The Hugo Young Lecture
November 23, 2010
Doubtless the electronic ether-laden air is about to be saturated with missives claiming that Clegg has just announced the end of control orders as a consequence of the strength of his language on civil liberties in tonight’s lecture. I’d like to discuss a slightly different point.
As the lecture ended, I heard a young (20~) man complain to his mother that Clegg’s ‘New Progessivism’ was just a disguise for the minimalist state. This, of course, ignored everything that Clegg had said during the lecture about the importance of a state-funded NHS and education, and was said with a rather plummy tone. It recalled my last post in which I argued that the statist Left’s irrationalities and hyperboles since the election were a psychological consequence of the inability to accept that they were now in the minority. But it spoke to more than that; a distrust of politicians in which one ignores what they have to say in favour of what one presumes they are saying. It was a bold arrogance, in that sense; a senseless arrogance in another.
But in the context of a lecture which was ostensibly a family gathering – not simply of Young’s family but of Guardian journalists and associated lefties who knew him well – it made perfect sense. That presumptuous arrogance is the mark of aristocracy, and the air was thick of the sensation that this Clegg was an impudent upstart in the proper order of the great families of the socialist movement.
I am not temperamentally inclined to agree with Clegg in this Coalition age, but his description of Labour as the new conservative (with a small C) party may yet prove to be chillingly accurate.