Similar but different too-must rethink the market and political model


A recent debate on Australia’s ABC Radio provided a good insight into the thinking behind  the Red Tories,  led by Philip Blond of ResPublica , and the Blue Labour thinkers    led   by Lord  Maurice Glasman, of London Metropolitan University  . Their thinking it transpires  is not  that different. Blond claims that  ‘social conservatism’ is the progressive agenda now. He says   “ we need to recapitalise the poor, re-moralise the market and re-localise the economy”.

Social conservatism is at the heart of this Red Tory agenda. It involves community engagement, ownership, mutualisation and mass ownership underpinned by new trust based relationships. Blond says we must tackle monopolies both state and private,   breaking open the market with small business able to compete and ultimately out compete the monopolies.  The Localism Bill is seen by Philip Blond as the most obvious manifestation of this Governments drive to put local communities back in charge -mass mutualisation  undermines statism and  the complete dominance of the market, and places power back with the people . They are both seeking  to re-shape the centre ground in the wake of perceived  market failures and particularly the City’s  collective failure . Blond believes that Thatchers weakness was in allowing the over concentration of ownership and power in the economy, allowing us to become a  ‘rentier ‘state. We have produced a huge array of private sector monopolies and we need to totally rethink market economics. Thatcher essentially abandoned large swathes of the country and failed, he says, to nurture half of the country and give them the opportunities to better themselves. (the legacy is still there today with little Tory support in the north, or Scotland and to some extent Wales) . The new Conservative critique is that the market is important but unless well regulated and managed can be hugely destructive and Blond frequently cites the failure of city institutions-monopolistic and with their rentier (favourite word) culture.  We should ensure that markets work for all of us he says .  Glasman, though, believes that the current Government   is essentially ,if you look at its economic policies, a neo-liberal Thatcherite Government which has done little to reform the markets in the wake of the financial  crisis and its austerity programme is pure Thatcher. Conservatism is too associated, he believes, with  the failed market to offer a real vision for the future . It about the self-organised interests of working people,  agreeing the pursuit of  common ends – this is  the heart of his vision  and  this is what will take on the vested ‘money’ interests. This is about new politics-discarding the destructive elements of both state and market power. A strong sense of community and the latent power of  family  and the  work ethic is at the core of Glasmans thinking (ie similar to Red Toryism).  Blue Labour thinkers argue that love of community and respect for institutions and settled ways of life is fundamental to the concerns of organised labour, which was originally represented by the Labour Party.   The Common good should, he says, be constituted in every institution in the land. Glasman has complete contempt, by the way, for Gordon  Brown  and his approach to Government  as he allowed  the absolute concentration of power in the few with no interest  whatever in empowering communities and the  localism  agenda. He says that the “Big Society hasn’t got a word to say about the market” and that “we might agree about ends but we definitely don’t agree on the means”.

Both thinkers agree that we, as a country, are essentially broke not just in economic terms but in the way we approach politics. We need a radical rethink.  Whether one is from the left or right we have to rethink the way our markets operate and the role of state as they have largely failed and are monopolistic and are not  serving  ordinary peoples interests or meeting their expectations . Instead, we need  active engaged communities   which feel they have a real stake in the way forward. We must deliver a  new fair and popular form of  capitalism. Britain is ready to build a new political economy in the interests of the many, founded on local renewal which can deliver prosperity. Both the Red and the Blue corners are committed to family and community and the work ethic and understand the importance of relationship’s, harnessing and exploiting their power whether its within families, neighbourhoods or within the broader community.

It would be wrong though to see the ideas of both camps as new. They are simply drawing together ideas that have been around for a while recasting and rebranding them. This is the poetry of politics. The prose is turning ideas into an effective  programme of action , taking on vested interests, which is an altogether different challenge and one in which recent governments have a poor record.


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