Given that the papers are full of the most appalling socialist commentators sharpening their knives to butcher Britain’s remaining economic freedoms, when ‘right-wing’ (in their terms, God help us) Tony Blair leaves office, it is nice to be able to point out a ray of sunshine.
I like Nick Cohen. He is often wrong, but he does have the sense to follow his own mind rather than retailing the received wisdom . And he is intellectually honest and self-aware, which is more than can be said for most commentators on the left. This is an impressive example:
Too many on the liberal-left, including me, don’t feel in our bones that it is as wrong for the state to take billions of pounds from taxpayers and waste them on, say, the fatally overambitious National Health Service IT project as it is for the owners of Farepak to take the Christmas savings of thousands of poor families and throw them away.
Leave aside for the moment that no one was compelled to take the appalling bargain offered by Farepak in the first place, and that no one, including the same poor families, has an option about the taxes going to the mad NPfIT or the destruction of their privacy that it entails. Leave aside that, even if one counts as robbery in the same way as the other, the NPfIT is more than 120 times as bad. (Though one couldn’t pass that topic without noting Gordon Brown took out of the nation’s pension funds in one early budget, what it would have taken 300 Robert Maxwells to steal.)
Cohen has recognised (1) that there is something not quite right about the disproportionate outrage lavished by the left on the Farepak disaster, when government spending takes money from people who need it and gives them nothing; and (2) that some other people do not share the reflex. He offers the insight as a matter of electoral strategy for Labour, so insight (1) may be a bit weak. But it looks to me like progress. Cohen can not quite see what is wrong with his viewpoint clearly enough to shift his ingrained value-judgements, but he can see that it might be wrong.