It is as drearily unoriginal as the Red Tory doctrine. Philip Blond – protégé of Alasdair Maclagan, founder of Res Publica and advocate of David Cameron’s ‘big society’ – has been doing his best to provide a clear example of the moral foundations of Red Toryism.

In 2008, Blond wrote: ‘A recovery of a national virtue culture is required’. In 2010, both Blond and Maclagan also wrote: ‘By virtue we mean here a combination of talent, fitness for a specific social role, and a moral exercise of that role for the benefit of wider society’. As is well-known, for Blond, locality, family, community are good, while multinationals, wealthy individuals and mass culture are evil.

What, precisely, is such a ‘national virtue culture’? What talent and fitness does he have for a ‘specific social role’ that is to the benefit of ‘wider society’?

A little while back, Stalin’s Moustache posted some records that indicate some dodgy financial transactions by Blond’s ‘Think Tank’, Res Publica. But now it appears that those funds were used to fund Blond’s own ‘specific social role’. Even that bourgeois stalwart, The Sunday Times, finds it all a bit much:

• Staff were angered that while the think tank fought for its survival Blond was spending thousands of pounds meeting women around the world. He asked an academic to pass £300 in cash to a woman in the Ukraine, now his girlfriend, whom he was chasing.

• Blond later paid £1,690 to fly to meet the woman and stay with her at the Swiss Inn Resort in Sharm El Sheikh on the Red Sea.

• After a particularly expensive trip to a Brazilian resort, to which he invited yet another person – telling her ‘We are going immediately to stay in Porto Galinas — so bring your swimming costume’ – ResPublica staff found their wages delayed. A few weeks later employees were locked out of their offices because the rent had not been paid.

• Despite receiving a family values award from the Mormon church, Blond was vying with a fellow academic for the affections of another girl. He compared notes on a ‘hot Spanish journalist’ from a Catholic newspaper. Blond told another academic, who referred to him as Lord Blond, ‘Suggest she urgently needs to interview me’.

• The think tank helped foot the bills for Blond’s flat, paying a £1,900 deposit on the property near Brick Lane in east London and £6,846.66 rent. The property is described in unpublished accounts as a “company let”. Blond now rents a £4,100-a-month flat in King’s Cross.

• Blond spent more than £40,000 from the ResPublica bank account on his own personal expenses. Sources say he frequently used the think tank’s Lloyds TSB debit card to withdraw money from cashpoints for personal spending.

• On one occasion, when staff were not being paid, a Regency-style chair arrived at the office upholstered with half-naked women in high-heels astride motorbikes.

• Poorly paid staff had to wait for several weeks to be paid, while Blond withdrew £160,000 from the company in one year.

• Blond was warned by accountants that while the think tank had a turnover of almost £700,000 in a year it had assets of just £1,540 ‘because of the amount of cash withdrawn from the company’.

All of which reminds one of another of Blond’s pieces of moral advice: ‘To live independently you need to be able to control your finances — especially in times of uncertainty. How you manage your money affects your resilience to cash crises and unforeseen emergencies’.

Obviously, Blond’s completely unsleazy good looks have bewitched not only David Cameron, but all those others:

(ht: anonymous)

Last night I met Žižek in a dream (fully-clothed, thankfully).

‘Why haven’t you published much lately?’ I asked.

‘I’ve been studying for a degree in theology’, he said.

‘A degree in theology?’ I said. ‘Why?’

‘I’m sick of relying on idiots like Chesterton and Milbank to develop my theological arguments’.

Has anyone else noticed a curious confluence of Breivik’s proposals regarding the church and those espoused by the current conservative holder of the see of Rome and certain proponents of radical orthodoxy? They share: an anti-Islamic perspective, a critique of liberalism and Marxism, an argument for the vital role of liturgy, the proposal that the Roman Catholic church functions as a line of defence against Islam and modernity, and – crucially – the suggestion that Roman Catholicism should re-absorb Protestantism.

A few juicy snippets from the accounts of Res Publica, the ‘think tank’ set up by the portly protagonist, Phillip Blond, in the glory days of the Tory election campaign. Blond, you may recall was doling out large dollops of economic and social advice to David Cameron – big society, locality, family, moral economy, virtuous elites, common popular customs.

But Blond is on less firm ground dealing with his own economic realities: funding shortages, staff laid off, rented premises locked due to unpaid rents (more here and here). So let us have a closer look at a few records (available at £1 per item from Companies House).

First, Blond is the sole director …

member …

and shareholder:

A dodgy set-up, is it not, as Political Scrapbook points out? All of which becomes even more dodgy when Res Publica is not, as is usually the case with such valuable social institutions, a non-profit organisation, but actually a private company:

Given that Blond plays cymbals, drum, ukelele and mouth-organ, he can also undertake business dealings purely with himself:

And his liabilities should the whole business go belly up?

Nice, cosy set-up, especially in light of some big sums in the creditor-debtor columns:

No wonder his guru, John Milbank, should come to the ‘rescue’ earlier this year, becoming a second director:

WTF! Is Milbank related to Maclagan? Bugger me …

Over in the UK, Res Publica, the bastion of Red Toryism, source of the ‘big society’, home of the self-styled ‘philosopher-king’ Philip Blond, has run out of cash. Staff are being locked out due to unpaid rents, paychecks are empty … Looks like David Cameron’s cuts are coming home.

