Friends of mine who still call themselves ‘liberals’ or ‘leftists’ occasionally confide in me that they think the left might be screwed. Depending on how I feel on that particular day I tend to reply either that (a) they must stay and fight their political corner and make the left decent again or (b) one day they will realise that this is because the left is wrong.
Anyhow – evidence for the (b) answer seems to grow by the day. The Labour leadership race aside, consider the Guardian newspaper, which is a pretty good weathervane for what has gone wrong with the left. In the last fortnight the paper has interviewed two prominent British Muslims. One is the UK head of Hizb ut-Tahrir, a radical Islamist organisation which is banned in many countries. The other interview is with someone who used to be in Hizb ut-Tahrir but who now opposes the Islamist mindset and has spent recent years arguing against the extremists and for moderation and tolerance within the Islamic faith.
Now here is a test. Which of the two do you think got a fawning interview, relaying his thoughts with barely a whisper of dissent? And which do you think got the full-on Guardian hatchet-job treatment with endless ‘anonymous sources’ smearing the subject of the interview? If you have taken the most pessimistic route to the answer then you will have got it right. The head of the extremist group got the full open arms and legs treatment, while the reformer got the hatchet job.
Perhaps the left really is just screwed.