Information Landmine

"The Americans keep telling us how successful their system is. Then they remind us not to stray too far from our hotel at night." - An un-named EU trade representative quoted during international trade talks in Denver, Colorado, 1997.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

In defence of "issues"

So Tony Benn says he finds himself closer to the Tories than New Labour on issues of personal liberties:

There are issues I find myself in agreement with some of the Tories on, particularly on civil liberties. All this security state stuff is very, very worrying. Libertarians like David Davis, a right-wing Conservative, resigned over the government’s 42-day detention law. and I went to speak for him.

David Osler thinks this is a sign of Tony's having finally jumped the shark. I cannot for the life of me work out what the actual argument is, though.

Steady on, mate. Socialists shouldn’t find themselves in agreement with the Tories on anything. Ever. We might share the Tories’ opposition to given aspects of New Labour authoritarianism, but that is a different thing entirely from being in agreement with them. The difference is one of nuance, perhaps, but nevertheless vital to grasp.

This insistence on the momentous significance of the difference - between "agreeing" with someone about something, and "sharing their opposition" to it with them - is the kind of thing that gets left-wing politics a bad name.

Having strayed over the border into "People's Front of Judea" territory, Dave stamps on the accelerator and heads for the middle, telling us that Tony reaping the harvest of his "issues over ideology" pragmatism. The trouble is that he never really explains what's wrong with that, other than the fact that it might make you side with the Tories if you happen to agree with them on more of the issues:

Now we have reached the point where ‘the issues’ align Benn not with striking miners or the women of Greenham Common, but with David Davis and his ilk. When your methodology brings you this far off track, you know that somewhere you have gone wrong.

What's the argument here? That the Labour party's right and everyone else is wrong? That political issues should take a back seat to party politics? Seriously, I really don't get it...


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