The Blue Labour Dream by Professor John Milbank
This essay is written by my good friend John Milbank, Professor of Religion, Politics and Ethics at Nottingham University
To contact John: email@example.com
The Blue Labour Dream
Within the British Labour party, ‘Blue Labour’ is the crucial factor in the emergence of ‘One-Nation Labour’.
Such paradoxical combinations are characteristic of the new ‘postliberal’ politics in the United Kingdom, which seeks to combine greater economic justice with individual virtue and public honour. It rejects the double liberal impersonalism of economic contract between strangers, and individual entitlement in relation to the bureaucratic machine. Instead of the combination of contract without gift, plus the unilateral gift from nowhere that is state welfare, it proposes gift-exchange or reciprocity as the ultimate principle to govern both the economic and the political realms. This would restore in a new version the ancient and medieval idea of the political as ultimately an extension of friendship within a shared ethos.
But an ethos can only develop over time, and so postliberal advocates like David Goodhart have called for a new recognition of the role of tradition and the contract between the generations. The Labour party is grounded in the notion of solidarity amongst labour and it sees all human beings as workers, because, as Maurice Glasman has said, in line with Catholic social teaching, it is with respect to work that we see the personal origin of all of human society and culture. Yet work also takes time: it requires learning from the past, induction into inherited lineages of good craft and relating to fellow workers; an initial submitting to leadership if one is eventually to lead in one’s turn. It is for this reason that Labour affirmation of civil society in terms of solidarity and mutuality requires a linkage with certain Burkean thematics if is not simply to fade back into the current hegemony of liberal notions of isolated freedom of choice.
The same consideration applies to notions of equality. How can we decide to own some things in common and to divide up other goods equitably if we do not know what constitutes a good and what broad ends of flourishing human beings should agree to pursue? Of course we have no fixed or final knowledge of such things – but tradition gives us some intimation of their nature and education allows us to refine and debate this intimation. Without a concern for formation and virtue which is not in itself democratic — because the genuine good remains the good even if all vote against it — we lack the precondition for democracy and for democratic discussion which will further refine our sense of what it is that renders us human.
And without the possession of virtue whose key mark is Aristotelian phronesis or a kind of moral art or tact, we will remove social judgement from the hands of humans as workers or craftsman and assume that everything must be precisely legislated. Soon we will suppose that right and wrong can be precisely defined and that all that is wrong must be legally outlawed, while all that is not outlawed must be not only permissible but valuable. Soon after that we will imagine that we should only be allowed to do that for which we have a legal licence. These drifts can be readily seen to be at work in the recent debates over gay marriage and also in those over surveillance, whistleblowing and the indictment of military decisions before courts of human rights. All of this witnesses to the bankruptcy of the liberal rights perspective and the lack of attention to non-formalisable, non-legal judgement. For example, governments have no absolute right in the name of security to know everything, but neither are rights of privacy absolute in relation to the public good. Soldiers who reveal injustice in battle should not be treated as mere breakers of a contract, but neither can army commanders treat protection of their troops’ lives as an absolute (given that a soldier, by definition, has signed-up to possible sacrificial death) in the face of other considerations, like not alienating a civilian population.
These are some summary indications of what postliberalism might mean and why, in my view, the Labour tradition is naturally aligned with it. But to understand more deeply what this new politics involves, it is necessary to attend closely to the intended sense of both ‘post’ and ‘liberal’.
‘Post’ is different from ‘pre’ and implies not that liberalism is all bad, but that it has inherent limits and problems.
‘Liberal’ may immediately suggest to many an easygoing and optimistic outlook. Yet to the contrary, at the core of a searching critique of liberalism lies the accusation that it is a far too gloomy political philosophy.
For liberalism assumes that we are basically self-interested, fearful, greedy and egotistic creatures, unable to see beyond our own selfish needs and instincts. This is the founding assumption of the individualistic liberal creed, derived from Grotius, Hobbes and Locke in the 17th C.
Such a position sounds, as it is, secular and materialistic. However, another important root of modern liberalism, traceable for example in Adam Smith, derives from Calvinistic and Jansenistic theologies. For this theological outlook original sin is so extreme that human beings must be considered to be ‘totally depraved’ and incapable by nature of acting out of virtue to produce economic, social or political order. Instead, in a kind of proxy operation, divine providence must manipulate our egotistic wills and even our vices behind our backs, in such a way as to make will balance will and vice balance vice to produce a kind of economic and political harmony, even though this had never been originally intended by self-obsessed individuals. Here is the ideological root of Smith’s ‘hidden hand’.
