June 12, 2012
The failure to end the cycle of “boom and bust” brought Labour electoral defeat and Ed Milliband the leadership crown. The subsequent leadership battle (or soap opera which focussed on the two Milliband brothers) led to a re-examination of policy but no in-depth review instead a re-branding occurred as Blue Labour was born, an idea associated with Jon Cruddas, James Purnell and Maurice Glasman.
But what is Blue Labour? Richard Seymour writing in the Guardian 9 June describes it as a mechanism to reclaim themes excluded from the lexicon of the left. Seymour places it within the historical context of the `popular front’ of the 1930s when a clarion call was made by Stafford Crisps for left unification in opposition to appeasement.
The contemporary left must reframe the right wing artefacts of the past and by doing so develop what Billy Bragg called the `Progressive Patriot`. English patriotism is no longer the refuge of the scoundrel it is the Labour Party`s big idea. As Milliband stated in his June speech:
”Something was holding us back from celebrating England too. We have been too nervous to talk of English pride and English character. For some it was connected to the kind of nationalism that left us ill at ease. In the 1970s and 1980s, the Union flag was reclaimed from the National Front”.
This endorsement is ambiguous for good reason. Nationalism in England is de facto a right wing preserve symbolised by the emergence of the English Defence League a pernicious group with a growing support base. Its existence illustrates the difficulties in reconciling progressive politics with English nationalist themes.
Mr Milliband illustrated UK diversity by speaking movingly about his Jewish ethnicity and family:
”They did not have to hide their past. They did not have to pretend they were someone else. Jewish but not religious”.
But, Britain does not have a perfect record regarding Anti-Semitism. After all Houston Stewart Chamberlain, Herbert Spencer and Oswald Mosley were all British. It was representatives of the working class left such as Joe Jacobs who made Britain safe for Jewish refugees when they took to the streets in 1936 in the battle of Cable Street. Read more of this post