Watching Nick

Well, I have held my nose and procured Nick’s little book. From first impressions, it’s even worse than I feared. This is sad in a way, because a lot of Nick’s latter-day comrades are people I would expect no better from. Nick, on the other hand, has quite an illustrious history and used to be downright brilliant on domestic politics – Cruel Britannia was probably the best analysis of Blair’s Britain, and Pretty Straight Guys was a good read too, although the incongruous chapter on Iraq, which gave all the signs of having been added at the last moment, pointed the way to his current position. Foreign policy was always Nick’s weak point, so it was probably inevitable that his downfall would come from that quarter.

So, what are we to make of What’s Left? Well, as I say, there are people from whom nothing better could have been expected. Kamm’s book was utter bilge, but then we all knew what Kamm was like. To find Nick, sometime one of my favourite journalists, writing something like What’s Left? is deeply depressing, and it gives me no pleasure to say that he has been digging ever more frenziedly since publication, probably encouraged by good notices. It seems to me that Nick is completely losing his grip, and one thing we don’t need is a lefty Britney Spears (or, perhaps more accurately, David Icke) on our hands.

The best way to approach this book is in chunks. Nick’s previous books were after all collections of his journalism, and What’s Left? carries this on by being a series of disjointed little essays – and the essays are bad enough singly without Nick’s desperate attempts to make them fit an overarching thesis. So, when Norn Iron commitments allow, I will be blogging a review of Nick in instalments. Since the good folks over at Aaro Watch are finding the book too depressing to cover in much depth, the Sunrise will step into the breach.

Reviewing What’s Left? will also give us an opportunity to look at the phenomenon of the Decent Left as a whole. Since most of the book, those bits not recycled by Nick from his old columns or springing out of his fertile imagination, is lifted from his mates’ books and articles, and sympathetic blogs and websites, some examination of Nick’s sources will be in order. Just look at the rogues’ gallery in the acknowledgments at the back for a veritable Who’s Who of Decentism.

So, readers may expect to be regaled with occasional looks at Nick. Feedback will as always be welcome; and, unlike Nick’s composition of his dire screed, the reviewing process will involve some homework and concern for factuality.

PS. This rather intemperate review by my old friend Ian Birchall in Socialist Worker may be of interest. Not that I am likely to be more temperate, but Ian does have the advantage of concision.

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