Decent write up in SNJ online this week and in the SNJ today of the talk in the Sub Rooms by Maurice Glasman - apparently he did not please all and was not great on climate change but nevertheless it sounds like he gave much food for thought and spoke very much from the heart....refreshing...sadly I missed as was at the Full council meeting.
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POLITICAL thinker Maurice Glasman directed his intellectual firepower
at both Labour and the Conservative Party during an engaging and
thought provoking two-hour event at the Sub Rooms in Stroud last week.
Despite representing Labour in the House of Lords, the London academic
reserved just as much criticism for the party’s 13-year record in
office, as he did for the coalition’s current policy programme, when
he spoke on the subject of ‘Rebuilding Society’.
The provocative peer poured particular scorn on the manner in which
Labour bailed out the banking system in 2008, berating the party for
imposing few conditions on the banks in return for the colossal rescue
"Our response to the biggest crisis of capitalism since the 1930s was
to save the banks," he said.
"It was the biggest transfer of wealth from poor to rich since the
Norman conquest and yet there was no real discussion in Parliament
"Overnight on September 8, 2008, £1.4 trillion went from the taxpayer
to the financial sector and there was silence on the Labour benches."
Lord Glasman, the man dubbed Ed Miliband’s ‘intellectual guru’,
proceeded to attack the Conservative Party with equal fervour, saying
David Cameron’s definition of a ‘tough choice’ was ‘humiliating other
people and serving his own interests’.
He blasted Tory attempts to commodify resources, such as Sherwood
Forest, which he maintained should be protected from the vices of the
market and preserved for the public good.
"When the Conservatives were trying to privatise the forests I
remember reading one of their bills which described Sherwood Forest as
a wonderful investment opportunity for the timber industry," he said.
"It is no wonder there was an outcry and within weeks the government
was forced to withdraw the proposals."
A controversial figure, Lord Glasman’s views are not easily placed on
a political spectrum which is conceived of conventionally in terms of
left-wing and right-wing.
His unique blend of radical and traditionalist politics is the bedrock
of the ‘Blue Labour’ movement, of which he is the founder and
That he defies simple categorisation, falling neatly neither in the
camp of left nor right, explains, in part, his readiness to speak
candidly about the parties on both sides of the political divide.
He says he identifies with traditional Labour values, yet his
reluctance to toe the party line appears to stem from an aversion to
ideology, which he sees as too rigid and dogmatic.
His refusal also to simply regurgitate his party’s soundbites is
certainly refreshing, and on Thursday night he bemoaned the ongoing
economic debate of ‘false choices’ between ‘stimulus and cuts’ – the
former policy favoured by Labour as a means of sparking growth in the
economy and the latter embraced by the coalition as something of a
necessary evil to tackle the budget deficit.
This simplistic and limiting debate, which sees two policy
prescriptions juxtaposed, is as useful as asking the question ‘viagra
or vivisection?’ he said.
Glasman it seems is ultimately trying to open up a debate in Labour’s
ranks, by urging the party establishment to think outside the box, and
go beyond the historical boundaries of its ideology in order to
revitalise progressive politics.
From this ethos has sprung Blue Labour, an attempt to rethink Labour’s
purpose and direction by drawing on values scattered across the left
and right of the political split.
The Blue Labour project aims to foster stronger communities, which
have a greater say in shaping society from the bottom-up.
It seeks to forge a new politics founded on grassroots relationships
involving civic organisations and voluntary groups.
"The only way we are going to take on the banking system is to
strengthen and build our relational power," Glasman said.
By developing a regional banking sector with credit unions, ordinary
people would have a local institutional and relational framework in
which to constrain capital, he added.
As well as local banking initiatives to erode the dominant position of
the financial sector, Lord Glasman said ‘relational power’ could also
provide a counter to an overbearing and domineering state, which tries
to control society through highly centralised administrative
He emphasised the importance of a return to vocation and the need to
create more apprenticeships.
"Value is generated by people with skills working together to resist
finance and these administrative structures," he said.
Lord Glasman also championed alternative forms of ownership, including
co-operative and mutual arrangements, in addition to community land
"Instead of fighting the cuts we should be fighting the selling off of
the land," he said.
"It should be the people who own the land."
Audience opinions on Glasman’s vision were inevitably polarised, with
one attendee dismissing his philosophy as a ‘fantasy’ in the question
and answer session following the talk.
Yet, it was clear that his speech also struck a chord with a large
number of those seated inside the Sub Rooms’ main hall.
Andy Treacher, who volunteers for the Stroud charity Wood U Waste – an
organisation helping those in fuel poverty – said after that Lord
Glasman’s words had definitely resonated with him.
"There is no way you can solve fuel poverty problems in a town like
Stroud without a community initiative so his ideas are very relevant
to us," he said.
For his part, Lord Glasman said he was delighted with the reception
"From the moment I saw the golden sun from my train window beating
down on the Costwold countryside on the way over I knew I would have a
great evening," he said afterwards.
"It is just lovely to be here and to have had a really political
conversation. I would love to come back."