Glasman sticks up for Blue Labour

The Labour peer continues to promote his particular brand of anti-managerial politics.

You'd think Maurice Glasman would be all apologised out. The mea culpa seems to be a theme of this year's conference, and Glasman has one all of his own. After his comments on immigration earlier this year (when he suggested that Labour should listen to the EDL and engage with its supporters), the Labour peer and close friend to Ed Miliband was heavily criticised. Since then, Glasman has ladled out remorse, including in the pages of the New Statesman and now in conversation with Channel 4's Gary Gibbon at the Labour Party conference in Liverpool's ornate town hall.

Though many have called time on Glasman's "Blue Labour" project, he continues to promote his particular brand of populist, anti-managerial politics. Today, he offered yet another definition: Blue Labour is "the way people come together to protect people and places they love from exploitation". One of the chief exploiters, says Glasman, is the market, and he's clear that his is a view shared by the Labour leader who believes that "the market humiliates people". Ed Miliband is a "socialist, an intellectual" and loves to talk" about all these ideas in depth. (Glasman quickly regrets the "socialist" line - during questioning from the clutch of lobby journalists present, he clarifies that Miliband is "really a social democrat".)

On the subject of the leadership, he admits that it is taking time for Miliband to find his feet and that recovering from the bruising, family contest for the top job has been a long process. When asked if Miliband had been grieving for his elder brother, Glasman is cagey but concedes that it has "taken a year to find his energy". Glasman, who is friends with both brothers, says that Ed coped "a lot better than I did" with the fall-out. But still, it is only now, thanks to the Murdoch hacking scandal, that he thinks we are starting to see the leader's true abilities, and the "angry insurgent side" of his politics.

Glasman's own position in politics is ambiguous - he is a Labour peer, an academic and evidently still close to the leadership although he says that he maintains a distance and independence from Miliband ("I don't want to overstate my role," he insists). He points to issues, such as higher education (Glasman would like to halve the number of universities, and boost vocational institutions), where his own views differ dramatically from those of the leader. Perhaps he is keen to avoid the fate of Red Tory thinker Philip Blond, who as Gary Gibbon points out, was "lost on journey" by the Conservatives. "I am no pet intellectual," Glasman says, and in any case the ongoing conversation between him and Miliband has been "characterised by argument, so we're unlikely to fall out". At least they're talking: he laughingly mentions that he'd be keen to discuss policy with Ed Balls "who keeps telling me he's going to give me a ring, but it never happens".

As for the House of Lords, Glasman says it can be "lonely at times" - he has not grown up in the political system so doesn't have long friendships with his colleagues. His friends are the staff who work in the library and canteen. And while he loves the place, he wants it to change - believing that the Lords should represent the work of the population in the same way that the Commons represents us geographically. In a classic bit of Glasmanese, he describes his idea as the "vocational House" alongside the "locational House". Perhaps that's another one which Miliband will gently ignore.

Sophie Elmhirst is features editor of the New Statesman

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The UK must reflect on its own role in stoking tension over North Korea

World powers should follow the conciliatory approach of South Korea, not its tempestuous neighbour. 

South Korea’s president Moon Jae-in has done something which took enormous bravery. As US and North Korean leaders rattle their respective nuclear sabres at one another, Jae-in called for negotiations and a peaceful resolution, rejecting the kind of nationalist and populist response preferred by Trump and Kim Jong-un.

In making this call, Jae-in has chosen the path of most resistance. It is always much easier to call for one party in a conflict to do X or Y than to sit round a table and thrash through the issues at hand. So far the British response has sided largely with the former approach: Theresa May has called on China to clean up the mess while the foreign secretary Boris Johnson has slammed North Korea as “reckless”.

China undoubtedly has a crucial role to play in any solution to the North and South Korean conflict, and addressing the mounting tensions between Pyongyang and Washington but China cannot do it alone. And whilst North Korea’s actions throughout this crisis have indeed been reckless and hugely provocative, the fact that the US has flown nuclear capable bombers close to the North Korean border must also be condemned. We should also acknowledge and reflect on the UK’s own role in stoking the fires of tension: last year the British government sent four Typhoon fighter jets to take part in joint military exercises in the East and South China seas with Japan. On the scale of provocation, that has to rate pretty highly too.

Without being prepared to roll up our sleeves and get involved in complex multilateral negotiations there will never be an end to these international crises. No longer can the US, Britain, France, and Russia attempt to play world police, carving up nations and creating deals behind closed doors as they please. That might have worked in the Cold War era but it’s anachronistic and ineffective now. Any 21st century foreign policy has to take account of all the actors and interests involved.

Our first priority must be to defuse tension. I urge PM May to pledge that she will not send British armed forces to the region, a move that will only inflame relations. We also need to see her use her influence to press both Trump and Jong-un to stop throwing insults at one another across the Pacific Ocean, heightening tensions on both sides.

For this to happen they will both need to see that serious action - as opposed to just words - is being taken by the international community to reach a peaceful solution. Britain can play a major role in achieving this. As a member of the UN Security Council, it can use its position to push for the recommencing of the six party nuclear disarmament talks involving North and South Korea, the US, China, Russia, and Japan. We must also show moral and practical leadership by signing up to and working to enforce the new UN ban on nuclear weapons, ratified on 7 July this year and voted for by 122 nations, and that has to involve putting our own house in order by committing to the decommissioning of Trident whilst making plans now for a post-Trident defence policy. It’s impossible to argue for world peace sat on top of a pile of nuclear weapons. And we need to talk to activists in North and South Korea and the US who are trying to find a peaceful solution to the current conflict and work with them to achieve that goal.

Just as those who lived through the second half of the 20th century grew accustomed to the threat of a nuclear war between the US and Russia, so those of us living in the 21st know that a nuclear strike from the US, North Korea, Iran, or Russia can never be ruled out. If we want to move away from these cyclical crises we have to think and act differently. President Jae-in’s leadership needs to be now be followed by others in the international community. Failure to do so will leave us trapped, subject to repeating crises that leave us vulnerable to all-out nuclear war: a future that is possible and frightening in equal measure.

Caroline Lucas is the MP for Brighton Pavilion.