Recent Articles



What do we want from the BBC?

by Anthony Barnett     May 16, 2012 at 10:41 am

A new Director General is being appointed to take over the leadership of the single most important cultural and current affairs institution in Britain: the BBC.

What better time could there be to have a wide-ranging debate over the BBC you want and the UK needs? The BBC “we” need, as in “We, the people” in all our pluralism.

Many of us have criticised the BBC for its ‘regime’ like instincts and softness towards corporate power. But it remains distinct from the marketplace.
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Can this new initiative hold our ‘feral elite’ to account?

by Anthony Barnett     August 2, 2011 at 11:20 am

A new campaign has been launched for a citizens jury of 1,000 people to decide what the public interest is and make our “feral” political elite accountable to the people.

In my view anything that stirs things up and gets people thinking about the wider, systemic nature of the political crisis in Britain, is very welcome indeed.

But I must admit to a sense of relief that I wasn’t asked to sign. I am entirely in support of the spirit of opposition it expresses but troubled by the way they have gone about it.
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We need an audit into why the Yes2AV campaign performed so badly

by Anthony Barnett     May 20, 2011 at 9:02 am

At least three big stories are emerging from the debacle of the Yes to AV campaign.

First, that the strategy of its controlling management was strategically dishonest. Second, that it was run with appalling waste and incompetence and that the two main funders (JRRT and the ERS) may suffer from it. Third, that despite this an exceptionally important independent cross-party network of volunteers and activists was “galvanised” by campaign.
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The white-washing of Thatcher’s legacy is our new disease

by Anthony Barnett     January 3, 2011 at 3:40 pm

Jackie Ashley in the Guardian predicts a new cult of Thatcher as right-wing conservatives assault Cameron’s supposed liberal-leaning concessions on Europe and human rights, a cult that will be reinforced annually as the archives are opened under the thirty years rule.

Perhaps she had noticed the article by Michael Dobbs, author of House of Cards and once Thatcher’s Chief of Staff, in the Mail on Sunday. It  drips with longing for ‘Attila the Pen’ as he looks back on the internal memos of her first years in Downing Street.

But this longing for Thatcher is profoundly misconceived, if not deranged, picking up from the later madness that drove her from office.
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Last night’s Labour hustings: will it get interesting or turn to torture?

by Anthony Barnett     June 10, 2010 at 6:41 pm

It was great having Diane there. I’m not sure she wants to win. But it would be seriously good to have her up against Nick Clegg at Deputy Prime Minister’s Questions, not least because she has an outstanding record on liberty.

She must be part of Labour’s front bench even if she doesn’t lead it.

David Miliband is the candidate to beat, the most committed to power and appealing, therefore, to the Labour councilors and its machines. He represents continuity with Blair in his air and appeal.
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This represents the end of Thatcherism. What comes next?

by Anthony Barnett     May 14, 2010 at 2:17 pm

I’ve written an analysis of the new Coalition on OurKingdom. My core argument is that means the end of Thatcherism as the identity brand of the Tory Party and probably the end of Thatcherism as the organising culture of UK politics, as, after 30 years, her ‘conviction’ politics is replaced by ‘coalition’ politics.

If only Labour could have achieved the same – as it had every opportunity to do.

The longer term success of the Coalition will be defined by two things, its economic policy and by its reform of our democracy. I don’t say anything about the cuts, partly because I don’t perceive much difference between the parties.

I do think the political culture that will shape the way they are implemented will be different however.
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Nigel Farage likely helped Bercow retain his seat

by Anthony Barnett     May 8, 2010 at 8:37 am

A small point about the BBC and its infatuation with the right. One of the highlights of the campaign results is how badly the right has done.

But its article on the relection of Speaker John Bercow is: Election 2010: Speaker John Bercow beats Nigel Farage

But the main challenger to Bercow was the independent candidate John Stevens who was backed by the network of independent candidates and supported by Martin Bell.

Stevens was also the candidate selected by Hang ’em as the one to vote for.

Bercow got 22,000 votes, Stevens got 10,000 and Farage only 8,000. Had Farage not parachuted in but supported the local man, Bercow might even have been defeated, so if anything Farage helped re-elect him by splitting the vote.

Our Kingdom: Towards a new on-line politics

by Anthony Barnett     March 7, 2010 at 9:07 pm

This is a contribution to the Liberal Conspiracy Mission Series

Sunny wants to build Liberal Conspiracy with more political strategy, activism and news. But it is not just content that he is after. What Sunny is attempting is ambitious, important for British blogland and on-line publishing and for OurKingdom, as we prepare a relaunch. He’s written three posts. I commented briefly on the first.

Liberal Conspiracy is immensely creative and refreshing. As well as tackling issues and being smart and forthright, it goes about things in a different way from your average lefty or liberal blog. It looks outwards to what is happening not inwards to what ‘line’ it should be taking. With this new development Sunny is trying to get us all to think with a similarly fresh spirit about our methods and how we resource them in the coming era of citizen journalism. continue reading… »

Can Greeks lead the way for the left?

by Anthony Barnett     November 14, 2009 at 9:35 pm

Where in Europe has the left has made a popular breakthrough, has a chance of making a real difference, even if in highly adverse circumstances, and has a policy that combines openness, democracy and sustainability? The answer is in Greece, but is the British left capable of taking any notice?

After twelve years in power there has been a sorry reversion to post-45 parochialism, except that an obsession with America has replaced the Empire as if singing the international meant dancing to the tune of the White House.

Of course, one reason for this is that social democracy is in ruins across much of the continent of its birth. But George Papandreou’s PASOK party, having just last month gaining a surprising absolute majority, is different.

It is working to adopt a form of progressive government that combines green development, democratic openness and international reconciliation. How does New Labour measure up when seen in this modest comparative light? It is a painful question.
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How can we bring about real change?

by Anthony Barnett     July 11, 2009 at 10:41 am

There will, finally, be a general election within a year. It could well prove to be yet again a fight between the two main parties for control over the dictatorial authority of the British state, now as ‘modernised’ by New Labour, with total victory once more provided by a minority of the vote.

While if the electorate feels there is no realistic offer of a choice to open up the system, continuing negative feedback of massive abstention will confirm popular revulsion yet make the problem worse.
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