Oh, So Now You’re A Liberal? Part 2 – Maajid Nawaz Calls Out The Illiberal British Left

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Maajid Nawaz warns about the rise of the “Control Left”, an authoritarian tendency which has left liberalism and liberal values far behind

Recently, this blog took to task those on the authoritarian Left who have reacted to Brexit and the election of Donald Trump by falsely draping themselves in the clothes of liberalism and hysterically mourning an idealised liberal past which they did as much as anybody else to knife in the back.

In that piece, I made the point that people who only weeks ago could be found arguing for greater censorship, the expansion of “hate crime” legislation, trigger warnings, safe spaces, higher taxes on alcohol and tobacco, national ID cards, longer pre-trial detention periods and even more intrusive government surveillance have absolutely no business calling themselves “liberal”.

Though the authoritarian Right are by no means innocent in this regard, it must be acknowledged that most of the recent assaults on liberty and liberalism have come from the Left, in America as well as Britain.

Picking up on this thread, Maajid Nawaz hits the nail on the head on his LBC talk radio show yesterday:

I suspect that the most vocal elements of the Left – and I don’t mean every single person who sympathises with left-wing views, let me make that very clear, I’m talking about the organised left, the most vocal elements of our Left, and the Left in the form of Momentum who have taken over the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn – my view is that that Left, today’s Left, today’s active, organised Left is no longer liberal.

What do I mean by that? Well let’s look at a few things that I don’t consider to be liberal. Let’s look at censorship, let’s look at being “post-factual”, let’s look at violence being seen as an option, let’s look at prioritising group identity over individual rights. None of these four traits are liberal.

Censorship is not liberal, so when today’s organised Left begins organising in campuses and across colleges across the nation, across the world, and says things like “you cannot say that here, this is a safe space, we will exclude you from speaking because your views offend us”, when they choose to take offence, when they become more sensitive, and so sensitive in fact that they want to shut debate down simply because they don’t like what somebody is saying, that’s not a liberal approach. A liberal will always prioritise free speech over offence.

What about being post-factual? Well I remember – and I hope many of you remember – at the beginning of this year, the way in which mass sex attacks were reported in the German city of Cologne. And what was known then as the liberal press actively conspired to cover up that news. Facts were known and they were not reported because they didn’t want to be accused of being racist. The German state television station had to come out and openly apologise, days later, when they realised that this story was not one that they could cover up. So being post-factual is also not being liberal.

What about considering violence as an option? When you have the Shadow Chancellor of the UK Labour Party, John McDonnell, being caught on video saying that it’s okay to riot, it’s okay to destroy property and to ruin people’s lives and their private property, that’s not liberal. That may be anarchist, it may be revolutionary hard-left socialist, as John McTernan suggested, but it isn’t liberal.

When people are prioritising group identity over individual rights, saying things like “kill all white men”, saying things like “black people can’t be racist because racism is about power and only white men have power” – Diane Abbott says that. Well I’m sorry Diane Abbott MP, go and walk into any council estate and speak to a white working class lad and try and have a rational, reasonable conversation with that young white working class lad and tell him that he has more power than you, and that’s why you can’t be racist towards him. Complete and utter rubbish. But when group identity is prioritised over individual rights in that way, when leftist activists think it’s okay to say “kill all white men” and that that’s somehow an empowering statement, when they think it’s okay to be racist to all white people as a group, and think somehow that’s what it means to be progressive, erasing the individual, stereotyping entire groups, that is not liberal.

So I have taken the view that this behaviour – censorship on the organised Left, post-factual behaviour, violence being seen as an option and prioritising group identity over individual rights, that isn’t liberal. And like the alt-right has emerged, we’ve now got this new group – it’s called the Control Left. They want to control our lives, control what we think, control how we behave, control how we even feel. And control what we think. That is not liberal. That is the Control Left.

So my message to you, Control Left, is stop telling us you are liberal. My message to the press: stop describing them as the liberal Left, they are no longer liberal. Call them for what they are – Control Left.

A devastating excoriation of the modern Left. And while I’m not sure that Nawaz’s preferred phrase “the Control Left” will catch on, it does describe quite plainly their new strategy of bringing about change not through persuasion but by coercion and force.

