Lord Glasman on Citizenship in a contemporary society

Lord Glasman

The writing below is largely Lord Glasman's points but filtered through my own mind and so this is by no means a transcript and somewhere nearer an interpretation.

Lord Glasman is the originator perhaps of the phrase 'Blue-Labour.' (Why Blue? Because blue is the colour of sadness and things did obviously not get better!)

Lord Glasman is a Political theorist and life peer in the House of Lords.

Lord Glasman talks to us (Derby diocesan clergy) about his Golden rules:

ONE: Relationships proceed action. If anything is going to happen then there needs to be meeting between people as opposed to 'meetings' of people. Right meeting takes place on a one to one. There needs to be a relentless stress on one-to-one conversation.

TWO: 'Never do anything for anybody that they can do for themselves.' You will take away their power. Instead give them the power to do things together. Truth is found, puzzle it out together. There are resonances of Morisey's 'puzzling' here. People are their own best instigators of change.

Lord Glasman asks us to consider three epochs:

1945 The State

...saw the development of the elite, where degrees at Oxford became passports into high office.

And yet, in contrast the dispossessed bought burial societies so that dignity could be given in death. Their action here is compared by Lord Glasman to the 1889 launch of the Labour party ethos around solidarity with those dockers facing threat. In 1945 this energy like this was taken over by the state. Unions rose up but would become subjugated. People became neglected in terms of vocationally driven jobs (teaching and nursing) and other places where human flourishing could have been encouraged were instead neglected.

1979 The State and the Market

....was Margaret Thatcher's thesis. In this period we saw the commodification of everything. (People of faith transcend this fixation on the market as a bringer of salvation and redemption, they set their sights higher.) Under Conservatism there was an abandonment of human beings and a decrease in partnership with a decimation of the common life.

1997 Things can only get better was never going to come true which is why Lord Glasman is 'blue' with sadness rather than New Labour! Lord Glasman speaks of his mother silently witnessing her own degeneration through declining health. His mother could still indicate her pessimism that the political scene was destructive as she watched the crash of 2008 with Lord Glasman, her son and unable to speak made the thumbs down sign.

He explains how we would actually go on to become over-dependent on the state and the market and not upon one another. We would become dependent on things over which we could not have any control - there was vice in the system with unaccountable and greedy people who were self-interested and so the financial crash has to be the birthing place of a new politics.

Can the church be both a parent and a mid-wife to the new political scene: a politics of the common good?

It has been carried by the church for 2000 years: this sense of the common good and that the human being is capable of love and grace: that we can not commodify the individual. This is the rally cry of the church against that of the market.

Neither the land nor the human being can be commodified - these are each an inheritance and so we hear (not Glasman, but me now bringing in the Bible) the call from Isaiah 49:8. Anne Coles spoke about this sense of our responsibility to reassign the inheritances, in her sermon over the weekend at the New Wine Women and Leadership conference.

In the day of salvation I will help you. I will protect you. I will appoint you as my promise to the people. You will restore the land. You will make them inherit the desolate inheritance.

Lord Glasman quotes Jeremiah 29:7, instead:

Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.

He goes on to explore the quantitative easing which sees bank money gained at 3% sold at 8% to brokers, and on to the poor at 5000% which surely makes appropriate Justin Welby's reasoned outrage against usury. Lord Glasman looks at the fall of Northern Rock which had become the fourth largest lender but would go on to be nationalised in 2008 to protect people from losing their savings.

We have to believe in redemption - a tradition of ethical association - that people can come together as they do in the trade unions, which of course got captured by the 1945 overly administrative system but in their essence were ethical association, says Glasman.

Lord Glasman shares an example in Salford who are growing their own bank with a politics of the common good. There is in this potentially, if the church partners, a reconciliation of estranged interests. The faith-filled need to partner. There is a genuine desire to engage with church members. 2/3s of many people's purses are closed and loaded in mortgages and loans - people are in debt. The banks need to partner with the people who are enslaved and commodified by this tie to debt.

There needs to be full participation by the church and other ethical bodies to restore vocation, justice, the common good and a successful economy built on responsibility and relationship.

Each participator needs to keep the other accountable. The church and the government and the people of society holding each other in an accountable nexus of right-power so that there isn't a collusion between unions and management when people are ill in hospitals, for example.

The definition of the liberal is that of a person who walks out of the room before the argument begins and so we need instead to stay in the room and have the arguments.

The church has a right patience proposes Glasman. He talks about the importance of the church's voice. The people to whom he speaks are going to come to see that they can trust and rely upon the church - the church will reveal grace and wait patiently for the mindset to change in those who renounce the church and therefore transformation too. Transformation has to happen in the institutions and can come through the paraclete-like attentions of the church.

If the church can participate, it will help shift the demoralised mind-set through growing local relationships in hugely diverse communities by being a mid-wife, delivering people into healthy relationships across differences of ideology and politics and faith. The church can do this and would be, as Bishop Tim Stevens emphasised earlier, another reason to not dis-establish. (Bishop Tim Steven's thesis I am yet to write up.)

THE KEYS according to Glasman:

Accountability and local relationships are the key to holding even global forces to account.

Grow relationship, pool assets, be realistic about viability and then invite others to participate. A balance of forces driven through by the many, promotes accountability and reduces the chances of particular groups hijacking with their own agendas. Incentives to virtue need to become more attractive than incentives to vice, incentives to virtue can be financial too!

People need to come together to then see how resources can be pooled to counteract that anxiety of scarcity that Ann Morisey discussed. I am hearing here about how we actually have everything we need if we could only find ways of co-working with God for its release.

Nurture what is good and what exists in people's lives already and build upon it, says Glasman

So we hear from Glasman about the potential we have as a church to join in to parent and midwife a new political vision.


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A little background reading so we might mutually flourish when there are different opinions