What I am about to do makes me more nervous than any other piece of writing I have embarked on since my first forays into journalism in the late 1980s. During most of my career I have had the luxury of writing for "people like me": the sort of middle-class liberals who read the Guardian or the Observer and carry those publications under their arms as the outward symbols of their right-minded decency. I spent 15 years writing for one or other newspaper. I was deeply honoured during the run-up to the Iraq war in 2003 to be described as a "liberal eurotrash" on the right-wing Drudge Report website. Until last month I was the political editor of the New Statesman, the iconic magazine of the Fabian left and damn proud to be so. It was a job I loved and it gave me a freedom that few journalists are permitted: I had the space to write whatever I liked every week for a readership that shared my political outlook (mostly). From the first time I wrote for the NS (an impossibly earnest and worthy article about the cultural policy of the French Socialist arts minister Jack Lang) I felt comfortable there.
So here I am on hostile ground, writing for a readership I barely understand (although I hope we will get to know each other better). British politics is nothing if not tribal and some will see my move to The Spectator as a gross act of treachery, a classic defection in the tradition of my new colleagues Paul Johnson and Melanie Phillips. But it doesn't feel that way to me. After more than three years in the political editor's job at the New Statesman it was simply time to move on. I was delighted when the people at Coffee House gave me the opportunity to move my blog onto this site, which has become Britain's pre-eminent site for political comment. I'd like to think the ideological tension will be creative.
But before we start, I think it will be useful to outline five statements of principles so you know where I stand:
1. I want the Labour Party to win the next election. I believe David Cameron's Conservatives are not ready for government and do not have the answers to the country's present predicament.
2. I believe conservatives are people too. New Labour learnt this difficult truth and it allowed them to win three elections. Forgetting it will lose the party the next.
3. An anti-totalitarian alliance of the centre-left and centre-right is essential to combat the rise of the Islamic extreme right and its allies on the hard left.
4. The "progressive" left must find an identity for itself in the post-New Labour world.
5. When Labour hits hard times it has a tendency to turn in on itself, which is why it is all the more important to take the discussion to the ideological opposition.
I look forward to the argument.