Boris and the RCP,  UK Politics

The RCP ♥ Boris

Hot on the heels of Boris’ appointment of Munira Mirza, there’s a nice piece on CiF this morning in praise of London’s new Mayor by Revolutionary Communist Party activist, Emily Hill. Emily’s view is that Boris should be more openly libertarian, and should reject attempts to rein him in.

I wonder whether the RCP’s love affair with Boris will become as hot a subject as Ken’s relationship with Socialist Action.

If it does, I’d be interested to hear the inside story on how a splinter group of the SWP ended up so cosy with the bright young things of the Tory Party.

The old RCP model used to be to set up front organisations, with similar names to existing campaigns. So, for example, they had the Campaign against Militarism (mirroring the Campaign against the Arms Trade), and the Irish Freedom Movement (which mirrored various Republican sympathising organisations).

They’ve modified that approach somewhat. First, although they’re still professional controversialists, the RCP now shy away from the more traditional far left issues: although they do maintain a traditional trot perspective on “imperialism”, which fed into their disasterous support of aggressive Serb nationalism and their denial of atrocities against Bosnians. In its place has come enthusiasm for GM foods, scepticism about climate change, and a greater stress on nebulous ideas such as “progress“. The new approach involves setting up umbrella organisations, and partnering them with other organisations: particularly ones which can offer funds, respectability, and a high profile name. This is, in essence, the Institute of Ideas model, where they have worked with the Adam Smith Institute, The Times, the Royal College of Art, and which is sponsored by the drug company Pfizer. These think tanks then promote old-style RCP front organisations (such as WORLDwrite), which would otherwise have no particular profile. By placing RCP speakers on platforms with well known and mainstream figures, they increase the profile of their front groups, to which is imparted a patina of respectability. It is a clever strategy.

Entryism into Tory/centre Right groups seems to be the next stage of the project. Munira is not the only RCPer to have worked for the Policy Exchange. Oxford Don and RCP-er James Panton has also authored a study for them. Various RCP writers have also written for the Spectator, under Boris Johnson’s editorship.

I can see why the RCP have targeted the Tories. Their social libertarianism is very much in tune with the outlook of the young guard of the Tory Party; as is their environmental scepticism. The RCP’s “anti-imperialism” is still a little bit trotty: but is not a million miles away from the Hurd/Rifkind school of anti-interventionist foreign policy. And in any case, there is no point, now, trying to practice entryism into the Labour Party or any other Left wing organisation.

The RCP has proved very successful at running its “Institute of Ideas” business model in the private sector. With the Tories in power in London, and perhaps elsewhere, they may well now be marketing themselves to the Tories as policy wonks for hire. As Socialist Action realised, there’s a huge trough of public money available for thinkers and agitators who align themselves with a successful politician.

I wonder whether any of this worries the Tories at all. Let’s face it: the RCP are a bit weird, and the Tories are doing their best to come across as normal. I’m not entirely sure this won’t all blow up in the Tories’ face.


The centre-right Social Affairs Unit worked it out too…

Update 2

There seems to have been some confusion. I don’t think that Munira is a bad choice of appointee. I think she’s great.  I like Munira.

There are also many things on which I agree with the RCP. Back in the 1980s, the RCP were basically the first people to spot that identity politics was an utter dead end. This is why Munira is an excellent choice of advisor to fight the facile sectarianism that was fostered by Ken over the past 8 years. I really hope she’ll succeed, and I am likely to be writing articles supporting specific things that she is doing. Basically, I’m a fan.

I also admire the RCP’s strategy. I think they’ve been very clever.

What I don’t like about the RCP (apart, of course, from their attachment to Westphalian notions of sovereignty, and their nutsy Srebrenica denial) is:

– Their cultishness. People I know who have dealings with the RCP have not had happy experiences with them. They’re very controlling.

– The uniformity of their views. You KNOW what an RCP article will say before you’ve read it. It is so predictable.

– Their tendency to be shocking for the sake of it (”Let’s have more whaling!” “Hurrah for child porn!” “Let’s inject acid into the eyes of little puppy dogs!”). This is absolutely great if you’re providing fodder for blogs or middlebrow mags like the Speccie – but you CAN’T behave like this if you’re trying to run a sensible mass appeal political party.

I also don’t think that the RCP are nearly as clever as they think they are. Possibly, because they’re essentiallly a cult, and not a collection of libertarian free thinkers. And possibly because Furedi is quite fun, but not one of the great philosophers of our age.