Called blue, not as a sense of political direction, but cos they were feeling a bit sad about the way we’d been going, the conference was one of the hardest listens in a while, with limited time for refreshments and for making your own points.
Plenty of inconsistencies. One speaker saying nationalism is not the way cos it inevitably led to rooting out enemies, wreckers and traitors; the next saying “No”, nationalism can be seen as taking a place in a hierarchy of relationships.
But it’s OK. Cos the speakers are democratic Socialists who want the Labour party to succeed, and can discuss ideas beyond the banality represented by Progress and the proto-Trotskyism & screams of betrayal that are so often heard from Momentum (my descriptions, not theirs – theirs is more thought through).
Some startling ideas –
– that we’d doubled the number of higher education students and cut nine-tenths of apprenticeships (“close half the universities!”);
– the working class aren’t people; they’re events (1945 – progress; seventies – ownership & prosperity; 2016 – nationalism);
– the working class hadn’t reduced to 500,000 as was once predicted; they’re growing and doing caring, cleaning, construction (and catering);
– the middle classes were becoming brutalised proletariat, cos of the way their work is changing;
– that mass moves of workers can be as unsettling as mass moves of capital, and a simple economic assessment of the benefits from immigration was a rather Thatcherite approach;
– the hallmarks / myths of nationalism – that there was a golden age; we are diminished by a foreign yolk; that the nation has unique talents; there is a promised land; and the new one – we nationalists don’t do nationalism;
– the depressing joke becoming more prominent – that you shouldn’t be allowed to vote without a degree; (although an alternative way of hearing this is when people say they don’t feel qualified to vote);
– middle class people see the country in economic terms, like a shop; working class people see the country as a home, an emotional space;
– No, Gordon Brown – the destiny of Labour was not to save the global banking system.
You don’t have to agree with all of the arguments to realise that they’re terrific prompts for what people in the world of physics call thought experiments.
I neither have the dictation skills nor the academic (or journalistic) training to summarise 3 hours of speeches in a full, accurate or balanced way. So picking holes in what Blue Labour thinkers are saying from my list ain’t appropriate.
The event did prompt me to think again about some of the confidence working class people had that has been diminished (or as was perhaps too often said at the event – hated or despised.)
And I liked the appeal to be better story tellers.
Still, will say there was a bit of an absence of the reality of some success that can be seen still in some places through local government – quality buses (radical public transport), cheaper bills (Robin Hood Energy), and forthcoming – a new inspectorate for private sector housing.
For alternative views, see #BLheartlands on twitter.