Why I’m joining the Conspiracy


12:08 am - November 5th 2007

by Paul Linford    


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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.

This website is a possibly somewhat belated attempt to fill that vacuum. I am very pleased to have been asked to be a part of it.

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About the author
Paul Linford is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He is a digital publishing manager and former Parliamentary Lobby journalist where he was political editor of the Newcastle Journal for seven years. He has an 18-year career in newspaper journalism and lives in Belper, Derbyshire, with his wife and two children. A committed Christian, his faith informs his own belief in progressive politics and the view that a society must always be judged by how it treats its most vulnerable members. His eponymous blog combines a mixture of the personal and the political and has become particularly renowned for its commentaries on liberal-left politics. He is also a leading voice in support of an English Parliament and other democratic reforms. Also at: Paul Linford blog
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Reader comments


Great post Paul, you certainly describe my reasons for wanting to be a part of this. As someone who isn’t a regular blogger, I think the challenge is also to find a wider public liberal-left audience for this site, and to think about what happens further down the line. Can we turn broad consensus by bloggers and readers on the aims of Liberal Conspiracy (assuming we can get it!) into action, and what would such action look like?

As a long term member of the Labour Party, I watched as the authoritarian right of the party took over. It had always been there, but the extreme and incompetent left provided it with a perfect excuse after the antics of Militant and other ‘entryists’ gave the right a gift in terms of ‘loony leftism’. I was an active member, a councillor and branch representative. I have withdrawn my support , and I know many others who have. I haven’t voted labour since 1997 and I believe the core of labour support will collapse even further at the next election.
If you can collect on this site some indication of just how many votes the labour Party might lose at the next election, it might stiffen the nerve of the MPs who after all put Blair in power and allowed Brown to take over unapposed to stand up in greater numbers. Can you have a section on this site for disaffected Labour voters to say why they won’t vote Labour next time? It might get some attention in Westminster.

Peter, you’ve touched on something here that may well become a lively issue for us here at Liberal Conspiracy, namely our attitude to the Labour Party. Sunny has stated in his preamble that the Labour Party currently represents the best vehicle for our aims and ambitions because it is in power, and I would agree with that as far as it goes, but I don’t think it necessarily represents the best vehicle for our aims and ambitions for any reason other than that it’s in power! On many issues, the Liberal Democrats and even conceivably the Conservatives might have policies that are closer to what we might define as “liberal” or “progressive.” That’s why I think it’s very important that this does not become a party political blog in the way most of the right-wing uber-blogs are.

Like many on the liberal/left, I am no longer a member of the Labour party.

However, I would baulk at any thought that the conservative party could, or ever will be, a vehicle for our concerns. I think there has to be a degree of tribalism – despite the warm words, they are still Tories, and their instincts are not liberal.

5. silent_observer

“Can you have a section on this site for disaffected Labour voters to say why they won’t vote Labour next time?”

Excellent idea.

My contribution:

1. The ongoing disaster of Iraq.

2. The total failure to challenge the runaway rise of consumer capitalism and the decline in our shared morals, values, and culture it has brought with it. Moral cowardice.

3. The degradation of political discourse. All the parties are at fault here, but NuLab set the pace. The reasons for this are complex and have a great deal to do with the mass media (mis)representations of politics and politicians, but whatever the cause, the effect has been that almost all public political discourse is now conducted in bland, vapid terms that almost by definition exclude genuinely radical or challenging ideas. In other words, the whole tone of debate is geared towards preservation of the status quo.

4. The absurd levels of bureaucracy and over-regulation introduced by NewLab, apparently in the belief that if you employ enough people to fill in enough forms, you will eventually create a better society.

How about

1. The abject failure to reform public services

2. The ever increasing tax burden

3. Rising crime – I’m not interested in debates about stats or blaming the media – crime is rising, ask any policeman

4. Nannying – I don’t expect the government to be involved in my diet, my leisure habits or my family .

5. The smoking ban – to me it epitomizes everything that’s wrong with the sort of people who now ruin the county. Smug, hypocritical, self-satisfied, sanctimonious and humourless.

6. The feminization of culture and institutions and the way it’s been used to justify the abandonment of a generation of children


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