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Why the left keeps losing
Boris Johnson won a remarkable victory by routing Labour in its old heartlands. But his dilemma is how to cement his alliance with the working class while the cultural establishment remains wedded to progressive values.

BY JOHN GRAY

www.newstatesman.com


Though its origins go back many years, Boris Johnson’s decisive victory in the general election was made possible by the unwillingness of most of the political class to learn the lessons of the 2016 Brexit referendum. Labour has suffered a cataclysmic defeat. The Liberal Democrats have been reduced to a disoriented rump, while the Independent Group for Change has evaporated along with the phantom of a new centre party. The DUP has been marginalised and the Brexit Party effectively liquidated. The unified Conservative Party that has been created in a matter of months, following generations of division over Europe, is an astonishing feat. The power Johnson commands in the Commons has no precedent for decades, and there is no serious opposition.
Yet outside government, British institutions are vehicles for a progressive mindset that is hostile to much of what he aims to achieve. This places a question mark over whether he will be able to secure the conjunction of political power with cultural legitimacy that Antonio Gramsci, one of the most penetrating 20th-century political thinkers, called hegemony.
At present the logic of events works in Johnson’s favour. Brexit will alter Britain irrevocably. Any project that presupposes close alignment with the EU – such as Scottish independence – belongs in the past. So, for different reasons, does the attempt to impose political choices by legal fiat, which has become entrenched in sections of the judiciary. Large alterations in the machinery of the state and its relations with the market are under way. Britain is moving rapidly towards a new economic regime.

For the two wings of British progressivism – liberal centrism and Corbynite leftism – the election has been a profound shock. It is almost as if there was something in the contemporary scene they have failed to comprehend. They regard themselves as the embodiment of advancing modernity. Yet the pattern they imagined in history shows no signs of emerging. Any tendency to gradual improvement has given way to kaleidoscopic flux. Rather than tending towards some rational harmony, values are plural and contending. Political monotheism – the faith that only one political system can be right for all of humankind – has given way to inescapable pluralism. Progress has ceased to be the providential arc of history and instead become a prize snatched for a moment from the caprice of the gods.
In a droll turn, 21st-century modernity has turned out to be rather like Johnson’s beloved ancient classical world – although the flux we inhabit should temper any confident predictions of Conservative hegemony. Johnson’s invulnerable position in government masks the dominance of progressive ideas throughout much of British life. Even Labour, seemingly damaged beyond recovery, cannot be written off.
***

Progressive thinkers have reacted to the election result in different ways. Rationalists among them blame the first-past-the post electoral system. If only Britain had European-style proportional representation, the disaster they have experienced could have been avoided. It is obviously true that the result would not have been the same. Whether PR would have produced a progressive majority is another matter. If the 2015 election had been held under the D’Hont system used in elections to the European Parliament, Nigel Farage’s Ukip would have secured 83 seats in the Commons (it won nearly four million votes). In reality, voting patterns would be different under any kind of PR, but the far right would still play a larger part in the British political system than it does now. Progressives talk of building the kind of majority they want, as if it somehow already latently exists. More likely, parties of the far right would set the political agenda, as they do throughout much of the continent. If you want a European-style voting system, you get a European style of politics.
Other progressives prefer a demonological interpretation. Doodling their fever-dreams in green ink, they portray the election as having been hijacked by sinister global forces. Officially, they believe values and beliefs other than their own are errors that can be corrected by reason and education. In practice many among them have invoked an idea of omnipresent evil to explain humankind’s stubborn resistance to their efforts to improve it. Communist regimes pointed to saboteurs and foreign spies to account for the systemic failings of central planning. More recently, liberals have invoked Russian meddling and a global far-right network masterminded by Steve Bannon to explain their political defeats. Delusions of conspiracy are part of the mass psychology of progressivism, and will intensify in the coming months and years.
Taking another tack, avowed liberals carry on attempting to thwart the results of democratic choices – not only the referendum, but now a general election. Such attempts tend to be self-defeating, as American liberals will discover if impeachment solidifies Donald Trump’s base and opens his way to a second term as president. The anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller appears set to continue the alt-politics of legal warfare, but the attempt to install rule by lawyers can only have one result. The authority of the executive will be reasserted, and the British judiciary returned to a more modest role like the one it had before Tony Blair conjured up a Supreme Court one wet afternoon.

In these pages in October I suggested that British politics had reached a Hobbesian moment. Voters demanded a government, not anarchy presided over by a gibbering rabble. The clean-out in the Commons followed from this imperative. The single most important lesson of the previous three and more years is the abject incompetence of Britain’s centrist political class. Their comical despair today comes from their inability to grasp the part they played in the debacle that has engulfed them.
That the centre was engaged in a process of self-immolation had been clear for some time. Blair and Peter Mandelson began the embourgeoisement of Labour that allowed Johnson to capture the party’s working-class heartlands in 2019. New Labour’s unthinking embrace of globalisation and open borders produced the working-class revolt against economic liberalism and mobilised support for Brexit. Blair may have won three elections on a centrist prospectus, but there was never any chance of Labour winning another on this basis when – as an unintended consequence of Blairite policies – the centre ground had shifted radically.
A hint of what was to come could be seen in the debacle of the People’s Vote (PV) campaign. Reported as the outcome of organisational conflicts and clashing personalities, its implosion in the run-up to the election revealed the basic contradiction in the Remain movement. Alastair Campbell, an éminence grise of the campaign, has written that it failed because it could not explain to people why, when the country had voted for something, it should not happen. In fact, everyone knew the sole reason for a second referendum was to nullify the first. That is why a section of the PV campaign opted for Revoke. Searching for a unique selling point, the Liberal Democrats did the same. Preferring the risk of a Jeremy Corbyn government to Brexit, Remainer grandees and centrist journals and commentators backed Jo Swinson’s extremism. In turn, she triggered an election that made Brexit inevitable. There is a certain rationality in politics, it seems, after all.

***
Flouting norms that are central to liberal democracy, Remain was another populist movement, if more short-lived than most. Some of its remnants – such as the Liberal Democrat Ed Davey, who is demanding an enquiry into the 2016 referendum – are in a state of denial. Others, including the Labour leadership contender Jess Phillips, appear to want to regroup under the banner of Rejoin. But with Johnson in control of the Brexit process they will have as much impact as the haggard figures that tramp the streets in sandwich boards announcing the end of the world. The Remain camp has had its final say.
While the liberal centre has disappeared as a significant force in politics, the future of the Corbynite ascendancy has yet to be decided. If, as some are already speculating, Keir Starmer proves most able to unite the party and its affiliated organisations, Corbynism could become not much more than a divisive faction. Wisely, Starmer has accepted the finality of Brexit. In the interests of continuity, he has talked up his humble origins and will make much of his work with trade unions. But he remains ineffably the candidate of the woke bourgeoisie in the party’s mass membership and metropolitan redoubts, and in practice could well complete the detachment of Labour from its working-class roots that Corbynism has accelerated. Rebecca Long-Bailey, the Corbynite continuity candidate despite her protestations otherwise, is campaigning on the basis that Labour voters who rejected Corbyn’s message were mistaken, so it is they – not her party – that must change.

In different ways, each of these candidates represents a style of politics that millions of working-class voters repudiate. Whoever leads the party, Labour could repeat in the North the collapse it has undergone in Scotland.
Regardless, the Corbynites are not going away any time soon. Neither Starmer nor any other candidate could mount a campaign of the kind Neil Kinnock waged in the 1980s – a time when the far left was not so embedded in the party’s power structures. The appointment of Ed Miliband to chair an inquiry on the election suggests that much of Labour may still be in a state of collective solipsism. Another defeat – possibly larger because of likely constituency boundary changes and the evanescence of Farage – may be needed before it can adjust.
Yet it would be a mistake to conclude the party is necessarily in terminal decline.

Seeing off Corbyn and completing the first phase of Brexit has left Johnson’s position unsettled. Without these dead-weights, Labour may be able to revive the domestic agenda that failed to cut through during most of the election campaign. Labour’s economic programme was not, as some are claiming, a roaring success among voters. Large numbers saw its spending pledges as impractical, if not fraudulent. But as the narrow Conservative lead at points in the campaign showed, it spoke to concerns about a dysfunctional economy that much of the electorate shares. Helped by the binary pattern to which British politics has reverted, Labour could yet rebound strongly.
If Johnson falters it will not be because of Scotland. A pervasive meme among progressive commentators is that Brexit will break up the Union. In fact it is only if the UK were somehow to remain in the EU, or make a soft exit, that Scotland could plausibly leave the UK. Seceding once Britain has left means reapplying to join the EU.
Wearied by years of negotiation over Brexit and fearful of reinforcing separatism in Catalonia, Brussels would not make the process easy. Strong tests of fiscal rectitude would be applied, which would mean many years of austerity. The question of which currency an independent Scotland would use would be more intractable. It could not be the euro until Scotland rejoined the EU. Would it be the British pound, or a new Scottish currency that would instantly attract speculative attacks?
The trade regime under which the new Scottish state would operate would pose severe problems. Given its heavy dependency on the rest of the UK, could the Scottish economy survive a hard border? Perhaps the increased economic risks of independence do not matter much in an age of identity politics. But it is hardly imaginable that they would not be a central feature of another independence referendum campaign.
Long-term pressure on the UK comes from Northern Ireland, where demography works in favour of Irish unification, not Scotland. While there will be nothing like a fully federal system, devolution will doubtless go further. Unending discussion of the break-up of the UK is a talking cure for depressed progressives, not realistic analysis.


