All The More Reason

Where is Euston?
July 9, 2006, 3:30 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

This week I’ve been debating, informally, the relationship between the Euston Manifesto and the Labour party. There are two camps on this issue: those who are broadly sympathetic to the Labour party and think we Eustonites should be involved in a critical but supportive dialogue with Labour, and the other camp who are openly hostile to Labour and generally believe the new Labour cabinet are just Thatcherites who believe in Society. I am firmly in the first camp, but think that it is important to keep Euston as open and free a dialogue within the Left as is possible without undermining the original premise: the staunch defence of universal values against tepid relativism.

Previously, I have written about this in regards to Daniel Finkelstein’s (The Times, 26th April) attempt to cast Euston as a neo-conservative Manifesto from the corollary of right-wing thought, not left. He wrote:

For if the Euston Manifesto had been published by a group of rightwingers it might attract some right-wing opposition, but support would be overwhelming on the Right. This may not be a very attractive fact for a group of left-liberal authors to come to terms with, but it is the truth nevertheless.”

And in reply, I wrote:

“Finkelstein is up to mischief indeed. He has seen his side, the Tories, stand at the sidelines in one of the most important moments of global history – and he thoroughly resents this. He resents the sight of a thrice-elected Labour leader determining the most cogent and ideologically sound set of foreign policy objectives since Palmerston. He resents the ‘little England’ mentality of backbench Toryism which is now being replicated on the front bench with Cameron’s nauseating wobble over Iraq. It must be utterly utterly horrid for the poor man. He swapped sides at exactly the wrong moment, and this it seems has caused quite a bit of ressentement.

The reality is that the Labour Party now (and I know classing Labour as a left-wing party may well cause a bit of controversy) is quite staunchly progressive on foreign affairs. Those who disagreed over Iraq in the party membership have now left the party, MPs who disagreed are in the minority. A new generation of Labour MPs, Ian Austin, Gisela Stuart, Ed Balls, etc. are progressive and are interventionalists.

You may not like party policy on many issues – and I disagree with a lot of the thrust of ‘Blairismo’ – however, you cannot doubt the party’s humanitarianism. What the Euston Manifesto group should recognise is that it is the Labour party that has fought four wars in favour of human rights in Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, Iraq. The only vehicle for the group’s ambitions is the Labour Party. No other left-of-centre political party shares these foreign policy objectives and, furthermore, the Labour Party needs people like EG supporters within the party to strengthen its nerve. If Britain rejects Labour at the next election, which is increasingly likely, we will have a return to isolationist ‘little Englanderism’. We will retreat from our global obligations of third world debt, we will drop our commitment to democracy quicker than Tory candidates are dropping vowels at selection meetings.

The real progressive party in Britain, in terms of foreign policy is Labour. Finkelstein, a moment of introspection, please.”

This is, I think, is the central premise of my position: Labour and Labour alone is the only vehicle for progressives and internationalists in Britain. Ergo, Euston must engage with the party otherwise it is little more than tenets on paper, and not much consolation for those in far flung lands who very much desire our vigilant defence of humanism against the barbarism of theocracy, despotism and totalitarianism.



4 Comments so far
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Although it is probably true that there are more supporters of Euston within the Labour Party, I think it is unhelpful to take an entirely parochial stance on this.

The principles in the document are supposed to be universal. The aim of the Euston manifesto should be to create an atmosphere in which the question of humanitarian intervention is no longer partisan; it should be a necessity as a matter of international law.

Such a challenge requires a pretty broad coalition. We should welcome support from all quarters. And if that means lacing daisies into Daniel Finkelstein’s hair and calling him sister, then…well, anyway…

Michael P

Comment by allthemorereason

Personally, I’m a member of the Labour Party and have been for many years. However, I think that if we try to take a stand as a group for or against the party we will just split the group apart. I think the group ought to be able to accommodate both pro and anti-labour people within it, and should be an essentially non-partisan (though broadly left) campaigning organisation. The comparison here is with movements such as feminism and the environmental movement.
To be effective you have to define your essential positions, which the manifesto does, and welcome anyone who subscribes to those, while being as broadminded as possible regarding where people are in other respects. I’m happy to work with Blairite reformists (of which I consider myself one) and hard-line anti-capitalists and anti-globalists, provided that they share the aims of the manifesto. Bear in mind that we already have Labour Party-specific organisations such as Progress and LFIQ, which I support and am happy to co-operate with. But I also wouldn’t want to shut out anyone for whom a formal labour party connection would be a turn-off.
Think of it as the popular front of our time!

Comment by Harry Goldstein

A join non-partisan front with Tories like Danny Finkelstein, eh? Sorry, but remind me again how Euston isn’t a rightist project?

Comment by voltaires_priest

nice site indeed

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