Only true liberalism can thwart the demagogues

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The Observer 24 September 2016

When underdogs become overdogs, everything changes. They are the masters now, however much they try to pretend otherwise. Their power to change and ruin lives demands relentless and unforgiving scrutiny.

The hangover from the long age of globalisation has hidden the existence of a new elite, let alone the need to hold it to account. The neoliberal order began from the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, perhaps earlier with the elections of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan in 1979/1980. You have to be in your 50s to remember another time. It ended with the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008. Its death was disguised because no new system stepped forward to replace it.

Now its successor is shambling into view, like a figure from a bad dream you hoped you had forgotten. Continue reading

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How “Dr” Liam Fox got into bed with Azerbaijan’s kleptocrats

2418The Observer 7 August 2016

In 2013, Dr Liam Fox – he insists on the “Doctor” – published a book on the challenges of globalisation, which read as if he had dictated into his phone between meetings. Rising Tides was a meandering work. It took a long time to say little and did as abysmally as you would expect. Nielsen International, which monitors book sales, told me the English edition had sold a mere 1,723 copies in the UK and 1,876 copies in the English-speaking foreign markets it watches. (Most were probably in the US, where Dr Fox has a small following in America’s raging right wing.)

In 2014, Dr Fox received news that he was the beneficiary of a stroke of good fortune. Our new secretary for international trade may be hopelessly unqualified to deal with the dangerous pass he helped bring Britain to by agitating for Brexit, but he can trade on his own account.

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Christopher Hitchens was defiant to the last

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The Observer 5 June 2016

Only a particular species of creep could persuade me to write to the son of a friend and ask him to describe the death agonies of his beloved father. I typed that he must say “I would rather not talk about it” if he wished, then sent an email to Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens.

I sat back, feeling dirty and not expecting a reply. I would not have troubled Alexander had not journalists at the nominally serious Times and BBC promoted the claim of a strange, spiteful book that Christopher Hitchens was “teetering on the edge of belief” as he lay dying from cancer of the oesophagus.
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Malicious and stupid, Labour’s far left can only destroy

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The Observer 17 July 2016

Seumas Milne remains on the staff of the Guardian and Observer while Labour pays him to work as its director of strategy. As a colleague on leave, he has the right to be treated with a gentleness journalists would not usually extend to spin doctors who do not enjoy his advantages. I therefore write with the caution of a good corporate man and the cheeriness of a co-worker when I say Milne could not do a better job of keeping the Tories in power if rogue MI5 agents had groomed him at Winchester College, signed him up at Oxford University and instructed him to infiltrate and destroy the Labour party.

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Brexit: the triumph of the charlatans

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The Observer 25 June 2016

Where was the champagne at the Vote Leave headquarters? The happy tears and whoops of joy? If you believed Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, the Brexit vote was a moment of national liberation, a day that Nigel Farage said our grateful children would celebrate with an annual bank holiday.

Johnson and Gove had every reason to celebrate. The referendum campaign showed the only arguments that matter now in England are on the right. With the Labour leadership absent without leave and the Liberal Democrats and Greens struggling to be heard, the debate was between David Cameron and George Osborne, defending the status quo, and the radical right, demanding its destruction. Johnson and Gove won a dizzying victory with the potential to change every aspect of national life, from workers’ rights to environmental protection.

Yet they gazed at the press with coffin-lid faces and wept over the prime minister they had destroyed. Continue reading

Labour needs a takeover by real left-wing radicals

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To say that the Labour party is in crisis because it is ‘too left-wing’ is to miss the point spectacularly. With eyes wide open, and all democratic procedures punctiliously observed, its members have chosen in their tens of thousands to endorse not ‘the left’, but an ugly simulacrum of left-wing politics.

They have gone along with the type of left-winger who flourished in the long boom between the fall of the Berlin Wall and the great recession. The hypocrite who damns oppression, but only if it is committed by western countries. The pseudo-egalitarian who will condemn sexism and homophobia, but not the prejudices of favoured regimes and minorities. The fake anti-racist who will attack the ‘far right’ while echoing the fascist conspiracy theory.

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