In this way we can see how liberalism has been doubly promoted by both hedonists and puritans. Today the British Conservative Party, which has long since abandoned toryism for liberalism, remains something of an uneasy alliance between these two different character traits, even if the puritans are fast losing ground.
However, neither label would exactly seem to apply to the Guardian-reader type granola-eating liberal, whom we more usually take today to define liberalism as such. Why does the fit appear so poor?
The answer is that there is another, ‘romantic’ variant of liberalism that was invented in the late 18th C by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. He inverted Thomas Hobbes by arguing that the isolated, natural individual is ‘good’, lost in contemplative delight at the world around him, satisfied with simple pleasures and provisions. She is not yet egotistic, because that vice arises from rivalry and comparison. However, Rousseau took the latter to be endemic once the individual is placed in a social context. Accordingly he transferred pessimism about the individual into a new pessimism about human association.
This encouraged scepticism about the role of corporate bodies beneath the level of the state: for it is only the state that can lead us to sacrifice all our petty rivalries for the sake of the common purpose or general will which will return to us, at a higher level, our natural isolated innocence.
The problem with this vision is that the state will not really stand above the interests of faction and sectional intrigue. And meanwhile the concentration of all power in the centre will just as effectively undermine the immediate bonds of trust between people as does the operation of impersonal market forces. Recent British governments have apparently exulted in this erosion of trust because it tends to increase their power to control individuals both directly and en masse. Accordingly they have increased the power of the market, decreased the power of local government and voluntary associations, and, as David Goodhart has related, permitted immigration without integration in such a way as tends to make the inhabitants of these islands more and more strangers to each other.
The invocation of Rousseau allows us more easily to locate the Guardian reader. While the Financial Times sort of ‘right wing’ liberal takes a basically gloomy view of the individual, the Guardian reader takes a basically gloomy view of society.
This verdict seems to have things back to front. Isn’t the political right suspicious of anything public and the political left unwilling to trust individual liberty very far?
But at the deepest level the contrast is the other way round: right-wing liberalism is so cynical about individual motivation that it entrusts social order to the public mechanism of the market and to an inflexible legal protection of property by the state. The liberal left, on the other hand, so distrusts shared tradition and consensus that it endlessly seeks to release chaotically-various individual desire from any sort of generally-shared requirements, which it always tends to view as arbitrary.
This is most of all shown by the ‘new left’, which ever since the 1960’s has pursued a politics not of solidarity but of emancipation. Such a politics endlessly seeks to show that an overlooked ‘exception’ – of gender, sexuality, race, disability, religion or culture – does not and cannot conform to a shared norm and therefore that its specificity (regarded at once and incoherently as arising both from given nature and pure preference) must be released. Equally, this politics misreads the necessity of hierarchically-organised care that is intrinsic to our temporality (as even Marx affirmed in the Critique of the Gotha Programme) and variety of formation and talents, as unacceptable patriarchal domination. But by doing so it cannot promote an extreme libertarianism (crossed with and confused by multiculturalism) without at the same time reinforcing and assisting the cause of rightwing liberalism which it claims to oppose.
In this instance, as in others, right and left liberals converge far more than they imagine. For in either case what is basically celebrated is random individual desire. And in either case human association or relationship is distrusted, since it is held that it is bound to be perversely motivated. The right holds that the remedy for warped relationships is the hidden hand of the marketplace; the left the manifest hand of the state. But in either case ‘society’ is bypassed and human beings are mediated indirectly, by a third pole standing over against them.
We can contrast this liberalism with George Orwell’s genuinely socialist trust in ‘common decency’. People have always lived through practices of reciprocity, though giving, gratitude and giving again in turn. By way of this process people achieve, in a simple way, mutual recognition and relationality. Most people pursue association, and the honour and dignity of being recognised in significant ways, however lowly, as their main goals, and are relatively unconcerned with becoming much richer than their fellows or achieving great power over them. Indeed, most people wisely realise that such things will only increase their anxiety and insecurity – they prefer a less spectacular but quieter life. They are basically hobbits. Nevertheless, the temptation to pursue the goals of pride at the expense of danger is there in all of us; in some more than others and in some to an overwhelming degree that can threaten the social fabric. Deep down people are ‘decent’ and rejoice in relationality, yet in all of us a destructive imp of the perverse always lurks.
