Last night saw the launch of a new political magazine called Standpoint. It pitches itself as as celebrating/defending Western civilisation, and some of the hype around it suggests that this transcends the 'old' Left/Right divide. Notably it has been compared to Encounter, suggesting that people think the enemies of Western civilisation are as powerful as the old USSR. It's worth noting that it includes Frank Field on the editorial board, and Nick Cohen as a contributor. The Hitch is likely to appear too. But aren't they the 'usual suspects' in terms of lefties to get on board?
Anyway, due to the fact that Mrs Tom is massively talented I managed to get an invite to the launch party and went along last night. Both Nick Cohen and Frank Field were there (Frank actually did a short speech) but mostly the audience was drawn from the Dark Side. The editor Daniel Johnson drew a comparison with the launch of Prospect, which happened a couple of years ahead of 1997. And he suggested that we are in a similar period now, because Nu Labor is dead.
A couple of things struck me though. First, Michael Gove was the only Tory big beast there as far as I could see, and he's going to be quite a good fit with a 'muscular liberal' mag isn't he? (It doesn't look like it's mentioned on either Iain Dale's blog or COnservative Home either). If Standpoint really wants to be Prospect for the Right that is surprising. That might suggest that either they don't have good political contacts yet, or that the Cameroons are a bit wary content wise. Which leads me onto my second thought (yes, I had two). The pitch of celebrating Western civilisation obviously points to the magazine being defined against (perceived) threats, so expect to see a lot of articles about muslims in there. So here comes a brief rant...
There was some self-congratulatory guff last night about how this was a 'noble' enterprise, defending liberal values and all that. But as much as I am supportive of liberal values, and as much as I dislike religious fanaticism, I can't see anything particularly noble about this. I don't accept that the threat from political Islam is comparable to the Cold War, and it's not like every Right-winger in the world isn't already banging on about scary muslims. It's not noble, in my opinion, to beat the drums in a more upmarket way. What's noble about the wealthy majority defining itself against a minority?
Ideas are important, but so is the way that people behave. Quite obviously people can extol very liberal ideals and still behave in an illiberal way. The constant banging on about muslims from the the Right comes across far more like previous examples of stigmatising minorities than it does as a genuine expression of liberalism. It often comes across like the herd turning on the 'other' even though the herd is mouthing liberal slogans.
UPDATE: Actually Iain Dale has blogged about the mag here.