Thursday, 29 May 2008

Standpoint magazine

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.

5 comments:

Beowulf said...

Nice blog Tom P, Standpoint looks the usual load of decent left arse to me...With respect to your blog, I completely agree with the idea behind it. I would reccomend checking out Doug Henwood and the Left Business Observer, excellent anaylsis of financial markets and real insight into how they work(His book Wall Street is well worth a read as well). An example for the British left to follow.(I come from a Libertarian Socialist Free Market perspective...)

Charlie Marks said...

Sounds very Encounterish. Not going to work though, is it? If anything, it's bound to fuel other forces who aren't keen on liberal values. Islam has come to be regarded in racial terms: for many racists changing the word "Paki" or "wog" to "Muslim". This is what the fascists have been doing, using criticism of religious extremism to cover racism. Obviously this isn't the point of Standpoint - but there's a certain racism here, undoubtedly - the point is to legitimise modern-day colonialism: the wars of occupation in the Middle East.

I think Nick Cohen is generally a sell-out but I do feel sorry for him in a way. It's not exactly a good time to join the Dark Side, is it? As for Frank Field, what I like about him is that he's seen the need for Labour to back devolution for England.

Tom P said...

Hi Beowulf

Actually I've recently come across LBO and it looks very good. I managed to get a freebie PDF of Wall Street and some of the stuff he says about socially responsible investment is very accurate (and sceptical). I might post up a bit actually now you mention it.

Tom P said...

Hi charlie

That defintely seems to be the way they want to pitch it. I was a little unfair in what I wrote (blame the hangover) as it is a serious magazine. Don't think I'll be taking out a sub just yet though!

Although I quite like his stuff (and I enjoyed What's Left, despite disgareeing with chunks of it) I think Nick Cohen has fundamentally lost his way. To get close to calling for a vote for Boris in the mayoral election shows the problem. I also think he overestimates how much his new stablemates really are committed to liberal values. He'll be useful to them to show that they have pluralistic outlook, I don't see what he gets out of it though.

Charlie Marks said...

The tenor of What's Left - the fact it included lengthy sections on obscure political sects - led me to believe it was actually aimed at an American audience. Either that, or it was just badly written. Nick wasn't alone - Martin Bright of the New Statesman also turned out for Boris with that anti-Ken doc for Channel Four. Bright has written for the Policy Exchange think tank which is now ensconced in City Hall...