Orwell suggested that a good society is one which erects safeguards against such perversity and especially against the overweening, reckless individual, and he pointed out that most tribal structures are built on just this ‘warding off of danger’. Inversely, the positive structures of a social order should seek to build upon our natural and given practices of reciprocity – not destroying, but augmenting our natural capacity for association.
For Orwell this more prevailing human instinct was the root of socialism.
But liberalism does just the opposite to what Orwell recommended: it tries to remove intermediate social practices of mutual assistance, while augmenting our tendencies to pursue wealth and prestige instead of human and divine love. It ignores the fact that human life as such depends upon a bedrock of gift-exchange and that it develops in time through the astonishing and gratuitous irruption of new charisms.
In the 19th C working people and some intellectuals started to grasp this. They were inspired by a spontaneous sense that something was missing from liberal modernity.
What was lacking was relationality, creative fulfilment in work, festivity and joy. They did not, like some conservatives of ‘the right’, wish to return to the bastard feudalism of the ancien regime, but they also rejected the individualism of the modern liberal ‘left’.
Now to pursue above all relationality is to risk being wounded by the other: thus the mood is often going to be indeed ‘blue’. The market and the state encourage us to think that we can be insulated from such hurt by the impersonality of economic and bureaucratic or legal transactions. But without embracing the likelihood of some or even much sorrow, there can be no openness to real joy either. Through a bland buffering, participatory power is removed from ordinary people.
A further problem with specifically statist buffering is that it is resigned to treating the market as an evil monster that can be partially tamed but never rendered benign and docile. This is one crucial manifestation of the liberal idea of the priority of evil to which I have already alluded. Within the terms of this assumption it is thought that the main instrument of social justice must be government redistribution. But that can only realistically be carried out in a period of guaranteed economic growth — for otherwise, within the norms of capitalist operation, it will tend to damage profits and so national productivity. Partly because strong, if any, growth is not in prospect in the UK for the foreseeable future, Ed Miliband is rightly abandoning this view for notions of ‘predistribution’ – or in other words attempts to produce a just economy in the first place as the major vehicle of material equity.
But only in part, because predistribution makes more radical sense in any case. An inherently just economy would provide more stable financial security for most people, providing stronger incentives to work effectively, and at the same time it would escape the logic whereby the social goals of the state and the supposedly amoral, wealth-increasing goals of the market are seen to be in inherent tension with each other. A further good consequence would be the removal of many people from welfare dependence — something that neoliberal policies only create.
What is more, ever since the 1890’s statist solutions have often been just as committed to the marginalist ideology of neoclassical economics as have those of the ‘free market’. According to this ideology human beings exercise ‘rational choice’ in terms of their calculation of utilities. Beyond Jeremy Bentham it is allowed that humans’ ideas of what makes them happy can be incredibly various, but it is still thought that in order to fulfil our desires we make a cold calculation of gains and losses. Inevitably this means that the typical object of desire is still thought of as a commodity consumable by the individual in isolation.
Such objects were deemed by the marginalists to be subject to the ‘law of diminishing returns’ — over time we get less satisfaction from consumer durables and their rarity value diminishes as other consumers catch up with us.
To propose this notion was to ignore those goods which are ‘relational’ in character – family, friendship, erotic unions, warm communities. Equally it was to fail to distinguish the enjoyment that we get from high-quality goods like works of art or literature or the exercise of artistic talents from other objects of consumption. High quality goods and the realisation of skill through long practice tend to deliver a more solid kind of happiness and also the kind of happiness in others which we most tend to admire and want to emulate. This ‘higher’ happiness Greeks like Plato and Aristotle dubbed eudaimonia or ‘flourishing’.
So, as Jon Cruddas has recently argued, perhaps the crucial question in contemporary British politics is whether the main aim of government should be to increase people’s freedom of market choice, largely in the sphere of measurable material happiness, or whether its main aim should be to seek to encourage human eudaimonia.
If this diagnosis is correct, then the real issue of contention is no longer ‘state versus market’. The central theory of neoclassicism is that when the individual calculators of utility are acting rationally, then markets will achieve perfect equilibrium, balance or clearance. To the degree that they fail to act rationally, then the state can make adjustments. This much is common to marginalists of both the right and the left – the difference arises in terms of how far it is supposed that the conditions for perfect market operation arise automatically through market processes themselves and how far they have to be engineered by the state.