Boris Johnson by André Carrilho
***
Corbynism was Marxian in the sense that Oswald Mosley was Keynesian. But it is by using a Marxian idea of hegemony that Labour’s future, and that of Johnson’s Conservatives, can best be plotted. Corbynite Labour is a morbid symptom of the decay of centrism. The problem Johnson faces is that while he exercises unassailable power in government, British institutions as a whole remain vehicles of progressivist ideology.
Understanding the present must start with the end of the Thatcherite era. She was toppled in November 1990, but versions of the neoliberal ideas that may have intermittently informed some of her policies went on to dominate politics for nearly 30 years. Recognising the need for spending and investment in public services, Blair gave Thatcherism a new lease of life. It was David Cameron and George Osborne, with their witless cult of austerity, who brought the Thatcher era to a close. Johnson’s cabinet contains neo-Thatcherites like Esther McVey, while Sajid Javid, the Chancellor, is reportedly a devoted reader of Ayn Rand. But the era of neoliberal hegemony is plainly over. Electoral imperatives are leading Conservatives to abandon any fundamentalist faith in free markets. As Nick Timothy, Theresa May’s former joint chief of staff, perceived, and the political scientist Matthew Goodwin has confirmed in his studies of political realignment in Britain and other countries, the right is moving leftwards in economics. At the same it is moderating its individualist view of society. There is not much call for Rand or Hayek in Blyth Valley.
Representing Johnson’s government as neoliberalism in populist clothing misses the regime shift that is taking place. Horror at the spectre of “Singapore-on-Thames” is a sign of ignorance and confusion. Singapore is far from being an untrammelled market economy. Land is the property of the state, and around 80 per cent of the island’s housing supplied by a government corporation. A highly effective civil service is engaged with companies and active throughout society. Singapore is a success story of managed capitalism, not the free market.
A Singaporean model cannot be transplanted here. Britain is a large, multinational, unevenly developed country, not a city state (though London now resembles one). But Johnson will need something like Singapore-style government if he is to keep his working-class voters on board. Dominic Cummings’s proposals for renovating the state machine reflect this fact.
How hard Brexit will be remains to be seen. Immediately after the election great minds in the City were convinced that Johnson’s large majority would mean him pivoting to a softer exit. That seems highly unlikely. Britain can remain engaged and even friendly with Europe in many areas without being locked into the sclerotic institutions of the EU. Excitable talk about another cliff edge is also inaccurate.
Johnson’s withdrawal deal removes the most disruptive risks of Brexit, and neither the UK nor the EU wants to reach the end of this year without some kind of understanding on trade. A bare-bones agreement is possible and even likely, whatever Brussels may say publicly. All the signs are that Johnson aims to keep the option of the UK diverging from EU rules. Progressives will seethe at the prospect, since it could mean further deregulation. But diverging from the EU also enables government to act in ways that are currently prohibited, such as providing state aid for industry. The EU has long been a neoliberal construction, whereas a hardish Brexit allows a more interventionist mode of capitalism.
***
Whether Johnson can retain his commanding position depends in the short term primarily on how well he maintains his pact with his new voters. If working-class jobs are hit hard by tariffs in the event of a hard Brexit, Labour has a chance to revive rapidly. The votes that have been lent to Johnson were part of a transaction in which greater economic security was a vital component. Working-class Labour supporters who turned to Johnson after a decade of Conservative austerity did so, in part, because they perceived him as a different kind of Conservative. A spate of closed factories and bankrupt farmers could discredit this perception.
The focal point of power has moved north. Resources will have to move with it, including facilities for scientific and technological innovation. Johnson will have to engineer a fundamental shift in the direction of government, and do so without depriving his traditional voters of what they have come to see as their due. But hegemony has to do with culture as well as government, and it is here that he faces his most formidable challenge.
If only people aged between 18 and 24 had voted in the general election, Corbyn would have won an enormous majority. No doubt this is partly because of Corbyn’s promise to abolish student tuition fees and the difficulties young people face in the housing and jobs markets. But their support for Corbyn is also a by-product of beliefs and values they have absorbed at school and university. According to the progressive ideology that has been instilled in them, the West is uniquely malignant, the ultimate source of injustice and oppression throughout the world, and Western power and values essentially illegitimate.
Humanities and social sciences teaching has been largely shaped by progressive thinking for generations, though other perspectives were previously tolerated. The metamorphosis of universities into centres of censorship and indoctrination is a more recent development, and with the expansion of higher education it has become politically significant. By over-enlarging the university system, Blair created the constituency that enabled the Corbynites to displace New Labour. No longer mainly a cult of intellectuals, as in Orwell’s time, progressivism has become the unthinking faith of millions of graduates.
When Labour voters switched to Johnson, they were surely moved by moral revulsion as well as their material interests. As polls have attested, they rejected Labour because it had become a party that derided everything they loved. Many referenced Corbyn’s support for regimes and movements that are violently hostile to the West. Some cited anti-Semitism as one of the evils their parents or grandparents had gone to war to defeat. For working class voters, Labour had set itself against patriotism and moral decency. For Corbynites, in the form in which they are held by what is still a majority of British people, these values can only be expressions of false consciousness. Labour’s dilemma is whether it continues to promote progressive orthodoxy or tries to reconnect with its traditional voters.
A possible way forward has been presented in Maurice Glasman’s Blue Labour faction. If it is to avoid devastating defeat, the party needs to abandon its anti-Western stance and its hostility to the nation state and treat Brexit as an opportunity rather than a disaster to be mitigated. (It also needs to root out anti-Semitism in its ranks rather than apologise for it.) Spelt out some years ago, Blue Labour’s analysis is extremely prescient, and some leadership candidates are talking vaguely in these terms. But the likelihood of the party changing course on these issues is not high. A Blue Labour takeover along the lines of that mounted by Blair cannot occur when the mass membership recruited by Corbyn is made up overwhelmingly of progressives. Even if a takeover was feasible it is doubtful whether voters would support a programme of moral conservatism, which Blue Labour also proposes. The resistance to progressivism in social matters is focused chiefly on law and order and immigration. There is no detectable enthusiasm for the restoration of traditional family structures or sexual mores. Working-class voters want security and respect, not a wholly different form of life.
***
Liberal or Corbynite, the core of the progressivist cult is the belief that the values that have guided human civilisation to date, especially in the West, need to be junked. A new kind of society is required, which progressives will devise. They are equipped for this task with scraps of faux-Marxism and hyper-liberalism, from which they have assembled a world-view. They believed a majority of people would submit to their vision and follow them. Instead they have been ignored, while their world-view has melted down into a heap of trash. They retain their position in British institutions, but their self-image as the leaders of society has been badly shaken. It is only to be expected that many should be fixated on conspiracy theories, or otherwise unhinged. The feature of the contemporary scene progressives fail to understand, in the end, is themselves.

Johnson’s dilemma is how to cement his alliance with the working class while the cultural establishment remains wedded to progressivist values. It may be that hegemony is no longer possible for his or any political project. Society may remain fragmented indefinitely, and in some areas unalterably polarised.
Yet with other parties in disarray, there is a clear chance of him occupying a new centre ground. His conservatism is a green-tinged version of a tradition articulated in Lord Randolph Churchill’s concept of Tory Democracy, and before that by Benjamin Disraeli. His ambitious plans for infrastructure and new centres of science and technology allow him to channel the modern faith in a better future. Faced with the possibility of a decade or more of Conservative rule, Britain’s cultural establishment may change its complexion. As well as an identity, progressive views have been a means of advancement in the academy, the arts and broadcast media. With the funding position of cultural institutions under review, the usefulness of progressivism as a career strategy may be about to decline.
Boris Johnson has come to power at a moment of high uncertainty. Progressive theories that claimed to divine the future have proved as trustworthy as Roman auguries. Gramsci’s belief that the working class makes history has turned out to be right, at least in Britain, but not in the way he and his disciples imagined. Somewhere in the heavens, the gods are laughing.
 

Pimpernel Smith

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Why the left keeps losing
Boris Johnson won a remarkable victory by routing Labour in its old heartlands. But his dilemma is how to cement his alliance with the working class while the cultural establishment remains wedded to progressive values.

BY JOHN GRAY

www.newstatesman.com


Though its origins go back many years, Boris Johnson’s decisive victory in the general election was made possible by the unwillingness of most of the political class to learn the lessons of the 2016 Brexit referendum. Labour has suffered a cataclysmic defeat. The Liberal Democrats have been reduced to a disoriented rump, while the Independent Group for Change has evaporated along with the phantom of a new centre party. The DUP has been marginalised and the Brexit Party effectively liquidated. The unified Conservative Party that has been created in a matter of months, following generations of division over Europe, is an astonishing feat. The power Johnson commands in the Commons has no precedent for decades, and there is no serious opposition.
Yet outside government, British institutions are vehicles for a progressive mindset that is hostile to much of what he aims to achieve. This places a question mark over whether he will be able to secure the conjunction of political power with cultural legitimacy that Antonio Gramsci, one of the most penetrating 20th-century political thinkers, called hegemony.
At present the logic of events works in Johnson’s favour. Brexit will alter Britain irrevocably. Any project that presupposes close alignment with the EU – such as Scottish independence – belongs in the past. So, for different reasons, does the attempt to impose political choices by legal fiat, which has become entrenched in sections of the judiciary. Large alterations in the machinery of the state and its relations with the market are under way. Britain is moving rapidly towards a new economic regime.

For the two wings of British progressivism – liberal centrism and Corbynite leftism – the election has been a profound shock. It is almost as if there was something in the contemporary scene they have failed to comprehend. They regard themselves as the embodiment of advancing modernity. Yet the pattern they imagined in history shows no signs of emerging. Any tendency to gradual improvement has given way to kaleidoscopic flux. Rather than tending towards some rational harmony, values are plural and contending. Political monotheism – the faith that only one political system can be right for all of humankind – has given way to inescapable pluralism. Progress has ceased to be the providential arc of history and instead become a prize snatched for a moment from the caprice of the gods.
In a droll turn, 21st-century modernity has turned out to be rather like Johnson’s beloved ancient classical world – although the flux we inhabit should temper any confident predictions of Conservative hegemony. Johnson’s invulnerable position in government masks the dominance of progressive ideas throughout much of British life. Even Labour, seemingly damaged beyond recovery, cannot be written off.
***

Progressive thinkers have reacted to the election result in different ways. Rationalists among them blame the first-past-the post electoral system. If only Britain had European-style proportional representation, the disaster they have experienced could have been avoided. It is obviously true that the result would not have been the same. Whether PR would have produced a progressive majority is another matter. If the 2015 election had been held under the D’Hont system used in elections to the European Parliament, Nigel Farage’s Ukip would have secured 83 seats in the Commons (it won nearly four million votes). In reality, voting patterns would be different under any kind of PR, but the far right would still play a larger part in the British political system than it does now. Progressives talk of building the kind of majority they want, as if it somehow already latently exists. More likely, parties of the far right would set the political agenda, as they do throughout much of the continent. If you want a European-style voting system, you get a European style of politics.
Other progressives prefer a demonological interpretation. Doodling their fever-dreams in green ink, they portray the election as having been hijacked by sinister global forces. Officially, they believe values and beliefs other than their own are errors that can be corrected by reason and education. In practice many among them have invoked an idea of omnipresent evil to explain humankind’s stubborn resistance to their efforts to improve it. Communist regimes pointed to saboteurs and foreign spies to account for the systemic failings of central planning. More recently, liberals have invoked Russian meddling and a global far-right network masterminded by Steve Bannon to explain their political defeats. Delusions of conspiracy are part of the mass psychology of progressivism, and will intensify in the coming months and years.
Taking another tack, avowed liberals carry on attempting to thwart the results of democratic choices – not only the referendum, but now a general election. Such attempts tend to be self-defeating, as American liberals will discover if impeachment solidifies Donald Trump’s base and opens his way to a second term as president. The anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller appears set to continue the alt-politics of legal warfare, but the attempt to install rule by lawyers can only have one result. The authority of the executive will be reasserted, and the British judiciary returned to a more modest role like the one it had before Tony Blair conjured up a Supreme Court one wet afternoon.

In these pages in October I suggested that British politics had reached a Hobbesian moment. Voters demanded a government, not anarchy presided over by a gibbering rabble. The clean-out in the Commons followed from this imperative. The single most important lesson of the previous three and more years is the abject incompetence of Britain’s centrist political class. Their comical despair today comes from their inability to grasp the part they played in the debacle that has engulfed them.
That the centre was engaged in a process of self-immolation had been clear for some time. Blair and Peter Mandelson began the embourgeoisement of Labour that allowed Johnson to capture the party’s working-class heartlands in 2019. New Labour’s unthinking embrace of globalisation and open borders produced the working-class revolt against economic liberalism and mobilised support for Brexit. Blair may have won three elections on a centrist prospectus, but there was never any chance of Labour winning another on this basis when – as an unintended consequence of Blairite policies – the centre ground had shifted radically.
A hint of what was to come could be seen in the debacle of the People’s Vote (PV) campaign. Reported as the outcome of organisational conflicts and clashing personalities, its implosion in the run-up to the election revealed the basic contradiction in the Remain movement. Alastair Campbell, an éminence grise of the campaign, has written that it failed because it could not explain to people why, when the country had voted for something, it should not happen. In fact, everyone knew the sole reason for a second referendum was to nullify the first. That is why a section of the PV campaign opted for Revoke. Searching for a unique selling point, the Liberal Democrats did the same. Preferring the risk of a Jeremy Corbyn government to Brexit, Remainer grandees and centrist journals and commentators backed Jo Swinson’s extremism. In turn, she triggered an election that made Brexit inevitable. There is a certain rationality in politics, it seems, after all.