Where are those bloody elves and their bags of gold when the worthy folk of merrie England need them?

(ht aps)

 

A couple of you have pointed me to this wonderful piece of news from that collection of wet and windy islands euphemistically known as the ‘United Kingdom’:

Academics will study the “big society” as a priority, following a deal with the government to secure funding from cuts.

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) will spend a “significant” amount of its funding on the prime minister’s vision for the country … It is claimed the AHRC was told that research into the “big society” was non-negotiable if it wished to maintain its funding at £100m a year.

Unlike the general doom and gloom, digust, anger and despair it seems to have caused, I reckon this is a great piece of news. Why? Since AA and I have already been working on this topic for a while, we feel like we are in the box seat. So I’ve come up with a research proposal that – a little counter-intuitively perhaps – includes Messrs Philip Blond and Alasdair Maclagan.

Title: Lenin and the Big Society: In Search of the Bourgeois Utopia of Red Toryism (a project also known as Maclagan and the Blond Boer).

Tasks:

1) Maclagan will seek out Gandalf in the misty woods of Nottinghamshire, hoping to make spiritual contact with his theological master, J.R.R. Tolkien.

2) Blond will undertake an exhaustive study of his family tree in order to identify his hobbit forebears.

3) Boer will engage the elves, making use of elvish magic to clone Lenin from his mummified corpse, so that Lenin himself may join the research group.

4) AA (and VM/BY) will ensure the whole project maintains the highest level of scientific integrity.

Picking up an earlier promise:

Red Toryism as a bourgeois utopia? I want to suggest that on top of a supposed return to conservative values, or even dipping into the tradition of Roman Catholic fascism (via Chesterton and Belloc), the determining feature of Red Toryism is its bourgeois foundation. The way into that argument is via Lenin’s critique of Narodism (or ‘populism’) of the late 19th century.

The Narodniks arose in the 1860s and 1870s in Russia, especially after the abolition of serfdom in 1861. They argued that capitalism was evil, especially in its international variety, and that Russia could avoid capitalism by focusing on the rural community – the famed ‘village commune’ (mir or obshchina). In this wonderful village could be found cooperation, communal values, virtue, the absence of exploitation and of capitalist relations. Indeed, they argued that the small peasant producer was far more efficient than the large capitalist estate with all its machinery and farm labourers and so on. In short, the source for socialism in Russia lay in emphasising the village-commune, overthrowing the autocracy and spreading peasant values throughout society. So enamoured with the village-commune and rural life were the Narodniks that they spent time learning peasant customs and dances, wearing peasant clothes and cooking peasant food.

The catch: the Narodniks were not peasants at all but bourgeois intellectuals. The village-commune was an ideal that hardly lived up to reality – as they found with the infamous ‘going to the people’ in 1874. The Narodniks went to the countryside to teach the peasants how to bring in socialism. No-one was interested. So the Narodniks decided the peasants were stupid, lazy and superstitious, requiring intellectuals to teach them the correct path. It’s a bit like the bourgie couple that takes a drive in the countryside, finds a cute village, sits in a cafe for a while muttering about how beautiful it all is, and eventually meanders into the real estate office to check out property prices – only to find that the locals are suspicious of them and that all the others in the real estate office are bourgeois visitors like themselves.

Lenin devotes a great deal of space in his early pieces to critiquing the Narodniks. He tackles the economic arguments and shows that the fabled village-commune has always been the basis for exploitation, that small producers are far less efficient, that the dialectic of capitalism is to break up the encrusted patterns of feudal oppression. Lenin isn’t stupid, so he does not write the Narodniks off completely. He appreciates their role as early socialists, he admires the desperate bravery of the Narodnaya Volya (‘People’s Will’) assassination group, and he also traces the subsequent influence of their ideas on the Socalist-Revolutionaries and Trudoviks.

All along, the deep problem of the Narodniks was their class base. The idealised rural village, the dreams of communal lives of virtue and cooperation, the effort to find an alternative path to socialism – all these are part of a bourgeois utopia. The outcome: when a limited parliament was established by the tsar after the 1905 revolution, those influenced by Narodnik ideals were all too ready to do deals with the bourgeois parties, especially the Cadets, or Constitutional Democratic Party.

The analogy with red toryism is remarkably close. Supposedly a return to progressive conservative values and opposed to liberalism, red toryism valorises the local over the global, family over its discontents (gays, single parents, promiscuity), virtue over cynicism, common custom over bland commercial labels, the communal values of the ‘big society’ over the dreadful effects of trans-national capitalist exploitation. And yet, with the 2010 ‘victory’ of the ConDem coalition in the UK, red tories – notably Philip Blond and Alasdair Maclagan – have become apologists for one neo-liberal policy after another.

A contradiction? A betrayal of the earlier espousal of conservative positions? Not at all, for like the Narodniks, the red tories are primarily bourgeois intellectuals. The local community was always a bourgeois utopia for this lot, so much so that they couldn’t give a damn about any community. Instead, with their class basis, they were always going to revert to type and do deals on any bourgeois/neo-liberal project.