Middle class domination of the leftist parties, professional politicians and a careerist media are responsible for the reduction of political argument to its present level of mediocrity, hypocrisy and triviality. Liberalism is the new conformity.
I was talking to a Lib-Dem (who later became our local Councillor). He said
“We, the Lib-Dems, find that when we explain our position to people, they stop being selfish and agree with us”.
He may have miss-spoken but he did not correct himself, and this attitude is pretty common. It can be generalised as “We want to do good for those less fortunate, therefore we are good, and anyone who disagrees with our proposed solutions must be bad”. I could understand this attitude if the person expressing it were stupid, drunk or uneducated, but this man was an ex-headmaster.
I was pushing leaflets for the Conservative Party through letterboxes in a well-kept street of small houses when a man came out of a house and said that he didn’t want this rubbish in his letterbox, thank you very much. We spoke for a while, and I asked him what he did for a job; he was a lecturer in English Literature at the local college. He said “You seem like a nice person, how can you be a member of the Conservative Party?” This attitude, his puzzlement that any reasonable human being could be a member of the Conservative Party, is extremely common. It is a positively scary that someone with at least a post-graduate level of education and responsible for educating the young cannot see that there may be more than one point of view that can be held by a “nice” person.
Many people, usually those not interested in politics, have the stock view that Conservatives are always rich, always old, always male and always selfish/snobby/racist. This is a view that they have absorbed from the media and/or from their time at university. They have absorbed this attitude and probably not questioned it for decades because they haven’t had to. This attitude shows people that they, the holders of these attitudes, are on the side of the angels. In my youth, many of my friends who went to University up north came back saying how friendly and “real” northern people were. They were apparently, somehow, “realer” than their parents and friends with whom they grew up.
It is important in many influential professions that a standard socialist (or at least “Liberal”) set of opinions are held and displayed. (It is rather sickening when this is combined with an over-weaning ambition and money/status-worship. The same person who affects to despise your political views for moral reasons will expect you to admire or at least be envious of his expensive car or house). It’s not important that the holder of these opinions has ever done anything concrete for the socialist movement, merely that on any question a standard set of sensibilities are displayed. Often the standard set of opinions are exhibited in a self-congratulatory way, we are enlightened, they say, we are of the “bien-pensant”
We get all our information from newspapers, books, television media and the internet. Conversations with other people usually merely reflects what they have read in the media or seen on television. The media choose which items of news to include in their papers or television programmes and how those items are presented. They define what is News, and what isn’t, and of course have immense power in how they edit what they choose to print or broadcast. They can even influence public opinion in the more subtle ways of body language or emphasis in speech. There is a strong leftist bent in the media. The tradition of investigative journalism and advocacy for radical causes is treasured and frequently referenced, even by people whose job is turning celebrity puff-pieces into copy. In much of the media, consistently expressing opinions which deviate from the standard socialist model will stop your career dead or get you moved to the stationery department. It is not even remarked upon that Jeremy Clarkson was the only BBC presenter who could be classified as even slightly right-wing, and he was frequently vilified and ridiculed. In fact the longevity of his career, despite regular gaffes, can be explained as his being preserved as a convenient and well known target for ridicule, because few if any other targets were available. When James Naughtie of Radio 4, interviewing Gordon Brown before the election said “We are going to win though, aren’t we?” the “impartial” BBC was embarrassed but didn’t fire him. Political reporting has been reduced to sound-bites and “personality clashes”.
We are asked to believe that a large portion of the middle class are so unselfish, so saintly that they believe that their hopes and dreams, and their hopes and dreams for their children, should be curtailed or frustrated in order that the working class be “raised up”. There are saints among us but I don’t believe that there are that many. I think that if Labour were actually socialist, were actually going to raise the taxes paid by the middle class and equalise educational opportunities they would lose a lot of support overnight.
The claim by the Left to hold the “high moral ground” apparently entitles them to despise those who disagree with them, and to attribute to their opponents the worst possible motives. Like religious fanatics who are completely certain that they are right and therefore can do no wrong, they should not be required to even listen to other arguments. The tolerance required for democracy to function is being eroded by fashionable opinion. Some of the socialists you see on the BBC programme “Question Time”, whether MPs, journalists or bloggers appear so angry that they can barely restrain themselves from physically attacking the Conservative representative on the panel, or rushing off to build barricades or storm some handy Winter Palace. As so many of the socialist speakers are in fact middle class and probably enjoy an income in the top 20% of society, this must be a pose, and a pose that can only be described as juvenile. Women conservative MPs or just women members of the Conservative Party on television programmes are sometimes booed by the studio audience merely because they are members of the Conservative Party, when everyone knows that socialism is the only possible opinion that can be held by any woman that doesn’t see herself as a chattel. Therefore women Tories are traitors to their sex.
For democracy to function or even exist, tolerance must be shown by those who want to live in a democratic society. If your party loses an election you have to put up with having the “wrong” people in power for a while and not pick up a gun or a shovel and demand a recount that achieves a result more to your liking. If there isn’t tolerance for people to hold, and importantly, express any opinion that is compatible with a democratic society, there will be no democracy. As Left views have become the dominant strain in society, the Left, which has for a long time supposed itself to be the haven of freedom of opinion, has become increasingly intolerant of contradiction, “We are the masters now” as a Labour minister said in 1945.
