Socialist Worker

Competing colours do battle to out-Tory the Tories

by Tom Walker at Labour Party conference in Liverpool
Issue No. 2271

Blue Labour. The Purple Book. Or maybe Red Ed?

Delegates to this year’s Labour Party conference had a rainbow of choices.

Labour leader Ed Miliband pledged to take on “rip-off” train fares and energy firms. Was this a dash of red?

No. It was the opening shot for Miliband’s big new idea—the “quiet crisis”, which focuses on people struggling to pay their bills.

For many, that seems a bit too left of centre. Quickly the whispering started about “economic credibility”.

This is the mantra of Labour’s newest faction—the Purple Book (see box). It means, as leading Purple Booker Douglas Alexander said, showing “the seriousness with which we recognise the challenge of deficit reduction”.

By Monday of this week shadow chancellor Ed Balls had adopted this rhetoric.

He talked about “tough decisions” on the deficit—and embracing the Tories’ Office for Budget Responsibility.

Around 65,000 people have joined Labour since the general election. Some of them explain why on the party’s website.

“To fight against government cuts,” writes Joanne. “To join the fightback against the Tories,” says Clare. None mention “deficit reduction”.

But most delegates would talk about nothing but “economic credibility”.

“We can’t be seen to be irresponsible,” one told Socialist Worker. “We can’t promise what we can’t deliver.”

Another was angrier. “People voted Tory,” he chided. “We’re not going to win them back by moving left!”

Once you accept this, the only choice becomes which issue you out-Tory the Tories on. This is where Blue Labour comes in.

Blue Labour’s Maurice Glasman pushes soft left economics but hard right positions on issues like immigration.

Glasman should be out of favour. But the anti-immigrant sentiment isn’t.

So Ed Balls said that it was a “mistake” that Labour hadn’t imposed more controls on immigration.

One thing’s for sure—mixing Blue with Purple doesn’t get you Red.


The Purple Book, launched at the Labour conference by the Blairite thinktank Progress, is the latest bible for New Labour.

It is backed by Peter Mandelson and a fair chunk of shadow cabinet ministers have also contributed their thoughts.

The failures of past Labour leaders are explained by their refusal to accept Tory policies.

Some parts show how ambitious the Blairites can be.

Shadow community secretary Caroline Flint proposes new “housing Asbos”—or “Hasbos”.

These would let people petition police to have their “anti-social” neighbours “evicted and refused the right to live within five miles of the area, whatever their housing tenure”.


If you enjoy Socialist Worker, please consider giving to our annual appeal to make sure we can maintain and develop our online and print versions of Socialist Worker. Go here for details and to donate.

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.