Friday, July 22, 2011

Glassman: "I'm not racist, but..."

... I am an objective ally of racists."

I paraphrase, of course. But now that Blue Labour has had the last rites read to it, it's worth thinking a bit about what else we need to be pushing Labour to do if we're urging the party to adopt a liberal position on immigration.

One thing the party could do is offer Anthony Painter a job somewhere near the top of it's policy-making structure. This is a very good post over on Labour List complements this one on the Guardian site - both worth a read.

This bit stood out for me:

"...when communities change rapidly there is plenty of research to suggest that people can become alienated and mistrustful.

These challenges can be mitigated by a sensible immigration policy mixed with imaginative and determined community interventions..."
This is the gap in Labour's thinking - a gap that I don't think it's yet capable of filling.

What are these imaginative and determined community interventions? Where is Labour discussing them or addressing them? Where is the evidence that Labour thinks that this (social engineering?) is part of the role of government?

Labour would have been incapable of coming up with a concept like The Big Society - an idea that works on many levels if you can get over the real appeal that it has for the Tories (hiding an assault on collective action behind a backing for a version of it that's doomed to failure without a strong public sector behind it). When you choose social enterprise as your engine for change, you might as well admit being a saboteur of your own idea.
One of the big hidden problems Labour has had for a long time now is that it's policy drivers were managerialists. Consultants can sell government big solutions or things that involve policies. But no-one in the last government was interested in something that involves improvisation and local spontaneity. You can't procure or commission that sort of thing.

In the minds of a large part of the previous Labour government, that's like saying that it's impossible to contemplate.


donpaskini said...

"What are these imaginative and determined community interventions? Where is Labour discussing them or addressing them?"

There are plenty of examples of imaginative and determined community interventions which were led by local community groups in which most if not all of the people involved are Labour supporters. In many cases, this innovation was catalysed and made possible by funding from the last Labour government and/or Labour-run councils (whether through grants budgets, programmes like Future Jobs Fund or suchlike).

What's missing is arguably not so much the innovation, but the feedback loop between the work that Labour supporters are doing at the grassroots and the elite policy formulation.

There's also an interesting discussion about what the role of political parties should be in hyperlocal work, and which of the methods used in community organising, community development, ABCD etc. might be suitable for adoption and which aren't.

For example, I think that broadbased community organising is a worse model for local Labour parties than our current good practice approach which is based on knocking on doors all year round, maximising the number of conversations that volunteers have with voters and helping sort out individual problems.

Anthony Painter said...

I agree with that last para from Dan especially. Labour is not London Citizens- it has its values and also seeks power (rightly!)

Community organising most definitely does have a place in bridging some communities. It's horses for courses though and what works. I'd really encourage checking out the BBC2 series The Choir. There are lots of unifying actions which can be undertaken.

I may in the past have called for community organising to be integrated with Labour. I've become a sceptic because of the seeming incompatibility of the models. I was over-optimistic. There are things that can be learnt but that's it. Labour should be a community campaigning force is how I would put it now. And as Dan says, many Labour parties are successfully doing just that.