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Reply #8: We live in changed times. The Euston group, alas, does not [View All]

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T_i_B Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-24-06 12:16 PM
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8. We live in changed times. The Euston group, alas, does not
Article by Martin Kettle which I think hits the proverbial nail on the head.,,1758763,00.h...

You will have to read the Euston Manifesto in full for yourself. Likewise the churning arguments that are developing about it on and other weblogs. You are entitled to ask how much any of this debate, launched in the New Statesman a week ago, actually matters in the wider scheme of things. In one sense, not much. A small bunch of people have got together and written a political manifesto which a number of other people disagree with. Exercises of this kind litter the history of the left - and few of them have left much trace on the rest of the world. They bring to mind a line in Tom Stoppard's play Travesties about a meeting in Zurich in 1917 of an organisation called Social Democrats for Civil War in Europe. "Total attendance: four. Ulyanov, Mrs Ulyanov, Zinoviev, and a police spy."

It isn't difficult to pick holes, including large ones, in the Euston group's work. For something that apparently aims at creating "a fresh political alignment", theirs is a surprisingly loosely drafted document. They have little to say about some very large issues, most notably economics in general and the place of markets in particular. Their agenda only marginally overlaps with what day-to-day politics and government in Britain are overwhelmingly about. Reading it this week, just when our politicians have been saying important things about the health service and the environment, it is striking that Euston says nothing at all about either.

When I started out on this article, I thought that I would be more sympathetic to the Euston Manifesto than has turned out to be the case. Ultimately, that is not because the manifesto has got it wrong on individual questions but because, in the end, it does not really address the kind of society that we live in and the kind of politics that is appropriate to it. One forms no picture of what the good society, as seen from Euston, would look like. I can see why it may choose not even to mention Tony Blair, but the failure even to address what has been happening in this country under a moderate progressive government for nearly a decade is extraordinary.

Instead the focus is all on reclaiming a British left which is obsessed with the past, has nothing important to say about the future, and for which only a small minority are ever likely to vote. But what precisely is the point of that? The anti-war movement was right about the war but wrong about everything else. The debate that counts in Britain today is in the centre, not on the left. The Euston Manifesto half acknowledges that we live in these changed times. But too much of it seems like an argument about the ownership of a corpse.
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