Malcolm Dean writes with style and wit on the difficulties politicians face introducing 'sensible' social policies. By 'sensible' Dean means policies of the liberal left Guardian opinion-maker.
Blair is one of Dean's main villains. He found it easier to go for crowd-pleasing policies on sentencing, crime and punishment rather than appreciate the real causes behind social unrest.
With the minimum of jargon and using amusing stories of how politicians - even David Blunkett - find it almost impossible to put in place 'liberal' policies, Democracy Under Attack is a surprisingly racy read. Dean blames the Murdoch press for hysterical right-wing opposition to what every Guardian reader sees as common sense. He says that democracy requires unbiased fairly set out facts but selective reporting makes a nonsense of this ambition. What Dean calls 'scapegoat reporting' sells newspapers while fair reporting is 'dull'.
My criticism would only be that he too can be biased - always against the Murdoch press, he builds it up as the Tolkien-like monster which has defeated rational social policy. He calls one section 'A moment to savour' and says with evident relish 'the most powerful media man in the West has been curbed; British politicians had recovered their nerve to help cut him down.' I think by laying so much of the blame for the decline of everything Dean values on Murdoch he is beating his fists against a mythical monster. Murdoch gives the British public what it wants. He runs a business not a moral crusade.
However, this is finely argued book full of guts and venom which makes very good reading. I would love to have seen Dean argue the toss with Christopher Hitchens but sadly this cannot be. Most leftwing critics become rightwing in their old age so it is good to see that at least one such still has his ideals nailed to the mast even if the pirates are swarming over the deck.