Thus both the invisible hand of ‘providence’ and the visible hand of the state is deemed by this outlook to be seeking the same goal of perfect rational equilibrium, that coordinates egoistic wishes, without any mutual agreement as to the common good
But can a new emphasis on the common good and the promotion of human flourishing be truly relevant to hard economic questions? It can, because liberalism itself, as Adair Turner has hinted, is subject to that very law of diminishing returns which it has itself articulated. We can see this especially with respect to finance.
At first, as the history of the modern world attests, liberalisation of financial markets leads to growth, but in the long run, as we now see, too much financial liberty tends to anarchy. The components of this condition are over-abstraction from the real economy, self-interest that can truly (contra marginalism) be aligned to market failure rather than market success, the non-constraint of capital by labour and a multitude of transactions that are only about shifting around the existing monetary symbols of wealth, not about creating new wealth.
Generalising this point about finance to the whole history of liberalism, one can say that while, to begin with in history, the release of individual negative freedom removes many oppressions and allows for new manifestations of creative talent, in the long run it too much tends to stifle the exercise of trust that is crucial to all human association, while eroding belief in the objective values that creativity might seek to instantiate. A lack of trust and belief in objective metaphysical truth and goodness then engenders high-level criminality, greater inequality and fear-driven rivalry. Such an atmosphere actually starts to inhibit people’s inventiveness and entrepreneurship and therefore their capacity for freedom – even for freedom of choice.
In the same way the spirit of greed tends to replace small businesses with large and monopolising ones which are reluctant to pursue innovations for fear of damaging existing products.
Here one can note something that usually goes entirely overlooked. Anglo-Saxon capitalism is essentially passive and not dynamic, because it is built upon an enlightenment philosophy which only acknowledges the reality of impersonal givens like material reality and human reasoning power. It can only acknowledge the gift of human creativity as an abstract and valueless power of will. The primacy of capital over labour follows from this: it exalts an economy perversely driven by the willed stockpiling of the mere means of production in land, technology and finance. Eventually this leads to stasis, lack of products to invest in, excessive speculation and a cycle of debt – reinforced by the lack of grounding of money in any objective standard or disinterested legal system ever since 1944.
By contrast, two of the most successful economies in the last half-century – those of Germany and Italy (despite the recent problems of both) which tend to define our lifestyles in terms of automobiles, machinery, food, cafes and clothing – are not really the products of the Enlightenment but of a Renaissance that remained in continuity with the Middle Ages. What I mean by this is that they combine a Renaissance exaltation of the creativity of human labour with a medieval sense of constitutional corporatism that is neither statist nor merely free-market in character. Worker participation in management, control of entry conditions to labour by voluntary associations and high-status technical education are all predicated on the relative primacy of labour with respect to capital. And labour, not capital is the dynamic factor, because it is to do with release of personal, creative human power. This is quite different from the negative freedom of the Anglo-Saxon will – for creativity goes along with the power to judge and discern the aesthetic and social value of one’s product. This is exactly the difference between Italian cars, food and design compared to the American equivalents. Of course many American products are excellent – but then the Middle Ages and the Renaissance survive even in the United States.
So without trust and the primacy of labour it turns out that the economy as a whole cannot function. This is true also because an economy is comprised not only of markets, but also of firms which are inherently cooperative exercises. Recent attempts to run them on internally agonistic lines, setting employees at each others’ throats, have not proved a great economic success – least of all in universities.
So could it be that a more ethical economy, like a more creative and aesthetic economy, is also a more stable economy, more viable in the long term?
A crucial argument here is that this has in some degree always been the case. Anglo-Saxon and French economic theory has largely followed liberal presuppositions. But Italian economists, standing in a more classically humanist and Christian tradition, unbroken since the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, have often, ever since the 18thC, thought in much more associationist terms for which an economic contract itself can be a sympathetic negotiation about shared value and community benefit as well as self-interest – which is itself more socially and so realistically construed.
In terms of this more reciprocal model of contract it is arguable that much of the actual market economy of the modern world has operated more like the Italian theorised ‘civil economy’ than like the Anglo-Saxon fantasised ‘political economy’. This means that perhaps we have never been as ‘capitalist’ as we imagine, and in fact the more the market economy becomes dominated by capital the less functional it is shown to be.
