It’s time to take on the right


11:01 am - November 5th 2007

by Dave Hill    


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I hate to tempt fate but, fingers crossed, touching wood and stroking a rabbit’s foot, this blog could turn out to be a rarity: a place where liberals and lefties gather to debate that I don’t feel an immediate urge to leave.

I doubt I’m alone in feeling that way. No need here to recap the British left’s long and turgid history of ideological introversion and sectarian scrapping. No need either, I hope, to lament the space periodically wasted on this-or-that recanting hack proclaiming their overdue escape from some state of supposed liberal denial.

I can’t be arsed with that stuff. Never have been. That’s because beyond the narrow battlegrounds and hillsides of media straw men there lies a larger landscape inhabited by people with broad minds and real lives who nowadays hold in common the sorts of values that have improved life in Britain for so many who live here over the past fifty-odd years, and of which they and the nation should be proud.

It’s a far more fulfilling place to be: a pluralist Britain where it is taken as read that there is a collective responsibility to see that the sick are cared for, children educated, the poor not left to starve and prosperity worked for and spread around. It is a place, too, where citizens respect each other’s right to do and believe what they like so long as others aren’t hurt by it. That principle has more recently extended to people’s intimate lives, weakening harmful taboos around sexuality and relationships.

The same wise and generous impulses have rendered racism furtive and disreputable. There is general assent that girls deserve the same opportunities as boys and that men who disparage their wives at dinner parties for the amusement of male fellow guests deserve divorce.

Readers too young to have grown up in small town England in the Sixties and Seventies as I did – or most other parts of Britain in that era – may not appreciate how much they owe social liberalism and the best of the political left for nourishing these admirable changes. It won’t help that those changes are so vehemently resented in some quarters.

This resentment lies behind the right’s successful insinuation into everyday conversation – even into the mouths of BBC reporters – of the term “political correctness” and conservative commentariat’s repeated bleating that “the feminists” and multiculturalism (whatever they think it means) have “gone too far” and that “we” are “not allowed” to have “an honest debate” about immigration because of – you guessed! – “political correctness”.

All this would be laughable were it not so insidious. Its very ubiquity reveals both the enduring power of those who spread the word that liberals and lefties are to blame for every ill and the continuing existence of a Britain that is ready – or half ready – to believe them. These voices of the seething classes – seething with bitterness at no longer having everything their way – routinely panic the Labour government and inhibit people in everyday life from challenging injustice or working for change. The right won the economic arguments in the Eighties and Nineties but were defeated in the cultural ones. They now show themselves to be bad losers. How very unBritish of them.

For me, the job of this blog is to construct a political narrative describing how best to defend, consolidate and build on the successes I’ve described and secure greater success in other areas: inequality, education, health provision, civil liberties, citizenship, tax and the economy, foreign policy…the list is formidable.

The goal is to bring about a Britain that is freer, fairer and therefore happier for more of those living here than it is now. Simply defining what “freer” and “fairer” mean should keep us busy for a while, especially where the two seem to conflict. Yet the process should be constructive and pleasurable.

Ensuring this will be easier if all those contributing to it maintain a sceptical distance from media bubbles and Westminster villages and instead keep their heads, hearts and feet firmly planted in those parts of the everyday Britain others like us have helped build.

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About the author
Dave Hill is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He is a novelist, blogger, journalist, married resident of Hackney in east London and father of six children. His novels are about family life. Also at: Comment is free.
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Reader comments


Thanks Dave you summed up exactly what I feel about the underlying strengths and self-inflicted weaknesses of our part of the left

Good post, although I kinda got the feeling part of the message was ‘As long as we don’t mention Iraq we’ll be fine’…

Thanks Conor. Much appreciated.

Hi Leon. I don’t think we should have invaded Iraq. Does that help?!?!? Best Wishes.

And while we’re mentioning wars I’d love to stick around all day but have to hit the road now. I’m off to Stoke to interview a solider who’s just returned from Afghanistan together with his partner and their child.

So, later alligators…

Do you not feel an urge to leave Comment is Free then?!! 🙂

Would you describe Frank Field – one of whose major concerns is the collapse of social discipline – as “seething with bitterness”?

I do hope this blog is not going to be as tribal as this early post suggests it might become.

Hey Dave, my apols didn’t mean to sound combative! Just that it’s one issue I can see being a an ‘issue’ at some point.

