Blue Labour

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Blue Labour
Blue Labour Logo.png
MottoWork. Family. Community.
Formation2010; 10 years ago (2010)
FounderMaurice Glasman
Purpose"The Labour Party pressure group that aims to put relationships and responsibility at the heart of British politics"
  • United Kingdom
AffiliationsLabour Party

Blue Labour is an advocacy group associated with the British Labour Party that promotes conservative ideas on social and international issues,[1][2][3] including immigration, crime, and the European Union, rejecting neoliberal economics in favour of guild socialism and corporatism.[4][5][6] Blue Labour advocates a switch to local and democratic community management and provision of services, rather than relying on a traditional welfare state that it sees as excessively bureaucratic.[7][8] The position has been articulated in books such as Tangled Up in Blue, by Rowenna Davis, and Blue Labour, edited by Ian Geary and Adrian Pabst.


The London Metropolitan University academic Maurice Glasman launched Blue Labour in April 2009 at a meeting in Conway Hall, Bloomsbury.[9] In that meeting, he called for a "new politics of reciprocity, mutuality and solidarity" as an alternative to the post-1945 centralising approach of the Labour Party.[9] 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.[citation needed]

Glasman 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] Chuka Umunna, the former Labour Shadow Business Secretary, who later left the Party, said in 2011 that Blue Labour "provides the seeds of national renewal".[11][12]

Blue Labour argues that abstract concepts have held back the Labour Party from linking with the concerns of many voters, with its concern over material equality leading to an "obsession with the postcode lottery"[7] and its belief in internationalism leading to it ignore the fears of low-paid workers about immigration.[citation needed] As an alternative to those ideas, Blue Labour emphasises the importance of democratic engagement[13] with more left wing economic policy combined with insisting that the Labour Party should seek to reinvigorate its relationships with communities across the nation, with an approach based on what Glasman describes as "family, faith, and flag".[13] Blue Labour is also pro-gay rights and anti-racist.[14]

Blue Labour sees the EU as a centralising force which limits the capacity for democratic decision-making about life in the UK. In particular, the idea of a 'single market' has been stretched too far as what began as a desire to facilitate trade across national boundaries has, in the name of competition policy, become a resistance to governments setting their own policies on areas like housing and financial services.[14]

It has been suggested that the name Blue Labour came from a reaction to a comparable trend in the Conservative Party called Red Tory, but it 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 has been influenced by Old Labour traditions of self-help and mutualisation, with proponents quoting R. H. Tawney, G. D. H. Cole, Keir Hardie, William Morris and Thomas Paine.[citation needed] They also argue that that Old Labour tradition was 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 the root of Blue Labour's criticism of the Labour government under Clement Attlee.[citation needed] Figures in the Labour Party such as Frank Field have been cited as inspirations for Blue Labour.[16][17]

In July 2011, Glasman suggested that free movement of labour from the European Union should be renegotiated, causing a rift within the party.[2][18] At a fringe meeting of the 2011 Labour Party Conference, Glasman reaffirmed some of these 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.[19]

In October 2013, Glasman delivered a speech to a Social Democratic Party of Germany event in Berlin. Praising the role of Ernest Bevin in developing 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 with the German model, saying the latter was closer to the pre-war Labour ethos of solidarity than the collectivism of Attlee which he described as a continuation of wartime 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".[15]


Glasman was once described as former Labour leader Ed Miliband's "guru" by political commentator Matthew D'Ancona, who suggested that while the party may not adopt the full programme of Blue Labour (particularly its criticisms of consumerism and globalisation), the trend was helping "the Labour leader forge a language in which to express his championship of the NHS". Between 2010 and 2015, 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".[20][21]

Key publications[edit]

The Labour Tradition and the Politics of Paradox: The Oxford London Seminars, 2010–2011[22] is a collection of articles by Glasman, Stears and Jonathan Rutherford along with 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.[23]

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 co-operating 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 and 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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wintour, Patrick (21 April 2011). "Miliband Speech To Engage With Blue Labour Ideals". The Guardian.
  2. ^ a b Dan Hodges (20 July 2011). "Exclusive: the end of Blue Labour". New Statesman. Retrieved 16 June 2012.
  3. ^ Stratton, Allegra (28 September 2011). "Ed Miliband Speech rehearses 'good society' guru's lines in conference speech". The Guardian.
  4. ^ Goodhart, David (20 March 2011). "Labour can have its own coalition too". The Independent.
  5. ^ Barrett, Matthew (20 May 2011). "Ten Things You Need to Know About Blue Labour". LeftWatch.
  6. ^ "A nation of shoppers". The Economist. 19 May 2011.
  7. ^ a b Grady, Helen (21 March 2011). "Blue Labour: Party's radical answer to the Big Society?". BBC News.
  8. ^ Score, Steve (30 March 2011). "Review: Blue Labour". The Socialist.
  9. ^ a b c Stratton, Allegra (24 April 2009). "Labour: Now it's kind of blue". The Guardian. London.
  10. ^ Derbyshire, Jonathan (7 April 2011). "Voice of the Heartlands". New Statesman. London. Retrieved 11 September 2012.
  11. ^ Mary Riddell (16 May 2011). "Does Blue Labour have what it takes to be a vote-winner after all?". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 13 September 2012.
  12. ^ Chuka Umunna (15 May 2011). "One Nation Labour". Archived from the original on 3 January 2013. Retrieved 13 September 2012.
  13. ^ a b Sandbrook, Dominic (7 April 2011). "Family, faith and flag". New Statesman.
  14. ^ a b O'Leary, Duncan (21 May 2015). "Something new and something blue: the key to Labour's future?". New Statesman. Retrieved 29 December 2019.
  15. ^ a b "Should the left go Blue? Making sense of Maurice Glasman". openDemocracy. Retrieved 15 September 2016.
  16. ^ "Labour: Lord Glasman and Jacqui Smith on Purple Book". BBC News. 23 September 2011.
  17. ^ Edemariam, Aida (3 July 2010). "Frank Field: 'Labour has always been conservative'". The Guardian. London.
  18. ^ Mary Riddell and Tom Whitehead (18 July 2011). "Immigration should be frozen, says Miliband adviser". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
  19. ^ Stratton, Allegra (26 September 2011). "Blue Labour Peer Returns With Call To Look Again At European Immigration". The Guardian.
  20. ^ Helm, Toby (16 January 2011). "Maurice Glasman; The peer plotting Labour's new strategy from his flat". The Observer. London.
  21. ^ D'Ancona, Matthew (9 April 2011). "The door is open for Ed Miliband to pose as the defender of our cherished institutions". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  22. ^ Glasman; et al. (20 October 2015). "The Labour Tradition and the Politics of Paradox: The Oxford London Seminars, 2010–2011" (PDF). Lawrence & Wishart.
  23. ^ Wintour, Patrick (17 May 2011). "Ed Miliband endorses blue labour thinking". The Guardian.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]