‘Globalisation has made our lives empty’

Maurice Glasman talks to Brendan O’Neill about Brexit, Blue Labour and the demonisation of the working class.

Topics Brexit Politics UK

Maurice Glasman, Labour peer and founder of Blue Labour, joins spiked’s editor for the latest episode of The Brendan O’Neill Show. They discuss the decades-long assault on the working class, the potential of Brexit, and what Thatcherism and Corbynism have in common.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.


John Millson

28th November 2019 at 8:10 am

Though on the other side of the Brexit debate, I appreciate and respect fully where Maurice Glasman is coming from. Most aspects of globalisation are very destructive to communities and individuals. We shall see whether Brexit lessens that damage…Restoring community and region.

After the referendum if we had heard more from the likes of him and less from the purists and vote deniers, we might not be so divided now.

(There is such a thing as a ‘cool’ ‘peer of the realm’.)

Ava Tar

27th November 2019 at 9:18 pm

Please, please, please, Brendan, could you give me a succinct definition of “workers”? I ask and ask on threads and no one will answer. It appears to be used as a philosophical identitarian term which almost anyone who thinks they are aggrieved can use of themselves. I noticed someone below say that teachers are workers but they are securely middle-class in pay, job security, pensions and world view (most voted Remain). Surely it can’t comprise London Underground train drivers who start on £50,000! How do you decide on who fits this social demographic?

John Millson

28th November 2019 at 8:42 am

To me ‘Working Class’ means coming from a background with no excessive surplus wealth. No ‘capital’, no ‘assetts’. So having literally to ‘work’ for many hours, employed or self-employed to live.
Identifying with a region/city/town/borough and proud to keep this connection – dialect, customs etc.
It’s a general mental attitude of being direct and not pretending.

It’s about looking after family, friends and neighbours.

With no privilege it means co-operation and kindness.

Alice Temple

3rd December 2019 at 10:26 pm

It’s not particularly hard to find definitions of working class. Look up the NRS social grades. It’s Labour and the left who have a problem with defining the working class, particularly because many of their supporters class themselves as working class when they’re not.

John Millson

25th November 2019 at 3:13 pm

Great stuff.

Linda Payne

25th November 2019 at 2:08 pm

And yes many immigrants are working class then again they are seen as primarily foreigners rather than in the past workers the same as us from abroad. It is at the end of the day class that binds people not Political correctness. In the past it was racism used to divide now it is identity but in the workplace and economically we are in the same postition as pertains to class

Jonathan Yonge

25th November 2019 at 12:27 pm

Seems to me the Labour party missed an open goal with no goalie in sight.
Boris has snapped up the free-kick.
What are Momentum trying to do ? Surely if they wanted revolution the sneering elite Remain establishment was the perfect opportunity.
I don’t understand….

Jonathan Yonge

25th November 2019 at 1:23 pm

Can only conclude that Momentum/Labour do not want to govern, but instead to feed on perpetual ‘division and bitterness. They are good at this and know that as administrators their ineptness would be exposed.
What does a revolutionary do when the revolution is over ?

Jonathan Yonge

25th November 2019 at 12:20 pm

I Maurice Glasman working class ?
What does ‘working class’ or ‘middle class’ mean these days ?
Is the class system still alive in the UK ?

Is to be working class to be necessarily downstrodden or is it a culture which you adopt and/or support ?
Can immigrants be working class ?

Linda Payne

25th November 2019 at 2:03 pm

A binman is working class; a doctor is middle class. As a broad guide anything above a teacher is middle class; the most important thing with the MC is educational attainment which gives them more choice in the professions; as an economic standpoint it is the working classes who generate the surplus wealth that is used in part to pay the income of these professions. Of course there are examples of say a plumber earning more than a doctor but these are exceptions. The class system still stands though identity politics has muddied the water, economically the same principle abides

Jim Lawrie

27th November 2019 at 9:08 am

The plumber does not have his income guaranteed by the state.
He does not have access to continual state funded training throughout his working life.
He is not protected from huge influxes of foreign plumbers.
He does not have the option of sitting on well paid professional bodies, committees, quangoes and grant funded “research” projects.
He does not have a state guaranteed and index linked pension to look forward to.
The plumber buys his own tools.

The plumber’s son, even when better qualified, has much less chance than the doctor’s son of passing the University entrance interview.

