Posted: 20 Jun, 2022
Imagine being in front of a select committee at the House of Lords, the democratic centre of the planet (despite what the press would have you believe). It happened on Tuesday evening 14th June when well over 50 TMA UK members and guests were in the hot seats for the 2022 Glasman lecture on Tuesday 14th June, sponsored by leading restructuring firm FRP Advisory.
ARE WE RIGHT TO BE WORRIED? was the title of the first event back at the House since 2019 and our 12th lecture since we partnered with Lord Glasman and his charity The Common Good Foundation, an institution dedicated to creating a better society through reconciliation.
Maurice took us through the last years since the Brexit vote and the paralysation of Westminster during the period up until the 2019 election. He wove a tapestry from the strands of recent history that point to the future of Britain, Europe and the world and, in particular, the rise in importance of the nation state.
Starting with the UK, he pointed out the shift in politics that has been going on for decades but that was accelerated by the Brexit vote:
1. That the Conservatives are now largely supported by a majority of ordinary working-class people, motivated by the Brexit wrangling but manifested in the 2019 majority election.
2. That Labour is now largely supported by middle-class public-sector workers and unable to reconnect with its former heartland.
3. That the Liberal Democrat support is now from mainly former conservative voters who remain wedded to the primacy of a global economy and 'rights based' global governance.
He stressed the absolute priority of nation states to reassess self-determination, embracing statism and pointed to Greece and the unprecedented actions of Sweden and Finland's applications to join NATO.
Explaining to our fantastic audience, many of whom had never been to a Glasman lecture, that these forces alone will dictate Conservative politics if they expect to remain in power (more later), Maurice overlaid the tapestry of Brexit with Covid, where all Western nations were caught short by their absolute reliance on China for the most basic of requirements, masks, gowns, ventilators, testing kits. And as EU open borders were closed, the response to Covid was driven by national health and economic strategies. And the working-class men and women, who could not work from home, but worked our superstores, our refuse collection, and our hospitals, were acknowledged again for what they do.
Maurice introduced the concept of a new era in politics and quoted Pope Francis' address to the Italian church in 2015 when he said "We are not living in an era of change but [witnessing] the change of an era.
Expertly concluding with reference to Ukraine, where he was just two weeks ago, in Kiev, he drew observations from the invasion of one sovereign nation state of another and the implications for world politics - the readiness of national armies, the ambitions of China, the folly of the West to outsource production to the east and assume that this would bring China into being as a democracy. And the folly of thinking that manual workers can be shipped in - or out - to suit industry, with no consequences for the people 'left behind' by the global economy, hence the fall of the 'red wall' in 2019.
At this point it is appropriate to say that Maurice was one of few Labour Peers to vote Brexit and was given the Peerage largely for his work around the living wage for working class people. But he clearly saw this coming many years ago and he concluded by outlining some of the strategies of Government that are actively in discussion in Westminster.
The creation of national economic and financial institutions and infrastructure that supports the struggling communities in the UK, namely with Freeports, and the idea of local banks endowed with authority to lend in their region but not wider and certainly not on international markets. These are still being worked out within the new Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.
It will be time of a closer partnership with business and more intervention from government to support greater national self-sufficiency. There is certainly a love towards more state intervention in 'abandoned' towns and the creation of local governance, self-determination, and workforce engagement. This is part of a general move towards greater national self sufficiency in energy, food, and industrial production. Following the invasion of Ukraine, and the leading role of Britain in supporting the Ukrainian army there will need to be greater investment in defence and this could be the basis for an industrial strategy. Glasman also spoke of a radical reform of universities and the need to develop a serious parallel system of vocational colleges for people that do not necessarily need university degrees but will benefit from workplace skills.
For Glasman the work of Brexit had only just started, and this was a move towards greater national self-sufficiency and away from the assumptions of globalisation. Central to this was a new partnership between the state, business, and workforce in generating the skills required to produce those things that had been contracted out, often to China, which would emerge as the most significant force in the new era.
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