6. Not-all-Tories-seethe-Or-Read-the-Daily-Mail

Hi there,

Interesting site, good luck with this!

No doubt you will be doing your part to expose how 10 years of Labour fiscal mis-management, leading to a bloated and massively wasteful Public sector is the anti-thesis of helping the poor and dispossessed.

Of course you will also focus on the wonderful work done by Liberal-Left local government in promoting year-on-year Council Tax increases to cause real cuts in spending power for those on fixed incomes eg Pensioners and the Unemployed, further proof that ‘Big Goverment’ equals “Negative Social Justice” for the most poor and disadvantaged groups in OUR society.

And on the theme of :
“a pluralist Britain where it is taken as read that there is a collective responsibility to see that the sick are cared for, children educated, the poor not left to starve and prosperity worked for and spread around”

… can we see some focus on a Goverment which has flooded both the Health and Education services with cash, but with the only outcome that literally hundreds of people die from MRSA infections in dirty hospitals and Brown’s Health ‘Guru’ (his words, not mine!) states the ““The age of the district general hospital is over” (Good for local poor and elderly people having to travel to a regional centre many, miles away?) and clearly measured declines in educational social mobility and British schoolchildren lagging at the bottom of every European social indicator index.

The serious point here is that if you genuinely set out to be pluralist, then you will not just have a cartoon-ish depiction of the right and seek to bravely assess some of the bold, innovative and genuinely compassionate work that is formenting in and around the Conservative Party right now, relating to genuinely tackling poverty, worklessness, social mobility and the role of social enterprises ( work by the way which we genuinely compassionate Conservtives widely applaud, respect and admire the ‘non-seething’ but altogether thoughtful work of Frank Field).

You see this blog could be a real success and a real contribution if WE (ie YOU, The We Care beacuse we want to spend other people’s money Lefties, and us on the right who are on genuinely setting the pace on ideas of socail reform and good governance) can argue over the role and size of the state and the nature and purpose of political phiosophy in that but your comment:

” It is a place, too, where citizens respect each other’s right to do and believe what they like so long as others aren’t hurt by it. That principle has more recently extended to people’s intimate lives, weakening harmful taboos around sexuality and relationships. ” …does not bode well on that front as it seems to indicate that the authour also has a pantomine bad-guy (or bad person, sic!) mis-perception of 21st Century Conservatives (Do you seriuosly think the overwhelming majority of Conservatives do not share these “values of decency and respect?”).

Whilst fighting your corner gainst those who “……who spread the word that liberals and lefties are to blame for every ill and the continuing existence of a Britain that is ready – or half ready – to believe them.” (Errm, who exatly is seething in frustration here?), please prove your fair, decent, tolerant and pluralist credentials by comparing and contrasting any reactionary thought on the right with the equally insidious reactionary thought that is pervasive in parts of the left (If you have ever been to a Miners social club in Wales or a Labour CIU club in the North East or Scotland as I have, you will no doubt know how ‘inclusive’ these Left wing power bases really are, try discussing Homophobia there for instance!) failure to do this, and you are surely nothing more than empyt, rhetorical ‘Conserva-phobes”.

After all, surely you don’t want the level of intellectual discourse on the Left to be exempliflied by the Hazel Blears school of empty-platitudinal-cant (Example: Citing the ‘Millionaires Money’ {Pantomine “BOO, HISS” now Boys and Girls} going in to fund the campaigning work of Tory candidates in Marginal constituencies which “Must be stopped” but ommitting to mention that this is LESS THAN HALF the amount that the Trade Unions are ploughing into the exact same consitutencies to Labour MP’s – Is the fair or decent political discourse?).

So good luck, you have got your work cut out there.

Finally, if you get the time you might like to explain to this thoughtful, caring Geordie Tory, who cares passionately by the way about my city and the enduring hopelessness of large sections of Newcastle and the surrounding North East, how (with an honourable exception for the genuinely thoughtful Alan Milburn MP!) how the lives of said locals will be transformed by 10 more years of lazy, unmotivated ( they know they are going to be re-elected right?) “lobby fodder” local Labour MP’s with nary an original or innovative or dynamic thought between them?

Geordie-Tory

Liberals are just people whose interests aren’t currently at stake, the “seething classes” are people whoes interests are.

Bet you don’t publish this !

