I read with interest Alex Callinicos's review of Mark Steel's latest book (Books, Socialist Review, September 2008). As a fan of his comedy and previous books, I bought it immediately on its release.
The overwhelming response to the book is one of sadness - sadness at the rather unhappy life Mark appears to have led in recent years, and sadness at his disassociation from working class politics.
If there's one thing that sets apart people who've given up on the class - from someone like David Aaronovitch at the worst end to someone like Mark Steel, with whom we'd still agree on a number of issues, at the other - it's variations on the phrase, "What the left must understand is..."
While I'm perfectly happy to disagree with Aaronovitch on pretty much everything, the fact that Mark Steel now views us from the same lofty heights is sad.
His book, radio and TV series gave me a middle ground to talk to groups of my friends about socialist politics, who thought he was hilarious but never understood why I had those commie books on my shelves.
I find it sad that Mark would rather appear on Mock the Week - a rarely funny television show where comedians shout over each other to get their preprepared improvisations in - than come to a public meeting to express the differences he felt with the party he's been a member of for so many years and have the debate with other socialists.
He mentions that he thinks the break between the youth and the left is almost complete, and all I can say to that is how would he know? It's certainly not the case on the demos I've been on and public meetings I've attended.