The Elites Are Fuelling A Backlash They Do Not Comprehend And May Not Withstand

david-cameron-resignation-statement

Accustomed to getting their own way and furious at being thwarted by mere democracy, the political elite are responding to recent setbacks by doubling down on behaviours which could soon see them swept away completely

One would be hard pressed to find a better charge sheet against the British political elite – and explanation for the populist backlash currently being felt by every well-manicured and over-rehearsed politician in the country – than the one recently laid out by Charles Moore in The Spectator.

Moore writes, in explaining why he is now “cheering for the populist right”:

It may sound Marxist to say this, but I do think the elites have constructed a world order which serves their interests, not those of their subject populations. You see it in little things, like the fact that European commissioners, when they leave their posts, receive enormous ‘transition’ payments (it was reported that Peter Mandelson got £1 million) on top of their salaries and pensions. You see it in big things, like the fact that nearly half the young people of Spain, Italy and Greece have to go without jobs in order to enforce Germanic theories about central banking and Brussels doctrines about European integration.

In the second half of the 20th century, the huge projects to which the western world bent its mind more or less worked — the Marshall Plan, Nato, the United Nations Security Council, even the European Community, when it had only six members. What are the equivalent achievements in the 21st century? A pseudo-virtuous climate change agreement reached only because its members know it won’t be observed. A banking crisis resolved in the interests of bankers. A threat from Islamist terrorism which the outgoing President of the most powerful nation on earth still cannot admit even exists.

It does sound a little Marxist to talk about the elites in this way, as Charles Moore fears, until one remembers that with our decaying institutions and system of crony capitalism, the best and most able to serve the marketplace of goods, services and ideas are no longer the ones rising to the top. Therefore, to criticise them is not to criticise capitalism or the free market, because if you were to strip away the privilege of those at the top of the political, legal and commercial worlds and force the inhabitants to fight their way back up to the top from a level playing field, most of them would be living on the streets within a year. This is the dismal calibre of people we now allow to rise to the top of our society; to criticise them is not Marxist, it is to yearn for some semblance of a meritocracy.

Moore continues:

The response of elites to their failures is too often to stigmatise the people who complain. Those who protest at immigration levels ten times higher than 30 years ago are treated as racists. Even the ballot box itself is seen as ‘populist’. Remainers argue that the referendum issues were ‘too complicated’ for voters. They seem actively to dislike the idea that our nation should once more be governed by its elected representatives. Having failed electorally, they turn to ‘lawfare’ — preferring a case before the Supreme Court to the direct implementation of what Parliament handed to the people to decide. Voters now believe that their rulers really do not like them very much, so the feeling becomes mutual.

Yes, a thousand times yes. And it is hilarious watching tone deaf politicians openly disparage the same parts of the electorate that they will be sucking up to in futility when the next general election rolls around. Most people possess a base level of social awareness. They know when they are being looked down upon, or worse, mocked. The experience shuts ears and hardens hearts against future persuasion. That so many MPs and commentators still do not realise this is a testament to the low calibre of people we have allowed to rise to the top of the political and journalism worlds.

Consider: Ed Miliband fought the 2015 general election on the premise that David Cameron and the Conservative Party were evil, far-right ideologues. Many respectable people who voted Tory in 2010 did not take kindly to the Labour Party suggesting that they were aiding and abetting evil, and now you can find Ed Miliband on the backbenches, giving forgettable speeches to a half empty Commons chamber. And yet the lesson has not been learned – many politicians now calling Brexit a calamity and deriding Brexiteers as either malevolent racists or useful idiots will be asking those same people for their vote in 2020 (or sooner). You don’t need to be Nostradamus to figure out how the electorate is likely to respond.

More from Moore:

In this respect, the culture war matters. You cannot go on saying that white straight males are brutes without eventually annoying them (and even a significant proportion of what John Prescott used to call their ‘womenfolk’). The cultural signals from the powerful are almost unthinkingly hostile to majority populations. This month, to take a minor example, a report into ‘diversity’ in the theatre commissioned by Andrew Lloyd Webber reported (reusing a phrase from Greg Dyke years ago) that it is ‘hideously white’. Why should the dominant racial characteristic of all western societies be considered ‘hideous’? If you said that anything was ‘hideously black’ you would (rightly) be shunned by polite society. Such asymmetry inspires revolt. The rise of Trumpery shows that the right has learnt a tactic of the left, which is to play up grievance to get power, money and attention. Grievance politics is extremely unattractive, but if western societies no longer deliver rising general prosperity and disrespect the people whom they are failing to serve, what do you expect?

And yet the Left continues to push aggressive multiculturalism and identity politics, even seeking to thwart Brexit so as to continue working towards their goal of undermining of the nation state.

This is dangerous. As Michael Lind once remarked, “the loyalties that succeed national solidarity are likely to be narrower, not broader”. Focus on individual racial identities, undermine the nation state, undermine Britain and any healthy sense of national identity and purpose we might otherwise have, and we very quickly descend into a jealously competing confederation of special interest groups, each one claiming some special victim status and viewing itself as oppressed by the others.

The Labour Party, which has long served the elites rather than the working man or woman, is currently in the process of falling down a chasm of their own making, between people who recognise and oppose this danger (their rapidly diminishing working class vote) and those who choose to remain blithely ignorant because they are not presently feeling many negative consequences (the virtue-signalling middle class clerisy). Both groups are coming to hate and scorn one another, yet Labour needs both to turn out in sufficient numbers if they are ever to win a general election again.

But indulge the populist side and the elitist side becomes enraged, and vice versa. Try to fudge the issue by making half-hearted gestures to each side (like Labour’s immigration coffee mug) and it alienates one side while failing to persuade the other.

In fact, populism vs elitism is rapidly becoming the new axis of our politics, which is a shame. There should be no question that when the interests and attitudes of the elite turn stridently against those of ordinary people, we should side with the ordinary people against the elites. That does not mean adopting every daft populist idea that comes along, but by actually taking into account the hopes, concerns and aspirations of ordinary people in regular policymaking we might hope to avoid finding ourselves in another situation where so many people see the likes of Donald Trump or Nigel Farage as their only salvation.

In other words, a certain amount of populism should be hardwired into our politics, so that it does not fester unseen and then break free to dominate proceedings and create destabilising uncertainty. The left vs right, authoritarian vs libertarian arguments remain far more interesting than the populism vs elitism shouting match, but it is currently being overshadowed as we debate idiotic questions like whether or not the wisdom of a powerful elite ought to cancel out the result of a national referendum. When we disagree about such fundamentals, worrying about what the government does and does not do for its citizens inevitably rather takes a back seat.

Moore concludes that “if, in a parliamentary democracy, the elites and the voters markedly diverge, one must surely bet that the elites are likelier to be wrong”. And the elites certainly have been short-sighted, self-serving and often outright wrong on a parade of key issues.

The political elite have perhaps one last chance to check their arrogant and selfish behaviour before they trigger an even bigger backlash, and things start to get really bad.

 

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Purge Tom Watson From The Labour Party, Not The Corbynites

Tom Watson - Jeremy Corbyn

If there is to be a Labour Party purge, leave the Corbynites and centrists alone and purge disgusting people like deputy leader Tom Watson

Charles Moore is quite right to identify the real odious usurper within the top echelons of the Labour Party – deputy leader Tom Watson:

The majority opinion is that it is a disgrace that Jeremy Corbyn is the leader of the Labour Party. Actually, the real disgrace is that Tom Watson is its deputy leader.

It is a question of character, not of political views. Mr Watson is an inveterate plotter (see, for example, his almost successful political assassination plot against Tony Blair in 2006, to assist Gordon Brown). He is also the purveyor of utterly unsubstantiated malicious rumour.

Moore reviews Watson’s inglorious history:

In 2012, collaborating with the website Exaro, he used parliamentary privilege to allege “clear intelligence” of a “powerful paedophile network” in Parliament and Downing Street. He called on the Metropolitan Police to investigate, and later passed them “information”. This led to a series of operations by the police – Fairbank, Fernbridge, Midland – which looked credulously into allegations, some blatantly crazy, about child abuse, torture and even murder by leading figures in politics and society.

The investigations collapsed this year, but not before they had defamed the late Sir Edward Heath, ruined the last years of Lord Brittan, tormented the wife who then became his widow, and persecuted Field Marshal Lord Bramall (who is still, I am glad to say, robustly with us) and many more.

And then explains why the odious Tom Watson actively hinders the efforts of Labour’s suddenly reviled centrists to dislodge Jeremy Corbyn:

Now Mr Watson alleges that the Labour Party is being infiltrated by Trotskyists. “Some old hands [are] twisting young arms,” he says, making it sound like his favoured subject of child abuse. He may actually be right in this case. But the Corbyn team clearly finds it easy to say Mr Watson is “peddling baseless conspiracy theories”: he has done so before. It is utterly dismaying to see Labour led by the hopeless Mr Corbyn, unless you want a permanent Tory government (which I certainly don’t), but Labour moderates who oppose him do not seem to understand why they cannot gain the moral high ground. A big part of the answer is Mr Watson.

I’m actually with Owen Jones on this one – the idea that Trotskyist entrists are of any significance  in Labour’s influx of new members is ridiculous overstatement. Anyone who has ever been to a party conference or a political demonstration knows just how fringe these wizened far-leftists are, with their cheaply produced pamphlets and anachronistic slogans.

The fact that Tom Watson seeks to portray these people as having outsized influence is quite understandable, given his thuggish imperative to topple his leader and restore the rule of the centrists, but that does not make it true. In fact, it is a great slander on the hundreds of thousands of people who have flocked to the Labour Party, attracted by the fact that Jeremy Corbyn offers something other than the muddled centrism practised by Blair-Brown-Cameron-Miliband.

Tom Watson is exactly the kind of bruising, Chicago-style machine politician that we should be working to purge from our politics, not looking to as our salvation from Corbynism. He is the epitome of New Labour’s headline-led approach to governing – the fact that Watson’s first major act as an MP was to agitate for a ban on Gary Glitter albums shows a slavish desire to win the approval of The Sun and a brutal authoritarian streak which has been revealed numerous times since, not least in his Herculean efforts to take down Tony Blair in 2006, acting as Gordon Brown’s hired gun.

Is Jeremy Corbyn the great white hope of British politics? Of course not – his ideology and policy obsessions come pretty much unreformed from the 1970s, his foreign policy is alarmingly anti-American and he has any number of unpleasant friends and associations, at home and abroad. But at least he offers a gosh darn alternative to the centrist consensus.

Ambitious Conservatives in particular should appreciate that Corbyn’s efforts to shift the left hand border of Britain’s political Overton window makes it equally possible for a future radical Conservative leader (anyone? anyone?) to push the other boundary further to the right.

And for that potential alone, Jeremy Corbyn is worth 650 Tom Watsons.

 

Tom Watson - Labour Party - Deputy leader

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The Pro-EU Elites Have Not Even Considered The Case For Brexit

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More people become eurosceptic with time and experience than come to love the EU. That should tell us a lot about who to listen to in this EU referendum debate

In his Telegraph column today, Charles Moore considers the  soft bigotry of the “swivel-eyed moderates” who instinctively support the Remain campaign for Britain to stay in the European Union without even considering the opposing arguments.

Moore writes:

I do not mean that they do not know a lot about the subject – many of them do. Nor that they are not genuinely concerned for Britain’s future – most of them are. I mean that most have not, for one single second, imagined that life outside the EU might be a viable, even preferable alternative to life within it, so they do not understand the case they are opposing.

This is a form of bigotry, and it is less common on the Leave side – not because the Outers are necessarily deeper people, but because they have lived under the dominance of the pro-EU order, and so have been forced to think hard about it.

The bigotry of successful people is stronger than that of uneducated ones, because their life stories tell them they know best. So they stop thinking and instead merely disdain those who disagree with them. Years ago, Mr Cameron famously derided Ukip as “swivel-eyed loons”. Such people exist, perhaps, but the present danger is much more from the swivel-eyed moderates, who so resolutely refuse to look at the way the world is going.

They also do not see how much they have failed. In the 21st century, the world order and financial systems dominated by the free West have been shaken more profoundly than at any time since 1945, and the people in charge do not know how to correct their own errors, or even admit them. The euro is a major part of this new world disorder, as is the effort to deepen the European Union in the wake of it.

There is a lot of truth in this argument.

Certainly everyone of my age (33) has grown up knowing nothing other than life inside an explicitly political European Union, with many of the same institutions – the Parliament, the Council – which exist today. Unlike those who voted to leave the European Community in 1975, people my age have no recollection of life in a sovereign country, and so have no frame of reference when considering Brexit. No wonder, then, that to many young people the thought of leaving something so seemingly rooted and permanent as the EU (though of course it is nothing of the kind) seems to be crazy.

There is much truth, too, in Charles Moore’s assertion that those of a pro-EU dispensation – particularly the wealthier professional and establishment types who tend to support the EU the strongest – have not been forced to think hard about the question. This is not a criticism of such people, for in many ways it is inevitable.

If you have grown up and prospered under the status quo, with Britain as a vassal state of a larger and ever-more tightly integrating political union, then it takes an extraordinary amount of curiosity, empathy or insight to come to any conclusion other than that the EU has been a resounding success on all counts. By contrast, if you are self-employed or work in a semi-skilled or unskilled job at the sharp end of globalisation, you are more likely to be negatively impacted not just by immigration, but by the inability of your vote to effect any kind of meaningful political change in Britain thanks to the cross-party pro-EU consensus.

