Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Tone vs Ming

Tony Greaves is one of the party's treasures. He has also sold me a lot of books at very reasonable prices and ferreted out some that were very hard to find. So I hesitate to criticise.

But was the criticism of Ming in Monday's Guardian really necessary? The new party leader was not even allowed 24 hours grace after his inaugural leader's speech before being attacked by a senior party figure?

What Tony took exception to was Ming's use of the word 'modernise'. I agree that in its Blairite usage this is a problematic word. It is designed to imply that there is only one way forward - whatever the government is proposing - and that everyone else is stuck in the past.

Although there are some intellectual dinosaurs in all public debates, debates between and within parties are more often about how to rather than whether to modernise. Forward-looking policies may well come in a variety of forms.

But the use I heard Ming make of the word was simply to say that to be a Liberal Democrat was to be a moderniser. This seemed to me pretty uncontroversial and of a piece with his quip that he preferred open minds to open-necked shirts.

Give the man a chance, Tony!

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