Blue Labour: Perhaps metropolitan liberal politics is not enough?

This is a ‘new’ school of thought in England, and is in some ways an interesting denial of New Labour’s recent neo Thatcherite past… On Conservative Home’s Left Watch blog, Matthew has written an interesting précis which breaks it down into ten primary features:

It recognises that Labour developed a top-down style of governing, and stresses communitarianism, self-reliance and mutual societies. It is critical of the neo-liberal economic approach of both Labour and the Conservatives. Socially, it is, in many ways, conservative, and has been characterised by some on the left as “flag, faith and family”.

And it suggests that the progressive majority does not exist (bear in mind this is kind of the opposite of Red Tories like Danny Finklestein whose advice to the Cameroons began from the opposite axiom: ie that there was always an inbuilt majority for social democracy):

The short term (and indicative of the long-term struggles Labour faces) reason for Blue Labour is a couple of clashes between the progressive middle class left-wingers and those who vote them into office. The first clash was Gillian Duffy – a “do our supporters really think that?!” moment for many Labour politicians. The second clash was the AV referendum. The supposed “progressive majority” was found to be a few boroughs of London famous for intellectual left-wing politics, and some student areas.

Interestingly, Blue Labour, according to Matthew anticipated their party’s near collapse in Scotland, but advocating a re-engagement with England rather than Britain:

Jon Cruddas, the Labour MP for Dagenham and Rainham, who has been talking and writing about the need for Labour to return to socially conservative, pre-1960s values for some time – and also emphasising the importance of Labour understanding England, rather than “the UK”, or “the British”. His kind of England includes Levellers, Chartists, Radicals, Tolpuddle Martyrs, and well-established common law rights.

Now, here’s the interesting bit, not least when you consider the problems facing both the Ulster Unionists, but more particularly (since they are both social democrats and Labour) the SDLP:

…today Labour is viewed by many as the party of the market and of the state, not of society. It has become disconnected from the ordinary everyday lives of the people. In England Labour no longer knows who it represents; its people are everyone and no-one. It champions humanity in general but no-one in particular. It favours multiculturalism but suspects the popular symbols and iconography of Englishness. It claims to be the party of values but nothing specific. Over the last decade it has failed to give form to a common life, to speak for it and to defend it against the forces of unaccountable corporate power and state intrusion.

To stick with a more local reading, it puts me in mind of Simon Hamilton’s speech in Strangford, when he suggested that people would not vote for a party that did not have a message.

That lack of a clear message and a strong sense of the general, little in the way of specifics, and a hollowed out sense of their respective ‘missions’, perhaps both parties need to re-engage with what remains of their base rather than to resile to the top down habits of the last ten years…

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty