Oliver Kamm

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Oliver Kamm (born 1963) is a British journalist and writer. Since 2008 he has been a leader writer and columnist for The Times. Prior to that he had a 20-year career in the financial sector.

Predominantly identifying with the left and liberal issues, he is a prominent supporter of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. An advocate of the foreign policies pursued by the Blair government, Kamm wrote a short book, Anti-Totalitarianism: The Left-wing Case for a Neoconservative Foreign Policy (2005), which puts forward the case for an interventionist neoconservative foreign policy.

Early life[edit]

The son of translator Anthea Bell,[1] and Antony Kamm,[2] he was educated at New College, Oxford and Birkbeck College, University of London.

Kamm embarked on to a career in the financial sector, working for 20 years in the City of London as an economist and investment strategist.[3] He had posts in the Bank of England and the securities industry, including as European Equity Strategist and European Quantitative Strategist at HSBC Securities[3] and Head of Strategic Research at Commerzbank Global Equities in London.[4] He helped start a pan-European investment bank in 1997.[5][6]


Kamm describes his politics as left-wing.[7] His early activities in Labour included canvassing in Leicester South in the 1979 general election, which saw Margaret Thatcher become Prime Minister. While he continued to vote Labour into the 1980s,[8] he eventually became dissatisfied with the party's leadership and policies, particularly its stance on nuclear disarmament, and left the party in 1988,[9] but has continued to vote for the party on the majority of occasions.[10] He worked for the 1997 election campaign of Martin Bell, who is his uncle,[11] against incumbent Neil Hamilton, drafting a manifesto "so right-wing that Hamilton was incapable of outflanking it."[12]

That year saw the election of the 'New Labour' government of Tony Blair, which Kamm strongly supported, particularly its foreign policy and 'liberal interventionism'.[13] Although generally supportive of the Labour Party in the 2005 general election, Kamm stated that he could not support Celia Barlow, the Labour candidate in his local constituency, Hove, because of her opposition to Blair's foreign policies. Instead, he stated that he would vote for the Conservative candidate, Nicholas Boles, who supported the Iraq war.[14] Despite believing the Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown was unsuited for office, he voted for the party at the 2010 general election.[10]

Kamm supported the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, and asserted that "the world is a safer place for the influence" George W. Bush had during his presidency.[15] Although critical of George W. Bush linking Saddam, Iran and North Korea in a combined "axis of evil",[15] in 2004, he outlined a case for supporting the re-election of George W. Bush.[13] Kamm was a patron of the Henry Jackson Society at its inception in 2005,[16] but is no longer connected to, or a member of HJS.[17] In 2006, he was a signatory to the Euston Manifesto, arguing for a reorientation of the left around what its creators termed 'anti-totalitarian' principles. He favourably commented on Peter Beinart's The Good Fight: Why Liberals—and Only Liberals—Can Win the War on Terror and Make America Great Again, which has similar themes to Kamm's own book, arguing that the left should look to the policies of Clement Attlee and Harry S. Truman in the early days of the Cold War as a model for response to Islamism and totalitarianism.[18]

Because of his position on war and terrorism, critics such as Peter Wilby have stated that he is not actually left-wing at all.[19] Kamm rejects this criticism, saying that he "claim[s] to be left-wing, for the straightforward reason that it's true". He elaborates on his support for left-wing policies such as economic redistribution, progressive taxation and a welfare state. He also supports legal abortion and gay marriage.[7] When interviewed by politics academic Norman Geras in 2003, he said that he wrote to "express a militant liberalism that I feel ought to be part of public debate but which isn't often articulated, or at least not where I can find it, in the communications media that I read or listen to" and that he felt that "the crucial distinction in politics is not between Left and Right, as I had once tribally thought, but between the defenders and the enemies of an open society."[5] Kamm wrote that former Prime Minister James Callaghan's "greatest single achievement" was to "destroy socialism as a serious proposition in British politics."[20] In 2008, he supported the rendition of suspected terrorists.[21]

Kamm wrote an article for Index on Censorship following the 2009 visit of Geert Wilders arguing that "No one has a right in a free society to be protected from anguish".[22]

Regarding the bombing of Dresden, he has asserted that the bombing of the city "was not a crime. It was a terrible act in a just and necessary war."[23]

In September 2011, Kamm wrote in the New Statesman that he supports the Euro and admonishes Labour's recent criticisms of it: "Monetary union is not the cause of the crisis. Done properly, it may help insulate member states from disruptive volatility in the international capital markets".[24] He criticised Ed Miliband's stand on immigration before the 2015 general election, finding the Labour leader's position decidedly illiberal.[10] He believes current controls are far too tight, that immigration is economically beneficial, and such arguments against incomers are based on the Lump of labour fallacy.[10]