Maajid Nawaz has cause to be particularly aware of the new illiberalism gripping the Left, having recently been singled out by the fabled Southern Poverty Law Center in America for supposedly promoting anti-Islamic extremism, a ludicrous accusation given that Nawaz is himself a Muslim. (Nawaz’s real sin was to call for moderate Islam to take more responsibility for its violent, fundamentalist offshoots at a time when much of the Left is furiously pretending that “there is nothing Islamic about ISIS”).

We now need many more people to summon the courage and willingness to tell truth to power exhibited by Maajid Nawaz. It’s all very well having dyed-in-the-wool conservative, libertarian or conservatarian journalists and bloggers such as myself ranting on about the many ways that the modern Left has left liberalism behind. But we can only carry the message so far – since it is we who are most often the targets of this censorship and identity politics, it is too easy for the Control Left to accuse us of acting in our own self-interest rather than the national interest.

Therefore it is vital that more left-wing liberals like Maajid Nawaz stand up and call out these authoritarian tendencies, declaring “not in my name” to the censorship, bullying and control freakery of the modern Left. This is in their interest as much as anyone else’s – with the election of Donald Trump in America, we have seen that peddling a constant diet of authoritarian identity politics eventually provokes a similar identity politics backlash among those groups not marked out for special favour by the Left.

So for the country’s sake as much as their own, those on the Left must learn to renounce authoritarianism and seek to achieve their political agenda through persuasion rather than coercion. To continue on their present course is to plant the seeds of their own destruction, as well as ours.

 

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Left Wing Hate Watch, RMT Edition

In Assistant General Secretary Steve Hedley, the RMT union have found a worthy successor to Bob Crow

With the entire country focus transfixed on Europe and David Cameron’s spectacularly poor negotiating skills, there has not been much emphasis on the Evil Tories in the media of late. Some nervous Tories, coming out of hiding for the first time since the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, may have even considered themselves safe.

They were wrong. Steve Hedley of the RMT union is actively gunning for them using the most violent rhetoric imaginable, as he demonstrated in an interview on LBC today.

LBC reports:

RMT leader Steve Hedley has claimed the Tory government are “murdering” people, then called for them to be “taken out and shot” in an extraordinary LBC interview.

[..] “I think all the Tories are an absolute disgrace, they should be taken out and shot to be quite frank with you,” said Hedley, Assistant General Secretary of the RMT union.

“Oh Steve!” responded [presenter] Shelagh. “I’m not going to let you say that, so don’t repeat it…if your job is to represent your workers, and I was one of your workers, I would want you to represent me without resorting to things like that.”

Hedley then claimed that the government was “killing three disabled people a week by their cuts.”

Everything changes, and everything stays the same. The Labour Party have a new leader, and Jeremy Corbyn’s admittedly haphazard opposition has thus far been mostly principled and courteous. Politically, Corbyn may be quite far from David Cameron (though not as far as he would be from a real conservative), but in his speeches he is more likely to forget that the Tories exist than indulge in an angry tirade against them. But same cannot be said for the people under him in the Labour Party and in the wider left-wing movement.

As we have repeatedly seen, many of these people are ready and willing to engage in the most overheated, provocative rhetoric against their political opponents on the right, continually implying that those who disagree with them are not just intellectually wrong but morally evil. And it is no longer just grassroots activists at fault – MPs and union leaders are increasingly getting involved too.

Whenever I write about the latest high-profile instance of left-wing anti-Tory bigotry and intolerance, I usually receive a number of comments chiding me for taking the intemperate war memorial-defacing actions of a few angry lunatics and claiming that they represent the Left as a whole.

That’s not what I am trying to do, though the way that some on the Left are so quick to take such criticisms personally suggests that in some cases, I may be striking a little too close to home. After all, since nobody suggested that all left-wingers are angry, screaming, spitting hate mobs, the fact that the likes of Owen Jones take the time to pen articles refuting this non-accusation can be taken as a sign that the criticism is hitting uncomfortably close to home, and that there may be a deep-seated, half-subconscious approval for these distasteful acts of protest.

