In the Spectator recently, my old friend Toby Young described a dilemma which all those of us right-wing persuasion must face up to in the end: should you soften your position in order to find some common ground with people whose stupid political ideology you loathe and despise? Or should you stay true to your principles and risk being marginalised as, at best, unreasonable and, at worst, as a fruitcake, a crank, a dangerous extremist?
Young was talking in particular about his battles with the hard-left educationalists who were trying to sabotage free schools like the one he helped set up in West London. Some parents urged him to take a more emollient line with his attackers. And for a moment Young was tempted:
"Shouldn’t I offer to meet with the school’s opponents, such as the shop steward of the Ealing branch of the NUT [National Union of Teachers], and see if there were any concessions we could make that might secure their support?"
But then he took some advice from Lord Adonis - a fellow warrior in the battle against the progressive educational establishment (aka The Blob). Lord Adonis's view was that with an enemy like this, negotiation was out of the question.
‘They’re not interested in “constructive dialogue”,’ he said. ‘Don’t you get it? If you extend any sort of olive branch to them they’ll see it as a sign of weakness and move in for the kill. I dealt with exactly the same people — the Socialist Workers’ Party, the Anti-Academies Alliance, the National Union of Teachers — for most of my ministerial career and, believe me, they would rather stick pins in their eyes than admit they have common ground with someone like you. Their attitude to free schools is the same as their attitude to academies: they won’t rest until every last one has been razed to the ground.’
Quite a few people, I imagine, would be shocked to hear a moderate ex-minister from Tony Blair's New Labour administration sounding so "unreasonable". After all, aren't we always being told by the experts that elections are won in the "centre ground"? That moderation in all things is the wisest policy? That everyone has a right to their opinion? That compromise and negotiation rather than dogma and ideology will always achieve the best results?
I have at least two problems with people who cleave to this kind of woolly centrism. The first is that they've probably not thought hard enough ever in their lives to form a worthwhile opinion on anything. And the second is that they've clearly never experienced what it's like to be on the front line of the war on cultural Marxism.
This war has many theatres: radical feminism; progressive educationalism; the Nanny State; political correctness; race; disability; Islamism; communitarianism; environmentalism; and so on. But the techniques used by the enemy are always the same: vicious ad hominems; appeals to authority; feigned outrage; legislative bullying; attempts to close down the argument; lies; threats; smears; sabotage...