Staines has been dismissive of the growing sense that the left is getting its act together online. So perhaps his attack on today's event is a tribute to a growing threat.
The Fabian socialists are having their “Causes to Fight For” conference today. A rally of freedom hating statists who will throw soundbites to a tweeting mob.
Some pretty long soundbites sometimes, mind. And he may be upset to hear that over 90 new members have signed up for today's event, with Fabian membership reaching record levels in our 126 year history.
In his claim that "for over a hundred years the Fabians have tried to increase the power of the state at the expense of society", Staines is not wrong that the Fabians have had enormous influence. It was our ability to shape much of modern democratic politics at the level of ideas and organisation which provided a model for both the New Right and the neo-cons to attempt to counter the Fabian influence: both Richard Cockett and John Micklethwaite have looked at the right's efforts to learn from Fabianism in creating their own political movements to opposing ends.
The Fabian influence is why we have the National Health Service, first advocated in 1908 and 1909, as part of the campaign to end the workhouse and the poor law arising from the 1909 Minority Report to the Royal Commission on the Poor Laws. It was brought in by the Attlee government, in which the Parliamentary Labour Party of 1945 was described at its first meeting as resembling "an enormous Fabian summer school".
Hannanites and Fawkes may regret this: all they need to do is win the public, democratic argument, on a topic where Fabian permeation would rather appear to have David Cameron in its grip. We are a bit shakier on whether the 'inequality matters' and relative poverty arguments have really got through: that the language is repeated back to us suggests at least some advance, even if a far from complete one.
Guido notes that I launched on a "not unjustified diatribe" towards the Daily Mail, in what was a rather restrained and polite report on yesterday's anniversary of their Hurrah to the Blackshirts editorial of 1934, a post which over 150 people retweeted to their own social networks yesterday. Lord Dacre would be most proud of you all!
Guido ripostes with his own not unjustified diatribe against eugenics in the Fabian tradition. (Only slightly undermined by many of his commenters seeming rather pro-eugenics). But Fabianism is both a plural and a self-critical tradition, committed to rethinking the left and learning from its mistakes too. I referred to the Webbs and Shaw's own 1930s desertion of democracy, linking to long pieces about them. I genuinely don't know whether, in three-quarters of a century, the Mail has ever found time or even a few column inches to discuss its own fascist past. Perhaps Mr Dacre could advise.
If you want to paint the pluralist Fabian history as one of top-down statism, where does the Fabian commitment of Oscar Wilde and Rupert Brooke, GDH Cole and Tony Crosland, fit into that?
If you want to ask whether Fabians believe in freedom, you might note that perhaps the most influential Fabian in practical politics was Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first post-independence premier, with Fabians like Annie Besant becoming icons of the Indian independence movement. (Fabianism was also a formative influence on Jinnah). The very actively engaged Fabian and LSE lecturer Hugh Dalton was undoubtedly the leading figure converting the Labour movement from pacifism or opposition to rearmament to a staunch anti-fascist stand in the 1930s. This was absolutely crucial in May 1940, when Attlee and Greenwood gave their former Fabian ally Winston Churchill a 3-2 majority in the war cabinet to reject Halifax and Chamberlain's final bid to ask the Italins to seek to mediate a negotiated peace with Hitler: the most important decision any British government has ever made.
And Guido's claim that the Fabians seek to stifle freedom and wealth sits oddly with our pioneering and successful advocacy of the baby bond and child trust fund, though the ippr claim co-paternity. Anyone on the right wanting to 'recapitalise the poor' should be defending and building on that too.