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Bruce Anderson

Bruce Anderson: A brief reply to Andrew Lilico

I disagree with Andrew's analysis for a number of reasons. Although any compressed account of complex political history must involve over-simplifications, he goes too far. Above all, he seems to believe that there was a cadre of intellectuals who all agreed on the crucial issues of the day but were at odds with the party leadership. That simply is not so. For a start, intellectuals do not form cadres; they are not consensual characters.

He argues that by refusing to rule out any engagement with the Euro, the party ensured that it would lose the 1997 Election. A) John Major did negotiate an opt-out at Maastricht. B) If he had said "no, no, never", the split in the party would have been even worse. Remember, the big beasts of Europhilia were much more powerful then than now.

An explanation for the scale of the 1997 defeat would require a book, not an article. There is, however, a one-sentence summary: "everything that could go wrong did go wrong". To blame it all on a breakdown of relations with the intellectuals is absurd.

Post-1997, Andrew thinks that the party should have listened to the intellectuals who wanted to reform health and pensions by introducing market radicalism. Post-1997, the leadership knew that one of the major obstacles to electoral recovery was the myth about Tory cuts. If we had done what Andrew wanted, we would have been accused of wanting to abolish the Old Age Pension and privatise the NHS.

Apropos of the Labour party, I wrote that many intellectuals were more interested in ideas than in power. I suspect that this is true of Andrew. Nothing wrong with that; we need original thinkers who eventually mould the debate; the IEA is a classic example. But wise leaderships keep their distance. Toryism has always been a dialectic between principles and possibilities. Intellectuals can extend the horizons of possibility - but not all at once.


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