Is Blue Labour anti-women?

A senior Labour MP criticises the project for "harking back to a Janet and John era".

Today's Mail on Sunday suggests there is a row developing among senior Labour MPs over the Blue Labour project. It quotes Helen Goodman, the party's Justice spokeswoman as having criticised the "all male clique", which includes the academic Maurice Glasman, currently arguing for Labour to adopt a programme of (small-c) conservative values centred on "flag, faith and family".

Specifically, Goodman criticises a passage in the recent Politics of Paradox, a collection edited by Glasman and his fellow academic Jonathan Rutherford, that praises a "patriarchal social order" and alleges this has been disrupted by "the growing independence of women". In her response, a pamphlet titled "Tradition and Change" (PDF), Goodman writes:

If Glasman thinks we will all greet this with an ironic post-feminist smile, he is wrong. How can we in a country where 1,000 women are raped each week? He seems to be harking back to a Janet and John Fifties era.

The MoS is keen to spin this as an ill-tempered political squabble and describes Goodman as an ally of the "arch-feminist" Harriet Harman. However, Goodman has produced a more sustained and thoughtful critique of Blue Labour than this would suggest. By taking case studies from her own constituency of Bishop Auckland, Goodman argues that too strong an emphasis on localism and community values overlooks the need for government to act on a national and international scale.

The MP told Liberal Conspiracy of her fears that Blue Labour "will be hijacked by those whose real agenda is to destroy the welfare state on which so many people depend".

Crucially, Goodman also comments on Blue Labour's appeal to nationalist sentiment, and highlights a passage by Rutherford that claims:

Individual self control, hard work and willingness to delay or forego reward and gratification provided social glue and the purposefulness of a national, imperial destiny!

Goodman describes this as "drum and trumpet jingoism". She argues we must understand the full implications of four centuries of Empire - and how it has led to our present multicultural society - if we are to ensure social, economic and political rights for all citizens of this country.

It's worth reading Goodman's pamphlet in full. Are her criticisms valid? Do they go too far - or not far enough?

Daniel Trilling is the Editor of New Humanist magazine. He was formerly an Assistant Editor at the New Statesman.

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Rarely has it mattered so little if Manchester United won; rarely has it been so special they did

Team's Europa League victory offers chance for sorely needed celebration of a city's spirit.

Carlo Ancelotti, the Bayern Munich manager, memorably once said that football is “the most important of the least important things”, but he was only partly right. While it is absolutely the case that a bunch of people chasing around a field is insignificant, a bunch of people chasing around a field is not really what football is about.

At a football match can you set aside the strictures that govern real life and freely scream, shout and cuddle strangers. Football tracks life with such unfailing omnipresence, garnishing the mundane with regular doses of drama and suspense; football is amazing, and even when it isn’t there’s always the possibility that it’s about to be.

Football bestows primal paroxysms of intense, transcendent ecstasy, shared both with people who mean everything and people who mean nothing. Football carves out time for people it's important to see and delivers people it becomes important to see. Football is a structure with folklore, mythology, language and symbols; being part of football is being part of something big, special, and eternal. Football is the best thing in the world when things go well, and still the best thing in the world when they don’t. There is nothing remotely like it. Nothing.

Football is about community and identity, friends and family; football is about expression and abandon, laughter and song; football is about love and pride. Football is about all the beauty in the world.

And the world is a beautiful place, even though it doesn’t always seem that way – now especially. But in the horror of terror we’ve seen amazing kindness, uplifting unity and awesome dignity which is the absolute point of everything.

In Stockholm last night, 50,000 or so people gathered for a football match, trying to find a way of celebrating all of these things. Around town before the game the atmosphere was not as boisterous as usual, but in the ground the old conviction gradually returned. The PA played Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds, an Ajax staple with lyrics not entirely appropriate: there is plenty about which to worry, and for some every little thing is never going to be alright.

But somehow the sentiment felt right and the Mancunian contingent joined in with gusto, following it up with “We’ll never die,” – a song of defiance born from the ashes of the Munich air disaster and generally aired at the end of games, often when defeat is imminent. Last night it was needed from the outset, though this time its final line – “we’ll keep the red flag flying high, coz Man United will never die" – was not about a football team but a city, a spirit, and a way of life. 

Over the course of the night, every burst of song and even the minute's silence chorused with that theme: “Manchester, Manchester, Manchester”; “Manchester la la la”; “Oh Manchester is wonderful”. Sparse and simple words, layered and complex meanings.

The match itself was a curious affair. Rarely has it mattered so little whether or not United won; rarely has it been so special that they did. Manchester United do not represent or appeal to everyone in Manchester but they epitomise a similar brilliance to Manchester, brilliance which they take to the world. Brilliance like youthfulness, toughness, swagger and zest; brilliance which has been to the fore these last three days, despite it all.

Last night they drew upon their most prosaic aspects, outfighting and outrunning a willing but callow opponent to win the only trophy to have eluded them. They did not make things better, but they did bring happiness and positivity at a time when happiness and positivity needed to be brought; football is not “the most important of the least important things,” it is the least important of the most important things.

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