But the purpose is not to hold up instances where left-wing activists go too far just to act outraged. It is to point out (rather wearily at this point) that there is a poison within the Left which encourages adherents to believe themselves to be the sole possessors of compassion and virtue in a world where anybody different is immediately labelled “Tory Scum”. And until this poison can be sucked out of the Labour Party – or an adequate antidote found – the Left will continue losing elections by spending more time shouting angrily at the country for our supposed moral shortcomings than they spend presenting an attractive, cohesive alternate vision for government.

Steve Hedley is not your average left-wing grassroots activist, sharing Corbyn memes on Twitter and raging against the Tories on Facebook. He is the assistant General Secretary of the RMT, one of the most powerful (and high profile) trade unions in the country. He is the voice of organised Labour, which in turn increasingly claims to be the voice of the Labour Party. And when he angrily parrots the same drivel about the Evil Tories wanting to kill disabled people as the most zealous online activist, then it is no longer possible to say that this is an isolated problem of passionate ordinary folk getting a bit too carried away.

If the political Right has a problem in Britain (and it does; small-c conservatives are utterly underwhelmed and uninspired by the rootless premiership of David Cameron, no major conservative legislation has been enacted in the precious months following the 2015 general election victory, and the only motivated people online seem to be the ones churning out bigoted memes about migrants) then the Left should realise that they have a problem, too.

It may have started innocently enough, with Ed Miliband and his MPs turning a blind eye toward (and thus tacitly encouraging) overheated anti-Tory rhetoric as the coalition government found its feet back in 2010. And there may have been every good reason in the world to let demoralised Labour activists blow off steam by promoting the notion that this utterly unremarkable, centrist government is actually on an ideologically charged “more Thatcher than Thatcher” mission to roll back the state (if only it were true).

But the time has come to admit that the experiment has gotten out of control, and that the swivel-eyed anti-Tory hysteria has metastasised and started to re-infect the very left-wing political elites who first let it loose back in 2010. We see it in the ferocity with which some Jeremy Corbyn supporters attack their (far from blameless) centrist colleagues, calling them Red Tories. And now we see it in the shape and form of a senior trade union leader calling for Conservative supporters to be rounded up and shot.

I don’t spend much of my time worrying about what is best for the Labour Party or the British left-wing movement in general, but in this case I am writing out of genuine concern over what is happening to one side of the political debate in this country – the side which now finds itself represented by spokespeople like the RMT’s Steve Hedley.

Calling for all Tories to be “taken out and shot” is a juvenile piece of rhetoric from a half-baked political mind. It’s not a serious threat – let’s not go down the censorious road of calling the police on anybody who ever utters a mean word about us – but neither is it evidence of a person or political philosophy capable of showing respect, understanding nuance and thinking in colour, the kind of behaviour required of a movement which aspires to lead.

The closer Steve Hedley is to mainstream left-wing thought, the further the Left will be from tasting power again. Which is why any Labour politician with an ounce of sense must now furiously disassociate themselves from Hedley’s inflammatory remarks.

 

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Labour Leadership Candidates United By Arrogance On Europe

 

Anyone hoping that Labour Party’s haemorrhaging of northern votes to UKIP or the EU’s sacrifice of Greece to preserve the Euro might lead to a reconsideration of Labour’s reflexive, metropolitan pro-Europeanism must be sorely disappointed with the four candidates jostling for the honour of leading the party to defeat in 2020.

Although there is a groundswell of euroscepticism building across the country – and even though many prominent left-wingers are now calling for “Lexit”, including the ubiquitous Owen Jones – those who aspire to lead the Labour Party remain wedded to their desperate belief that the EU is somehow good for Britain.

Even as the contrary evidence mounts and public pressure for a left-wing eurosceptic political outlet grows, the Labour Leadership candidates prefer to stick to their increasingly hollow-sounding scripts, proclaiming the dubious virtues of political union and the supposed horrors that would befall Britain if we were to regain our independence.

This much became clear during the LBC radio Labour Leadership hustings, when a certain “Nigel from Kent” (yes, that one) phoned in with a question, asking the candidates whether there were any scenarios in which they could envisage campaigning for Britain to leave the EU and voting “no” in the Brexit referendum.

The responses were predictably depressing.

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