Was the Euston Manifesto written, as some wags now say, in a pub? Well, no. Would you want beer spilt over your manifesto? Would you want it smelling of smoke? The document was mooted in one pub and discussed in another. But it was written where things get written these days, on computers. And this, in a sense, is also where it came from — out of the blogosphere and into the world.
The manifesto, which has its public launch today, states a commitment to certain general principles and identifies patterns of left-liberal argument that we think fall short of those principles. So we commend the democratic norms and institutions that typify the liberal democracies, despite their shortcomings, and criticise those on the left who make excuses for undemocratic movements and regimes. We affirm the importance of universal human rights, rejecting the cultural-relativist arguments and double standards by which these values get watered down or inconsistently applied. We express our opposition to terrorism and to indulgently “understanding” (where this means condoning) it because it is thought to be motivated by legitimate grievances. We state an attachment to a broad ideal of equality in all spheres, from gender relations to economic justice. The full text is at www.eustonmanifesto.org
Since it was published in April, the Euston Manifesto has generated an enormous volume of comment, from supportive, through critical, to jolly unfriendly. The abstract generality of its principles is one point of complaint. But we make no claim to have formulated a programme for government; we hope merely to remind people on the liberal-left of the values they ought to be defending. A related point is the suggestion that this wish to remind is needless, since the manifesto’s criticisms don’t apply beyond a tiny section of the far left. But this suggestion isn’t true, as has been amply documented on the blogs.