It follows that the challenge now is to move away from neoclassicist utility in either its neoliberal or statist versions, towards a specifically recognised and deliberately augmented civil economy based upon reciprocal exchange and the virtuous pursuit of a true economic wealth that contributes to human flourishing. Such an economy will also be a more stable one, relatively freed from cyclical fluctuations that are ultimately to do with a clash of interests between capital and worker, producer and consumer, supply and demand. These clashes can be avoided or mitigated where economic contracts are the subject of ethical and sometimes legal negotiation and all parties feel that they have been fairly dealt with and share a common stake and pride in the success of an enterprise and the quality of its products. Human beings want recognition for excellence and social contribution much more than wish to pursue primal hoarding. This is a much more fundamental Anglo-Saxon truth, first articulated in the great Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf.
Moves towards such a civil economy need to include amongst other things: 1. The sharing of risk in all financial transactions – including house mortgages — between lenders and borrowers, investors and owners, shareholders and managers, employers and employees; 2. The rewriting of company law to demand statement of social purpose and profit-sharing as conditions of trading; 3. A new public institutional ‘trust’ for the pooling of technological knowledge to replace the current patenting system; 4. Ethical as well as economic negotiation of wages, prices and share-values amongst owners, workers, shareholders and consumers who would all be given real political and economic stakes in every enterprise. Such practices would be encouraged by legal and taxation arrangements, while disputes over such matters would come more within the purview of the courts of justice; 5. Passing through vocational training and membership of various recognised but not-monopolistic professional vocational associations encouraging an honourable ethos being made conditions of entry to business practice. 6. A contributory welfare system whose mutualism would preclude any need for means-testing to ensure a safety net. Such a system would again enshrine reciprocity and have the further merit of encouraging people to take greater risks in business, in the knowledge that, if they failed, not all their gains would be lost.
To propose such things is to suggest a new ‘civil economy socialism’. And in this way, the Labour Party could start to reinvent the socialist and cooperative tradition itself. (Incidentally I cannot resist saying that this would undo the undoing of the misunderstood-as-necessarily-Fabian and nationalising old Clause Four.)
Of course such true economic equilibrium cannot be achieved by one country alone, because international capitalist forces would tend to undercut it. For this reason, the adoption by Labour of a civil economy approach would imply an unprecedented and more creative foreign policy. Such a policy would regard London’s geopolitical and geo-economic situation as a vortex of meeting and competing forces as an advantage rather than a drawback. With the EU and with the Commonwealth and the former French (and perhaps also Spanish) dominions together we could try to craft an alternative international network of expanded ‘fair-trade’ and legal guarantee whose ability and success could eventually bring even the United States and other countries into its orbit. If the EU could abandon its current commitments to neoliberalism and to formal regulation and absolute rights and support at an inter-state level the communitarian and constitutionally corporatist practices of Germany and Italy, then it could find the courage to cancel its own internal and external debts, fund more adequately its own scientific leadership and assume genuine power in the world for the good. Instead of an absolute free trade in capital and labour it could substitute reciprocal agreements for mutually beneficial protectionisms for certain things in certain nations and regions. Such a politics of shared sovereignty would be the international equivalent of subsidiarity within nations and could form the nucleus of a governing network that is potentially global.
In my view ‘One Nation Labour’ will fail unless it has this truly bold scope. As David Goodhart has argued, it needs a vision for Britain if everything is not to fall apart in the face of now extreme divisions between the British nations, between north and south, between secular and religious, between young and old, between men and women, between town and countryside, between culture and culture and between the EU and its constituent nations. I have already tried to indicate aspects of what this vision might be.
More controversially, I do not think that that vision can be simply a version of the American dream or an essentially postimperial ‘Little Britain’ one. For this would be to misunderstand who we are and how we have come to be – which is not out of a big revolutionary explosion, as David Goodhart has rightly noted. Rather, our slow-burning genius, as both English and Celtic, since before the Norman conquest (but always of a part-Christian inspiration) is political, it is to know how to govern, based on a flexible rule of law and on constitutional free association at many different levels. It is this long legacy of interweaving consent with leadership and freedom with community that has most of all given to the world modern democracy – and by comparison the revolutionary legacies are rather inadequate parodies, on which what is best in France and the United States does not really depend.
Therefore we have to tell a longterm story about ourselves – not simply a whiggish and capitalist recent story that is superficial and misleading. Part of this story is the strange truth that we have never been a nation state – have never been based on a narrow ethnicity, but also lacked for a long time and never completely acquired, as Carl Schmitt noted, the crucial marks of modern statehood – ‘police’ control by the state, juridical formalism, state-administered finance and civil politeness: this is why we are still so rude and robust in debate. Instead, the British Atlantic empire, like the Spanish one, arose in continuity with its medieval empire, where a group of diverse local territories, ethnicities and cultures was already held together by a common set of symbolic loyalties , values and acceptance of a certain jurisprudential horizon which was rather different from that, for example of France.