As this blog recently noted when discussing the Christian case against the EU:

Too often – at least in Britain, with the media’s patronising and dismissive coverage of UKIP leading up to the European and general elections – we explain away these populist movements, or belittle their support base by suggesting that they are all economically left-behind losers or curtain-twitching village racists.

And it’s partly true, only not as an insult. If you are a well paid professional in rude financial health you can better afford to be a consumer rather than a thinking citizen. You can use your vote to signal your virtue (anyone but UKIP!) or advance your lazily thought out utopian daydreams, with little fear of the consequences. But those of our fellow citizens on the sharp edge of globalisation – those whose livelihoods are impacted by deindustrialisation, new technology, outsourcing and the information economy – tend to see things differently.

This doesn’t mean that we should adopt every nativist, protectionist policy that comes along – because barriers to trade are never the right answer. But it does mean that we should acknowledge that the eurosceptic parties of the Right and the Left are at least asking some important questions that the mainstream parties, trapped in their centrist consensus groupthink, have consistently failed to do.

I feel particularly qualified to talk about this, as growing up I was the most ardent European Union supporter and federalist imaginable. And not in an ignorant way – I had done the reading and acquainted myself with how the EU was structured and how it worked. I firmly believed that the age of the nation state was over, that patriotism was silly and gauche, and that our only hope of a prosperous future lay in dissolving ourselves into a greater European collective. Adopting the euro, creating an EU army – you name it, I believed in it.

I would look enviously across the Atlantic at the power and influence of the United States and, coveting the same, agitate for the European Union become an equally powerful actor on the world stage. Britain seemed small, parochial and redolent of the past. Surely, I thought, our future lies as part of something greater?

Euroscepticism - Eurosceptic - Word Cloud

And I persisted in this belief for some time, the arrogance of youth helping me to dismiss friends, family, experts and the vast majority of the general public who thought differently to me as being xenophobic Little Englanders who just didn’t know what was good for them.

Only when my appreciation for democracy and self-determination (and small-c conservatism) caught up with my authoritarian Utopianism did I realise that the accumulated wisdom of the British people might exceed my own, and that there may be good reasons to be sceptical of the European Union. And only when I came to realise the extent to which the EU is a creation of a small group of European intellectuals and political elites who thought that they knew best – and that the only way to bring about their creation was through stealth and subterfuge, never declaring the ultimate federal destination of travel – did I come to see how profoundly wrong it is.

The point is that I have been on a political journey. I held one set of beliefs and looked to one limited set of facts, and then I questioned those ideas, drew on a wider array of evidence and renounced my previous positions. As Charles Moore would put it, I grew up under the dominance of the pro-EU order, but then thought hard about it and changed my mind.

The pro-EU Remain campaign boasts very few people who have been on a similar journey but in reverse; who were once ardent eurosceptics but came to see the light and learn to love enforced European political union. And that’s because the pro-EU consensus is nothing but a haven for establishment groupthink and bias confirmation. Newcomers to the pro-EU cause such as the Conservative Party’s Sajid Javid and Rob Halfon have not been on an intellectual journey, but merely fell into line behind their party leadership. That’s what makes their “coming out” arguments so desperately unconvincing.

The uncomfortable truth for the pro-EU crowd and the Remain campaign is this: the more you learn about the European Union, its history, the way it came about and its ultimate direction of travel, the more likely you are to oppose it and want Britain to leave. When ignorance prevails and people believe that the EU is nothing more than a friendly club of countries trading and co-operating with one another to Save the Earth, the europhiles win. But when the drip-drip of facts and evidence begins to permeate the debate, people start questioning those pro-EU shibboleths and opposing our continued participation in this mid-century supra-national experiment.

Furthermore, it is those who think primarily with their wallets, as consumers first and foremost, who are most likely to be susceptible to the Remain campaign’s Project Fear and scaremongering tactics about the hysterically hyped “costs” of leaving the European Union, while those who think as engaged citizens and global stakeholders who are most likely to question the European project.

Charles Moore is quite right: there is indeed an army of swivel-eyed ideologues in this EU referendum debate. And though they would hate to admit it, it is those on the Remain side who are most likely to be impermeable to facts, and who are least likely to have ever held a different view on the EU and been on an intellectual journey to arrive at their present position.

And as a rule of thumb, it is generally wisest to listen to those who can show evidence of having thought deeply about an issue and been persuaded by the steady accumulation of evidence to revise their thinking, rather than those who were born with their deeply-engrained love of the European Union pre-programmed in their brains.

 

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