and association surely include both the freedom to practice a religious faith and the freedom not to do so. Does that not require at least an important measure of both “respect” and “peaceful co-existence” between non-believers and believers everywhere? Most principled advocates of human rights and fundamental freedoms should be concerned with the freedoms of atheists in Saudi Arabia, Buddhists in Burma, Christians in Pakistan, Jews in eastern Europe, and Muslims in Switzerland. I would be very surprised if Nick Cohen wishes to reject that core principle, even as he maintains foundational disagreements with believers whose freedoms he must surely wish to uphold.

Cohen’s argument that any respect for religious faith (even by non-believers) must involve thrashing human rights must surely imply that no individual of sincere religious faith can ever avoid endorsing “the subjugation of women and the persecution of gays”. This is nonsense.

It is necessary to retreat from or reject this position to avoid arguing (for example) that no gay person could be a sincere or devout Christian, which would accidentally ally Cohen with the very fundamentalism he wishes to oppose. If it is possible for gay people to have religious faith and support gay rights, heterosexual believers must be able to share those views.

There would be another unfortunate consequence of Cohen’s argument for those of us who believe in universal human rights, and creating cultures and institutions which will uphold them everywhere. If he were right, no society in which a majority of people hold religious faith can uphold universal human rights. We would not want to lose the opportunity to promote democratic values and human rights in the United States of America, Poland, Egypt, Turkey, India or Nigeria.

If either holding religious faith or respecting it is incompatible with democratic values, then Cohen suggests we could not do so until there is an atheist majority in each country. This is a false claim, though it would also raise the interesting historical conundrum of how his rightly beloved enlightenment ever managed to get off the ground in eighteenth century Europe in the first place.

No doubt, one can identify many religious institutions and leaders who fall short of what Cohen wants on gender equaity and gay rights. It would not be difficult to score points against the Catholic church here. But such a charge sheet is not enough for Cohen’s argument, which is that religious faith is axiomatically incompatible with human rights. His blanket claim was holed by faith groups campaigning, for example, for religious blessing of civil partnerships, and indeed doing so as a matter of religious freedom.

Avoiding a “secularism versus faith” culture war is important for the political left, though many within it naturally sympathise with humanist and secularist projects.

It is certainly possible to have dangerous “unholy alliances” between secular and religious politics, on both left and right. I am in sympathy with Nick Cohen’s critique of the far left’s susceptibility to Islamist fundamentalism, for example in George Galloway’s Respect party.

But I cannot see how bad examples rule out forging any alliances which bring together those of faith and secular perspectives to pursue common causes and shared values, where no such trade-off with fundamental rights or values takes place.

The millennium campaigns to drop third world debt and promote international development; London Citizens campaigns for a living wage, and Citizens UK campaigns to rehabilitate the idea of “sanctuary” to promote more humane treatment of refugees and asylum seekers, and arguments about the condition of our inner cities whether in the 1980s or about where the cuts will hit hardest now, are all causes with which Nick Cohen may have some sympathy. And they have been all promoted by those with faith and without it, not just co-existing but working together in a spirit of mutual respect. None of these campaigns prevented vigorous arguments about the fundamental truths of the universe, or risked selling out fundamental rights.

Labour’s secular humanist wing will have important and legitimate points to make about the scope and limits of the public claims which can be made for religious faith, to ensure that these remain compatible with fundamental human rights. But we should remember that there has always been a religious left as well as, and perhaps before, there was a religious right.

Nobody could plausibly deny the role of Christian socialism as one important influence on Labour’s vision of a “new Jerusalem”, crucially from motives of social justice shared equally and as strongly by atheists and agnostics in the Labour movement too.

We could do with rather less “culture war” and perhaps more of the accomodative spirit of Clement Attlee.

Nick Cohen would no doubt be disappointed that Attlee did not share his own certainty over the origin of the universe. Peter Hennessy recounts in his Never Again history of the 1945-51 Labour governments that Attlee’s exchange with his biographer Kenneth Harris on matters spiritual ended like this:

Harris: Would you say you are an agnostic?
Attlee: I don’t know.
Harris: Is there an after-life, do you think?
Attlee: Possibly.

Atllee described his approach to religious faith thus.

Believe in the ethics of Christianity. Can’t believe in the mumbo-jumbo

It is difficult today to think of any campaign for social justice or human rights that would benefit from the insistence that the largest political movements of the centre-left should actively seek to develop an allergic reaction to all expressions of religious faith.

If we are offered a culture war of mutual disrespect, just say no. Perhaps some of us may yet want to march behind Attlee’s agnostic banner alongside all of our allies who wish to champion our values of social justice and human rights.

Sunder Katwala is general secretary of the fabian society. He blogs his personal views – read more at www.nextleft.org.

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Into the Portakabin of confusion comes the risky Lord Glasman

21/01/2011, 11:15:27 AM

by Atul Hatwal

The Labour party currently resembles a building site.

Shadow ministerial teams are laying the foundations for policy, in the main, independently of each other. Various consultations are asking party members “what’s to be built on the foundations”, quite separately from the ministerial teams.  And at the front of the site, operating out of the political equivalent of a Portakabin, Ed Miliband and the shadow cabinet are trying to hold the government to account.

Into this melee have come two recent arrivals. They bring hope of deliverance from the mud and confusion.

Sat in the Portakabin is the first: Baldberts. Not a character from the Shire or a sixth-former at Hogwarts, but a bionic communications director made from the parts of former journalists Tom Baldwin and Bob Roberts –  Ed Miliband has the technology. (more…)

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Guru boogie: who will be godhead to Ed?

12/11/2010, 11:03:28 AM

by Dan Hodges

Earlier this week, I dined with an old comrade. As it does, our conversation drifted to gurus.

“Alastair Campbell. Great communications guru”.

“No. Swore too much. Gurus don’t swear. They hardly even speak. They emit”.

“Peter Mandelson. He was a proper guru”.

“Not a guru. A svengali. There’s a difference”.

“What is it?”.

“Not sure exactly. But there is”.

“OK, got a real one. Gramsci”.

“The guy who used to  work for Harriet?”.

“No. The Gramsci. Antonio Gramsci”.

“Oh that Gramsci. Yeah. The Ledg. Dead. Foreign. Funny little glasses. Ticks all the boxes”.

A guru. Wanna make it in politics, Mack? Gotta get yourself a guru. The true guru is part university lecturer, part parent, part deity. A  strange creature. Ill defined, he occupies a curious netherworld somewhere between, or rather above, policy, communication and organisation. (more…)

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