David Webb

25th November 2019 at 8:24 am

That was in fact a brilliant podcast, and nice to know that someone in the Labour movement can so articulately explain what happened over the last 50 years. You need to integrate opposition to immigration in this in order not to ignore the elephant in the room.

Jim Lawrie

25th November 2019 at 9:57 am

He is an elitist with a well polished script whose shine is meant to deflect us from what he sneaked in. He said it is our duty to welcome immigrants and immigration. His goal is the appropriation of our votes to serve Labour’s ends. He is a Labour Party member and Peer.


25th November 2019 at 2:09 am

No, the wholesale evacuation of Christianity from public and private life in western Europe has eroded social cohesion, undermining families and public institutions by removing any sense of higher meaning or common purpose. In short, the hypocritical rejection of biblical Christianity by both ‘liberals’ and ‘conservatives’ has caused our cultural malaise and removed any hope for the future. Of course, we shouldn’t believe something just because it is socially useful but Christianity has been the bedrock of our civilisation since at least the 5th century AD. Socialism and capitalism are mere terrestrial doctrines and absurdly ineffectual when compared with the transformative and salvific power of the Gospel, as demonstrated over the last two millennia. Spiked’s shameful refusal to discuss the one thing that can, quite literally, save us is as perplexing as it is unjustified.


Jim Lawrie

24th November 2019 at 11:16 pm

When it comes to immigration Mr Glasman you join with the finger wagging of your class and tell us we must welcome this cheap labour who are hostile to us. No doubt you will call us who disagree with you racists. You do not have to live cheek by jowl with these people, or with us. You and Labour have nothing to offer because you are completely remote from our reality. Speaking to a few of us on the campaign trail makes you feel better, and that is all.

The calibre of East European tradesmen is greatly exaggerated. Both by the Communists over there and the left over here. You specifically mention bricklayers and claim to have done your research. There were few houses built of brick in post war Eastern Europe. Most were “No Fines”, a technique imported from the west.

Jerry Owen

25th November 2019 at 2:15 pm

Jim Lawrie.
Your statement about East European tradesmen is spot on. Part of my job takes me into some of the most expensive properties in London. I very rarely hear or see English tradesmen except for the sparkies, who are all English because electrics cannot be bodged and there are strict rules and regulations.
The Eastern Europeans stick together and rarely acknowledge me. I couldn’t give two stuffs about that as they cannot poach the work I do.
On more than one occasion they have tried to impede me, but it doesn’t work as I make it clear that if I walk off site a bill will be raised for my wasted time.
I have seen English painters decorators and chippies vanish over the last decade or so. I can also see that the work isn’t as good now, bodging is normal. remedial work is needed more often and very expensive it has to be said in many cases.
They run a cartel, they cut their prices for contracts that English companies cannot compete with until they dominate , London is the prime example.
One company owner I know has had to move his London business out of London and get work elsewhere.
All of this is wrong, more than any immigrant group it is the eastern Europeans that are destroying the self employed tradesmen i have mentioned and it is they I would like to see return to their homelands.
We don’t need them.

Jim Lawrie

26th November 2019 at 2:08 pm


What you say I have heard many, many times over. With the exception of the electrical trades. Plus they operate fly by night outfits and do not pay VAT, tax or national insurance. Many of them at the same time claim benefits.

I know a guy who used to do CORGI certification, and he was threatened by East Europeans who could not pass muster. Race card and all that. Given that plumbers are now often required to be Gas Safe and able to do the electrical work for bathroom and kitchens, the East Europeans come unstuck.
A house near where I lived had a fire resulting from an induction hob, oven and 11kw shower being run off an old cable that was for a 9.5kw electric shower. They had bypassed an RCD, itself retro-fitted when the shower was upgraded from 8.5kw to 9.5kw. The original electrician’s phone number was still on it, and he was initially put in the frame.
My post was to highlight that Mr Glasman was giving it the “I’ve done my research … ” line but then demonstrating that he was reporting anecdote, not what he had found out for himself.
I saw an office block where East Europeans had done the asphalting on the roof. On the first day of strong sunshine, the asphalt drifted, spilled into a downpipe pipe, itself black and heated by the sun, and blocked the drains. The slabs they had put on top were up and down like a yoyo, and sinking the asphalt out. The two Scottish guys who had been outbid were asked to come back. They upped their price by 50 percent. A truculent East European H&S guy tried to have them run off the job for not wearing safety helmets on the roof. While doing so the heat up there had caused him to remove his own helmet. All on film.