***
Flouting norms that are central to liberal democracy, Remain was another populist movement, if more short-lived than most. Some of its remnants – such as the Liberal Democrat Ed Davey, who is demanding an enquiry into the 2016 referendum – are in a state of denial. Others, including the Labour leadership contender Jess Phillips, appear to want to regroup under the banner of Rejoin. But with Johnson in control of the Brexit process they will have as much impact as the haggard figures that tramp the streets in sandwich boards announcing the end of the world. The Remain camp has had its final say.
While the liberal centre has disappeared as a significant force in politics, the future of the Corbynite ascendancy has yet to be decided. If, as some are already speculating, Keir Starmer proves most able to unite the party and its affiliated organisations, Corbynism could become not much more than a divisive faction. Wisely, Starmer has accepted the finality of Brexit. In the interests of continuity, he has talked up his humble origins and will make much of his work with trade unions. But he remains ineffably the candidate of the woke bourgeoisie in the party’s mass membership and metropolitan redoubts, and in practice could well complete the detachment of Labour from its working-class roots that Corbynism has accelerated. Rebecca Long-Bailey, the Corbynite continuity candidate despite her protestations otherwise, is campaigning on the basis that Labour voters who rejected Corbyn’s message were mistaken, so it is they – not her party – that must change.

In different ways, each of these candidates represents a style of politics that millions of working-class voters repudiate. Whoever leads the party, Labour could repeat in the North the collapse it has undergone in Scotland.
Regardless, the Corbynites are not going away any time soon. Neither Starmer nor any other candidate could mount a campaign of the kind Neil Kinnock waged in the 1980s – a time when the far left was not so embedded in the party’s power structures. The appointment of Ed Miliband to chair an inquiry on the election suggests that much of Labour may still be in a state of collective solipsism. Another defeat – possibly larger because of likely constituency boundary changes and the evanescence of Farage – may be needed before it can adjust.
Yet it would be a mistake to conclude the party is necessarily in terminal decline.

Seeing off Corbyn and completing the first phase of Brexit has left Johnson’s position unsettled. Without these dead-weights, Labour may be able to revive the domestic agenda that failed to cut through during most of the election campaign. Labour’s economic programme was not, as some are claiming, a roaring success among voters. Large numbers saw its spending pledges as impractical, if not fraudulent. But as the narrow Conservative lead at points in the campaign showed, it spoke to concerns about a dysfunctional economy that much of the electorate shares. Helped by the binary pattern to which British politics has reverted, Labour could yet rebound strongly.
If Johnson falters it will not be because of Scotland. A pervasive meme among progressive commentators is that Brexit will break up the Union. In fact it is only if the UK were somehow to remain in the EU, or make a soft exit, that Scotland could plausibly leave the UK. Seceding once Britain has left means reapplying to join the EU.
Wearied by years of negotiation over Brexit and fearful of reinforcing separatism in Catalonia, Brussels would not make the process easy. Strong tests of fiscal rectitude would be applied, which would mean many years of austerity. The question of which currency an independent Scotland would use would be more intractable. It could not be the euro until Scotland rejoined the EU. Would it be the British pound, or a new Scottish currency that would instantly attract speculative attacks?
The trade regime under which the new Scottish state would operate would pose severe problems. Given its heavy dependency on the rest of the UK, could the Scottish economy survive a hard border? Perhaps the increased economic risks of independence do not matter much in an age of identity politics. But it is hardly imaginable that they would not be a central feature of another independence referendum campaign.
Long-term pressure on the UK comes from Northern Ireland, where demography works in favour of Irish unification, not Scotland. While there will be nothing like a fully federal system, devolution will doubtless go further. Unending discussion of the break-up of the UK is a talking cure for depressed progressives, not realistic analysis.


Boris Johnson by André Carrilho
***
Corbynism was Marxian in the sense that Oswald Mosley was Keynesian. But it is by using a Marxian idea of hegemony that Labour’s future, and that of Johnson’s Conservatives, can best be plotted. Corbynite Labour is a morbid symptom of the decay of centrism. The problem Johnson faces is that while he exercises unassailable power in government, British institutions as a whole remain vehicles of progressivist ideology.
Understanding the present must start with the end of the Thatcherite era. She was toppled in November 1990, but versions of the neoliberal ideas that may have intermittently informed some of her policies went on to dominate politics for nearly 30 years. Recognising the need for spending and investment in public services, Blair gave Thatcherism a new lease of life. It was David Cameron and George Osborne, with their witless cult of austerity, who brought the Thatcher era to a close. Johnson’s cabinet contains neo-Thatcherites like Esther McVey, while Sajid Javid, the Chancellor, is reportedly a devoted reader of Ayn Rand. But the era of neoliberal hegemony is plainly over. Electoral imperatives are leading Conservatives to abandon any fundamentalist faith in free markets. As Nick Timothy, Theresa May’s former joint chief of staff, perceived, and the political scientist Matthew Goodwin has confirmed in his studies of political realignment in Britain and other countries, the right is moving leftwards in economics. At the same it is moderating its individualist view of society. There is not much call for Rand or Hayek in Blyth Valley.
Representing Johnson’s government as neoliberalism in populist clothing misses the regime shift that is taking place. Horror at the spectre of “Singapore-on-Thames” is a sign of ignorance and confusion. Singapore is far from being an untrammelled market economy. Land is the property of the state, and around 80 per cent of the island’s housing supplied by a government corporation. A highly effective civil service is engaged with companies and active throughout society. Singapore is a success story of managed capitalism, not the free market.
A Singaporean model cannot be transplanted here. Britain is a large, multinational, unevenly developed country, not a city state (though London now resembles one). But Johnson will need something like Singapore-style government if he is to keep his working-class voters on board. Dominic Cummings’s proposals for renovating the state machine reflect this fact.
How hard Brexit will be remains to be seen. Immediately after the election great minds in the City were convinced that Johnson’s large majority would mean him pivoting to a softer exit. That seems highly unlikely. Britain can remain engaged and even friendly with Europe in many areas without being locked into the sclerotic institutions of the EU. Excitable talk about another cliff edge is also inaccurate.
Johnson’s withdrawal deal removes the most disruptive risks of Brexit, and neither the UK nor the EU wants to reach the end of this year without some kind of understanding on trade. A bare-bones agreement is possible and even likely, whatever Brussels may say publicly. All the signs are that Johnson aims to keep the option of the UK diverging from EU rules. Progressives will seethe at the prospect, since it could mean further deregulation. But diverging from the EU also enables government to act in ways that are currently prohibited, such as providing state aid for industry. The EU has long been a neoliberal construction, whereas a hardish Brexit allows a more interventionist mode of capitalism.
***
Whether Johnson can retain his commanding position depends in the short term primarily on how well he maintains his pact with his new voters. If working-class jobs are hit hard by tariffs in the event of a hard Brexit, Labour has a chance to revive rapidly. The votes that have been lent to Johnson were part of a transaction in which greater economic security was a vital component. Working-class Labour supporters who turned to Johnson after a decade of Conservative austerity did so, in part, because they perceived him as a different kind of Conservative. A spate of closed factories and bankrupt farmers could discredit this perception.
The focal point of power has moved north. Resources will have to move with it, including facilities for scientific and technological innovation. Johnson will have to engineer a fundamental shift in the direction of government, and do so without depriving his traditional voters of what they have come to see as their due. But hegemony has to do with culture as well as government, and it is here that he faces his most formidable challenge.
If only people aged between 18 and 24 had voted in the general election, Corbyn would have won an enormous majority. No doubt this is partly because of Corbyn’s promise to abolish student tuition fees and the difficulties young people face in the housing and jobs markets. But their support for Corbyn is also a by-product of beliefs and values they have absorbed at school and university. According to the progressive ideology that has been instilled in them, the West is uniquely malignant, the ultimate source of injustice and oppression throughout the world, and Western power and values essentially illegitimate.
Humanities and social sciences teaching has been largely shaped by progressive thinking for generations, though other perspectives were previously tolerated. The metamorphosis of universities into centres of censorship and indoctrination is a more recent development, and with the expansion of higher education it has become politically significant. By over-enlarging the university system, Blair created the constituency that enabled the Corbynites to displace New Labour. No longer mainly a cult of intellectuals, as in Orwell’s time, progressivism has become the unthinking faith of millions of graduates.
When Labour voters switched to Johnson, they were surely moved by moral revulsion as well as their material interests. As polls have attested, they rejected Labour because it had become a party that derided everything they loved. Many referenced Corbyn’s support for regimes and movements that are violently hostile to the West. Some cited anti-Semitism as one of the evils their parents or grandparents had gone to war to defeat. For working class voters, Labour had set itself against patriotism and moral decency. For Corbynites, in the form in which they are held by what is still a majority of British people, these values can only be expressions of false consciousness. Labour’s dilemma is whether it continues to promote progressive orthodoxy or tries to reconnect with its traditional voters.
A possible way forward has been presented in Maurice Glasman’s Blue Labour faction. If it is to avoid devastating defeat, the party needs to abandon its anti-Western stance and its hostility to the nation state and treat Brexit as an opportunity rather than a disaster to be mitigated. (It also needs to root out anti-Semitism in its ranks rather than apologise for it.) Spelt out some years ago, Blue Labour’s analysis is extremely prescient, and some leadership candidates are talking vaguely in these terms. But the likelihood of the party changing course on these issues is not high. A Blue Labour takeover along the lines of that mounted by Blair cannot occur when the mass membership recruited by Corbyn is made up overwhelmingly of progressives. Even if a takeover was feasible it is doubtful whether voters would support a programme of moral conservatism, which Blue Labour also proposes. The resistance to progressivism in social matters is focused chiefly on law and order and immigration. There is no detectable enthusiasm for the restoration of traditional family structures or sexual mores. Working-class voters want security and respect, not a wholly different form of life.
***
Liberal or Corbynite, the core of the progressivist cult is the belief that the values that have guided human civilisation to date, especially in the West, need to be junked. A new kind of society is required, which progressives will devise. They are equipped for this task with scraps of faux-Marxism and hyper-liberalism, from which they have assembled a world-view. They believed a majority of people would submit to their vision and follow them. Instead they have been ignored, while their world-view has melted down into a heap of trash. They retain their position in British institutions, but their self-image as the leaders of society has been badly shaken. It is only to be expected that many should be fixated on conspiracy theories, or otherwise unhinged. The feature of the contemporary scene progressives fail to understand, in the end, is themselves.

Johnson’s dilemma is how to cement his alliance with the working class while the cultural establishment remains wedded to progressivist values. It may be that hegemony is no longer possible for his or any political project. Society may remain fragmented indefinitely, and in some areas unalterably polarised.
Yet with other parties in disarray, there is a clear chance of him occupying a new centre ground. His conservatism is a green-tinged version of a tradition articulated in Lord Randolph Churchill’s concept of Tory Democracy, and before that by Benjamin Disraeli. His ambitious plans for infrastructure and new centres of science and technology allow him to channel the modern faith in a better future. Faced with the possibility of a decade or more of Conservative rule, Britain’s cultural establishment may change its complexion. As well as an identity, progressive views have been a means of advancement in the academy, the arts and broadcast media. With the funding position of cultural institutions under review, the usefulness of progressivism as a career strategy may be about to decline.
Boris Johnson has come to power at a moment of high uncertainty. Progressive theories that claimed to divine the future have proved as trustworthy as Roman auguries. Gramsci’s belief that the working class makes history has turned out to be right, at least in Britain, but not in the way he and his disciples imagined. Somewhere in the heavens, the gods are laughing.
It's over for the liberal progressives, their cynical embrace of Wokeness and bankrupt strategy of using the shallow learn-everything-in-one afternoon identity politics has done them in. Spectacularly. The Democrats in the USA are a bit behind the curve ball, but they'll learn too. A generation of unthinking intellectual cripples with large student debt isn't going to deliver for all concerned.