8. unfortunatley-most-tories- do-read-he-daily-mail-but-that's- not-the-point

So glad to see some bloggers that actually have liberal and left wing views. For too long the right-wingers have dominated the internet.

Meanwhile the right can try and play “The Times-Style” card saying “I’m liberal, I just don’t vote for them” and their caring conservative attitudes towards the working classes of “I love you, and that’s why I have to kill you” but it is the left and liberals who are the ones willing to take immediate action.

Liberality isn’t a product of circumstances, but is a mind state opposed to selfishness and anti-reciprocity.

More to the point conservative middle classes have very little at stake.

9. Not-all-Tories-seethe-Or -Read-the-Daily-Mail

Dear “unfortunatley-most-tories-do-read-he-daily-mail-but-that’s-not-the-point”

Clearly you never read my remarks, when you have stopped seething (or thumbing through the Guardian Public Sector ‘Help Wanted’ section maybe) hopefully you will see that I was sincerely trying to point out that a dialogue between the left and right bloggers is good for the very dispossessed you claim so much to care for? (When was the last time you undertook any voluntary work with a local community group then? By the by you will find that said same “Conservative Middle Classes” are the backbone of the most caring voluntary initiatives in our socitety.)

Of course you don’t want to hear this, because you care, you REALLY CARE, you are Liberal-Left after all, which as you put it means:

“Liberality isn’t a product of circumstances, but is a mind state opposed to selfishness and anti-reciprocity. ” but in practice for most Lefties means outsourcing compassion to a Government directed bureaucracy.

I will state finaly, that I am not here to hijack anyone’s blog, I am here to hear the brilliant, intellectual left (self-styed!) articulate its views on Worklesness, Crime, Poverty, Heath and Educational inequality which I as a (working clas geordie by the way, not that that matters) care deeply about.

Or is the Liberal-Left unable to defend its recent shabby record in these areas and outline its future vision here, instead retreating to the emotional comfort blankie of “We Care, You dont” cliche so beloved by Lefties.

I am proud Tory, have always admired Tony Benn because he was always able to put a human face on politics, but god help the Left if the best in thinking they can come come up with is trite stuff like this ” Liberality isn’t a product of circumstances, but is a mind state opposed to selfishness and anti-reciprocity. “

10. unfortunatley-most-tories- do-read-he-daily-mail-but- that's-not-the-point

I actually am a volunteer at my local general hospital. I actually do something for my community, but what i don’t want is a pat on the back or some kind of conservative-charity kudos. I want real action.
Charity is a good method to address issues but ultimately the real action comes from government. Compassion is one thing but I believe in putting your money where your mouth is and using my tax money to solve these problems not donating 2 quid every now and again. Bureaucracy (something i believe in reducing) is only used to the effect that people are not marginalised and regulation is not bypassed like it was under previous tory governments. However I agree that this must be reduced, I don’t think much of it is now necessary.
I you are interested in “Worklesness, Crime, Poverty, Heath and Educational inequality” why are you behind the elitist, privatising, individualist tory party which has ignored these issues before accepting them as necessary. Economically and socially the tory party have ignored and dissmissed these issues.
Labour may have a shabby record and may not have cured any of these issues, far from it, but the tories hadn’t even addressed them as necessary until recently.
Before you start quoting me as “The Voice Of the Left” may I point out that I am not a spokesman, I am someone with an opinion, I am centre left, i am not a socialist, I dislike Tony Benn’s ideas, I am middle class, I am not a die-hard liberal, I believe in practicality and pragmatism and have yet to hear a single piece of evidence to show that the said cliche is untrue or that their policy shows any reciprocity. What do you as a Tory propose?
I believe in compromising but on social issues the Tories are the one’s who need to compromise.

Mate, can I ask one small thing of you? Use paragraphs! 😀

Geordie-Tory, I’m looking forward to seeing how LC will play out but really don’t know at this early stage. This is only day one, after all. I have a feeling some of the articles here may surprise you.

I agree that it is not true to suggest that all Conservatives conform to a “pantomime bad-guy” stereotype but I don’t think Dave claimed otherwise.

It is nevertheless the case that the process Dave describes is very real. Many of the social changes described above are under attack from right leaning media outlets and Conservative commentators. These “political correctness gone mad” attacks are often based on the most ridiculous assertions but are gaining traction all the same. As such, it can be no surprise that many on the left feel the need to counter this process.

