It is very important to treasure and to strengthen our relationship with our political inheritance as well as our loved ones as Christmas approaches and the year ends.
We can now understand more clearly than ever that without the affection and leadership of the working class, without a conservative as well as a radical labour movement, progressive politics paves the way to disaffection and polarisation. Things do not always get better, as we have found out in several dramatic ways this year. I tried to put these ideas together in a speech that was published by the New Statesman.
Without a democratic and broad based Labour Party, that is rooted in the values and experience of the people described by Hilary Clinton, in her only line of poetry, as a ‘basket of deplorables and irredeemables’ then English politics will become a contest between the Conservatives and UKIP, with Labour as a progressive party, marooned in London, Oxford and Cambridge.
A party supported by the rich, led by the educated and speaking for the poor, who have deserted it. It will be a party that gives voice to the voiceless, only to the extent that it does not want them to speak for themselves. A party whose aesthetics and values are captured in this video.
It is perhaps a redeeming feature of the year that celebrity endorsements may be seen as the kiss of death to any political campaigning. The unanimous acclamation of Clinton by the famous and the lovey chorus for Remain were to no avail. It is better to build relationships and do politics with the poor rather than the rich.
Brexit was the reclamation of a national birth right as well as a renunciation of an international ideal. It was an assertion of democracy against an international legal order. In short, it was political. This is what makes it dangerous as well as transformative.
This is why it is vital that Blue Labour’s vision of a democratic self-governing nation that honours and rewards work, restores institutional integrity to the places that people live and supports family life based upon love and mutual sacrifice becomes Labour’s vision. It is also vital that Blue Labour reasserts its internationalism and makes free and democratic trade unions, all over the world, From Beijing to Tehran, from Havana to Halifax a central role of Foreign Policy.
A politics that understands the Brexit vote as a rejection of the commodification of labour; a rejection of the unhappy marriage between Napoleonic directives and Thatcherite economics that the EU has become. A debate, both Remain and Leave, was had within Blue Labour during the referendum campaign and it is worth reflecting on that.
Even if the overwhelming majority of the Labour Movement is not engaging in this debate it is vital that we do. That is why it is important to support Blue Labour and shape a Labour politics relevant to the future of our country, that grasps that possibilities as well as the threats of change and leaves the technocratic, administrative, unhistorical and hectoring politics of the last twenty years behind. That shapes the future by renewing our traditions, that strengthens citizenship through marvelling at what a blessing Christianity has been to our country. Their vision of earning and belonging and of the possibility that a life can embrace love and grace is far more relevant to the politics of the future than a calculating individualism in which relationships interfere with social mobility and hinder the fulfilment of the individual.
Blue Labour embodies the politics of a common good in which none dominate and all participate and will always celebrate the religious as well as the secular origins of that tradition.
2016 was the year when the losers won, when the people viewed as the ‘left behind’ and ‘the losers of globalisation’ asserted their power. The words of Leonard Cohen are appropriate – ‘well you loved me as a loser, now you’re worried that I just might win.’
We should not replace pity with fear in our relationship with the working class. It is a source of shame that Labour did not and does not represent the hopes and fears of the working class, by becoming a party that disapproves of their fears and is nervous of their hopes.
As I reflect on the past year I realise that for someone who spent so many years organising, and whose greatest teacher is Arnie Graf, who remains in Labour exile, I have not done much organising since becoming a Lord. So 2017 is the year to start organising, to build relationships, build our power and to become a force in the shaping of the future of our party and our country. It is a shame on me that Momentum are organised and we are not. As a step in that direction please fill in this survey.
We had great meetings this year at Enfield Football Club, organised by Ed Anderson and at The People’s Museum in Manchester, organised by Michael Merrick. Arnie has said that he will come over to lead a leadership training session for Blue Labour and we need to make sure that happens. Paul Embery has emerged as a great champion of these ideas within the Trade Unions and now is the time for Blue Labour to develop more leaders with a following. Our politics are strong in the country and it is time to make our presence felt in the Movement.
It is the first and most enduring feature of Blue Labour that we each make a commitment to be nice to our Mum at Christmas. Nothing is more important than that. I have witnessed occasions when this required an inhumane level of forgiveness, an absolute commitment to amnesia combined with an almost unpleasant level of patience but this is as nothing compared to what it must have been like to give birth to us and live with us as we were growing up.
We will have to show similar virtues as we reclaim Labour for the people who founded it and build a politics of the people, by the people and for the people. That, like our Mum, is an inheritance, and an obligation, that we can never renounce.
Wishing you all a wonderful blue Christmas and an organised year ahead,