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Labour's New New Jerusalem

30 minutes
First broadcast:
Monday 27 May 2013

The words of William Blake's Jerusalem were invoked by Labour Prime Minister Clement Attlee when he launched his party's proudest achievement: the creation of a welfare state.

"I will not cease from mental fight, Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand, Till we have built Jerusalem, In England's green and pleasant land."

But some leading Labour Party figures no longer believe in the top down model that was meant to make real that vision of a "new Jerusalem". Mukul Devichand hears from leading Labour Party figures who want a radical new welfare settlement, saying the state itself is to blame for society's ills as much as the market.

This new cadre of Labour thinkers is known as "Blue Labour". Two years ago we made a programme about them. Then they were worried about the impact of immigration on blue collar communities.

Now they are part of Labour's inner circle: academic Maurice Glasman has been elevated to the House of Lords; Jon Cruddas MP is in charge of writing the party's manifesto; and Ed Miliband's widely applauded "One Nation" conference speech last year was written by "Blue Labour" godfather Marc Stears.

The post war welfare settlement, according to Lord Glasman, represented the triumph of those who believed that government could solve social problems. That victory, says Glasman, came at a price: "A labour movement that was active and alive in the lives of people became exclusively concerned with what the state was going to do."

The alternative, according to Blue Labour thinkers, is welfare delivered at local level rather than by a centralised state; and a benefits system that prioritises those who contribute over those who do not. "The key concept we use is incentive to virtue," Lord Glasman tells Mukul Devichand, "so we have to be judgemental."

Producer: Fiona Leach

Interviewees include:

Maurice Glasman
Labour Peer

Sir Robin Wales
Labour Mayor of Newham

Jeremy Cliffe
Britain Politics Correspondent, The Economist

Polly Toynbee
Guardian Columnist

Andrew Harrop
General Secretary, The Fabian Society.


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