‘The goal is to bring about a Britain that is freer, fairer and therefore happier for more of those living here than it is now. Simply defining what “freer” and “fairer” mean should keep us busy for a while, especially where the two seem to conflict. Yet the process should be constructive and pleasurable.’

Well let’s begin. Where do we all stand on the 28, 56 or 90 day debate? Can it ever, ever be right for the state to detain anyone, under any circumstances for longer than 14 days without due process? Is this government eroding our liberties or was Blair right when he argued that the rules of the game have changed?

My answer? The game may have changed – it is up to us to set the rules. The first rule must be to ensure liberty – we must oppose any proposal to extend the detention limit.

Brilliant article Dave.

15. Stephen Rouse

Geordie Tory, I worked in the North-East and the point about working men’s clubs is well made.

I agree it’s important this site does not become a simple Tory-bashing exercise. Progressive Conservatives must be encouraged and made to feel welcome here. The present battle for the heart and soul of the Conservative party is the most vital struggle in British politics right now. The liberal elements must be helped to overcome the darker forces at work.

But I think you underestimate the size of the task ahead of you. You claim most Tories share our “values of decency and respect”. Go to the Daily Telegraph website and check out the screed of hatred which passes as comment on the Nigel Hastilow affair. Decency and respect on the right are not in as good shape as you might think.

I“Liberality isn’t a product of circumstances, but is a mind state opposed to selfishness and anti-reciprocity. ”

In other words it’s a meaningless pose, a white middle class affectation, along with organic vegetables and climate change

If it’s not a product of circumstance why are liberals overwhelmingly young(ish) white, middle class, university educated and employed in the arts or the public sector ? A GCSE sociology student could spot the correlation.

17. Geordie-Tory

Thanks to those (Garry, Stephen Rouse) who welcomed my comments and took my input at face value, rather than screeching “Ban the Tory, Ban the Tory!”.

I’ll pop back from time to time, and I hope this site retains this sense of fair pluralism and open-mindedness.

Now maybe time to leave you Lefties alone to bask in the warm glow of your own care and compassion.

Chrisc, MattMunro, GeordieTory and others:

I need to do some homework on Frank Field’s recent contributions, but he’s not who I have in mind when I identify the “seething classes.” By these I mean members of what J.K. Galbraith described as the “contented majority” – the people who are doing well or well enough in modern society – who are nonetheless obsessed with the idea that they are being done down in some way by certain changes in cultural values.

Michael Buerk’s notorious film about how men have supposedly been done down by feminism was a classic example of the seether mentality. The truth is that most men in Britain – those in the contented majority – have never had it so good. Nigel Hastilow’s blog is full of similar, self-pitying seether sentiments about every subject under the sun. Meanwhile, the spread of feminist ideas has helped a lot of women from all social backgrounds lead more fulfilling lives, and so on.

I’ve got no time for these resentments. I’m far more interested in addressing the difficulties faced by men and women who, far various reasons, haven’t become part of that contented majority. I’m interested in pinning down the right combination of liberal and left policies to achieve that.

MikeIon: Ho ho. I’m with Pauline Neville-Jones on detention times. Let the government convince me that an extension would achieve the desired result. They haven’t managed it yet.

By what definition have the majority “never had it so good” ? House prices out of the reach of many, public services going backwards, crime, taxes and cost of living going up, and being nagged to death by a government obsessed with the unimportant. Most people of my generation (30-45) are worse off than our parents. I’m not saying the “seething class” always pick the right targets necessarily but they have plenty to seeth about and the “liberal” lefts dismissve attitude to their concerns, whilst falling over themselves in the causes of equality, diversity and human rights are the main cause of the “PC backlash” – which is in fact a perfectly logical and predictable recentering of political gravity after the left wing excesses of the past decade.

Matt: I think a lot of people might wish to qualify your characterisation of public sevices, crime, the cost of living and government “nagging”.

Anyway, I think the entire political establishment is overly preoccupied with pleasing the contented as it contains the sorts of floating voters who do so much to determine the outcomes of elections. And, of course, pound for pound, they are the citizens who benefit most from government spending on health, education and so on because they are the most adept of taking advantage of the services provided. They have also benefited from popular, grassroots campaigns for sexual equality and the like. And, by and large, I’m very happy for them. I want as many people as possible to be prosperous, broadminded, tolerant and so.