Laurence Fox on BBC's Question Time last night was another important victory in the ongoing culture war. He won't be getting invited back on the Beeb anytime soon.

His Twitter feed is a joy to behold:

 

formby001

Well-Known Member
Messages
140
The New York Times’ bizarre campaign against Britain
America's most prestigious paper keeps producing laughably inaccurate pieces presenting the UK as a racist hellhole
BY Douglas Murray


Very little of what it says about Britain is fit to print Douglas Murray is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist based in London.
January 17, 2020

The famously teeth-grinding boast in the corner of the front page of the New York Times is “All the news that’s fit to print”. In truth it should be “All the views we think fit to hold”, since for some time — most of our adult lives you might say — the paper’s decline from newspaper to viewspaper has been proceeding apace.
For most of us the realisation started to dawn whenever there was a story we knew something about. One read the NYT version and just thought “But that isn’t quite right”. In time this happened with story after story until you realised that if you didn’t trust them on the things you knew about, how could you trust them on the things you didn’t?
In no area in recent years has the NYT made itself more ridiculous than on the subject of the United Kingdom. Since those of us who live in the UK might be regarded as, if not experts, then at least well-informed observers, the paper’s coverage has stood out as being especially ridiculous or defamatory, depending on your mood that morning.

Take a few examples from recent years.
In May 2018 someone called Peter S Goodman wrote a NYT piece titled, “In Britain, austerity is changing everything”, the author basing his story on an apparently brief trip to Prescot in Lancashire. In some ways this is a good idea. Profiles from a capital city can — as UnHerd readers know — give a warped idea of the true state of a nation. But if the NYT expected illumination to come from Prescot they had overestimated the competence of their contributor.
Intent on portraying the entire United Kingdom as an austerity-ridden wasteland, Mr Goodman claimed in his piece that the Prescot library had closed when it was actually open. He claimed that the local fire station had been shut, despite a new one just having just been unveiled. He claimed the local museum had “receded into history” when the Prescot Museum was very much alive and well.
In short Mr Goodman claimed that everything in Prescot was shut down, and after the online, unpaid sleuths of the internet did the job any paid fact checkers at the NYT had failed to do there was nothing left of Goodman’s strange Prescot-based piece. So mercilessly were the flaws in his article shown up that on social media Goodman was soon reduced to retreating to that favoured defensive position of the fabulist: claiming that although the actual facts may not be true, nevertheless, the “perception” was correct.
In August 2018 the paper was back at it, in this case trying to attack Britain through the old staple of its food. In a culinary review written by one Robert Draper, readers of the NYT could learn that residents of the UK had been subsisting on boiled mutton and oatmeal until very recently. Indeed in his piece Mr Draper claimed that this was as recently as the time of his last trip to the country a decade earlier. That is, in 2008.
Elsewhere Mr Draper seemed to believe that the heart of London included a place called “Mayfield”, by which he presumably meant Mayfair. Though it is possible that he misheard the name as it was perhaps spoken to him by a shoeless street-urchin busily trying to extract a piece of stray mutton from his toothless mouth.


Month by month the story has continued. As though to prove some ill-intent, by December 2018 America’s paper of record was advertising on its social media accounts, asking people to submit stories to the paper if they had “experienced a petty crime in London”.
In March 2019 an all-but-unknown novelist called Sam Byers was drafted in to write a piece titled “Britain is Drowning itself in Nostalgia”. In the article the author claimed that “With nothing meaningful to say about our future, we’ve retreated into falsehoods of the past, painting over the absence of certainty at our core with a whitewash of poisonous nostalgia”. He described the UK as “poisoned” with “colonial arrogance” and suffused with “dreamy jingoism”. On and on this fiction writer went.
In May the paper was back at it, plucking another person from obscurity to do the necessary drive-by on England. This time it was an unknown academic called Maya Goodfellow, who was drafted in to write a piece headlined “A new face won’t cover the British government’s racist heart”.
This headline came about because Ms Goodfellow’s piece claimed that although Sajid Javid had just been appointed to the position of Chancellor of the Exchequer, and although he was undeniably of ethnic minority background, this was in fact just the sort of ruse that any racist country would come up with to try to cover its tracks. Ms Goodfellow had no evidence for this, but the NYT’s trawl of obscure figures to make specific slanders against the UK continued.
https://unherd.com/2019/07/broadcaster-bias-is-destroying-public-trust/?=refinnar
In June 2019 Times readers learned that “extremists” had taken over the UK and “A fanatical sect has hijacked British politics”. What was this fanatical sect? ISIS? Extinction Rebellion? Followers of Krusty the Clown? No, the paper disappointingly revealed that the people in question were Brexit supporters and the evidence that they had “hijacked” British politics was that they had persuaded the UK Government to exit the European Union.
Once again the author was a wholly obscure figure: someone called William Davies whose byline qualification for writing this piece was given as the fact that he “writes about politics” — a claim that would not normally be needed in a byline on a political piece.
Then this past week the Gray Lady surpassed herself. The news that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex had announced that they were leaving their royal duties and hoping to spend more time living abroad was manna for the NYT’s UK-bashers, and on this occasion the paper drafted in Afua Hirsch to do the necessary hit-job.
Afua is very slightly interesting to me, as someone who had made a career by working out which direction mobility is going: she is a weather-vane of a kind. A mutual acquaintance once laughingly told me that when she had first known Afua, she was an “It-girl” — for in the 1990s and early 2000s upward mobility was the way to go.
At this moment of time downward aspirationalism is all the rage, and so Afua now hawks herself around the op-ed pages of the West opining about her upbringing in the wilds of Wimbledon and the infamous lack of opportunity for people of colour that led her to have to attend Oxford University. But perhaps the NYT does not know the hilarity with which most of Hirsch’s views are greeted at home, and for their purposes they had found the necessary person.
And so Afua wrote a piece headlined “Black Britons know why Meghan Markle wants out”. The incredibly interesting, original, and vindictively untrue claim that Afua Hirsch gave — for surely the first time in her journalistic career — was that Britain is racist and that is why Meghan and Harry are leaving.


Why is the NYT doing this?
The truth is sadly simple. At some point in 2016 the Times decided that the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump were both of a piece. After the President turned into their number one critic it became important not only to attack him at every given opportunity but to damn everything else they saw as part of the same trend. It may be one reason why the Prime Minister of Hungary appears to be on the front page of the NYT almost as often as the starving residents of the UK.
But whatever the reason the paper now has it in for Britain. It presents Boris Johnson as the precise same character as the US President. After all – goes the NYT analysis – they have similar hair, and archive footage is forever being dug out of Donald Trump, like Boris Johnson, reciting the opening of The Iliad in the original Greek. Peas in a pod, those two.
It is sad in a way. Not sad for Britain, which needs to take as much notice of the NYT as the American public need to take of our Daily Sport, but because it is so misinforming for its often intelligent readership. I am friends with many Americans and in the last few years I have often been struck by how off-piste some of their views are when it comes to the UK and the motivations of its citizens.
These people don’t want to spend too much time thinking about Britain, but they would like to know and understand roughly what is happening. The New York Times is not helping them in this respect, waging a culture war vendetta against the country, but in doing so it is waging a campaign of misinformation against its own readers.
 

Pimpernel Smith

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,791
Teen Vogue...should I read it?
I read it, even though it began with this ''......where we unearth history not told through a white, cis-hetero-patriarchal lens.''

As expected, it twists the facts to fit the woke narrative i.e. the vision we have of MLK today is false as it fits the white view of him. Not that there's any African Americans who have written biographies or included him as a subject in history of the Civil Rights movement. History as we know is a white man's game. In SJW theory: MLK had become woke (whatever that is) and would have distilled his view against the cis-hetero-patriarchal system and smashed it with extreme prejudice by rioting on the barricades with Molotov cocktails. Which is a good thing.

Teen Vogue? Watch a bit of TikTok and you'll soon realise that teenagers have already rejected wokeness as some hippy type thing.
 
Last edited:

Dropbear

Member in Good Standing
Messages
2,915
^
As usual, I have no idea what half these buzzwords you use mean or what you are actually trying to say.

But back to the topic of Dr King’s legacy and the sanitized history here:

 

formby001

Well-Known Member
Messages
140
Identity politics is Christianity without redemption
Woke notions of white supremacy and the patriarchy bring back old ideas about predestination
BY Antonia Senior


The fun-loving Puritans have returned. Photo by: Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Antonia Senior is a novelist and freelance journalist.

January 20, 2020

I am a white supremacist. Who knew? I didn’t. I have, however, just read Me and White Supremacy by Layla F Saad, published next month by Quercus, which has made clear to me that I am white, therefore I am a racist. In fact, Ms Saad told me in the introduction to prepare to “become overwhelmed when you begin to discover the depths of your internalised white supremacy”.

On a similar note, a friend recently told me that my failure to recognise a vast malevolent patriarchy was as a result of “internalising your own oppression”. There seems to be a lot of internalised weirdness going on: gender victim battling it out with racist in my gut. I thought it was wind.

The publisher is pretty sure that the ranks of underpaid, bookish folk who work for them are also all white supremacists. It is distributing the tome to all the British employees of its parent company Hachette, and telling them to spend 28 days “reflecting on manifestations of white supremacy, including white privilege”.

The self-flagellation of all the white supremacists at Hachette is yet another example of how much the Woke borrow from the Church. Identity politics has become a secular religion, and “white privilege” is one of its shibboleths. Indeed Ms Saad makes the point clearly in her book, stating that “I strongly believe that anti-racism practice and social justice work are also spiritual work.”

To be woke demands faith in certain creeds, with the twins Equality and Diversity as unassailable deities. It demands a knowledge of the right language. You must believe in certain disprovable evils — like the existence of a malevolent patriarchy — and like many strict sects, it punishes its apostates most severely. The Twitter storms are fierce for those who express a non-woke view but should have known better than for those outside of the faith altogether.

Tom Holland, in his book Dominion, The making of the Western Mind, identifies the “trace elements” of Christianity in the woke world. The example he used was the intersectional feminists in the #MeToo movement offering white feminists the chance to “acknowledge their own entitlement, to confess their sins and to be granted absolution”.
https://unherd.com/2020/01/why-do-we-spend-millions-on-bs-tests/?=refinnar
But the problem with identity politics as a secular religion is precisely its failure to allow for absolution. The faith that Saad espouses is utterly bleak, even cloaked as it is in words of love. It utterly fails to allow for redemption, and its most direct religious antecedent is found in Calvinist predestination.
Under this doctrine, God has predetermined whether you are damned or elect. From the second that the right sperm hit it lucky with the most fecund egg, your place in the woke hierarchy was decided. In the modern progressive world, informed by intersectional feminists, it does not matter what you say or do, the only defining factor in your state of grace is your skin, gender and sexuality.
This is a profoundly depressing outlook for three main reasons. The first is the essential nihilism in the creed. Your intent? Irrelevant. Your deeds? Likewise. The sum of your experience, desires, longings, beliefs? Your humanity itself? Nah, not relevant.

