RDN and the FT: Schama and the Mail

Mine is hardly a timely intervention (as we call contributions to debate now), but I thought I’d post here a letter offered by me to the FT for publication but not used by them. It follows a piece by Simon Schama in the FT (5/6 October 2013) strongly deprecating the Daily Mail‘s accusation that Ralph Miliband wasn’t a patriot. By the way, though in all sorts of ways I am a cosmopolitan liberal, I am strongly in support of the sort of line taken by the Mail‘s Paul Dacre in his Guardian piece on how his paper stands for the suburbanite mind. I agree that this mindset is the backbone of Britain, and I share many of its prejudices.

It’s worth adding that the letter on this topic which the FT did publish said two-thirds of what I did and in perhaps a third or fifth of the space: so I mustn’t complain.

RDN letter proffered to the FT:

“Simon Schama is of course the impeccable, even patrician, super-liberal and these traits make it less than likely that he would appreciate the merit in The Daily Mail‘s vulgar assault on the Milibands.

“Still, isn’t there a weakness in his argument that the Mail was wrong to think Ralph Miliband unpatriotic? Mr Schama’s long list of English leftists from Ruskin to Orwell reminds us that their radicalism was usually a search for qualities imagined as residing in the roots of our culture. But what I read of Ralph Miliband (and not merely in the Mail) suggests that his radicalism depended on disdaining and if possible ripping up some important bits of those roots.

“Isn’t continental revolutionism and maybe anything but feeble socialism doomed here partly because most leftists, as noted and mourned by Ralph Miliband, will work within the limits of our insular, British, inherited culture and political system, even at the cost of the failure of their project?

“The Mail was well within its rights to say that when Ed Miliband approves the political views of his father, we should try to find out what they were. When we do, we can agree with the colourful tabloid that it is odd for a modern Labour leader to admire them, whatever else filial loyalty may inspire in him.”

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Publication date

12 October 2013