Three things for your attention

Firstly, I just thought I would direct people to my piece defending the Convention on Modern Liberty and its “outrageous” decision to be cross-party.

It has had an interestingly muted response. The most fascinating one was from Sadie Smith whose paraphrase of my article was that I defined anyone who is boycotting the Convention “because of the miner’s strike” is a “ZANULIARBORE HATER OF THE LIBERTIES WE’VE ENOJYED SINCE THE MAGNERCARTER WHO IS MORE AUTHORITARIAN THAN HITLER AND STALIN ROLLED INTO ONE!!!!1!!!! LOLZ!” If self-obsessed lefties want to turn themselves into a parody of themselves, that suits me.

Secondly, and slightly more constructively, Paul Bergin asked me to take part in his bloggers’ interview series. My contribution can be found here.

Finally, the Social Liberal Forum’s Ideas Factory is starting to take off. At the moment, Tim Leunig’s “right to move” and Thomas Hemsley’s ratification of appointments are available for your perusal, comments and rating, with more to come.


  1. James,

    Just read your Burgin thing actually and, can I say, as a hands-across-the-water gesture that I entirely agree with your Bond choice.

    Essentially my beef with the Convention on Modern Liberty is not necessarily what it says it is setting out to do, but the tone of the debate that surrounds it. I am really interested in the concept of liberty, sadly enough, and think that there is definite merit in an adult exploration of what this means in an era where the internet is the most significant means of communication and the world is still dealing with the aftermath of 9/11.

    An interesting sideline might also look at how we are each destroying what Constant (I think) termed private liberty – happily pasting our lives all over social networking sites and blogs (ahem) to the extent that nothing we do in our individual private spheres is really that private anymore, and the knock-on impact that could have on our approach to data sharing/CCTV/public liberty generally.

    But if public liberty is what the Convention is talking about then fair enough. If the Convention plans to have a detailed exploration of the possible ramifications of legislation empowering the state to monitor private individuals whilst recognising that an element of this is necessary to the security of a free state, then fair enough. Hell, I’m even prepared to be persuaded that some of liberty-obsessives have a point.

    But I don’t think I’ll get that. I think I’ll get Henry Porter making snide comments about Jacqui Smith whilst a bunch of Comment is Freers all agree that this Government has brought about a police state whilst Shami Chakrabarti and Tony Benn make yet more attempts at media saturation.

    And whilst I accept your argument on LibCon that people are imperfect and we shouldn’t castigate the Tories who have suddenly thrown their lot in with the Liberty Massif for some of their beliefs, this is an approach we don’t see applied to Government Ministers who AREN’T trying to bring about the POLICE STATE!!11111! but ARE actually attempting to balance liberty and security. Okay, they may bugger it up occasionally and that’s why they would benefit from a sensible and reasoned discussion of how to achieve this balance except the main proponents of Liberty Central seem too busy trying to cast every Labour MP who isn’t John McDonnell in the mould of Darth Vader’s storm troopers.

    I might come along on 28th and be proved wrong. But this is a movement that has so far, as far as I can see, been characterised by a combination of grandstanding, paranoia, and the simplification of complex issues to the point which they become meaningless. So equally I might just stay at home and watch the A-Team instead (providing those evil NuLiarBore Ministers haven’t BANNED it in the interim :-)).

    And you’re wrong about vanilla ice cream, by the way. It mings.

  2. “the world is still dealing with the aftermath of 9/11.”

    Are we….really? I mean, dealing with it in the sense of getting mostly on with our lives and having to be a bit more alert to how individuals influence each other through religion, maybe…but you make it almost sound like we’re in a struggle for control or something. It’s a fallacy.

    “Government Ministers who AREN’T trying to bring about the POLICE STATE!!11111! but ARE actually attempting to balance liberty and security.”

    I’d love to know who these mystery ministers are, especially given the only people to vote against “police state” measures, as you put it, are back benchers who seem more keen to keep their principles than positions of absolute power.

  3. Just because you have upgraded comic collecting to an official hobby it doesn’t mean you don’t have to clear the boxes of comics from the spare room 😉

  4. Thanks Lee! “YOUR MUM!” backatcha to you too.

    It’s a pity I’ll probably not go. P’rhaps we could have a conversation about how marching down the “aye”/”no” lobby (strike one according to party) and then giving an emotional press conference afterwards to moist-eyed Observer journalists is but a blunt instrument with which to shape and influence Government policy.

    Have a great weekend.

  5. You’re welcome Sadie, I’m going on a hunt for those mystery ministers you talked about. I reckon the rarity of them could bring a mighty price on eBay! Except Labour politicians can never be bought, obviously…

  6. Mmmm… I think screaming ‘your mum’ at each other is amusing but sadly not the way forward.

    I think a debate between Anthony Barnett and Paul Evans, which half took place on Paulie’s article, needs to be fleshed out more.

    I’m certainly in the middle here because I’ve met quite a few Labour MPs who are way more sane than they are portrayed. I also think there is a tendency among the Portcullis House crew to dismiss the liberty people as nutcases.

    There’s an intellectual argument here, and there is a grassroots argument here (do people on the street really care?). These need to be had more on an ongoing basis. It’s too bad Anthony’s a bit busy otherwise he would have written on this too. He thought Paulie’s article was quite good.

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