What is a liberal intellectual anyway?
The Guardian (12 December 2008), has a profile of the Candian MP and academic, Michaell Ignatieff, better known on this side of the Atlantic as a former columnist with the Observer and broadcaster in the 1990s. Currently leader of the Canadian Liberal Party Ignatieff is hotly tipped by certain quarters to be Canada’s next prime minister.
The piece ends with an observation from editor of Prospect magazine David Goodhart:
“If he does make it to the premiership,as Goodhart points out, he will become the fourth leader of a major English-speaking country, after Barack Obama, Gordon Brown and Australia’s Kevin Rudd, who could be classified as a liberal intellectual.”
An intersesting (even if meaningless) point. What exactly constitutes a liberal intellectual is unclear though. However the changes of government in the US and Australia certainly bear testament to this. Obama’s predecessor could not by any stretch of the imagination be described as liberal or intellectual in any sense of either word. Rudd’s predecessor John Howard, although a member of the Liberal party could hardly be described as “liberal” with a small L, and certainly not an intellectual.
Apart from the four countries mentioned there are few others in the English-speaking world which could be called “major”. It’s fairly safe to assume to Goodhart would not list Brian Cowen’s 26 county republic as a major English-speaking country. In any case there would no doubt be howls of laughter in the Dail and beyond if Biffo, or his predecessor Bertie were to be classified as liberal intellectuals..