A Tweet from Phillip Blond:
Most UK reviews of Red Tory have been by 3rd rate minds making 5th rate points
Gosh. I wonder which reviews he means. Not the one I wrote for the Mail On Sunday a couple of weeks ago I’m sure. Tragically it’s not available online. So, because I value all the work young Phillip has done towards making the Conservative party so spectacularly electable again, I shall reprint it for his benefit here:
Red Tory – Phillip Blond (Faber – £12.99) No stars.
You know how it is, sometimes, when you come across a book so brilliantly written and closely argued that you find yourself underlining each shimmering apercu, and drawing enormous ticks in the margin? Well that’s the exact opposite of what I did with Phillip Blond’s ineffably dreadful Red Tory, one of the most feeble, wrong-headed, confused, and potentially very dangerous sociopolitical tracts it has ever been my agony to read.
Here is one example of the many, many sentences next to which I was violently impelled to scrawl a very rude word: “Given the emergence of such a new ethos, it might well be that at the limit, issues of fair pricing, proper remuneration for work and quality of workmanship could become issues for local rather than central jurisdiction.”
All right, so I’ve taken it out of context. But even in context, let me assure you, his point is every bit as stultifyingly dull and meaningless. What Blond is struggling to say here is much the same as he is struggling to say throughout the whole book: that the ideologies of both the right and the left have failed, and what we badly need is an alternative which avoids both the ruthlessness of the pure market economy and the fascistic bullying of the Nanny State.
No doubt Blond would have called this ingenious new socio-political template “The Third Way”. Unfortunately, that one was bagged by the previous intellectual snake-oil salesman to have helped bankrupt and destroy our country – Tony Blair’s eminence grise Anthony Giddens of the LSE – so instead, Blond has tried to fob us off with the idea that there could possibly be such a thing as Red Toryism.
Like Left Rightism, Blue Marxism, Black Whiteism, Extreme Centrism or any of the other crazee oxymorons Blond no doubt blue-skied in his bubble bath before settling on the silliest of the lot, Red Toryism is a brand that is arresting, exciting and different the first time you hear it, but which collapses under the weight of its own contradictions the second you start trying to define it.
In his heart, I suspect, Phillip Blond knows this. He thought up the groovy concept. It was enough to impress not just a publisher but even David Cameron, leading some gullible fool or other to provide funding for his think tank Res Publica. But then he found himself in the awkward position of having to explain what it at all meant in the course of a 300 page book. And unfortunately, his brain isn’t up to it. (Nor, for that matter, is his prose style, as witness clunkers like: “The spurious nature of this argument is not eliminated by its perpetual repetition.”)
Few would dispute Blond’s analysis of the way that behind the mask of “liberalism” New Labour’s creepy controlling Fabianism has stolen most of our civil liberties. What is utterly dishonest, though, is the way that for the sake of balance he tries to make out that conservatism is equally flawed because of the way it puts selfish individualism before the common good.
In order to do this he has to caricature it as “neo-liberalism”: “The neo-liberal model of the capitalist market is too open to the pursuit of bad practice – buy as cheaply as possible, sell as dearly as possible, produce goods with the least possible expense and labour and the shoddiest possible quality.” Only through a form of benign state invention (which he pretends is something else by calling it “localism”) can this danger supposedly be averted.
But you only have to look at how markets operate in the real world to see what nonsense this is. A café that sold the cheapest coffee at the highest price would soon go out of business. Sensible capitalists are always looking for ways of offering value-added beyond simple monetary considerations. In the case of that café, this might involve boasting about their Fair Trade and eco credentials, say; or offering its customers free magazines, or baby toys or lovely comfy chairs; or sponsoring local community projects. This was happening long before Phillip Blond came along to tell us it’s what we need imposed on us by the State of ever we are to heal our “Broken Society.”
Blond’s unappetising mix of waffle, bad prose, jumbled ideas, and illogicalities – all thrown together with the occasional bout of facts, figures and statistics, so we know he’s done his homework – would be quite harmless were it not for one major problem: David Cameron’s Conservatives have adopted this buffoon as their philosopher king. Blond’s economics are unaffordable; his logic is incomprehensible; his politics are suicidal. We should all be very afraid.