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Published on September 28th, 2011 | by David Christie
Image © [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="240" caption="Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls - Blue Labour does not appear to have had any influence on his economic plan. Image from the old Downing Street photostream"]Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls - Blue Labour does not appear to have had any influence on his economic plan.  Image from the old Downing Street photostream[/caption] There were expectations that Blue Labour would wield considerable influence over this year’s Labour conference, but this does not appear to have been the case so far.  It is difficult to discern any of its influence in Ed Balls’ five point plan for the economy.  In contrast to Blue Labour’s emphasis on localism, Balls’ points (such as the VAT cut and the job-creation investment projects) have an emphasis on large-scale macroeconomic policy.  Blue Labour has become most well-known for the small ‘c’ conservative aspects of its ideology, as a result of its guru Maurice Glasman’s controversial views on immigration (which he is still talking about: at a conference fringe event on Monday, he argued that immigration treaties with Europe should be re-negotiated) as well as criticism over its alleged ambivalence towards feminism and women’s rights.  So what does Blue Labour have to say on the economy? Blue Labour attempts to come to terms with the apparent failure of both the state and the market to produce a decent society.  The economic slowdown of the 1970s could be interpreted as the breakdown of the post-war Keynesian economic model, which was based on state intervention.  From the 1980s onwards this was replaced with the Thatcherite free market model, but this broke down in the financial crash of 2008.  Glasman accepts that the Blairite belief in the free market (taken from Thatcherism) has failed, so he rejects New Labour, but he does not call for a return to the statist ideology of old Labour either.  Instead, he calls for a return to Labour’s pre-1945 tradition, with its small-scale emphasis on working class communities and cooperatives. But in Blue Labour thinking there is little detail of how this belief in localism and civil society is to be implemented in economic policy.  As a result, Blue Labour could suffer the same fate as the Tories’ Big Society, and end up as ideological window dressing that has very little meaning in practical policy terms.  In fact, there are a lot of similarities between the two concepts: the Big Society was partly based on the ideas of ‘Red Tory’ philosopher Phillip Blond, who, like Glasman, attempts to deal with the failure of both the state and the market, and calls for a return to localism and community activism. Balls’ plan, with its emphasis on infrastructure projects and tax cuts, points cautiously in a Keynesian direction.  However, there is still a sense that these policies are only tinkering around the edges of the free market model, and do not represent a decisive move towards Keynesianism, or towards any other economic model.  Neither Balls nor Blue Labour have come up with an economic model which can overcome the current crisis.

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Does Blue Labour have any influence on Labour’s economic policy?

Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls - Blue Labour does not appear to have had any influence on his economic plan.  Image from the old Downing Street photostream

Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls – Blue Labour does not appear to have had any influence on his economic plan. Image from the old Downing Street photostream

There were expectations that Blue Labour would wield considerable influence over this year’s Labour conference, but this does not appear to have been the case so far.  It is difficult to discern any of its influence in Ed Balls’ five point plan for the economy.  In contrast to Blue Labour’s emphasis on localism, Balls’ points (such as the VAT cut and the job-creation investment projects) have an emphasis on large-scale macroeconomic policy.  Blue Labour has become most well-known for the small ‘c’ conservative aspects of its ideology, as a result of its guru Maurice Glasman’s controversial views on immigration (which he is still talking about: at a conference fringe event on Monday, he argued that immigration treaties with Europe should be re-negotiated) as well as criticism over its alleged ambivalence towards feminism and women’s rights.  So what does Blue Labour have to say on the economy?

Blue Labour attempts to come to terms with the apparent failure of both the state and the market to produce a decent society.  The economic slowdown of the 1970s could be interpreted as the breakdown of the post-war Keynesian economic model, which was based on state intervention.  From the 1980s onwards this was replaced with the Thatcherite free market model, but this broke down in the financial crash of 2008.  Glasman accepts that the Blairite belief in the free market (taken from Thatcherism) has failed, so he rejects New Labour, but he does not call for a return to the statist ideology of old Labour either.  Instead, he calls for a return to Labour’s pre-1945 tradition, with its small-scale emphasis on working class communities and cooperatives.

But in Blue Labour thinking there is little detail of how this belief in localism and civil society is to be implemented in economic policy.  As a result, Blue Labour could suffer the same fate as the Tories’ Big Society, and end up as ideological window dressing that has very little meaning in practical policy terms.  In fact, there are a lot of similarities between the two concepts: the Big Society was partly based on the ideas of ‘Red Tory’ philosopher Phillip Blond, who, like Glasman, attempts to deal with the failure of both the state and the market, and calls for a return to localism and community activism.

Balls’ plan, with its emphasis on infrastructure projects and tax cuts, points cautiously in a Keynesian direction.  However, there is still a sense that these policies are only tinkering around the edges of the free market model, and do not represent a decisive move towards Keynesianism, or towards any other economic model.  Neither Balls nor Blue Labour have come up with an economic model which can overcome the current crisis.

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