Kevin Meagher’s top five most influential left wingers


Here are my top five most influential contemporary UK lefties.

LFF-Left-50-logoDavid Blanchflower:

George Bernard Shaw remarked: “If all economists were laid end to end they would still not reach a conclusion”; well, Professor Blanchflower has. He is consistent and persistent in arguing that the scale of the economic Armageddon we face requires unprecedented action.

As the leading “dove” on the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee until last June, Blanchflower’s was the leading voice warning of the risks of deflation and unemployment. He now issues his analysis and call for action through the pages of the New Statesman. We should simultaneously pray he’s completely wrong on his predictions; but that his prescriptions are heeded if not.

Tony Blair:

Why I hear you howl? He is influential precisely because he is not trying to be influential. Following the election defeat there has been a noticeable lack of “I told you so’s”. ‘Sources close the former PM’ have been quiescent. His low profile in UK politics will allow Labour to move on and ensure that, unlike Mrs Thatcher, his memory does not become a death cult for his followers.

Indeed, we do not hear much talk these days of Blairites at all – and that is much to be welcomed. Labour’s brand of ‘personality politics’ was responsible for its long periods in opposition: first in the 50s with Bevan and then with Benn in the 80s. Mr Blair serves his party well by concentrating on his second career.

Bob Crow:

There was a time when trade union general-secretaries were household names. Those days are long gone. But there is one that still manages instant name recognition, usually preceded, it has to be said, by a profanity. Bob Crow, the tabloid bête noire and leader of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union is a defiantly unreconstructed militant. As a Millwall football club supporter, he revels in the club’s motto: “Everyone hates us, we don’t care.”

Yet he’s the only general secretary I can think of who’s been on Have I Got News for You. His extreme left politics may be primordial, but Crow never claims to be more than he is: a tribune of his members and he is undoubtedly effective in pursuing their interests. With a membership that has increased by 40 per cent on his watch, Crow is a powerful reminder to theorising progressives that if you make a practical difference to ordinary peoples’ lives they will support you. Regardless of what anyone else thinks.

Demos:

They seemed to have dropped off the radar in recent years, but have come bang with a bang with two moves that put them in the centre of the action. First, their Progressive Conservatism project provided David Cameron with some intellectual detergent to wash out the ‘nasty party’ stain by making a daring foray into the left’s territory, particularly around social and welfare policy.

Second, their Open Left project which is looking at ‘renewing the thinking and ideas of the political Left’, may help to flesh out just how we can win back ground that should never have been lost to the right in the first place.

Mark Littlewood:

The former director of communications for the Liberal Democrats and founder of the anti-ID card pressure group ‘No2ID’is now director-general of the right-wing Institute for Economic Affairs.
Littlewood is important because he shows the coalition is not just a marriage of convenience, but also of ideas. This pact is not just an aberration. The right of the Lib Dems have far more in common with the Conservatives than they do with Labour.

Littlewood personifies that unholy alliance. Understanding that this coupling between Orange Book free market Lib Dems and the Tories is true love is perhaps the most valuable lesson progressives can learn from 2010. Only by understanding it can it be overcome.

• Email your list of the most influential left wingers of 2010 to shamik@leftfootforward.org

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  • http://northernheckler.wordpress.com Nils Boray

    I’ve never been one to shy away from saying the Emperor’s got no clothes on, so I’m not afraid to say that I’ve never heard of either Mark Littlewood, or David Blanchflower – so not sure what influence either have on me.

    I’m also more or less in the dark about Demos – but know where to look it up.

    WRT Bob Crow – Millwall don’t sing “Everyone hates us, We don’t care” they sing “No one likes us, we don’t care” a subtle but extremely important difference. Most football crews have a fair bit of respect for them actually.

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  • Joe Mc

    er, Mark Littlewood seems to be a right winger , does this not disqualify him from being an influential left winger?

  • Robert

    New Labour is full of Blairites they are the infestation of the party.

  • http://theoldpolitics.blogspot.com/ oldpolitics

    I was about to say “I know Mark, he’s not left-wing”, but I see he’s already come out to say that himself!

