Blue Labor: rightwing identity politics

I’ve started writing a regular column for Independent Australia (every two weeks), and my first column has just gone up. It’s a response to Nick Dyrenfurth and David Furse-Roberts, Australian advocates of Maurice’s Glasman’s Blue Labour ideas in the UK (apparently Glasman visited here for a few months. The central point is that, far from offering a policy alternative to the political right, Blue Labor is all about a specific kind of identity politics, focused on stereotypical male manual workers. These workers assumed to be socially conservative and economically aspirational, but to vote for Labor because they don;t like the silvertails on the other side, despite sharing all of their views.

It took me a while to write this, and several other people came out with very similar analyses in the meantime, notably including Jeff Sparrow. Dyrenfurth responded, complaining “I doubt Jeff Sparrow has read my book instead of relying upon selective media reports and a book extract comprising less than 3% of the book’s contents”

I have (almost) zero sympathy for this. If you can’t summarize your book in 700 words without giving readers a radically wrong impression of your central idea, you shouldn’t publish a summary at all. The only criticism of an extract I would regard as unfair is of the type “Quiggin doesn’t mention topic X or qualify the argument with reference to Y”. In this case, it’s perfectly legitimate to point to the fact that these topics are in fact covered in the book, but not in the extract/summary.

Almost invariably, this rhetorical move involves backing away from the core message presented sharply in the extract/summary, and pointing to the more nuanced presentation in the full length version. On this score, I can only appeal to my Crooked Timber co-blogger Kieran Healy (NSFW title)

52 thoughts on “Blue Labor: rightwing identity politics

  1. I didn’t offer a view on whether there has been an increase in social tensions on Oz.

    Your exact words were

    We’ve already had a major cut in permanent visa migration over the past seven years, from 190K to a projected 150K for 2019/2020, without ““inflam[ing] social tensions and hostility”.

    If I have misunderstood your words, I still don’t know how.

  2. paul walter November 28, 2019 at 1:01 pm
    Paul, thanks for the reading material:

    “…Australians ranked climate change as the number one problem for them personally in the Australia Talks National Survey. For the next week across the ABC we’ll be discussing Australians’ views on climate change as part of the Australia Talks project. To see how your views compare, use our interactive tool — available in English, simplified Chinese, Arabic and Vietnamese.”


    Your position on the Greens’ role back there goes too easy on ALP and Rudd revisionist spin. There’s more, but even Crabb couldn’t avoid copy/pasting some segments from No doubt done for the appearance of ABC ‘balance’. That, and too salient to neglect and remain with any vestige of credibility.

    BTW, what were the propagandist Australia Talks National Survey findings on related questions re sky-high immigration numbers and population policy? Ah, yes, the ABC shills can’t ask as all four big party lines happen to converge due to common donor preferences!

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