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Glasman coined the term 'Blue Labour' and launched the movement (if that is what it was) in 2009. He seems to have been on good terms with both the Milibands and soon after becoming leader, in November 2010, Ed Miliband secured him, somewhat to his surprise, a seat in the Lords which he took up - as Baron Glasman of Stoke Newington and of Stamford Hill in the London Borough of Hackney - in February 2011. Everything seemed to be going well until suddenly it all came to a crashing halt. Glasman explains why in a recent interview in The Guardian:

'Glasman remembers, with a shudder, the day he realised his career as the man the papers liked to describe as Miliband’s “guru” had come to an abrupt end. “My wife, Catherine, brought all the newspapers into the bedroom and said simply: ‘Fucking hell!’ I was on the front cover of the Telegraph, the Mail and not in a good way. I put the covers over my head and stayed in bed all day.” The catalyst for the disastrous coverage (the Daily Mail called him “the voice of reason”) was an interview Glasman gave to the Fabian Review, a party organ, in which he rejected the principle of the free movement of labour within the European Union. … To compound matters, Glasman further suggested that Labour should attempt to listen to and win over English Defence League (EDL) supporters – remarks also seized upon with delight by the rightwing press. This was at a time when Nigel Farage’s Ukip was on the rise and the polarising political storms that were to take Britain all the way to Brexit – which Glasman later campaigned for – had begun to blow.

'After Glasman later criticised Miliband himself in the New Statesman as having “no strategy, no narrative and little energy”, the former deputy prime minister, John Prescott, spoke for many Labour members when he tweeted: “Glasman. You know sod all about politics, economic policy, Labour or solidarity. Bugger off and go ‘organise’ some communities.”' (6)

(6) Julian Coman: 'Maurice Glasman, architect of Blue Labour: "Labour needs to be itself again"’, The Guardian, 25th September, 2022.

There's a certain irony in Glasman's apparently promising political career being trashed by accusations of being anti-immigrant. Prior to Blue Labour he had been deeply involved in the 'London Citizens' movement, originated in 1996 and concerned with the people at the bottom of the economic pile - non-unionised workers, cleaners, caterers, security guards etc, many if not most of whom were immigrants. London Citizens campaigned for acceptance of the principle of the Living Wage and also for an amnesty for undocumented immigrants. It worked in conjunction with faith groups, including Muslim and Hindu organisations. Glasman himself, from a lower middle class Conservative Jewish background, was deeply influenced by Catholic Social teaching and worked closely advocating an immigrant amnesty with the Catholic organisation ‘Strangers into Citizens’. But he did recognise that there was a limit to the immigration Britain could sustain and that immigration and the cheaper labour it supplied was being used to undercut workers' bargaining power. That there were reasons for the bitterness and hostility this was creating.

The 2022 Guardian article continues: 'As much of the party turned on him, Glasman essentially took Prescott’s aggressive advice. “I basically didn’t talk to any media for about three years. I went quiet.”' Which implies a certain weakness. 'Blue Labour' never amounted to very much in organisational terms. If one regarded its ideas with sympathy it was difficult to know what to do about it. There was a website which included occasional articles usually by Jonathan Rutherford. And yet, the ideas, as outlined in Glasman's recent book are strong.


Glasman begins with an account of what he sees as the Labour tradition, distinguishing it from the European Marxist or Social Democratic tradition. It was a movement that, rooted in class, nonetheless saw itself as national, a means by which the nation in its religious, political and even class divisions could be united. It was not in principle anti-capitalist but it insisted that the capitalist system entailed mutual responsibilities. Drawing on the 'Apollonian' - 'Mercurian' distinction he says: 'The Tories in the nineteenth century became the dominant political forum by adopting the clothes of the Apollonians [Conservatism] while implementing the policies of the Mercurians [economic liberalism].' Blue Labour aims at reinistating, against the Mercurian diversion of the Blair years, the basic Apollonian character of the working class. Hence the opposition to the free movement of people and commodities through space required by 'global capitalism' - 'Globalism eliminates the possibility of politics to challenge this order, but maintains the state structure to enforce it.'

'For Labour, the obdurate persistence of the working class haunts its politics like an ancestral ghost.'

In 1996 Glasman published Unnecessary Suffering, (7) largely a study of the post war German economy based on a thesis he had written while at the European University Institute in Florence.

(7) Maurice Glasman: Unnecessary suffering - managing market Utopia, London, Verso, 1996. 

In Blue Labour he says:

'One might say that the tragedy of contemporary European politics is that Germany remains misunderstood as exclusively fiscally conservative when this is only one aspect of its economic system. It is also characterized by a vocational economy in which self-organized institutions preserve and renew the traditions of a particular craft and regulate labour market entry; by regional banks that are constrained to lend within their region; by the significant representation of the workforce in the corporate governance of firms; and by the co-determination of pensions by capital and labour …

'It is one of the great tragedies of European history that it did not become the basis of the political economy of the European Union, which chose globalization rather than the internationalism that inspired it. Instead, Germany’s model has been weakened and is at odds with the prevailing model of the EU.'

He attributes the German success largely to the initiative of Ernest Bevin as British Foreign Secretary overseeing the remodelling of Germany, calling it 'the greatest example of Labour statecraft in action, renewing and democratizing ancient institutions, reconciling estranged interests, nurturing labour power and its representation in the governance of industry, upholding liberty at the level of the state and democracy within the economy' but he complains that Bevin failed to do the same in Britain because of the strength of the top-down tradition exemplified by the Fabians. He may exaggerate Bevin's role as against the continued influence of Germany's own 'ancient institutions' but in Unnecessary Suffering he does elaborate on the specifically German contribution. The Term 'unnecessary suffering' derives (if I've understood him aright - p.37) from the 'Catholic critique of capitalism' developed in the nineteenth century by Bishop Wilhelm Emmanuel von Ketteler of Mainz. The book appeals at length to Catholic social teaching (it is also concerned with the initial strength of the ideas associated with 'Solidarity' in Poland - and their subsequent defeat at the hands of the neo-liberal EU). In particular it stresses, as do the Catholic writers the importance of 'vocation', 'vocational education' and the formation of 'vocational groups'. All part of 'the dignity of labour - title of a book by Cruddas who also appeals to his own Irish Catholic political formation.