Other publications Kamm has contributed to include The Jewish Chronicle, for which he writes most months,[25] Prospect magazine,[26] and The Guardian.[27] In Prospect in February 2016, he wrote that he had resigned from the Frontline Club after founder Vaughan Smith had given refuge to Julian Assange at the club. Kamm wrote that "Smith’s statement in defence of his decision tellingly made not a single reference to the women Assange is alleged to have attacked."[28]

Criticism of Noam Chomsky[edit]

Kamm has criticised the linguist and political writer Noam Chomsky. His thoughts on Chomsky are summarised in an article[29] for Prospect magazine opposing a readers' poll choice of Chomsky in the top position for its 2005 Global Intellectuals Poll.[30]

Chomsky in turn accused Kamm of "transparent falsification" and claimed that Kamm's article demonstrated "the lengths to which some will go to prevent exposure of state crimes and their own complicity in them".[31] Kamm replied by accusing Chomsky of "polemical distortions" by selective self-quotation.[32]



  1. ^ Kamm, Oliver (26 June 2009). "Say it loud — I'm a pedant and I'm proud". The Times.  (subscription required)
  2. ^ "Obituary: Antony Kamm, publisher, author, historian and cricketer". The Scotsman. 3 March 2011. 
  3. ^ a b "Oliver Kamm". Speakers Corner. Retrieved 11 February 2016. 
  4. ^ "Investments: Strategy vs superstition". BBC Online. 22 January 1999. 
  5. ^ a b Geras, Norman (21 November 2003). "The normblog profile 9: Oliver Kamm". normblog. 
  6. ^ Kamm, Oliver (December 2005). "In Praise of Hedges". Prospect. 
  7. ^ a b Kamm, Oliver (20 April 2006). "Staggering". Oliver Kamm. 
  8. ^ Kamm, Oliver (5 April 2004). "Foot again". Oliver Kamm. 
  9. ^ Kamm, Oliver (6 May 2005). "The liberal prospect now". Oliver Kamm. 
  10. ^ a b c d Kamm, Oliver (10 March 2013). "Why Ed Miliband is wrong on immigration". The Times. 
  11. ^ Kamm, Oliver (3 September 2005). "Rural Writing". Oliver Kamm. 
  12. ^ Kamm, Oliver (13 December 2003). "Living Marxism and 'Tory sleaze'". Oliver Kamm. 
  13. ^ a b Kamm, Oliver (9 July 2004). "The liberal case for returning Bush to the White House". Oliver Kamm. 
  14. ^ Kamm, Oliver (2 May 2005). "Help, I'm a pro-war leftie". The Times. 
  15. ^ a b Kamm, Oliver (17 June 2008). "Bush made the world a safer place". The Guardian. 
  16. ^ Kamm, Oliver (17 March 2005). "The Liberal case for returning Bush to the White House". Henry Jackson Society. Retrieved 25 February 2016. 
  17. ^ Kamm, Oliver (20 August 2015). "Corbyn's deplorable allies". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 2 June 2016. Contrary to the pro-Corbyn tweeter, I have no connection with the Henry Jackson Society 
  18. ^ Kamm, Oliver (7 November 2005). "Time for the Left to be brave again". The Times. Archived from the original on 4 June 2011. .
  19. ^ Wilby, Peter (24 April 2006). "The Media Column". New Statesman. 
  20. ^ Kamm,, Oliver (30 March 2005). "James Callaghan". Oliver Kamm. 
  21. ^ Kamm, Oliver (11 March 2008). "Ordinary rendition". The Guardian. 
  22. ^ Kamm, Oliver (16 October 2009). "An Unlikely Champion". Index on Censorship. 
  23. ^ Kamm, Oliver (21 March 2010). "The bombing of Dresden cannot be used to diminish the Holocaust". The Times. Retrieved 17 September 2010. 
  24. ^ Kamm, Oliver (29 September 2011). "This is no time to give up on the euro". New Statesman. 
  25. ^ "Contributor page". The Jewish Chronicle. 
  26. ^ "Contributor page". Prospect. 
  27. ^ "Contributor page". The Guardian. .
  28. ^ Kamm, Oliver (February 2016). "Why Julian Assange should be arrested the moment he steps out of the Ecuadorian embassy". Prospect. Retrieved 5 February 2016. 
  29. ^ Kamm, Oliver (November 2005). "For and against Chomsky". Prospect. 
  30. ^ "The Prospect/FP "Global public intellectuals poll—results". Foreign Policy. 
  31. ^ Chomsky, Noam (January 2006). "We Are All Complicit". Prospect.  (abridged version); the full version is available at chomsky.info
  32. ^ Kamm, Oliver (February 2006). "Kamm replies to Chomsky". Prospect. 
  33. ^ Oliver Kamm and John Rentoul, "To split infinitives or not?", The Independent on Sunday, 15 February 2015.

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