The trouble with the seethers in the ranks of the contented is that they expect to get their own way all the time and resent any suggestion to the contrary – especially if it means curbing their own obnoxiousness. They’ve lost the argument and they don’t like it. But that’s freedom, baby!

And many would wish to qualify your generalised and evidence free assertion that there is widespread contentedness, I see no evidence for it and most psychological indicators show the opposite.

History suggests there will always be some group or other nursing real or imagined greivances based around perceived inequalities. How those grievances are expressed and managed is culturally specific but the idea that we have reached some nirvana of contentedness which only the seething classes are unwilling to aknowledge is probably misplaced. I would liken the current position in the UK to the 1960s when much hyped social change was perceived to have realsied a more equal and open society, only to be followed by the brutalism and conflict of the 1970s and early 1980s.
Many groups are actively campaigning on the basis that their rights have been/will be threatened e.g ethnic minorities, muslims, gays and feminists, without drawing the fire of the liberal left for daring to do so, the fact that the left simultanously argue that they have improved the social position of these groups makes the argument somewhat circular and suggests it isn’t a zero sum game.

22. Luis Enrique

“This resentment lies behind the right’s successful insinuation into everyday conversation – even into the mouths of BBC reporters – of the term “political correctness” ”

I consider myself on the left, but I think the term political correctness is perfectly sensible, I’m quite happy to see it used in everyday conversation, including (shudder) the BBC (although it can be misused like any other phrase) and it doesn’t need “insinuating” anywhere. I understand political correctness to mean something along the lines of pressure to do/say things that have the appearance of correctness as opposed to actually being correct. Bullshit, in other words. I think politically correct bullshit harms causes I care about – oughtn’t the liberal left be calling out political correctness where it exists? I cannot believe you live on the same planet as me if you argue that political correctness does not exist. Why try and turn it into some supposed lie told by the right? Just because the right abuses the term from time to time (or do you think that every time somebody on the right make the accusation of political correctness that they are wrong?) ought not mean left wingers ought to just deny it exists. Or do you understand the term differently from me?

“All this would be laughable were it not so insidious. Its very ubiquity reveals both the enduring power of those who spread the word that liberals and lefties are to blame for every ill and the continuing existence of a Britain that is ready – or half ready – to believe them.”

oh come on, words like “capitalist” are synonyms for “bad” in widespread usage nowadays – what does that reveal, the insidious and enduring power of left wingers? OK, concepts you identify with your opponents and think are wrong have gained common currency, but so have ideas you agree with – no need to start talking about ‘insidious’ etc .

And what kind of idiot thinks lefties are to blame for every ill? I hope you are not construing your opponents (the right) to be idiots, or this site will degenerate into a mutual wank.

23. left of centre ground

“words like “capitalist” are synonyms for “bad” in widespread usage nowadays”- I agree that this term is unfairly used by the left, and ignored by the centre left. We have moved on from socialism, now we must make capitalism work to achieve the same things. It is possible.

24. left of centre ground

can we make it a rule for both left and right commentors :

1) not to make unfounded or presumptious claims
2) not to play down each others ideas without providing an alternative or explanation
3) not to use open ended examples i.e. “why are liberals overwhelmingly young(ish) white, middle class, university educated and employed in the arts or the public sector ” or
“Many groups are actively campaigning on the basis that their rights have been/will be threatened e.g ethnic minorities, muslims, gays and feminists, without drawing the fire of the liberal left ” or
“the people who are doing well or well enough in modern society – who are nonetheless obsessed with the idea that they are being done down in some way by certain changes in cultural values”(femiism example was alright ,but still)
4) Not to bring political correctness into an argument unless it is a civilised and rational point with a clear understanding of it’s purpose and reality.
5) Not to call the conservatives far right or right wing when they are clearly centre right
6) Not to call New Labour Left Wing or Socialist when they clearly aren’t
7) Look for consensus and rational answers rather than arguement for arguement’s sake.

If so this could be a really positive site for both left and right to make a case for their opinions and create a real debate rather than ideological warfare.

25. MomentOfClarity

Dave – Good to see a new blogsite with some high-quality conributors. Let’s hope you can keep the trolls at bay!

My impression now is that although there’s been squabling amongst the centre-left focusing on Labour’s shift away from their stance in the 80’s, the real problem comes from the Tories attempted move into the centre. Whereas the Labour shift was/is real, the Tory shift is a sleight of hand. The Tories have reverted to type in recent elections but I’d be interested to hear your views on how the centre left can frame its USPs if the Tories manage to stay the course with Cameron’s strategy..

