The commons agenda may seem a long way removed from electoral politics and mainstream respectability. But we have already seen how the commons sensibility has propelled the Pirate Party to its surprising breakthroughs in Sweden and Germany. And now we have Blue Labour in the U.K. making a strong bid to re-conceptualize British politics.
A key figure in this transformation is Maurice Glasman, an academic, activist and Labour life peer in the House of Lords. Glasman has earned wide respect for his community work in London, such as working on a living wage campaign for cooks, security guards and cleaners. He also worked with faith communities on immigration issues, including a campaign called “Strangers into Citizens” that sought to integrate immigrants into their neighborhoods by fostering social understanding and cooperation among people.
“The very simple idea of people’s relationships with others is what is at stake here,” Glasman recently wrote in the Guardian. “The centrality of one-to-one conversations, of relationship building, of establishing trust between what were seen as incompatible communities and interests transformed my understanding of what a politics of the common good could be, and of what Labour should be about.”
The "Blue" in Blue Labour refers to its commitment to a “small-c conservatism." By “conservative,” Glasman and his colleagues mean a commitment to cultural tradition, community and social solidarity – those old-fashioned, “soft” things that are usually treated by politicians as sappy rhetorical inspiration. What makes Blue Labour stand out from this tradition, however, is the way it brilliantly blends a deeper humanistic vision with a hard-nosed economic analysis, including a staunch opposition to neoliberalism and globalization.