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?