Orwell is good. He is important. But he is still overrated. Not least, his depiction of Wigan is still resented in the town to this day. His famous remark about the goosestep was just plain wrong, like many of his others. And everyone should read Scott Lucas’s The Betrayal of Dissent, London: Pluto Press, 2004, ISBN 0-7453-2197-6.
However, Orwell’s patriotism, his social conservatism and his anti-Communism are vitally important in reminding the British Left that those are indispensable, and indeed definitive, aspects of our own tradition. All three, though perhaps especially the last, make him a particularly significant figure when set alongside Christopher Hill and E P Thompson in rescuing demotic culture from what Thompson called “the enormous condescension of posterity”, even though Orwell himself was not above condescension.
So any prize in his honour should be awarded for contribution to the patriotic, socially conservative, anti-Communist Left that was the best of him, and also, therefore, to ensuring that demotic culture is taken with high seriousness. Would Johann Hari, who has at least recanted his support for the Iraq War and who wrote a very important denunciation of Dubai, win such a prize? I only ask.