Mr Glasman is also unaware of how indigenous tradesmen are being discriminated against in an organised fashion by immigrants.
The price of home improvements in London has rocketed now that The East Europeans have a grip on it. In one case I know the Romanians put their price down to the high cost of English bricklayers, inadvertently admitting they could not do it themselves.
The middle class enthusiasm for East Europeans reflects their contempt and hatred of our own.

H McLean

24th November 2019 at 8:52 pm

An excellent summation of Labour’s 20th century betrayal of the working class. Quite eye-opening and insightful.

Winston Stanley

24th November 2019 at 8:27 pm

There is a lot in there for discussion but I will stick to the main drift.

First things, capitalism is triumphant and socialism is hitherto defeated not just locally but globally. We live under capitalism and it has its own laws and developmental principles. You can talk about the globalism of capital and bemoan how it has undermined the old ways, communities and identities but that was always waiting to happen. Of course the capitalist state wants mass immigration of workers, especially these days when productivity growth is collapsed along with the fertility rate. Capitalism fundamentally needs to expand and this is the logical consequence. So, it is like, get over it, that is how capitalism works in the post-imperial period and we live under capitalism.

I heard talk about “meaning, identity, purpose, cohesion, love” or whatever. Again, basically get over it. Times change. It is like these speakers have a subjective teleology of their own. As if human history is headed toward subjective satisfaction through certain social forms. Or rather, those are the old ways, and the old ways are supposedly the eternal ways and “telos” in that sense. Times change. It is good that M traced his personal subjective social expectations back to his own upbringing and experience in the old days. What is more questionable is to rail against globalism on that pretext and to dress it up as “love, responsibility” or whatever.

Ppl find their “love” and their “responsibility” under new social forms. The old social forms were historically determined, conditioned by the structures of society, that were underlaid by capitalist development and its historical needs at that time. New times make new demands, bring forth new social forms and ppl find and will find their subjective satisfaction within that context. I am sceptical of a retreat to subjectivism and to broad brush claims about what is “good or best” for ppl. The implication is that there is some static “human nature” that is unchanging in its expectations and demands and that finds its fulfillment under particular social forms. Ppl are just as fluid as history and their expectations and demands reflect their own social conditions rather than personal aspirations from decades or centuries back. M and B are in danger or lapsing into Romanticism, the subjective or aesthetic attraction of past social forms and “when I was kid.”

M and B may simply be old fogies going on about how better things used to be. B in particular was raised in RCC and when he goes on about “meaning and purpose” and “place in the world”, one wonders whether he has simply never got over the personal loss of his own religious faith. He was trained at a young age to feel a need for certain “eternal” or “solid” attachments, like identity or culture, “values”, “place in the world” and he was mislead to think that those concepts are stable rather than transitional and fluid. It may be that B is just going on about his own personal subjectivity, and its developmental background, conditions and problems. And he is trying to project his own subjectivity onto society and onto history. Likely M is doing something similar. It is likely quite common for ppl to conflate their own subjectivity with the objective world and with social development.

So yes, we live under capitalism, it has its own tendencies, its own development and it is like, get over it. Ppl adapt and move on. M and B might experience some personal existential discomfort but so what? That does not mean that everyone does. The times they are a changing and ppl with them. Maybe other ppl, youngsters in particular, do not experience that subjective disorientation and dissatisfaction. They have been raised under different conditions, with the breakdown of the old social forms and the rise of new ones, they have different expectations and they cope with that, just as others all coped, more or less, with life as it used to be. It was never some utopia, it always had its difficulties and issues and it would be unreasonable to expect society to be perfect today. Younger ppl find their “meaning, purpose, identity, love, solidarity and satisfaction” within the context of the new social realities. And maybe they will find satisfaction more than the oldens did.

But the bottom line is, that it is what it is, and things are how they are, and you have to cope with that. You cannot have capitalism today without globalisation and mass immigration. The post-WWII shift has been away from imperialism and toward international cooperation. The capitalist states share and exchange capital, workers, goods and yes sovereignty to some extent. Before WWII they used to fight wars over those things, resources, markets, labour, capital, national self-assertion. This is simply the stage of capitalism that we live under, capitalism has moved on, progressed and developed, and that has impacted upon social forms. That is how it goes. The old forms had their own context and foundation in the previous stage of capitalist development. They were never “eternal” or expressive of “human nature and its satisfaction”. Socialism failed hitherto, and we have capitalism. Maybe not forever. But we have to anticipate, expect and cope with the social developments brought on by capitalism for as long as we have it as the material foundation of societies.