The seethers you mention are the comfortably selfish and the economically illiterate who see Tesco as the model for anything and everything in the public sector. Mostly, they can afford private medical insurance and privately educate their kids if they wanted to. They’re the same people who will argue for 24/7 GP care but want tax reductions and although I could be wrong, I think easily defeated politically but the media is a whole different issue. The media love the seethers. They’re attracted to the concept of the middle aged/middle income couple who can put together a lucid rant against the system. The recent spat over inheritance tax is a case in point where the Tories attempted to dress a simple and massive tax-break for the richest and least deserving as a point of “fairness”. Surely once someone has gone beyond a certain point of selfishness (and resultant seething) then there’s little point in debating them so the challenge for the centre left is to engage those who still preserve their sense of society, equality and common good rather than taking on the letter pages of the Telegraph and the Daily Mail.

The centre left needs to say what it stands for not against. It needs to say what it’s working towards and give detailed and inteligble plans. It can’t afford to fob-off its supporters with a “trust us, we’ll see you right” type message. People are making more demands of their politicians and clarity is high on their list. The left needs to escape its embarrassment when championing socialist policies such as minimum wage and flexible working and state that these are the policies of the left and be proud and clear.

“The seethers you mention are the comfortably selfish and the economically illiterate who see Tesco as the model for anything and everything in the public sector. Mostly, they can afford private medical insurance and privately educate their kids if they wanted to.”

With respect that’s a massively innacurate generalisation. I see the people you describe above not as seethers but as natural nu labour voters who are sufficiently economic secure to be mostly unconcerned about tax rates, public sector “waste”, immigrants, law and order etc etc. Why would you care about the NHS if you can afford BUPA or education if you go private, crime if you live in the suburbs and drive everywhere ? Middle class rentiers positively embrace the legendary cheap polish plumber because he keeps the overheads down on the buy to let. I’m not being sarcastic but have you got any idea how much you need to earn nowadays to even consider privately educating your kids ?
The “seethers” are lower down the foodchain, cannot afford private healthcare or education, have less secure employment, are more likely to be affected by, or be victims of crime and are more likely to feel the pressures of globalisation. They have seen the gap between themselves and what they regard as the underclass, shrink as the welfare state has expanded and they consequently perceive themselves to be economically squeezed, from both above and below and as making a huge effort for very little economic or social reward . And they can’t smoke in the pub anymore.

27. silent_observer

Hmm. I was quite excited when I read about this new site. As a moderate, liberally-inclined left-winger and disillusioned Labour supporter, it sounded like it might be a good place for an intellectual renewal of liberal-left ideas. But this poorly argued, inconsequential piece by Dave Hill makes my heart sink, as does Sunny Hundal appearing in the comments to declare it a “brilliant article”.

Dave- your whole argument about “seethers among the ranks of the contented” seems to be based on the idea that if somebody has achieved a certain level of material prosperity, they should not dare to advance any kind of social or cultural critique- particularly one with which you disagree- rather, they should simply shut up and be grateful. How is this “liberal”?

It also implies that people’s “contentedness” should be purely a function of their material prosperity and position in society. That wider concerns for their community and country shouldn’t enter into the equation- they should simply think to themselves, “well, *I’m* alright, Jack.. so everything’s peachy”. This sounds more Thatcherite than “left”.

I’m not rich, but I have a reasonable income. But I’m also desperately worried about many aspects of our atomised, fractured, disintegrating, increasingly amoral society- the rising violent crime, the poor standard of education, the struggling healthcare system (in which I work). I’m also hugely disillusioned by the Labour Govt’s failure to take on the rampant capitalist-consumerism that is driving so much of this decline by devaluing our culture, values and day-to-day life.

And with regard to New Labour- Luis Enrique’s point above about “political correctness” is spot-on. Indeed I would say that PC is what New Lab have *instead* of any genuine vision or moral courage. Not only that, the stultifying, unthinking pursuit of the “political correctness” agenda has harmed the very causes we should all care about. To pretend that it is simply an invention of the Daily Mail, or whatever, is just feeble. PC absurdities need to be thrown out, not defended, if we are to move on and create a rejuvenated, potent, meaningful left-liberal agenda.

