Jane O'Grady
30 May 2008

Jane O'Grady (London ): A new magazine that will uphold glorious values and art-forms which are (to the terrible loss and danger of all humankind) being increasingly despoiled, criticised and allowed to wither - what, at any time, could be more timely?

Prospect Magazine, which was started 13 years ago with a similar purpose to Standpoint, has been instrumental in promoting just such a redemption from iconoclasm and relativism, because its editor, David Goodhart, really tries to work with and not just against modernity. What worries me is whether this new magazine will do so, judging by many of the attenders of the excellent launch party, held in the luxury of the covered courtyard in the Wallace Collection.

Standpoint wants to stand as a citadel in defence of Western civilisation. But isn't the true beating heart of conservatism the wisdom of knowing how to move forward even while attempting to be fixed in the same point? I hope that Standpoint doesn't simply preach to the smug, scared defenders of Western orthodoxies: they are in the citadel already. The magazine needs to use the politically ambivalent, the unallied, and the New Ex-Left – like Nick Cohen - and even, why not?, good writers who are still on the left, but troubled - Steven Lukes, Helena Kennedy. Provided they are genuinely grappling with the current multiculturalist and establishment views, and are really trying to find a ground for their feet.

Admittedly Nick Cohen is the television critic, and it is excellent news that Bishop Nazir-Ali is writing about about how Christianity’s demise in Britain creates a vacuum likely to be filled by Islamic dogmatism. He is impressively erudite (it was exhilarating to talk to an Anglican bishop so well-versed in Averroes, Aquinas and Dummett).

But there was also a depressing sense of people who had simmered for ages in pans of sour resentment, and who emit embarrassingly juvenile Daily Mail platitudes, and of dark-suited young men huddled together, wary of women and their own sexuality. Michael Gove's speech assumed that everyone was in the same old den of banditry, and when he used Posh Spice’s skirt as an analogy, presumably to demonstrate knowledge of youthful mores, he only succeeded in being as vulgar as the skirt itself.

This may be ad hominem, but -- for a magazine -- character and motivation are relevant, appearance has to matter. It was worrying both what a sense of coterie cronies there was, but also of numerous different incompatible factions all at odds with one another. The party was like the inverted reflection through 30 years of history of a gathering of different left-wing groups, split over points of doctrine, and uneasily reconciled via champagne and the hopes of ousting one another.

Of course Standpoint needs to hold up a multi-coloured, diverse umbrella, but it should be careful not to let old cons and neo-cons predominate to perpetrate some brand new con. It needs to uphold the best of the West – liberty and organisation, tolerance and discrimination. Here's a glass of champagne to hoping the unorthodox and the grounded will be the bedrock for Standpoint

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