So, if you do not like mass immigration, get over it. Capitalism needs workers and this is the post-imperial stage of capitalist development. Capital gets its workers through mass immigration. That is how it is, so get over it. The same goes for M and B, they may not like the increased geographic migration within the metropole, families splitting up as they move about to work; they may not like the diversity of cultures and identities and values. But get over it. That is how things are in the modern day and we all have to cope as best as we can. Not because anyone voted on that, or explicitly chose it, but because those are the implications of sustained capitalist development. Socialism having failed hitherto, we now have the spectacle of old socialists bemoaning how better social forms used to be in their childhood, how they “feel empty”, like the “world has no meaning or purpose”. The world moved on, its did its own thing and it never asked their permission to do so. The world is not waiting for M and B to tell it its subjective telos, any more than it was waiting to be informed of its objective or economic telos.

Ven Oods

25th November 2019 at 11:01 am

Blimey, Winston, when you’re in a typing mood, it’s no holds barred. Interesting take, though.

Jerry Owen

25th November 2019 at 6:25 pm

Ven Oods
If the best you can say is.. it’s ‘an interesting take ‘ I’ll give it a miss!

Kathryn Barbara

25th November 2019 at 11:26 am

My take from your post is this: change happens, get over it! You seem prepared to take the change whatever it is.
I would certainly agree that there is no perfect human social state to be aspired to. Can’t see any particular ideology offering that.

Winston Stanley

25th November 2019 at 6:10 pm

I suppose that I am arguing that democracy is lamentably constrained by the needs of capital, especically these days, for reasons already explained. Capitalism may have run its course, with zero productivity growth for 11 years and a total dependence on the mass migration of workers to grow GDP and to keep the capitalist economy going, and the policies that the capitalist state adopts are going to be, by necessity, increasingly beyond the remit of the demos.

Instance, the three successive TP manifestos that promised to reduce migration “to the tens of thousands” while the TP let in six million migrants in a decade, before emigration is subtraced, to keep the economy going. Of course that is going to have huge social and political ramifications. It is becoming ever clearer to the demos that we do not really live in a democracy, we live under a capitalist state and its needs come first, even if the demos has to be repeatedly lied to.

The denial of democracy is now openly structural to capitalism. It may be that socialism is now a precondition of a well functioning democracy. Only when capitalism is replaced will we have control over the society and the policies of the state. In lieu of that, we simply have to make the best of what the capitalist state serves up to us under the pretence of democracy. We have no other choice but to make the best of things.

“Times change, get over it”, does seem to be a realistic proposition under these conditions. Capitalism reigns and we have to either accept that, and the policies and social changes that implies, or radically change the material, economic basis of societies. There is no sign of us doing the latter so we can expect to simply cope with the social changes as best as we can. Boris has announced a million new homes. So much for “eco friendly” policies. And we can expect more and more of the same b/c capitalim now depends on constant mass migration, an ever-growing labour force, for its very survival. Good bye to the countryside, get over it.

It is noticible that there has been zero discussion during the GE campaign of the fact that productivity growth has been zero for 11 years, and that we have lost 20% of productivity, and 20% of wages and living standards, from trend over the last decade. The situation is similar across “mature” western economies. The message is loud and clear that capitalism, none of its political parties, can do anything about that. Productivity and living standards have peaked and they will not improve henceforth. And the migration of workers has not been mentioned once, even though it remains a high concern and the TP lied to the demos three times. B/c that is what capitalism absolutely needs.

“It is what it is, things are how they are, get over it.” That is what the capitalist state is telling us and we need to be realistic about that. None of us are stupid. We can all see what is happening and why. Yet the policies of the state are beyond our democratic remit. Socialism has failed hitherto, and there seems to be little chance of us trying it today. We are stuck with a now decrepit capitalism and with the thus necessary erosion of democracy. We need to be honest and realistic about that. The state and its parties and media have zero intention of talking about that stuff but we all know it anyway.

Mike Ellwood

24th November 2019 at 8:15 pm

Fascinating – thank you both.

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