The middle class domination of the socialist movement has worked to frustrate its aims and keep the working class “in its place”, perhaps unintentionally, but this effect is being perpetuated by middle class socialists. If this were not so then why does social mobility always go down whenever Labour are in power? The abolition of Grammar Schools across most of Britain means that we have gone from selection-by-ability for the “better” schools to selection-by-wealth as house prices in the catchment areas of the good schools have risen by as much as 70% compared to similar houses outside the catchment area. This has been a major factor in the loss of social mobility in Britain and perpetuates the frustrations of the bright working class young. Loss of social mobility is bad for Britain in every sphere; it can only mean that we are not using all of our best and brightest to their fullest potential. Selection-by-wealth to the better schools suits a self-perpetuating middle class because it means their less-bright offspring will not have to attend a “bog-standard comprehensive”.
Middle-class socialism is condescension. Large numbers of middle class people, for whatever reason, vote socialist, (or at least they say they do). They are for some reason ashamed that they were born middle class and at the same time, contradictorily, believe that the working class cannot speak up for themselves and that they, the more articulate middle-class, must speak for them. The vast majority of Labour MPs are from middle class backgrounds. Surely the majority of Labour MPs should be from the working class? These middle class “socialists” are taking jobs that could and should be done by working class people who have actually experienced the deprivations, frustrations or even humiliations of a lower family income and restricted career opportunities (the ones that never knock). They, working class MPs, would be able speak with far more knowledge and conviction and would be far more convincing. The idea that there cannot be found 200-300 reasonably articulate members of the working class who would for £67,000 a year fill the Labour benches in the Commons is ridiculous. Apart from the condescending middle class “socialist”, Labour get their votes from the poor, the unlucky and from people who see themselves as victims, so the more people who see themselves as poor, unlucky and victims, the more votes Labour will get, which explains why professional socialists keep talking about the tiny minority of the super-rich, who constituite perhaps 0.01% of the population. It is not in Labour’s interests that anybody be happier or better off. Professional politicians of the Labour party continually stir up envy of the rich in the hope of getting into power. They tell their supporters that everybody is equal and at same time that those with more money are better than us. The Tories have a much easier “sell”, they want more people to be better off so more people vote Tory! This is a more honest position in which the incentives of the politicians align with those of the electorate.
Socialism inevitably leads to tyranny, (probably because it is not a natural or stable condition for any large and varied society). Any real equality would require huge quantities of legislation to define it, the enforcement of enormous power to sustain it and an overbearing bureaucracy to police it. The very creation of such concentration of powers will result in a self-perpetuating elite that will always put more effort into self-preservation than it would into ensuring an equality that rapidly becomes biased and corrupted. “Power attracts the psychotic” said Frank Herbert and the greater and more absolute the power, the more psychotic the people who will fight their way to the top.
The history of the west has up till now been a fight for freedom; the freedom to come and go as we please and not be tied to one Lord or place. The freedom to choose our own rulers, to dress as we will instead of having our mode of dress dictated by class or profession as has been the norm in most societies and centuries. To choose our economic destiny as far as possible without reference to our class or our father’s profession. These freedoms have largely been achieved, most of us in the West have about as much freedom as we want or can handle. So freedom is now taken for granted and our would-be leaders have had to find a new rallying cry to whip us up, “fairness” “social justice” “progress”, all these new buzz words mean socialism-lite, a socialism marketable to the middle class. Because equality is not a sustainable condition in a society, we have to choose between Freedom and Equality. Having a few obscenely wealthy individuals in a society is the price we have to pay for our own small freedoms. We don’t have Lear Jets or “Gin-palace” yachts to sweep us off to perfect, exclusive beaches in the Caribbean at a finger-snap, but if we seek to eliminate the wealthy few, our own freedom to queue for hours at Terminal 5 will be the first, and probably only casualty of the resulting over-weaning socialism.
All the main parties are now dominated by professional politicians, people who left university having decided to make a career in politics. They serve a short apprenticeship in public relations or the media, or they work for a political party as policy advisers to think tanks or sitting politicians. This proximity to power will, they hope, ensure them prompt selection as a candidate in a winnable seat. They have never done a job outside the unreal and incestuous world of journalism, public relations or politics. The fetishisation of youth (widely supported in the media) means that many politicians have not even raised a family by the time they reach the upper ranks of their profession. For professional politicians high office is no longer the culmination of a career of proven ability but a merely a step on the way to serious wealth, facilitated by the contacts they can make and the influence and favours they can do for large corporations or the rich and powerful while the professional politician is in office. Professional politicians are not interested in political theory or debate, they are interested in how far politics can carry them hence their reliance on focus groups. There is a story told of a political leader who sees a crowd of protesters march past his window, he says “ I must find out where my people are going, so that I can lead them”.
There is a powerful myth of the rebel in society. The rebel or the reformer who at any cost to themselves seeks to make a better world by taking on the establishment or the rich and powerful is not only celebrated but positively deified. From Robin Hood to Marlon Brando, (“What are you rebelling against Mr Brando?” “What have you got?”), from celebrated bandits in Bollywood movies and the Paris Commune of 1871 to self-destructive rock stars and multi-millionaire rappers, rebellion is sexy. The problem is that rebellion has now become a marketable commodity, carefully tested and available in safely diluted quantities to anyone wishing to appear liberal, in a society that is in fact increasingly conformist. Liberalism is the new conformity. The “alternative” comedians of the Thatcher years are now powerful figures in the media establishment. So righteous is the combination of a “moral” demand for equality with the image of the rebel that to question the new conformity is to declare oneself an outcast from all decent society, someone whose opinions do not have to be argued against but merely ridiculed and dismissed.
The new self-regarding liberal conformity, the rise of professional politicians and a careerist media are responsible for the stagnation of political argument in the interests of a self-perpetuating middle class.
Coming soon: How the BBC is a terrorist organisation.