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12 May 2003

Who’s who in the neo-con nomenklatura

Who's who in the neo-con nomenklatura.

By Tom Allen

David Aaronovitch, who moved recently from the Independent to the Guardian/Observer, was once called Cherie Blair’s favourite columnist. A former Communist Party activist, he accuses his former comrades of being “in denial” over Iraq and of reneging on the left’s international obligations to get rid of Saddam Hussein. His columns resonate with despair at the left. In a recent column, however, he hinted at a wobble if weapons of mass destruction are not found: “I – as a supporter of the war – will never believe another thing that I am told by our government, or that of the US ever again.”

John Lloyd, a former editor of the NS and Financial Times foreign correspondent, is an old friend of Tony Blair, dating back to their days together in the Hackney Labour Party in the 1980s. Once a standard-bearer of the upmarket left, he has long been exercised by a British media world that he regards as nihilistic, intellectually moribund and unable to accept the good faith of the Prime Minister. In a recent valedictory piece in the NS, published after he had rejoined the FT, he wrote of the left’s fundamental mistake: “In opposing the invasion of Iraq, it has shown itself incapable of thinking through not only the nature of the world as it is today, but also its own claims to be the leading force in making the world better.”

Stephen Pollard, a former policy wonk at the Fabian Society and the Social Market Foundation, is a columnist who wears his heart on his sleeve. He was a strong supporter of the war and has long decried what he sees as the liberal establishment’s anti-Semitism. In a recent piece in the Times, headlined “My address book is the first casualty of war”, he described the anti-war marchers as “not only wrong, but dangerously, wilfully, shamefully wrong . . . It is a shocking experience to realise that your friends are either mindless, deluded or malevolent.” As co-author of a book with Andrew Adonis, the head of the Policy Unit at Downing Street, he is also close to No 10’s agenda on reforming the public services.

Danny Finkelstein is just on the other side of the fence, a would-be Conservative candidate, but with views not dissimilar to many of the above. A one-time member of the Social Democratic Party who became head of policy at Tory Central Office, he is one of the most ardent pro-Americans in the London political-media village. During the war, as others wavered, he remained privately and publicly convinced that American power and righteousness would prevail. Now at the Times, he is influential behind the scenes, and is said to have put steel into the paper’s leader articles on the war.

Michael Gove, assistant editor at the Times, is an example of a Conservative thinker at ease with Blair but ill at ease with Labour. A paid-up “Portillista”, he espouses a more modern Tory party whose time (not for want of trying) has not come. His pro-Americanism is often expressed through the traditional right’s suspicion of Europe: “Anti-Americanism provides a useful emotional function which goes beyond logic and reaches deep into the darker recesses of the European soul.” On social issues, he is avowedly liberal.

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Melanie Phillips‘s traditional views on the family and society set her apart. So does her refusal to buy into a benevolent view of Blair. And yet this trenchant columnist for the Daily Mail – another who has moved to the right over the years – shares many of the views of her fellow columnists on the former left as well as mainstream Conservatives. Her columns are much feared in Downing Street, but some officials have a sneaking admiration for her. “It is the left who are now the pessimistic, inertia-prone reactionaries, while the right have become the . . . idealists who are trying to repair the world,” she has written.

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