There is therefore a historic sense in which empire can be more benign, plural and inclusive a reality than that of ‘nation state’. Of course the British empire was overwhelmingly to do with capitalist expropriation and it eventually tried to impose precisely ‘statist’ features on a global scale. However, it also from the outset mitigated through politics, diplomacy and cultural negotiation a more naked exploitation on the part of freebooting entrepreneurs. Equally, given the limits of its military and personnel resources, it perforce had to encourage the emergence of more plural and indigenous modes of political control, while also fostering a certain cross-cultural and international modulation of an originally merely British ethos. This should be inversely contrasted with the fact that every nation state is as much the upshot of originally violent seizure as is every empire, while the obsession since the mid 19th C (thanks to the decadence of romanticism, which had originally, with Herder and Novalis, favoured regionalism rather than nationalism) with matching state boundaries to linguistic and cultural ones has led to all too familiar and bloody mischief both in Europe and in the Near East.
For this reason it is shallow to think that the legacy of empire has no positive and equitable potential, or cannot naturally be turned towards mutual and cooperative notions of international commonwealth – and in fact there are historical links between the emergence of the British Commonwealth, of Francophonia and of the European Community (originally envisaged in some ways as a substitute for recently lost Habsburg control in the East and a attempt to restore an ancient Carolingian unity of France and Germany in the west.) It is assumed that our international influence must necessarily wain, but those who assumed this in the 1960’s would be staggered by the degree to which it still persists today. Empire is always about finally to end and yet interestingly never does so and in certain modes – like the underwriting of foreign business by British law — reinvents itself in some positive new ways in contrast to the post-imperial corporate and oligarchic ravages which we have disgracefully supported. Indeed the most penetrating historians have argued that much of our loss of influence was down to miscalulations, loss of nerve and absence of vision on the part of a decadent establishment and not to historical inevitability. Today we are likely to be the most populous country in Western Europe by mid-century and the increasingly culture-dominated character of international politics considerably favours our global legacy and current global strengths.
Equally, it is shallow to suppose that the break-up of the UK follows automatically upon the end of empire. For a British and even a British Isles dimension in both culture and politics stretches right back to the early Middle Ages — as historians rather than Hollywood-made movies so clearly attest.
If British identity has tended to lapse in favour of Celtic and now English ones with the rise of UKIP, then this is not, I submit, inevitable, but rather the result of a southern English failure to offer a vision of British identity which has to include a new version of our looking outwards to seek to help others and ourselves towards political and economic equity in their own and our own unique terms, respectively – because without this maritime destiny we are just not being ourselves, in contrast perhaps to the Americans. That this destiny has often been pursued with brutality and was abandoned so recklessly and irresponsibly – with dire consequences in the Near East — only precludes us trying to pursue it in future more charitably and cooperatively if we act out of guilt, which is always to act in bad faith. Outside western Europe (which is itself not immune) the world now exhibits a general slide into corruption, criminality, state and corporate tyranny, the collapse of equity and the rule of law. To retreat to an insular powerlessness in the face of these things would be to betray our own identity and incidentally threaten our own longterm security.
It is here notable that Celtic articulations of the common good, such as that found in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter sequence or Bill Forsyth’s film Local Hero, tend to update an essentially conservative vision of virtue and the pursuit of the common good. They cling to older British values which the metropolis has abandoned. And traditionally the Celtic countries have if anything looked yet more outwards than England, and while they all require home rule, to cut themselves off from England and London would be to risk cutting themselves off from this vital part of their own legacy. For they could only then only pursue a futile liberal internationalism like Sweden or Eire, not a culturally-dense, virtue-orientated and therefore more effective one.
The reasons then for sustaining the UK are the same reasons for remaining in the EU, and yet for not abandoning our links to international Anglophonia (including with the United States). Here, as elsewhere, Blue Labour should call us to abandon false and dysfunctional either-ors in favour of strangely possible paradoxes. Not state or market, religion or the secular, Anglophonia or Europe, or nation versus the global. Instead, intimate reciprocities in ever-widening circles from your street to the planet, fusing economic, political and ecological purpose in the name of the flourishing of each and every person and their combination as workers to erect a shared and beautiful cosmopolis.