The second dispiriting message is that the problems its aims to address are insoluble. White people are racist by their nature, and inherently incapable of seeing their own racism or addressing it. Men are misogynists, by default, witting or unwitting bulwarks of the patriarchy. If they don’t believe they are individually at fault they are in denial. And if they try to say, actually, I’m not sure the patriarchy exists, they are mansplaining misogynist bastards. This is the politics of perpetual antagonism, of a kind of bleak acceptance that all relationships between different categories of human are necessarily fractious.
https://unherd.com/2019/10/who-elects-self-hating-white-liberals/?=refinnar
Most of us accept that racism, sexism, homophobia and other forms of discrimination exist. Most of us accept that it would be infinitely preferable if they did not. But as progressive politics grip, and the more the Pandora’s box of vile isms is talked about, the fewer of us seem to believe that it is possible to eradicate them.
The third problem with Puritan wokeness is that it sinister echoes in the history of predestination. When the creed reached its zenith in the seventeenth century, the logical hole at its centre became insanely obvious. If it does not matter to God how you behave, because your salvation was pre-determined at birth, why not behave however the hell you want to?

The outpourings of radical thought in the English Civil Wars included sects who came to exactly this conclusion. The Ranters, at least by reputation, advocated a lifestyle of Dionysiac excess. If orgies and boozing, gluttony and blasphemy did not have any material impact on whether you were going to heaven or hell, then why not shag, indulge and curse the Lord as much as you want?

The extent of their membership is disputed and the fear of the Ranters was strong among the Puritans, partly, I suspect, because the logical fallacy of the original tenet is so glaringly obvious. Many of the theological arguments espoused by the men who were labelled Ranters were more textured and complicated than a license to loucheness. But the essential point remains: if you are already damned, your actions and intent are irrelevant.
The Puritan response was a horrified recoil. If God has made you one of the elect, you have a responsibility to Him to behave as if you are elect. A rare few came to believe they were not elect, and tortured themselves with it. If this sounds familiar, you have probably met an apologetic white male ally of the woke.
https://unherd.com/2019/09/is-america-entering-its-fascist-moment/?=refinnar
This response to inescapable damnation matters. I have spent some time in the twilight reaches of the manosphere researching a new book, a world of depressing forums, full of hatred and despair, where young men gather to focus on the absence of sex in their lives. There are two broad categories: The Incels hate women because they won’t sleep with them. The Men Go Their Own Way (MGTOW) guys won’t sleep with women because they hate them.

These boys have their own vocabulary and belief systems. Pretty girls (Staceys) all sleep with the same few Alpha men (Chads). The Staceys ride the Cock Carousel, ie, have sex with the same few Chads. All this sluttish behaviour gives the Staceys something called A Thousand Cock Stare.

It is a grim world, in which women are evil and manipulative, and hated both for being sluts and for being virgins. It is a world in which pictures of pretty girls with their pet dogs are unbelievably sinister. These boys choose to live in this bleak world. They are culpable. But, if you tell all young, white boys that they are damned, why should they not behave as if they are damned?

A society which does not allow for people to atone, to be redeemed, and to be judged on their intent and actions is a miserable place. Most people interact with each other without antagonism most of the time. We should start being a bit more forgiving to each other, ditch the Puritanism and learn to cherish the well-meaning stumble towards decency. Even if, sometimes, we fall.
 

Pimpernel Smith

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,791
Identity politics is Christianity without redemption
Woke notions of white supremacy and the patriarchy bring back old ideas about predestination
BY Antonia Senior


The fun-loving Puritans have returned. Photo by: Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Antonia Senior is a novelist and freelance journalist.

January 20, 2020

I am a white supremacist. Who knew? I didn’t. I have, however, just read Me and White Supremacy by Layla F Saad, published next month by Quercus, which has made clear to me that I am white, therefore I am a racist. In fact, Ms Saad told me in the introduction to prepare to “become overwhelmed when you begin to discover the depths of your internalised white supremacy”.

On a similar note, a friend recently told me that my failure to recognise a vast malevolent patriarchy was as a result of “internalising your own oppression”. There seems to be a lot of internalised weirdness going on: gender victim battling it out with racist in my gut. I thought it was wind.

The publisher is pretty sure that the ranks of underpaid, bookish folk who work for them are also all white supremacists. It is distributing the tome to all the British employees of its parent company Hachette, and telling them to spend 28 days “reflecting on manifestations of white supremacy, including white privilege”.

The self-flagellation of all the white supremacists at Hachette is yet another example of how much the Woke borrow from the Church. Identity politics has become a secular religion, and “white privilege” is one of its shibboleths. Indeed Ms Saad makes the point clearly in her book, stating that “I strongly believe that anti-racism practice and social justice work are also spiritual work.”

To be woke demands faith in certain creeds, with the twins Equality and Diversity as unassailable deities. It demands a knowledge of the right language. You must believe in certain disprovable evils — like the existence of a malevolent patriarchy — and like many strict sects, it punishes its apostates most severely. The Twitter storms are fierce for those who express a non-woke view but should have known better than for those outside of the faith altogether.

Tom Holland, in his book Dominion, The making of the Western Mind, identifies the “trace elements” of Christianity in the woke world. The example he used was the intersectional feminists in the #MeToo movement offering white feminists the chance to “acknowledge their own entitlement, to confess their sins and to be granted absolution”.
https://unherd.com/2020/01/why-do-we-spend-millions-on-bs-tests/?=refinnar
But the problem with identity politics as a secular religion is precisely its failure to allow for absolution. The faith that Saad espouses is utterly bleak, even cloaked as it is in words of love. It utterly fails to allow for redemption, and its most direct religious antecedent is found in Calvinist predestination.
Under this doctrine, God has predetermined whether you are damned or elect. From the second that the right sperm hit it lucky with the most fecund egg, your place in the woke hierarchy was decided. In the modern progressive world, informed by intersectional feminists, it does not matter what you say or do, the only defining factor in your state of grace is your skin, gender and sexuality.
This is a profoundly depressing outlook for three main reasons. The first is the essential nihilism in the creed. Your intent? Irrelevant. Your deeds? Likewise. The sum of your experience, desires, longings, beliefs? Your humanity itself? Nah, not relevant.

The second dispiriting message is that the problems its aims to address are insoluble. White people are racist by their nature, and inherently incapable of seeing their own racism or addressing it. Men are misogynists, by default, witting or unwitting bulwarks of the patriarchy. If they don’t believe they are individually at fault they are in denial. And if they try to say, actually, I’m not sure the patriarchy exists, they are mansplaining misogynist bastards. This is the politics of perpetual antagonism, of a kind of bleak acceptance that all relationships between different categories of human are necessarily fractious.
https://unherd.com/2019/10/who-elects-self-hating-white-liberals/?=refinnar
Most of us accept that racism, sexism, homophobia and other forms of discrimination exist. Most of us accept that it would be infinitely preferable if they did not. But as progressive politics grip, and the more the Pandora’s box of vile isms is talked about, the fewer of us seem to believe that it is possible to eradicate them.
The third problem with Puritan wokeness is that it sinister echoes in the history of predestination. When the creed reached its zenith in the seventeenth century, the logical hole at its centre became insanely obvious. If it does not matter to God how you behave, because your salvation was pre-determined at birth, why not behave however the hell you want to?

The outpourings of radical thought in the English Civil Wars included sects who came to exactly this conclusion. The Ranters, at least by reputation, advocated a lifestyle of Dionysiac excess. If orgies and boozing, gluttony and blasphemy did not have any material impact on whether you were going to heaven or hell, then why not shag, indulge and curse the Lord as much as you want?

The extent of their membership is disputed and the fear of the Ranters was strong among the Puritans, partly, I suspect, because the logical fallacy of the original tenet is so glaringly obvious. Many of the theological arguments espoused by the men who were labelled Ranters were more textured and complicated than a license to loucheness. But the essential point remains: if you are already damned, your actions and intent are irrelevant.
The Puritan response was a horrified recoil. If God has made you one of the elect, you have a responsibility to Him to behave as if you are elect. A rare few came to believe they were not elect, and tortured themselves with it. If this sounds familiar, you have probably met an apologetic white male ally of the woke.
https://unherd.com/2019/09/is-america-entering-its-fascist-moment/?=refinnar
This response to inescapable damnation matters. I have spent some time in the twilight reaches of the manosphere researching a new book, a world of depressing forums, full of hatred and despair, where young men gather to focus on the absence of sex in their lives. There are two broad categories: The Incels hate women because they won’t sleep with them. The Men Go Their Own Way (MGTOW) guys won’t sleep with women because they hate them.

These boys have their own vocabulary and belief systems. Pretty girls (Staceys) all sleep with the same few Alpha men (Chads). The Staceys ride the Cock Carousel, ie, have sex with the same few Chads. All this sluttish behaviour gives the Staceys something called A Thousand Cock Stare.

It is a grim world, in which women are evil and manipulative, and hated both for being sluts and for being virgins. It is a world in which pictures of pretty girls with their pet dogs are unbelievably sinister. These boys choose to live in this bleak world. They are culpable. But, if you tell all young, white boys that they are damned, why should they not behave as if they are damned?

A society which does not allow for people to atone, to be redeemed, and to be judged on their intent and actions is a miserable place. Most people interact with each other without antagonism most of the time. We should start being a bit more forgiving to each other, ditch the Puritanism and learn to cherish the well-meaning stumble towards decency. Even if, sometimes, we fall.
There are many commentators who link the church of the Woke to the Church of the Inquisition. Including David Starkey and Victor Hanson.

It's a great thing to be very rich and very privileged and to be able to point to those in the working class, who have no status, no influence, no say, no travel and zero impact on you and declare them as sinners without redemption.

The end-game is that they will eventually accept their status as sinners and evil by birth right/genetics and come visiting.
 

formby001

Well-Known Member
Messages
140
There are many commentators who link the church of the Woke to the Church of the Inquisition. Including David Starkey and Victor Hanson.

It's a great thing to be very rich and very privileged and to be able to point to those in the working class, who have no status, no influence, no say, no travel and zero impact on you and declare them as sinners without redemption.

The end-game is that they will eventually accept their status as sinners and evil by birth right/genetics and come visiting.
Well, the author is referring to the Calvinist doctrine of predestination which is a connection that I hadn't considered before. The inquisition was Catholic and was set up to root out heretics. The current trend of Wokeness does have shades of that too.
 

Pimpernel Smith

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,791
Well, the author is referring to the Calvinist doctrine of predestination which is a connection that I hadn't considered before. The inquisition was Catholic and was set up to root out heretics. The current trend of Wokeness does have shades of that too.
Wokeness has all the elements of oppressive religion and cults including denouncements of individuals as heretics, blood libels and indulgences for the wealthy.

It should have no place in public life, business, the court, the university, royalty and Hollywood.

It needs to be exposed and humiliated as the chosen way of life of the mentally unfit.
 

Kingstonian

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,487
Why the left keeps losing
Boris Johnson won a remarkable victory by routing Labour in its old heartlands. But his dilemma is how to cement his alliance with the working class while the cultural establishment remains wedded to progressive values.