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  • Mr. Sensible

    Have to agree with the choice of Professer Blanchflower.

  • Mark Morris

    Bob Crow on Radio 4 Any Questions has come very close to defending bringing back capital punishment.

    Is he really progressive, left wing, worth defending in any way?

  • Chris

    How can Mark Littlewood, who I’ve never heard of, be considered left wing if he is the director of a right wing think tank and seems to be basically a right wing libertarian?

    Is the left so denuded of thinkers we have to take people who probably have more in common with Ron Paul than social democrats as our own?

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  • Anon E Mouse

    Mark Morris – And the Labour Party has been left wing for the last 13 years – I must have missed that bit…

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  • Liz McShane

    Nils – David or as he is sometimes know Danny Blanchflower was a member of The MPC, is a regular interviewee on Newsnight and has a weekly column in The New Statesman.

  • http://www.jossgarman.com Joss Garman

    Mark Littlewood – a leftie?!?!?!

    This is the guy who used to run a break away faction of the Conservatives, and set up a group with the sole purpose of pushing extreme anti-environmental propaganda, and somebody who heads up the IEA – one of the most right wing think tanks in the country…

    http://www.leftfootforward.org/2009/10/influential-think-tank-appoints-climate-sceptic/

  • Kevin Meagher

    Folks – the point about my mischievous nomination for Mark Littlewood is in danger of getting lost. What I’m saying to ‘coalition deniers’ on the left is that what some of us thought (myself included) was simply a marriage of convenience is actually becoming something much deeper. The intellectual strand of Orange Book economic liberalism is perfectly in tune with Cameroon political economy.

    And because the centre of gravity in the Tory party on social policy has – at least superficially become more liberal – the coalition of the Conservative and Lib Dem parties is not an aberration destined to fail, but potentially a joint project that will last the course.

    This is absolutely, without a shadow of a doubt, the most important thing Labour can learn from 2010. The party needs shaking out of its complacency on this point. I’ve picked on Mark Littlewood because his journey from the Lib Dems to the IEA symbolises that fusion of libereal ideas. Joss – you’re quite right: the IEA is one of the most right-wing think tanks. That’s partly the point I’m making.

    The next logical step is for them to agree a pact ahead of the next election to either run joint coalition candidates or for either party to stand candidates down in select constituencies so as not to damage the other. AV makes that even easier. And it’s why Labour should now be campaigning for a No vote if next year’s referendum on AV comes about. But that’s an argument for another day!

  • Tom Papworth

    “I’ve picked on Mark Littlewood because his journey from the Lib Dems to the IEA symbolises that fusion of libereal ideas… the IEA is one of the most right-wing think tanks”

    I’m not a big fan of “Left” and “Right” in politics: it’s meaningless drivil, though on a site called Left Foot Forward I’m unlikely to find many adherents. However, it is worth noting that the IEA was co-founded by Arthur Seldon, it’s first Editorial Director, who was a life-long member of the Liberal Party, Chaired their Commission on the Elderly in the 1940s and helped win the Orpington by-eleciton in 1962. So while Kevin is right that there is a natural affinity between the free-market liberals and free-market (but not anti-market) Conservatives, it is not true to say that this is something new. Just because the Lib Dems have for a decade been dominated by interventionist, anti-market social democrats with a naturally affity for socially democratic (but not State Socialist) Labour members does not make the Lib Dems automatically closer to Labour. Nor does it place us in some place called “The Centre Left”.

    As for the Lib Dems fielding joint-coaliton candidates with and/or not standing against the Tories in the next General Election, all I can say is that the Liberals made that mistake between the wars and we ended up with four Labour governments, each of which left office with the country in recession and the public finances in crisis. We won’t be making the same mistake again.

  • Henry

    Mark Littlewood has been known for a long while a being pretty right wing (does he even claim to be LibDem these days?). There has always been a small extreme free market tendency in the LibDems (& old Liberal Party). It is only recently that the lunatics seem to have taken over the asylum.

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