Earlier this month, Maurice Glasman’s comments on immigration triggered declarations that Blue Labour, the faction he pioneered, was dead in the water. In this week’s New Statesman, Glasman writes a heartfelt apology and explanation for what he said, and makes the case for the continued value of Blue Labour. You can read the full piece in the magazine, which is on news stands now, but here are the highlights.
He starts by explaining his earlier comments about the English Defence League (EDL). He said in April that Labour should involve EDL supporters:
I am sorry for the crassness and thoughtlessness with which my views on immigration were expressed. I made a few mistakes early
on and should have learned the lessons. It did not cross my mind that anyone could think that I support the English Defence League (EDL), which I consider a thuggish and violent organisation. When I said in an interview with Progress magazine in April that we should listen to supporters of the EDL, I was arguing that the best way to defeat fascist organisations is to engage with their supporters in a politics of the common good that addresses issues of family housing and safer streets, the living wage and a cap on interest rates.
He adds: “I thought it was an internal discussion with eight Labour Party members and one who couldn’t decide whether to renew. But it ended up in the Sun. If I had known that would happen, I would not have used the term “EDL” or said Labour had “lied” about the extent of immigration.”
Of his interview with Mary Riddell, which was published in the Telegraph, Glasman also cites a lack of awareness, saying that he “forgot it was an interview and when I remembered, I thought, it’s the Fabians, they’ll understand. It ended up on the front page of the Telegraph“. In that interview, he said that all immigration should be ended. He explains that this comment did not represent the nuances of his opinions:
What I have learned, above all, is that the present political economy leads to the exploitation of both local and immigrant. If I had been talking about this with Mary seriously, and not casually, I would have mentioned my support for the regularisation of illegal immigrants and my work with the Strangers Into Citizens campaign. I would have spoken more considerately about how hard it is to generate solidarity among people who do not know each other. I would have said that the levels of immigration over the past years have been unprecedented in our history, and how important it is to recognise both the challenge and the possibilities that flow from this. As it was, I talked about what it was possible for a democratic polity to do in principle.
He goes on to acknowledge the negative consquences for Blue Labour, saying that he has taken a “vow of silence” for the summer:
It was bad political craftsmanship, and that is unforgivable. There is great energy and beauty in Blue Labour when it strives towards the common good by building alliances and relationships between estranged positions. There is much wrong, however, when it stumbles into an ugly position without honouring the complexity of the ethics and human concerns.
The full article is available in this week’s New Statesman.