BY JOHN GRAY

www.newstatesman.com


Though its origins go back many years, Boris Johnson’s decisive victory in the general election was made possible by the unwillingness of most of the political class to learn the lessons of the 2016 Brexit referendum. Labour has suffered a cataclysmic defeat. The Liberal Democrats have been reduced to a disoriented rump, while the Independent Group for Change has evaporated along with the phantom of a new centre party. The DUP has been marginalised and the Brexit Party effectively liquidated. The unified Conservative Party that has been created in a matter of months, following generations of division over Europe, is an astonishing feat. The power Johnson commands in the Commons has no precedent for decades, and there is no serious opposition.
Yet outside government, British institutions are vehicles for a progressive mindset that is hostile to much of what he aims to achieve. This places a question mark over whether he will be able to secure the conjunction of political power with cultural legitimacy that Antonio Gramsci, one of the most penetrating 20th-century political thinkers, called hegemony.
At present the logic of events works in Johnson’s favour. Brexit will alter Britain irrevocably. Any project that presupposes close alignment with the EU – such as Scottish independence – belongs in the past. So, for different reasons, does the attempt to impose political choices by legal fiat, which has become entrenched in sections of the judiciary. Large alterations in the machinery of the state and its relations with the market are under way. Britain is moving rapidly towards a new economic regime.

For the two wings of British progressivism – liberal centrism and Corbynite leftism – the election has been a profound shock. It is almost as if there was something in the contemporary scene they have failed to comprehend. They regard themselves as the embodiment of advancing modernity. Yet the pattern they imagined in history shows no signs of emerging. Any tendency to gradual improvement has given way to kaleidoscopic flux. Rather than tending towards some rational harmony, values are plural and contending. Political monotheism – the faith that only one political system can be right for all of humankind – has given way to inescapable pluralism. Progress has ceased to be the providential arc of history and instead become a prize snatched for a moment from the caprice of the gods.
In a droll turn, 21st-century modernity has turned out to be rather like Johnson’s beloved ancient classical world – although the flux we inhabit should temper any confident predictions of Conservative hegemony. Johnson’s invulnerable position in government masks the dominance of progressive ideas throughout much of British life. Even Labour, seemingly damaged beyond recovery, cannot be written off.
***

Progressive thinkers have reacted to the election result in different ways. Rationalists among them blame the first-past-the post electoral system. If only Britain had European-style proportional representation, the disaster they have experienced could have been avoided. It is obviously true that the result would not have been the same. Whether PR would have produced a progressive majority is another matter. If the 2015 election had been held under the D’Hont system used in elections to the European Parliament, Nigel Farage’s Ukip would have secured 83 seats in the Commons (it won nearly four million votes). In reality, voting patterns would be different under any kind of PR, but the far right would still play a larger part in the British political system than it does now. Progressives talk of building the kind of majority they want, as if it somehow already latently exists. More likely, parties of the far right would set the political agenda, as they do throughout much of the continent. If you want a European-style voting system, you get a European style of politics.
Other progressives prefer a demonological interpretation. Doodling their fever-dreams in green ink, they portray the election as having been hijacked by sinister global forces. Officially, they believe values and beliefs other than their own are errors that can be corrected by reason and education. In practice many among them have invoked an idea of omnipresent evil to explain humankind’s stubborn resistance to their efforts to improve it. Communist regimes pointed to saboteurs and foreign spies to account for the systemic failings of central planning. More recently, liberals have invoked Russian meddling and a global far-right network masterminded by Steve Bannon to explain their political defeats. Delusions of conspiracy are part of the mass psychology of progressivism, and will intensify in the coming months and years.
Taking another tack, avowed liberals carry on attempting to thwart the results of democratic choices – not only the referendum, but now a general election. Such attempts tend to be self-defeating, as American liberals will discover if impeachment solidifies Donald Trump’s base and opens his way to a second term as president. The anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller appears set to continue the alt-politics of legal warfare, but the attempt to install rule by lawyers can only have one result. The authority of the executive will be reasserted, and the British judiciary returned to a more modest role like the one it had before Tony Blair conjured up a Supreme Court one wet afternoon.

In these pages in October I suggested that British politics had reached a Hobbesian moment. Voters demanded a government, not anarchy presided over by a gibbering rabble. The clean-out in the Commons followed from this imperative. The single most important lesson of the previous three and more years is the abject incompetence of Britain’s centrist political class. Their comical despair today comes from their inability to grasp the part they played in the debacle that has engulfed them.
That the centre was engaged in a process of self-immolation had been clear for some time. Blair and Peter Mandelson began the embourgeoisement of Labour that allowed Johnson to capture the party’s working-class heartlands in 2019. New Labour’s unthinking embrace of globalisation and open borders produced the working-class revolt against economic liberalism and mobilised support for Brexit. Blair may have won three elections on a centrist prospectus, but there was never any chance of Labour winning another on this basis when – as an unintended consequence of Blairite policies – the centre ground had shifted radically.
A hint of what was to come could be seen in the debacle of the People’s Vote (PV) campaign. Reported as the outcome of organisational conflicts and clashing personalities, its implosion in the run-up to the election revealed the basic contradiction in the Remain movement. Alastair Campbell, an éminence grise of the campaign, has written that it failed because it could not explain to people why, when the country had voted for something, it should not happen. In fact, everyone knew the sole reason for a second referendum was to nullify the first. That is why a section of the PV campaign opted for Revoke. Searching for a unique selling point, the Liberal Democrats did the same. Preferring the risk of a Jeremy Corbyn government to Brexit, Remainer grandees and centrist journals and commentators backed Jo Swinson’s extremism. In turn, she triggered an election that made Brexit inevitable. There is a certain rationality in politics, it seems, after all.

***
Flouting norms that are central to liberal democracy, Remain was another populist movement, if more short-lived than most. Some of its remnants – such as the Liberal Democrat Ed Davey, who is demanding an enquiry into the 2016 referendum – are in a state of denial. Others, including the Labour leadership contender Jess Phillips, appear to want to regroup under the banner of Rejoin. But with Johnson in control of the Brexit process they will have as much impact as the haggard figures that tramp the streets in sandwich boards announcing the end of the world. The Remain camp has had its final say.
While the liberal centre has disappeared as a significant force in politics, the future of the Corbynite ascendancy has yet to be decided. If, as some are already speculating, Keir Starmer proves most able to unite the party and its affiliated organisations, Corbynism could become not much more than a divisive faction. Wisely, Starmer has accepted the finality of Brexit. In the interests of continuity, he has talked up his humble origins and will make much of his work with trade unions. But he remains ineffably the candidate of the woke bourgeoisie in the party’s mass membership and metropolitan redoubts, and in practice could well complete the detachment of Labour from its working-class roots that Corbynism has accelerated. Rebecca Long-Bailey, the Corbynite continuity candidate despite her protestations otherwise, is campaigning on the basis that Labour voters who rejected Corbyn’s message were mistaken, so it is they – not her party – that must change.

In different ways, each of these candidates represents a style of politics that millions of working-class voters repudiate. Whoever leads the party, Labour could repeat in the North the collapse it has undergone in Scotland.
Regardless, the Corbynites are not going away any time soon. Neither Starmer nor any other candidate could mount a campaign of the kind Neil Kinnock waged in the 1980s – a time when the far left was not so embedded in the party’s power structures. The appointment of Ed Miliband to chair an inquiry on the election suggests that much of Labour may still be in a state of collective solipsism. Another defeat – possibly larger because of likely constituency boundary changes and the evanescence of Farage – may be needed before it can adjust.
Yet it would be a mistake to conclude the party is necessarily in terminal decline.

Seeing off Corbyn and completing the first phase of Brexit has left Johnson’s position unsettled. Without these dead-weights, Labour may be able to revive the domestic agenda that failed to cut through during most of the election campaign. Labour’s economic programme was not, as some are claiming, a roaring success among voters. Large numbers saw its spending pledges as impractical, if not fraudulent. But as the narrow Conservative lead at points in the campaign showed, it spoke to concerns about a dysfunctional economy that much of the electorate shares. Helped by the binary pattern to which British politics has reverted, Labour could yet rebound strongly.
If Johnson falters it will not be because of Scotland. A pervasive meme among progressive commentators is that Brexit will break up the Union. In fact it is only if the UK were somehow to remain in the EU, or make a soft exit, that Scotland could plausibly leave the UK. Seceding once Britain has left means reapplying to join the EU.
Wearied by years of negotiation over Brexit and fearful of reinforcing separatism in Catalonia, Brussels would not make the process easy. Strong tests of fiscal rectitude would be applied, which would mean many years of austerity. The question of which currency an independent Scotland would use would be more intractable. It could not be the euro until Scotland rejoined the EU. Would it be the British pound, or a new Scottish currency that would instantly attract speculative attacks?
The trade regime under which the new Scottish state would operate would pose severe problems. Given its heavy dependency on the rest of the UK, could the Scottish economy survive a hard border? Perhaps the increased economic risks of independence do not matter much in an age of identity politics. But it is hardly imaginable that they would not be a central feature of another independence referendum campaign.
Long-term pressure on the UK comes from Northern Ireland, where demography works in favour of Irish unification, not Scotland. While there will be nothing like a fully federal system, devolution will doubtless go further. Unending discussion of the break-up of the UK is a talking cure for depressed progressives, not realistic analysis.


