“Fancy you being quoted in Communist paper today!”. Thus read an e-mail received as I was boarding the plane for Nashville. The reference is to an article published in Saturday’s Guardian headed Rolls Building court complex can make London ‘global legal centre’, where a quotation from an article of mine does indeed appear. The quotation is accurate, I gave my permission for anything I had written to be used, and I stand by it. It is, unfortunately, preceded by a sentence which does not represent my view and which could not be inferred from anything I have said. I will come back to that in a moment.
First, though, why should my correspondent be surprised that I am quoted in a “communist paper” (his words, not mine) like the Guardian? It would be fair to say that my views and those of the Guardian’s readership do not overlap very much. I am not altogether sympathetic with the idea that any problem can be solved by raising taxes and throwing a few thousand more civil servants at it; I don’t buy the idea that society is improved by a focus on rights without a concomitant emphasis on responsibilities; I deeply resent the fact that any sensible discussion about differences between people – differences of colour, race or gender – is stifled by immediate accusations of racism, xenophobia or sexism from people too intolerant, and too convinced of their own rightness to allow the subject to have an airing at all; I strongly disapprove of the idea that the state has an over-riding role in protecting us from our own decisions, even before considering the moral and intellectual shortcomings of the politicians and all those low-grade little people who purport to tell us what to do. I once got into serious trouble with a young idealist for using the expression “the Guardian-reading public” as shorthand for a whole class of wet, woolly thinkers whose claimed liberalism is in fact a severe de facto form of oppression.
That does not stop me reading the Guardian from time to time – it is wrong to dismiss views which are different from one’s own without at least trying to understand them, even if “the Guardian-reading public” does not reciprocate the courtesy; besides, the paper itself is more thoughtful than most of its target audience is about these things.
There is one area in which the Guardian has an increasingly important role – the quality of its law reporting. The Times used to be pre-eminent at this, but one rarely finds anything about the law worth reading in The Times now. I am not sure whether this is because they frig around with the layout so much that whole chunks disappear from view or whether the law has been edged out of the paper by its recent emphasis on celebs, fashion, sex and other people’s emotional problems. The Guardian, meanwhile, has gone from strength to strength on legal matters, both in the print and electronic versions and on Twitter. Read the rest of this entry »