All of this, it seems to me, should be of pressing concern for anyone interested in left-liberal ideas and values. But not on this thread, apparently.

28. MomentOfClarity

“The “seethers” are lower down the foodchain, cannot afford private healthcare or education, have less secure employment, are more likely to be affected by, or be victims of crime and are more likely to feel the pressures of globalisation. ”

Hill is talking about a different set of people. People who make contradictory demands on the state (lower taxes – more services), people who complain about their local school but don’t engage with it, people who drive SUVs and complain about fuel duty, people who moan about their grown children not being able to afford a flat but resort to nimbyism when new housing is proposed, people who complain about immigration but like the idea of a cheap plumber etc. etc.

The people you highlight are the working poor and are quite rightly the recipients of most of what’s been good about the last ten years but unfortunately, had to endure eighteen years of Thatcherism so on balance, there’s still a long way to go. However, only a left of centre govt would introduce and support minimum wage, parental rights, flexible working, new start, universal childcare, universal pension (non state) provision etc. etc. Women especially, have seen dramatic changes (transformational even) in their workplace rights in the last ten years yet you dismiss this as frippery.

The challenge for the left is to ignore the ranters and engage everyone else. What it mustn’t forget is that many who previously voted Tory in the 80s and 90s have now repeatedly voted Labour in the last three elections. They could just as easily switch again we all know what that would mean for the least well off (also most likely the end of the union). Arguments need to be won to persuade enough that the left of centre has the answers and sometimes this will entail compromise and deals with the devil in the interest of the greater good i.e. keeping out Cameron.

Silent Observer – “But I’m also desperately worried about many aspects of our atomised, fractured, disintegrating, increasingly amoral society….” Surely the product of people not govt.

29. silent_observer

“Surely the product of people not govt.”

I am very surprised to see these words on a left-leaning site. Yes, these things are “the product of people”- to say that is simply a truism. But they cannot be decoupled from the social, cultural, and economic conditions in which those people exist. “Product of people, not govt” certainly wasn’t the argument of the left in the 80s, when Thatcherite economic policies were devastating working-class communities and helping to sow the seeds of the social problems the country now faces. The left held it to be self-evident that rising crime, delinquency, alcoholism etc was directly linked to the social and economic breakdown in certain areas.

My point is that the current Labour Govt has failed dismally to address the underlying ongoing issues that contribute to this situation. The relentless rise of consumer capitalism is directly linked to the problems I listed, yet the Govt has done nothing to challenge it- indeed they have embraced it.

As far as I can see, the most obviously leftist thing about Blair/Brown has been a trait of the *illiberal* left – a massive increase in state intrusion into day-to-day life.

A very nice piece Dave.

To Sunny, wherever you may be: I do like the idea of this site, although I am a little confused by the fact that you start off by defining the forum as a platform for the liberal left – and then state that you don’t want to define what the liberal-left is.

You state you are for “social justice, equality, eradicating poverty etc” – but so am I – and I don’t think of myself as “left”. Although I am beginning to wonder if I might be a “Dillowist” (or a Christian?). I say this somewhat in jest (and partly given the quality of his blog) – but I think the point I would like to make is this:

You exclude through the use of the term “liberal left” – would it not be better to talk of a forum for people of shared ideals and then leave it open for contributors to discuss how best to attain those ideals? Would this not leave us (and your site) free of the clutter of stupid tribal left / right politics?

That said – thanks for your efforts in building this platform, the writings of which I hope will resonate into wider thinking about what is the best way to achieve the best of humanity’s intent.


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  1. Tom

    Tom…

    Great work. I am going to pass this along….

  2. Robert Sharp » Blog Archive » On Trolls, Liberty, Debate and Damian Green

    […] There’s a recently concluded debate over at the Liberal Conspiracy about ‘feeding the trolls’, that is, engaging with commenters on the blog who are just there to provoke an argument. I think there is a distinction between proper trolls, who are actively seeking to waste their own time in order to waste others’, and other people who simply have a wildly differing worldview. In the case of the former, it is rarely worth engaging. But in the case of the latter, debate can sometimes be helpful. It all depends on what kind of conversation you want to have, and on the Liberal Conspiracy, it is often impossible to talk about something at the level of detail you desire, if you are arguing first principles with someone else (be it a troll, or bona fide member of the seething classes). […]





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