Matthew Turner has provided us with a handy cut-out-and-keep guide to the Decent Left, i.e. that disparate bunch of leftish bloggers who have embraced neo-conservativism.
Three major new initiatives in less than a year. What is notable is that, despite their obsession with their old comrades, they are using all their old techniques of setting up dummy fronts and using them as a platform to denounce their opponents. And, like the Old Left, their opponents are invariably fellow lefties who, as they see it, have drifted from the True Path. Similarly again, their enemies are their enemies’ enemies (while of course denouncing their opponents for doing the same thing).
This is a strange parlour game to anyone who has never been a member of one of the myriad sects of post-Marxian politics. On the one hand, things like Harry’s Place provide for us a useful function, keeping an eye on many members of the hard left who are generally given quite an easy ride by the left-leaning media such as the Guardian and Indy. On the other hand, it appears to have gone beyond an interest and into the realm of real obsession. Outside this charmed circle, the rest of the world carries on quite happily.
Those of us who got involved in the anti-war movement in the run up to the second Iraq War knew perfectly well what we were getting into when we declared a temporary truce with the hard left. We knew it was full of nutters, some of whom were dangerous, at least in part because we’d been to university and seen quite what a pernicious lot they were up close. We don’t need the Henry Jackson Society to teach us that George Galloway is a moron or that John Pilger is a highly unreliable and partisan correspondent because we have critical faculties of our own. This cottage industry has got out of hand; launching something as pretentious as a manifesto is to assume a level of importance that just isn’t the case, as this Guardian story makes clear. It is not merely rehearsing an argument from three years ago; it’s rehearsing a student union bar row 30 years ago.
Which brings us nicely to Charles Clarke. Back in the 70s, the Safety Elephant was a commie student hack and had a beard that Marx himself would have been proud of; whole generations of woodland creatures made their homes in it. You do sometimes get the sense that he too is simply fighting the Trots of his past.
The latest proposals to withdraw compensation to the victims of miscarriages of justice would appear to be a case in point. It is hard to see how this is really doing much to help the victims of crime; after all, it is victims themselves who are being attacked here and the amount of money is paltry. It seems to have less to do with achieving anything substantial policy-wise, and more to do with deliberately picking a fight with the civil liberties movement. Clarke surely knew that people would be lining up to denounce it; surely at the back of his mind must have been that an insubstantial policy measure would be blown up in the press, with him managing to present himself as the “tough” opponent of woolly liberal handouts to dodgy crim-types (never mind if they happened to be technically innocent).
It is a short hop from the student union bar to the saloon bar, and New Labour has made the leap effortlessly. But their tactics betray their origins.