Monday 8 October 2007

Liberal fallout?

I've just finished reading Andrew Anthony's The Fallout, a book I wanted to like more than I did. Anthony has come to realise that many of the liberal pieties that grace London dinner parties and Guardian op-ed pieces don't reflect the realities of the world we live in. His catalogue of anti-racists who believe only white people can be racist and Trots and Islamists conniving in the Stop the War coalition rightly invites ridicule. But as with Nick Cohen's recent entertaining diatribe What's Left?, one wonders who his real target is. When I came to London from Ireland in the early eighties, there was certainly rather too much political correctness in the circles within which I mixed, and it was with some trepidation that I decided to criticise the miners' strategy during the strike at my first Islington Labour Party meeting: I needn't have worried; most people there thought Arthur Scargill was behaving like a fool. Similarly, I have never encountered howls of outrage among Labour or liberal friends over the years when questioning many of the things that have recently excited Anthony's ire (or which have long excited the Daily Mail). So while I share many (though not all - I disagree with him on faith schools for reasons explained elsewhere) of Anthony's views, I doubt they will shock or surprise as many people as he imagines. Perhaps in the cloistered world of the Guardian Comment pages, these views are strange or shocking. And, sure, there is a lot of opposition to the Iraq War (which I supported on humanitarian grounds given Saddam's record) but liberal political correctness of the type Anthony fears is less widespread than he thinks. His is an attack on the conventional liberal wisdom of the 1980s (updated to deal with those who appease militant Islamism today), and it is trenchant and well-written at that. But there are rather too many Aunt Sallies for my liking.

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