And meet the peer who is try­ing to turn Labour blue

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY ROBERT PHILPOT

LABOUR’S NA­TIONAL Pol­icy Fo­rum meets in Mil­ton Keynes this weekend, its last be­fore the gen­eral elec­tion. It thus marks a cru­cial stag­ing post in the de­vel­op­ment of Labour’s man­i­festo.

One man who will not be there is Mau­rice Glas­man, the Jewish aca­demic and com­mu­nity or­gan­iser ap­pointed to the Lords by Ed Miliband. But the pres­ence of Baron Glas­man of Stoke New­ing­ton and Stam­ford Hill will nonethe­less be keenly felt.

“You can­not deny he has cre­ated trac­tion; on usury, re­gional bank­ing, cor­po­rate gov­er­nance, re­shap­ing wel­fare and fam­ily pol­icy,” says Jon Crud­das, head of Labour’s pol­icy re­view.

Last month’s Con­di­tion of Bri­tain re­port by the IPPR think-tank, which is likely to weigh heav­ily on Crud­das’s think­ing, was in­fused with Glas­man’s ideas on the need to im­prove vo­ca­tional train­ing and re­store the link be­tween con­tri­bu­tion and en­ti­tle­ment in wel­fare. His call for Labour to end its ad­dic­tion to White­hall dik­tat and de­volve power to re­gions was also ap­par­ent in one of the re­view’s other re­ports by fel­low peer Andrew Ado­nis.

While Glas­man’s ad­mi­ra­tion for the Ger­man econ­omy is per­co­lat­ing into Labour’s plans, the man­i­festo is un­likely to adopt the rad­i­cal ap­proach he rec­om­mends. “Half of our uni­ver­si­ties could be closed and turned into vo­ca­tional col­leges jointly gov­erned by busi­ness, unions and lo­cal au­thor­i­ties,” he wrote ear­lier this year.

He has sug­gested that a third of Board­room seats should be elected by the work­force. Com­pa­nies are too tightly reg­u­lated and too highly taxed, he also ar­gues. And al­though his view that high lev­els of im­mi­gra­tion de­presses wages is fre­quently echoed by Miliband, don’t ex­pect Labour to ac­cept his so­lu­tion: al­low il­le­gal im­mi­grants to be­come cit­i­zens but halt the free move­ment of labour within the EU.

Glas­man is the founder of “Blue Labour”, a set of ideas which has flour­ished in the party in the aftermath of the 2010 elec­tion de­feat. De­fy­ing tra­di­tional left-right def­i­ni­tions, it con­tends that the last Labour govern­ment was in thrall to mar­ket forces and too ready to reach for statist so­lu­tions.

In its place, Glas­man ar­gues for a small-c con­ser­va­tive so­cial­ism. He cites his mother, Rivi, who died in 2008, as his big­gest in­flu­ence. “She was very con­ser­va­tive Labour with a very strong com­mit­ment to work, faith, fam­ily, coun­try, very pa­tri­otic”, he told the Ob­server in 2011. “Eng­land for her was the coun­try that saved the Jews from the Nazis.”

When Miliband sent Glas­man to the Lords he told him: “I re­ally like what you’re do­ing and want you to keep do­ing it.” For a while, Glas­man was cited as the Labour leader’s “guru”. But the re­la­tion­ship has be­come strained. Ear­lier this month, Glas­man warned in the Fi­nan­cial Times that the party was “miss­ing a sense of di­rec­tion”.

Crud­das’s ad­mi­ra­tion for Glas­man, how­ever, re­mains undimmed. He de­scribes him as “a force of na­ture, an­i­con­o­clast,anir­ri­tan­ta­n­daphiloso­pher”. The “bot­tom line” he sug­gests, is that, “af­ter our worst de­feat since 1918 Labour has to re­think what it is. We need more Glas­mans not less.” He ac­cepts, how­ever, that Glas­man’s style is “not one for the faint hearted.

“He kicks up dust, is con­tro­ver­sial; he winds people up be­cause he is in a hurry. I like that but it is at odds with the dom­i­nant West­min­ster cul­ture.”

If Glas­man’s es­trange­ment from the Miliband court pains him, the peer does not show it. He says: “I see this as a long story, and I’m amazed how far we’ve come.” Or, as he put it on the day he made his maiden speech in the Lords, “not bad for a Jewish boy liv­ing above a shop in Hack­ney”. Robert Philpot is di­rec­tor of the New Labour pres­sure group Progress

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