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Sunday 21 September 2014

Politics of Mr Blond who met the blonde

The secret moralists of the Reform 
Alliance will have found a lot to admire in Phillip Blond, says John Drennan

Published 03/08/2014 | 02:30

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PHILLIP BLOND: Can the man behind Cameron find the gap that the Reform Alliance is seeking?

The revelation that the English political philosopher Phillip Blond recently met the Reform Alliance is one of the most intriguing recent developments in politics.

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We may know the Reform Alliance is trying to create a new party, in theory. But, when it comes to Lucinda's dance of the seven veils, the clandestine Leinster House meeting between 'the blonde' of Irish politics, Mr Blond and Tom Mc Gurk certainly ripped off one of the veils.

It also provides us with an intriguing preview of where the Reform Alliance is planning to position itself.

Significantly, this is not the first time our radical philosopher has been caught in the company of the RA.

He first surfaced to Irish public attention when he appeared at the party-conference-that-wasn't-a-party-conference last January.

There, Mr Blond was a point of interest, not just because of his ideas, but also simply because you do not get too many philosophers attending Irish party conferences.

But, even though he is one of those increasingly rare philosophes, Mr Blond was wise enough in the ways of the world to realise that you won't go far wrong at an 
Irish party conference if you appeal to the self-pity of the voters.

So it was that our man was greeted with the rapture of the lost PDs when he claimed 'a nasty, corrupt cartel of politicians and developers' had created a less-than-brave new world, where 'there is no way for middle-class people to get ahead'.

But, as the Reform Alliance edges ever closer to getting their toes wet in the political seas, when it comes to our shy Svengali, who is the Blond behind 'the blonde' (Lucinda), what does his political philosophy tell us about the direction the new Reform Alliance might take?

The first thing to note about Phillip Blond is that he is particularly at home in high Tory company.

Originally a lecturer in theology and history, his big break occurred when he came to the attention of David Cameron during the British PM's big-conversation, progressive-conservative phase.

Like many another politician, Dave has been talking a lot less and the conservatism is a lot less progressive since getting into government.

But Mr Blond, whose conversations are peppered with references to William Cobbett and other characters such as Randolph Churchill who rarely get an outing in Irish political discourse, is still in demand.

His sophisticated critique of the modern 'broken society' is, to put it mildly, somewhat challenging when compared to the rough pragmatism of Irish political discourse.

But his belief that the 1960s hedonistic 'politics of desire' has created a fragmented society of atomised individuals is seen by many to be touching on something real.

His revolt from Westminster groupthink also has parallels with the journey taken by the Reform Alliance from the FG herd.

Just as the Reform Alliance wants to begin a different politics, Blond equally believes the old left and right divides are without meaning.

In a claim that closely matches Michael Mc Dowell's 'market in the gap' concept, he believes there is 'a gap in the field' among voters who have become tired of the eternal 'rehashing of the politics of the 1980s'.

The mixture of Tory paternalism and a call for the radical reform of a sick society will certainly appeal to the instincts of the Reform Alliance.

It may be commonly and in some cases hopefully believed that the RA wishes to espouse the liberal Thatcherism of the PDs, but, the high Tories of the RA always found the PDs to be somewhat crass.

Far from being in-your-face tax cutters, Lucinda, Paul, Fidelma and the rest are secret moralists who want to heal a wounded country.

Morality, of course, comes at price and in the case of the Reform Alliance, that tariff may consist of its unswerving stance on abortion.

Intriguingly, the view of Blond is that abortion is morally "deeply, deeply problematic".

This view means that the gap may close very quickly on the strange political creatures of a Reform Alliance that believes core principles should not be jettisoned at the first opportunity even if they go against the desire of Paddy to be 'progressive' - whatever that might mean - on the abortion thing.

Sunday Independent

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