Wimbledon BookFest Review: Clear Bright Future With Paul Mason

Left-wing commentator provides a thoughtful, engaging and upbeat message

Paul Mason

Left-wing political commentator Paul Mason provided a thoughtful, engaging and up-beat message in talking at the Wimbledon Bookfest about his new book, Clear Bright Future: A Radical Defence of the Human Being - but drew a strong intervention from a local Labour politician.


Jackie Schneider, the party's prospective parliamentary candidate for Wimbledon, insisted in the question-and-answer part of the session that “everyone on the Left is not miserable”.


She declared: “We in Wimbledon Labour have a positive vision.” Jackie, a primary school music teacher in Merton, went on to talk passionately about her commitment to education.


Paul, who acknowledged he had been on doorstep campaigns with Jackie, supported her comments about education, particularly in music. He highlighted the initiative started by John Maynard Keynes and others at the time of the Second World War to invest in cultural education for the future.


The exchange livened up a session which generally had been relaxed, amiable and sometimes rambling.

Many visitors come to the Wimbledon Bookfest to browse in a marketplace of ideas and experiences – and some must have been surprised to find themselves apparently thrust into the heat of a party political meeting.


Paul, a former economics editor of Channel 4 and BBC Newsnight, commented drily: “I suppose that, with my BBC hat on, I should say other political parties are available... but I won’t.”


In his talk earlier, Paul described his book as a humanist project and an attempt to reason a way out of the crisis situation we were in.


He said economics had been broken since crash of 2008 – something he witnessed on the street outside Lehman Brothers when it collapsed; politics had been broken with rise of the Right and leaders such as Donald Trump, Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson; and technology was broken with arrival of artificial intelligence and systems such as facial recognition software.


He argued this had led to a crisis of the self. He cautioned that young people were becoming fatalistic, believing their actions could not have effect and that achievements were only brought about by luck.


“You need to find your way back to a self that can act,” he said, before going on to call for people to free themselves “from slavishness to autonomous systems”.

The session, chaired by Prospect Magazine Editor Tom Clark, covered a wide range of subjects, from Brexit to deregulation and misogyny to AI. Going by the insights provided in the discussion, the book should be worth reading as a positive contribution to current debates, whatever your point of view.

By Roger Smith

October 10, 2019