Don’t follow the people

Prospect Magazine

Don’t follow the people

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Politicians of the left once led public opinion. A hagiography of David Blunkett shows how today’s “authoritarian populists” now just follow it

David Blunkett by Stephen Pollard
(Hodder & Stoughton, £20)

At first sight, Stephen Pollard’s biography of David Blunkett is a workmanlike, though cliché-ridden, example of a genre to which publishers are increasingly addicted—the journalistic instant biography that provokes a brief stir of publicity for a moment or two, and then sinks beneath the waves. But on closer inspection, it has a more enduring significance, both for British politics in general and for British social democracy in particular.

It is significant in an odd, roundabout way. Pollard is a hagiographer rather than a biographer. He is heavily biased in Blunkett’s favour and against Blunkett’s rivals and the manifold objects of the politician’s scorn. He has no sympathy for the unfortunate civil servants for whom Blunkett evidently nurses a resentful contempt. The judges who have tried to uphold the basic principles of the rule of law in the face of Blunkett’s disdain

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David Marquand

David Marquand
David Marquand is author of The Decline of the Public: The Hollowing Out of Citizenship (Polity) 

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