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4 June 2008

New Ideas? No thanks

A thoughtful discussion of liberalism and Labour provokes charges of treachery

By Martin Bright

I was amazed to return from a short break to the firestorm prompted by the article entitled “Liberalise or Die” in the June issue of Prospect. I advise you to read the whole article before jumping to conclusions, which is what the Prime Minister seems to have done. The essay was jointly penned by Phil Collins, a former speech writer to Tony Blair, and Richard Reeves , a man of many talents, who recently wrote a biography of liberal philosopher John Stuart Mill. But it was Collins who got it in the neck from the PM, who immediately demanded he be sacked by his some time employer, Work and Pensions Secretary James Purnell.

Those looking for conspiracy theories might wish to note that both Reeves and Collins have worked for maverick MP Frank Field. But the essay is a properly argued political intervention, arguing that the Labour Party must move away from its authoritarian intstincts and embrace liberalism.

It has already provoked outrage from Sunder Katwala at the Fabian Society and an odd piece from John Harris in the Guardian, who seems to recognise that Collins and Reeves have some interesting ideas while dismissing the essay as horribly New Labour.

But for further evidence of the mania that possesses certain sections of the left when confronted with challenging ideas, just check out the response to Richard Reeves’s reponse to John Harris’s piece on Comment is Free.

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