Maurice Glasman, the founder of Blue Labour, would perhaps see some irony in having his ideas discussed in a Fabian Society forum. He is certainly hostile to the statism associated with English Fabianism in its classical era. Glasman also rejects much of the vocabulary of British, North American and Australasian proponents of ‘Third Way’ thinking since the 1990s. The very last thing a patient wants to be told by her doctor is that the disease is ‘progressive’, he jokes, picking up one of their favourite words.1 British Labour, he claims, has been masquerading as a liberal party for too long. It should stand – in the finest traditions of R.H. Tawney and G.D.H Cole – for radicalism and democracy.2 The Webbs, H.G. Wells and Bernard Shaw are conspicuously absent here.
The aim of this paper will be to outline the major features of Blue Labour thinking. It will then provide a critique intended to account for the problems experienced by Blue Labour during the British Summer of 2011. Finally, it will explore possible implications of this essentially British story for the labour and social democratic politics in Australia.