Boris Johnson by André Carrilho
***
Corbynism was Marxian in the sense that Oswald Mosley was Keynesian. But it is by using a Marxian idea of hegemony that Labour’s future, and that of Johnson’s Conservatives, can best be plotted. Corbynite Labour is a morbid symptom of the decay of centrism. The problem Johnson faces is that while he exercises unassailable power in government, British institutions as a whole remain vehicles of progressivist ideology.
Understanding the present must start with the end of the Thatcherite era. She was toppled in November 1990, but versions of the neoliberal ideas that may have intermittently informed some of her policies went on to dominate politics for nearly 30 years. Recognising the need for spending and investment in public services, Blair gave Thatcherism a new lease of life. It was David Cameron and George Osborne, with their witless cult of austerity, who brought the Thatcher era to a close. Johnson’s cabinet contains neo-Thatcherites like Esther McVey, while Sajid Javid, the Chancellor, is reportedly a devoted reader of Ayn Rand. But the era of neoliberal hegemony is plainly over. Electoral imperatives are leading Conservatives to abandon any fundamentalist faith in free markets. As Nick Timothy, Theresa May’s former joint chief of staff, perceived, and the political scientist Matthew Goodwin has confirmed in his studies of political realignment in Britain and other countries, the right is moving leftwards in economics. At the same it is moderating its individualist view of society. There is not much call for Rand or Hayek in Blyth Valley.
Representing Johnson’s government as neoliberalism in populist clothing misses the regime shift that is taking place. Horror at the spectre of “Singapore-on-Thames” is a sign of ignorance and confusion. Singapore is far from being an untrammelled market economy. Land is the property of the state, and around 80 per cent of the island’s housing supplied by a government corporation. A highly effective civil service is engaged with companies and active throughout society. Singapore is a success story of managed capitalism, not the free market.
A Singaporean model cannot be transplanted here. Britain is a large, multinational, unevenly developed country, not a city state (though London now resembles one). But Johnson will need something like Singapore-style government if he is to keep his working-class voters on board. Dominic Cummings’s proposals for renovating the state machine reflect this fact.
How hard Brexit will be remains to be seen. Immediately after the election great minds in the City were convinced that Johnson’s large majority would mean him pivoting to a softer exit. That seems highly unlikely. Britain can remain engaged and even friendly with Europe in many areas without being locked into the sclerotic institutions of the EU. Excitable talk about another cliff edge is also inaccurate.
Johnson’s withdrawal deal removes the most disruptive risks of Brexit, and neither the UK nor the EU wants to reach the end of this year without some kind of understanding on trade. A bare-bones agreement is possible and even likely, whatever Brussels may say publicly. All the signs are that Johnson aims to keep the option of the UK diverging from EU rules. Progressives will seethe at the prospect, since it could mean further deregulation. But diverging from the EU also enables government to act in ways that are currently prohibited, such as providing state aid for industry. The EU has long been a neoliberal construction, whereas a hardish Brexit allows a more interventionist mode of capitalism.
***
Whether Johnson can retain his commanding position depends in the short term primarily on how well he maintains his pact with his new voters. If working-class jobs are hit hard by tariffs in the event of a hard Brexit, Labour has a chance to revive rapidly. The votes that have been lent to Johnson were part of a transaction in which greater economic security was a vital component. Working-class Labour supporters who turned to Johnson after a decade of Conservative austerity did so, in part, because they perceived him as a different kind of Conservative. A spate of closed factories and bankrupt farmers could discredit this perception.
The focal point of power has moved north. Resources will have to move with it, including facilities for scientific and technological innovation. Johnson will have to engineer a fundamental shift in the direction of government, and do so without depriving his traditional voters of what they have come to see as their due. But hegemony has to do with culture as well as government, and it is here that he faces his most formidable challenge.
If only people aged between 18 and 24 had voted in the general election, Corbyn would have won an enormous majority. No doubt this is partly because of Corbyn’s promise to abolish student tuition fees and the difficulties young people face in the housing and jobs markets. But their support for Corbyn is also a by-product of beliefs and values they have absorbed at school and university. According to the progressive ideology that has been instilled in them, the West is uniquely malignant, the ultimate source of injustice and oppression throughout the world, and Western power and values essentially illegitimate.
Humanities and social sciences teaching has been largely shaped by progressive thinking for generations, though other perspectives were previously tolerated. The metamorphosis of universities into centres of censorship and indoctrination is a more recent development, and with the expansion of higher education it has become politically significant. By over-enlarging the university system, Blair created the constituency that enabled the Corbynites to displace New Labour. No longer mainly a cult of intellectuals, as in Orwell’s time, progressivism has become the unthinking faith of millions of graduates.
When Labour voters switched to Johnson, they were surely moved by moral revulsion as well as their material interests. As polls have attested, they rejected Labour because it had become a party that derided everything they loved. Many referenced Corbyn’s support for regimes and movements that are violently hostile to the West. Some cited anti-Semitism as one of the evils their parents or grandparents had gone to war to defeat. For working class voters, Labour had set itself against patriotism and moral decency. For Corbynites, in the form in which they are held by what is still a majority of British people, these values can only be expressions of false consciousness. Labour’s dilemma is whether it continues to promote progressive orthodoxy or tries to reconnect with its traditional voters.
A possible way forward has been presented in Maurice Glasman’s Blue Labour faction. If it is to avoid devastating defeat, the party needs to abandon its anti-Western stance and its hostility to the nation state and treat Brexit as an opportunity rather than a disaster to be mitigated. (It also needs to root out anti-Semitism in its ranks rather than apologise for it.) Spelt out some years ago, Blue Labour’s analysis is extremely prescient, and some leadership candidates are talking vaguely in these terms. But the likelihood of the party changing course on these issues is not high. A Blue Labour takeover along the lines of that mounted by Blair cannot occur when the mass membership recruited by Corbyn is made up overwhelmingly of progressives. Even if a takeover was feasible it is doubtful whether voters would support a programme of moral conservatism, which Blue Labour also proposes. The resistance to progressivism in social matters is focused chiefly on law and order and immigration. There is no detectable enthusiasm for the restoration of traditional family structures or sexual mores. Working-class voters want security and respect, not a wholly different form of life.
***
Liberal or Corbynite, the core of the progressivist cult is the belief that the values that have guided human civilisation to date, especially in the West, need to be junked. A new kind of society is required, which progressives will devise. They are equipped for this task with scraps of faux-Marxism and hyper-liberalism, from which they have assembled a world-view. They believed a majority of people would submit to their vision and follow them. Instead they have been ignored, while their world-view has melted down into a heap of trash. They retain their position in British institutions, but their self-image as the leaders of society has been badly shaken. It is only to be expected that many should be fixated on conspiracy theories, or otherwise unhinged. The feature of the contemporary scene progressives fail to understand, in the end, is themselves.

Johnson’s dilemma is how to cement his alliance with the working class while the cultural establishment remains wedded to progressivist values. It may be that hegemony is no longer possible for his or any political project. Society may remain fragmented indefinitely, and in some areas unalterably polarised.
Yet with other parties in disarray, there is a clear chance of him occupying a new centre ground. His conservatism is a green-tinged version of a tradition articulated in Lord Randolph Churchill’s concept of Tory Democracy, and before that by Benjamin Disraeli. His ambitious plans for infrastructure and new centres of science and technology allow him to channel the modern faith in a better future. Faced with the possibility of a decade or more of Conservative rule, Britain’s cultural establishment may change its complexion. As well as an identity, progressive views have been a means of advancement in the academy, the arts and broadcast media. With the funding position of cultural institutions under review, the usefulness of progressivism as a career strategy may be about to decline.
Boris Johnson has come to power at a moment of high uncertainty. Progressive theories that claimed to divine the future have proved as trustworthy as Roman auguries. Gramsci’s belief that the working class makes history has turned out to be right, at least in Britain, but not in the way he and his disciples imagined. Somewhere in the heavens, the gods are laughing.
Conservatives are in government with a hefty majority and no need to fear a fractured Labour Party. It is always about Party first. So Johnson will reinforce his position by spending and pump priming in the former Red Wall areas of the North.

Progressives who fight the government will be challenged. The head of the BBC can see the writing on the wall and will leave in Summer. Abandonment of a mandatory TV licence requirement that keeps many establishment types in comfort will not be far off. The judiciary will be put back in their place too.

Labour is not really working class. Prescott was one of the last ministers with a trade union background. The working class is fractured too. Huge employers that existed in the 1970s are not around.

There might be scope for a party that looks after the economic interests of the average worker but is socially conservative without the fashionable views that don’t chime outside Westminster.
 

Pimpernel Smith

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,791
Conservatives are in government with a hefty majority and no need to fear a fractured Labour Party. It is always about Party first. So Johnson will reinforce his position by spending and pump priming in the former Red Wall areas of the North.

Progressives who fight the government will be challenged. The head of the BBC can see the writing on the wall and will leave in Summer. Abandonment of a mandatory TV licence requirement that keeps many establishment types in comfort will not be far off. The judiciary will be put back in their place too.

Labour is not really working class. Prescott was one of the last ministers with a trade union background. The working class is fractured too. Huge employers that existed in the 1970s are not around.

There might be scope for a party that looks after the economic interests of the average worker but is socially conservative without the fashionable views that don’t chime outside Westminster.
It's a paradigm change, and a sheer one at that, almost revolutionary. The chancers who crawled out from under Blair's watch sense their time and game is up.
 

Kingstonian

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,487
^
As usual, I have no idea what half these buzzwords you use mean or what you are actually trying to say.

But back to the topic of Dr King’s legacy and the sanitized history here:

I thought this might include J Edgar Hoover FBI tapes of MLK. The Harvey Weinstein of the civil rights movement?
 

Dropbear

Member in Good Standing
Messages
2,915

Aha - someone should tell the Asians their masks have little to no effect other than to scare healthy lot.
There is definitely a benefit to someone infectious wearing a mask. And when you have 20-30 percent of the population in a mask you are capturing a segment of the contagious well.

Additionally, it may reduce hand-to-mouth infections.

Ideally, people would be wearing M95 masks and not surgical masks.

while we don’t recommend the general public starts wearing masks, because the net benefit isn’t worth the effort, it certainly does help.
 

Journeyman

Well-Known Member
Supporter
Messages
3,292
while we don’t recommend the general public starts wearing masks, because the net benefit isn’t worth the effort, it certainly does help.
The general image in the West about mask-wearing in Asia is that people wear the masks so as to protect themselves. This may be correct to some extent, but the vast majority of the time (at least in Japan) the masks are worn by people who are already sick, in an attempt to protect other people.
 

QuandoDio

Well-Known Member
Messages
770
There is definitely a benefit to someone infectious wearing a mask. And when you have 20-30 percent of the population in a mask you are capturing a segment of the contagious well.

Additionally, it may reduce hand-to-mouth infections.

Ideally, people would be wearing M95 masks and not surgical masks.

while we don’t recommend the general public starts wearing masks, because the net benefit isn’t worth the effort, it certainly does help.


In the words of an Idiot or two, 'we are tired of these ...experts'.

Jokes aside, there is obviously a diversity of opinion on the efficacy of masks and which ones to use for which purpose etc . That being said, donning one in public with relatively better air quality than that in the east and you risk coming across as a tit.
 

Kingstonian

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,487

“I’m a ‘country member’.”

“Yes. We remember.”

 
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fxh

OG Party Suit Wearer
Supporter
Messages
6,554

“I’m a ‘country member’.”

“Yes. We remember.”

He sounds like an absolute prick.
But the club also sounds like a bunch of wankers.
I'd say they deserve each other.
 

formby001

Well-Known Member
Messages
140
Enjoyed this:

Source: www.theguardian.com

Inside the mind of Dominic Cummings

He is now the country’s de facto project manager, but what does he actually believe? In a bid to find out, I read (almost) everything Cummings has written in the last decade. By Stefan Collini

When the prime minister of the day describes you as a “career psychopath”, your chances of preferment in the political world may not seem rosy. When associates of a leading minister refer to you as “that jumped-up oik”, you may sense you’re not winning friends in high places. When a senior official in the department where you are employed calls you “a mutant virus”, you may feel less than wholly accepted. And when a prominent MP in the party you work for denounces you as “an unelected foul-mouthed oaf”, it may seem that the game is up. Furnished with these testimonials, some downsizing of career ambitions may appear to be in order.

But Dominic Cummings has never played by the rules, and now, as Boris Johnson’s de facto chief-of-staff, he has become perhaps the most powerful unelected political figure in the country. He thus has an exceptional opportunity to put his ideas into practice. But what are his ideas? Commentators seem vaguely aware that, although he studied history at university, he has dabbled in more than one scientific discipline over the years, but no one, it appears, has really tried to take the measure of Cummings as a serious thinker.

There has, of course, been no shortage of comment on the various roles he has played in British political life in the last couple of decades. He came to the fore as a special adviser to the Tory politician Michael Gove between 2007 and 2013 (ie both before and during Gove’s tumultuous years as secretary of state for education); he attracted further attention as the chief administrative mastermind behind the successful leave campaign in the 2016 referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU; and when Boris Johnson became prime minister in July 2019, Cummings was installed as his chief aide, directing operations from within Downing Street.

What may be less well known is that for much of this period Cummings has maintained an unusual blog, where he has posted extensive ruminations on his reading, enthusiastic reports about breakthroughs in science and pungent contributions to debates about education, spicing the mix with some notably unbuttoned ad hominem side-swipes – for example, describing David Davis, then the Brexit minister, as “thick as mince”. Several of these posts have an intrinsic intellectual interest, but, given his current role at the heart of power, they may also yield insights into the thinking of someone whose ideas could soon have consequences for all of us.


I can’t honestly claim to do much by way of community service but, as some twisted equivalent of a new year resolution, I decided I would sacrifice myself for the common good in January by spending the greater part of the month reading The Complete Blogs of Dominic Cummings. Well, perhaps not quite complete, as I have only gone back to 2013 and I have skipped several of the more functional or repetitive pieces, but I have more than compensated for any light-footed skimming by reading all 133,000 words of his magnum opus, posted in 2014 and titled “Some thoughts on education and political priorities”, in which he described his ideal of “an Odyssean education”. What follows is my report on this unusual body of work.

