Tag Archives: Bush

The Times: The Left Needs To Get It Right

The Euston Manifesto is a corrective to extreme views on terrorism, Iraq and Bush

WRITING IN this newspaper two weeks ago, Daniel Finkelstein gave the Euston Manifesto—a document calling for a progressive realignment and which I had a large part in drafting—a mixed review. “Really very good,” he said. “I agree with its sentiments; I think it well written and timely.”

But he also described it as “a gigantic waste of time and energy”. How so? Because, even though it challenges ideas widely held on the Left, the aim of those who produced it is “to save the Left from itself” and that isn’t worth the bother.

There are two things that may be said in response to this. The first is that even for someone who doesn’t regard the Left as the best place to be politically, a more rather than a less healthy Left is surely to be desired.

Finkelstein thinks the manifesto’s “clear statement of principles has been wasted on people who do not agree and never will”. But in politics you don’t know how many will agree with what you have to say until you’ve said it, and there are already signs that what we’ve said in the manifesto—holding firm to democratic principles and universal human rights, not making excuses for tyranny or terrorism, opposing anti-Americanism and not selling short the liberal tradition of freedom of ideas—has found a welcome from a section of left-liberal opinion. How far this will go remains to be seen, of course, but except from a very narrowly partisan view it has to be better for the wellbeing of the polity, that those on the “other side” from you are attached to principles of a better rather than a worse kind.

Secondly, for those of us who haven’t given up on the Left, there is more reason still why we shouldn’t want to see democratic and universalist values made light of. We see these values as linked to others that have always been the special concern of the Left. No one else can be relied on to defend them.

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