Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Maurice Glasman, Baron Glasman

Maurice Glasman, Baron Glasman (born 8 March 1961) is an English academic, social thinker and Labour life peer in the House of Lords. He is a senior lecturer in Political Theory at London Metropolitan University, and Director of its Faith and Citizenship Programme. He is best known as the originator of Blue Labour, a term he coined in 2009.

Glasman was born in Walthamstow, north-east London, into a Jewish family and brought up in Palmers Green. His father Collie Glasman, a Labour Zionist, had a small toy manufacturing business that eventually collapsed, his mother Rivie Glasman, the daughter of a poor family of Stamford Hill, was a lifelong Labour supporter. Glasman was educated at Clapton Jewish Day School (now Simon Marks Jewish Primary School) and the Jews' Free School (JFS) from where he won an exhibition to study Modern History at St Catharine's College, Cambridge.

A trumpeter, he became a jazz musician for four years and then gained an MA in Political Philosophy at the University of York and a PhD at the European University Institute in Florence with a thesis on the German social market economy, published in 1996 under the title Unnecessary Suffering. Glasman cites political thinkers from Aristotle to the Hungarian economist and sociologist Karl Polanyi as major influences on his politics.

Glasman was a professor at Johns Hopkins University's European centre in Bologna. After his father's death in 1995 he returned to the UK. He is a senior lecturer in Political Theory at London Metropolitan University, and Director of its Faith and Citizenship Programme. According to his website, "his research interests focus on the relationship between citizenship and faith and the limits of the market". On 19 November 2010, it was announced that he would be created a life peer. Prior to his elevation he worked for ten years with London Citizens and through this developed an expertise in community organising. On 4 February 2011, he was created Baron Glasman, of Stoke Newington and of Stamford Hill in the London Borough of Hackney, and was introduced in the House of Lords on 8 March 2011, where he sits on the Labour benches. His elevation to the Lords was considered something of a surprise, with Glasman admitting that he was "completely shocked" by the appointment.

Having joined the Labour Party in 1976, Glasman re-engaged with Labour politics after his mother's death in 2008. Glasman coined the term "Blue Labour", defined by Glasman as a small-c conservative form of socialism which advocates a return to what Glasman believed were the roots of the pre-1945 Labour Party by encouraging the political involvement of voluntary groups from trade unions through churches to football clubs. "Blue Labour" has argued that Labour should embrace patriotism and a return to community values based on trade unions and voluntary groups that he claims was evident in early Labour politics but was lost after 1945 with the rise of the welfare state. In a critical assessment of Glasman's political philosophy, Alan Finlayson, asserts that Glasman emphasises ethical social institution rather than moral individualism, criticises commodification and the money economy and seeks to revive the concept of the "common good" at the forefront of British politics. Glasman's role in the creation and promotion of "Blue Labour" is described in the book Tangled Up in Blue (2011) by Rowenna Davis. Glasman himself says that in developing the concept of "Blue Labour" he was inspired by the Bund, the secular Jewish Socialist Party in Lithuania, Poland and Russia founded in 1897, and the writings of 19th century German rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch. He also points out the connections between the Living Wage and the demand of the Jewish trade unions in the East End for a Family Wage.

In April 2011, Glasman called on the Labour Party to establish a dialogue with sympathisers of the far-right English Defence League (EDL), in order "to build a party that brokers a common good, that involves those people who support the EDL within our party. Not dominant in the party, not setting the tone of the party, but just a reconnection with those people that we can represent a better life for them, because that's what they want".

In July 2011, Glasman called for all immigration to be temporarily halted and for the right of free movement of labour, a key provision of the Treaty of Rome to be abrogated. Following these comments, Blue Labour did lose some influence in the Labour Party, but comments on the New Statesman website showed that he had some rank and file support.

Emphasising that Israel should not be "demonised", Glasman says he does not like Israel, where, in his opinion, "terrible things are going on", adding that “the Jewish settler movement is as bad as Islamic jihadist supremacists. What I see with jihadists and settlers is nationalist domination, and yuck is my general verdict”. However, he accepted the visiting professorship he was offered by Haifa University, telling the Jewish Cronicle: "If people I know say they want to boycott Israel, I say they should start by boycotting me".

Glasman is a supporter of Jewish tradition, regularly goes to a synagogue on Shabbat, and is a founder member of Stoke Newington New Shul, a congregation affiliated with the Masorti movement. His wife Catherine who is not Jewish has also become "engaged with Judaism". According to The Jewish Chronicle, they keep kosher and celebrate Shabbat. He plays the trumpet and smokes rolled-up cigarettes. He lives with his wife and their four children in a flat over a clothing shop in Stoke Newington in north London.

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