Stop Press! Stephen Pollard's abandoned the left
Perhaps the strangest reaction to the preposterous Euston Manifesto is that of Stephen Pollard. In what he portrays as a separate splintering from the left, Pollard yesterday announced the “Maida Vale Manifesto”. The tone and trajectory are predictable from the first two lines:
“We the undersigned have always thought of ourselves as being on the Left. We have held it as axiomatic that the Left believed in fighting tyranny, liberating the oppressed, and spreading wealth and power.”
As you'd expect, he goes on to berate “leftists” for their morally degenerate reaction to September 11th and alliances with “Islamists”. Although he concedes that “[t]here are many decent people on the Left”, he concludes that “[t]heoretical arguments about what is or is not a proper left-wing position are now meaningless” and “[t]he Left, in any recognisable form, is now the enemy.”
It's interesting that, in spite of wishing the Eustonites luck, he views their much trumpeted document as “meaningless” (and presumably them as the enemy, if he buys their self-description). But what I find truly astonishing is his attempt to pretend that he ever was on the left. Of course, Harry's Place contributors, Oliver Kamm, Norman Geras, and many others, have also claimed a place there in the face of all evidence, but how were we to know Pollard even pretended to be left-wing?
The Euston Manifesto takes an explicitly undecided stance on economic questions, with a vaguely Blairite wave towards “economic equality” and “development-as-freedom”. Generally, decentists like to maintain a facade of socialist leanings by avoiding discussion of the subject. But Pollard has never, as far as I'm aware, troubled to conceal his love of tax cuts, private healthcare, etc. In other words his position has long been indistinguishable from assorted small-government conservatives on both domestic and foreign policy, whereas the Euston signatories like to maintain a convenient haziness on the former.
Today's rant in the Times confirms Pollard's generalised dislike of the public sector. Michael Heseltine's description of it as “a bloated, badly run, inefficient impost on the taxpayers’ back” was not a caricature, as Heseltine intended, but “wholly accurate”, we learn. And it would be wrong to think this was a recent trend, or even a shift in economic outlook accompanying his dislike of alleged al Qaida apologists: way back in January 2001 he was complaining to Wall Street Journal Europe readers of Conservative timidity towards attacking the NHS.
For at least five years, Pollard has pursued an aggressively pro-Israel, pro-US foreign policy, campaigned against the NHS, and advocated spending public money on private school vouchers. He's moaned about high taxes, and retailed (and written) Adam Smith Institute propaganda. In that time he's never identified with a recognisably left-wing position. Yet, apparently on the strength of once being a Blairite Labour Party researcher, he claims to have only just broken from the left.
The only innovation in the Maida Vale Manifesto, then, is the admission that he now views the term “left-wing” as “meaningless” -- which it plainly is in his hands.