Britain's Place in The World The Glasman Lecture 2023
The 12th Glasman lecture at the House of Lords on June 14th, delivered by Lord Maurice Glasman, offered a thought-provoking analysis of Britain's political maturity and its place in world politics. A full house listened intently as Glasman touched on the tensions within the Tory party (and particularly the struggle between the side of the party that supports the strategy to 'level-up' the United Kingdom and neo-Thatcherist side that wants more free market economics), which threatens to tear the country apart. Who would have thought that Boris Johnson, who led the party to a storming victory in 2019 is not even an MP 3 and 1/2 years later.
Glasman pointed out that a major issues facing the western world is the movement from 'globalisation' towards national politics. The neglect of a national industrial strategy that feeds, heats and cares for a population with resources from within, has led to a reliance of nation states on importing energy, food and medicines.
This 'dangerous neglect' was originally justified by lower costs of labour in the far east and validated the strategy of offshoring of production. Further justification was that China would become more wealthy, liberalise and westernise. That hasn't happened and China is now a super-power in its own right. And fiercely sovereign.
Meanwhile the EU effectively forbids the creation of industrial strategy by its 'states' by insisting that state intervention is approved by the EU itself and can be shown to strengthen EU integration.
The rise of China and its influence has created a difficult situation for the world. The US is moving away from globalisation towards a bipolar political scene (where world influence is predominantly in the hands of two states).
Meanwhile the war in Ukraine, which is clearly a proxy war between Russia and the US (and potentially China and the US), is indicative of fault lines in the EU.
When the German relationship with Russia was strong it was able to subordinate others in the east to its demand for energy from Russia. But NATO is now pushing Germany to comply and finally Germany is supporting the efforts in Ukraine. With Merkel's strategies in ruins, Berlin is in a difficult position. Likewise France, who had previously wanted Russia in an alliance has been sidelined.
This has not been lost in the Ukraine where Britain's stock is high but also in Poland and the Baltic states - where the danger of further military conflict is omnipresent - and Scandinavia all of whom now realise that Germany (and France) is not the ally that Britain is proving it is.
As such, 'the world is on the turn' and Glasman turned to how Britain has an opportunity to shape and lead the way out of what he has dubbed the 'cascade of crises'.
Britain is well placed to play a major role in Europe. By growing its links to the Commonwealth, providing an alternative to the sluggish EU, by offering an alternative for the Eastern States to the historic German Franco alliance and the move away from EU constraints Britain has created an opportunity for leadership. What could possibly go wrong?
Lord Glasman was created a Labour Peer in 2010 for his community work and commitment to The Living Wage. He is a Professor of Politics and International Relations at St Mary's University Twickenham. In 2022 he released his latest book 'Blue Labour - The Politics of The Common Good'.