Monday, November 05, 2007

Why I am joining the Liberal Conspiracy

A few months ago I got an email from Sunny Hundal of Pickled Politics asking me if I would be interested in contributing to a new liberal-left group blog designed to bring some balance to what has become an increasingly right-wing political blogosphere. To which the gist of my response was: too damned right I would.

After much planning and hard work, most of it by Sunny, the new site, Liberal Conspiracy, is now live. Here is a piece I have written to explain why I will be getting involved, which also appears HERE.

A Labour government in its tenth year of office is reduced to nicking ideas off the Tories. The leading contender for the Liberal Democrat leadership is a pro-market “Orange Booker.” And the political blogosphere has degenerated into an increasingly shrill right-wing mutual admiration society.

“What’s Left?” you may well ask yourself. It’s as good a summary as any of the state of British politics – and British blogging – today.

Different people will have different interpretations as to how we got here. From where I’m standing, the responsibility lies very clearly with the last Prime Minister who, though armed with two majorities of 160 plus at a time when the opposition couldn’t run a whelk stall, failed to build that progressive consensus of which he so often spoke.

Damaged irreparably by the Iraq War and its grisly aftermath, he also failed to stand down soon enough to give his successor a similar opportunity to capitalise on the Tories’ weakness, waiting instead until they had revived under a new and charismatic young leader before finally departing the scene earlier this year.

As a result, Gordon Brown now finds himself trapped in a lethal political conundrum by which he dare not set out an agenda that is too distinctively his own for fear ceding the fabled “political centre ground” to David Cameron, even though that centre ground has already shifted several degrees to the right.

The Tory intellectual Michael Gove last week described Brown, woundingly, as a tragic figure, a thwarted idealist now unable to give effect to any of his old ideals, and for whom staying in power as long as possible has become the only remaining political objective.

I am not sure things are quite as bad for him as all that, but the problem was well illustrated by a single headline in the Comment section of The Guardian last week: “Brown's fightback must be built on a real shift to the left.”

Jon Cruddas and Jon Trickett, the joint authors of the article so headlined, did not use those words. Like “Crisis? What Crisis?” they were convenient journalistic shorthand. But they demonstrate how hard it is for those who articulate a liberal-left or “progressive” vision of society to explain that without recourse to labels the public finds unhelpful or alienating.

In a sense, that’s also the challenge facing liberal-left bloggers: how do we make left politics engaging, exciting even? It’s easy to take refuge in the old saw that blogging is essentially oppositional, that it’s better to be a right-wing blogger when Labour is in power - harder to do anything about it.

The truth is the right has had things its own way for far too long. The liberal-left blogosphere, still divided over Iraq and more generally over the whole New Labour project, has been too disparate to mount an effective challenge to the right-wing uber blogs, which by virtue of their size are now effectively part and parcel of the mainstream media

The opportunity has long been there for a group of like-minded bloggers to come together to offer an alternative perspective on current political developments, and to set out an alternative vision for where politics might go in the post-Blair era.

Liberal Conspiracy which is being launched today, is a possibly somewhat belated attempt to fill that vacuum. I am very pleased to have been asked to be a part of it.

  • Other left-of-centre bloggers and writers taking part in the project include: Aaron Heath, Alan T, Chris Dillow, Daniel Davies, Dave Hill, Dave Osler, Davide Simonetti, David T, Donald Strachan, Garry Smith, Henry Midgley, Jamie K, Jess McCabe, Justin McKeating, Kate Belgrave, Kerron Cross, Natalie Bennett, Padraig Reidy, Robert Sharp, Unity and Sunny Hundal.

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  • 7 comments:

    The Creator said...

    Well, good luck but I think you will find it something of an uphill battle. Not just because the right-wing blogosphere is so well entrenched but because it is right in every sense.

    The point is really, really simple: socialism doesn't work. It never has done and it never will. 'Progressive politics' are essentially a nonsense.

    Even as late as the 60s it was just about possible to write convincingly in favour of socialism: its failures had not all revealed themselves.

    But not now. It is a discredited doctrine. Hence any defence of it will always fail to convince.

    MorrisOx said...

    I'll tell you what, Paul - in the space of three posts you've given me every good reason to thank my lucky stars for the blogosphere.

    Incisive reportage of issues that matter, analysed in a way that is possibly not feasible on newspapers.

    I happen to disagree fundamentally with much of the righteous waffling served up on Comment is Free (and, on occasion, with your own analyses).

    But I've yet to find a blog that gets to the point more presciently than yours.

    tyger said...

    The point is really, really simple: socialism doesn't work. It never has done and it never will. 'Progressive politics' are essentially a nonsense.

    Pfffft!

    WTF? *spits coffee*

    Progressive politics does not equal socialism!

    Neither must it waffle.

    The Creator said...

    OK tyger, cos I'm always up for a proper debate, if progressive politics, which I asume you favour, don't equal socialism what do they amount to?

    How about five simple points setting out what they aspire to? And then a further five showing how they work?

    I'm seriously interested.

    Stephen Rouse said...

    Creator,

    Five examples of progressive policies:

    Slum clearances
    Right to holidays with pay
    Abolition of the workhouses
    Pensions for widows, orphans and the elderly
    Requirement for fire escapes in the workplace

    All of them enlarging the province of Government, most of them interfering with the providential workings of the marketplace. And all of them introduced by that well-known socialist agitator Neville Chamberlain.
    As for them 'working', I understand they have met with general satisfaction over the years.

    Anonymous said...

    Slum clearances
    Right to holidays with pay
    Abolition of the workhouses
    Pensions for widows, orphans and the elderly
    Requirement for fire escapes in the workplace

    Let's hope the new website has more to it than this. Rofl.

    Stephen Rouse said...

    Dear anonymous,

    The question was - are socialism and progressive politics necessarily synonymous? I was merely pointing out that it is possible to be a Conservative and advance the cause of social justice. I do agree though, it is unfortunate I had to go back 70 years to find an example.