Dominic Cummings is the best-known unknown historian of ideas in the country. Learned contributions to this scholarly field are, of course, not what he is celebrated for, but a surprising amount of what he writes falls under this label. He is fascinated by ideas – partly fascinated by their beauty and power, partly fascinated in the same way as a small boy is fascinated by firecrackers that can be let off behind unsuspecting old ladies. In Cummings’s view, the world seems to be largely populated by old ladies, metaphorically speaking – timid, easily spooked people whom he delights in unsettling.

But his firecrackers are assembled from genuine scientific components. Cummings is knowledgeable about an impressive variety of disciplines, and from this formidable if eclectic reading he has attempted to synthesise ideas he believes would transform the way the world is run (lack of ambition is not a defect of his thinking). The sense in which I am, tongue only slightly in cheek, calling him a “historian of ideas” is that he traces in some detail the evolution of the ideas that interest him, and gives us, especially in his remarkable book-length essay on the elements of a university curriculum that comprise his “Odyssean education”, a crash course in the history of mathematics, physics, genetics, psychology, economics and much more.

He takes the term “Odyssean education” from the Nobel-winning physicist Murray Gell-Mann, referring to “an education that starts with the biggest questions and problems and teaches people to understand connections between them”. The aim would be to “train synthesisers”. He appears contemptuous of most politicians, almost all media commentators, and all civil servants: none of these people really understand statistical modelling, quantum computation, synthetic biology, and so on. (Too many of them studied PPE (philosophy, politics and economics) at Oxford University – which, in his view, just turns duffers into bluffers.) As a result, they make or encourage poor decisions. Better “project management in complex organisations” is what we need, and his essay sketches a wide-ranging syllabus that would educate the effective decision-makers of the future.

More broadly, Cummings repeatedly argues that the processes of government need to include 1) a number of outstanding scientists capable of bringing fundamental science to bear on policy formation, and 2) a general level of scientific and numerical literacy such that MPs, officials, journalists and others can understand basic scientific discoveries and their significance. The overall aim should be to make the UK “the leading country for education and science”.


At times, he can make this seem like the merest common sense; at other times he sounds like CP Snow on speed (Snow’s Two Cultures lecture of 1959 is mainly remembered for its ardent advocacy of the need for scientific literacy among policymakers). He has attained an impressive level of scientific understanding himself, but with it has come more than a touch of the boffin’s bee-filled bonnet. A good example of this unsteady combination is provided by his attempt to imagine the effect that genome-sequencing may have on the NHS in terms of identifying risk factors for certain diseases, eliminating congenital defects, and so on. The potential benefits and efficiencies are certainly striking. But he cannot resist going further, a little too quickly: “We will soon be able to re-make human nature itself,” he writes. No point in pussy-footing around just doing hip replacements – let’s do a complete makeover while we’re in there.

As all this suggests, Cummings is undeniably clever, even if not always notably judicious. Intellectual restlessness is one of his hallmarks: his capacity to stretch his mind, to absorb new ideas, to see parallels and analogies that jump across the tracks, is constantly on display. He is an Oxford history graduate who has turned himself into a numbers guy, or at least into the frontman for the numbers people – someone who understands enough of what they do to make the case for its importance to the rest of us. He says he’s happy to be told where he’s wrong, though you can’t help feeling that he doesn’t expect there will be much call for such frankness.

And there are any number of things he is right about, or anyway right-ish. One is the foolishness of diverting funding away from basic “blue skies” scientific research in order to promote more applied work. Governments are prone to think that doing this will lead to more immediately useful outcomes, and hence it will be easier to justify the public expenditure involved, but the historical record is against them. Over and over again, theoretical enquiries that looked at the time to have no useful application turn out to be what enabled various later practical advances and inventions, from code-breaking to computers. Cummings understands this: he not only prioritises basic science, but he gets the need to give people the autonomy and security to explore not obviously useful-looking avenues of enquiry.

At times, he can seem to flirt with a kind of anarchic libertarianism, attracted by a vision of unconstrained individual creativity, but against this is his recognition of the need for central state funding of basic science. He rightly stresses the role of federal funding in providing the research base for the Silicon Valley phenomenon in the US, for example, and he looks favourably on institutions such as the CNRS in France that are designed to sustain research on a long-term basis. (He also says, rather gnomically, that he is not a libertarian because it’s “not consistent with evolutionary biology”.) Overall he is surely right that public debate desperately needs more statistical literacy, as well as a better appreciation of the long-term benefits of basic research.

Cummings’s call for a curriculum that might combine, say, maths, science and history is driven by his focus on “project management” in politics. Such an education would, he contends, provide a training in the calculation of probabilities when weighing competing proposals. But there is a recurring difficulty with schemes that attempt to build in “interdisciplinarity” from the start. Yes, it sounds great to scorn those who are “stuck in their disciplinary silos” and to laud imaginative thinkers who address the really “big problems”, and so on, but the fact is that you can’t educate someone to be interdisciplinary. You have to educate them in particular disciplines (possibly more than one), and then set up more specific or temporary or opportunistic arrangements for bringing them together and cross-pollinating. If we are to stay on Cummings’s preferred ground of intellectual history, we would have to point out that, in modern times, nearly all the influential ideas and great discoveries have come from people working within a particular discipline. Specialisation is the precondition of intellectual advance, even if subsequent interdisciplinary thinking can then sometimes be an effective way to address complex practical problems.

In his ambitious intellectual and educational synthesis there are some obvious, and rather predictable, lacunae. He is dismissive of most of the social sciences, especially sociology and anthropology, precisely because they purport to explore the distinctive power of “the social”: their practitioners are mostly “charlatans”. Here he sounds like a souped-up version of Margaret Thatcher: there is no such thing as “society”, just the patterned interaction of evolutionarily moulded individuals. There are frequent irritable swipes at something called “French literary theory” and the damage it has allegedly done to the humanities; here we seem to be encountering nothing more than a lazy journalistic stereotype, a headline-happy approach that contrasts so strikingly with the care with which he expounds ideas from, say, evolutionary psychology.

His voluminous writings suggest no cultivated interest in the study of art or music, nor, a few allusions to Dostoevsky and Tolstoy aside, in literature, or anyway not in literary criticism, though one wonders whether he might not have a taste for certain forms of science fiction. A few philosophers get walk-on parts (he quotes Nietzsche fairly often, but then who doesn’t?), but on the whole he seems to treat modern philosophy, certainly the discipline of academic philosophy, as an irrelevance or an obstruction. Although he expresses a general commitment to including the humanities in his synthesis, in practice they (with the exception of history) seem marginal to his main interests.

However, there is another omission that is less predictable, yet, in its way, more revealing. Cummings is practically silent about jurisprudence and the law. (In his diatribes against the always obstructive civil service, “legal arguments” are occasionally mentioned, but only to be swatted aside as another typical ruse by these masters of delay.) This is significant because legal systems and legal reasoning involve attempts to draw up general rules and procedures to govern human interaction. The law, especially in a common-law system, is a historical enterprise in a way that Cummings should, in principle, approve of. That is to say, it seeks constantly to modify the agreed rules in the light of new circumstances; in this respect, it is one large feedback loop. And it attempts to take into account not just the purposes informing any given individual’s actions, but the likely effect of such actions on the interests of others, now and in the future. Accumulated legal reasoning becomes, therefore, the great repository of wisdom about the social consequences of allowing this action or preventing that action, and it is, in an important sense, no respecter of persons: no one, as the phrase has it, is above the law.




Great leaders, revolutionaries, “men of action” and over-confident mavericks of all types always want to sweep the law aside, seeing only its negative character as a slow-moving body of outdated constraints on freedom of action – but that, of course, suggests why it is so precious. There’s a fine exchange in Robert Bolt’s play A Man for All Seasons between Sir Thomas More, the lord chancellor who was to be executed for his opposition to Henry VIII’s break with Rome, and his earnest son-in-law, William Roper, in which Roper says he would cut down every law in England to get after the Devil, and More replies: “Oh? And, when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you – where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat?”

More’s point, of course, is that if, when we have the power, we impatiently strike down all the laws that stand in our way, we shall have no protections to turn to when power is in the hands of others. Cummings writes from the perspective of someone who’s in a hurry to get the thing done, never from the perspective of the judge who has been schooled to reflect on the potentially damaging consequences in the future of licensing this particular action in the present.

To balance Cummings’s imagined course of maths, science and history, I could, teasingly, suggest that a no less valuable preparation for public life might be a combination of philosophy, jurisprudence and literature. Philosophy would introduce habits of analysis and undermine certainty or dogmatism; jurisprudence would teach an appreciation of rules, procedures and the judgment of consequences; and the study of literature would weaken the hold of cliche and all exaggerated beliefs in the fixity of meaning. It might be said, not altogether unfairly, that Cummings’s course would produce doers and mine would produce critics (though the disciplines I suggest constantly generate new ideas rather than merely criticising old ones), but I would say that a healthy politics needs both, and that the more we emphasise the first category and try to give its occupants their head, the more we need the virtues of the second category to hold them in check.

Cummings, of course, believes that this is just what we don’t need. We “don’t want more Oxbridge English graduates who chat about Lacan at dinner parties with TV producers and spread fake news about fake news”, he wrote last month. This is an economical bit of target practice – everyone knows, don’t they, that one can hardly move in north London these days without falling over “chat about Lacan at dinner parties” – but there may be deeper cultural antagonisms at work here. The datedness of the jibe about Lacan may suggest a long-nurtured touchiness. At one point Cummings says of himself, rather engagingly, “I am not articulate”, but you sense that he doesn’t particularly rate articulateness in the first place. So much of what others think of as “culture” he regards as “noise”. Perhaps his recent call for “super-talented weirdos” to apply for staff jobs in Downing Street should be seen as something of a dating pitch.

In Cummings’s ontology, the world appears to be made up of an extremely small number of outstandingly clever individuals and a mass of mediocrities. Human progress depends on giving those with the highest IQ (he’s very keen on the notion of IQ) the education that will allow them fully to develop their talents and then the freedom to apply them. His culture heroes are those few outstanding mathematicians and scientists who fundamentally changed a whole intellectual field, such as Kurt Gödel, John von Neumann and Richard Feynman. He has an abiding interest not just in what kinds of conditions have favoured scientific breakthroughs in the past and how we might replicate those today, but even more in the organisational or management processes that enabled complex, long-term, science-based projects to translate brilliant new ideas into successful practical outcomes, such as Nasa (putting the first man on the moon) or Parc (the Palo Alto Research Center, which was the foundation of Silicon Valley’s triumphs), and he gives illuminating accounts of their modus operandi. Just how far such procedures could be transferred to the muddy, shifting, contested world of politics is an open question, but Cummings insists they would be a big improvement on what we have now.

Politics is, by definition, the terrain of conflicting convictions, and although in principle Cummings lauds the idea of “feedback” and the correction of error, in practice he seems to struggle with the idea of genuine intellectual disagreement. There are traces of that kind of absolute certainty that is more often shown by fellow-travellers of science rather than by first-rate scientists themselves. And he is a bit quick to write off opposition to his ideas as yet another example of the self-protective vested interests of the establishment (as the maverick’s maverick, he, of course, is not part of “the establishment”). “The political-media system actively suppresses thinking about, and focus on, what’s important”, he writes. One of the things that irks him about politics is that it involves so much damn talk. For example, he speaks contemptuously of the debate about the EU referendum in 2016, the outcome of which he played such a signal part in influencing: “Most of the ‘debate’ was moronic as political debate always is.” At least he cannot be accused of seeking cheap popularity.

In a curious way, there is very little politics in Cummings’s political thinking: it’s largely about the operational process, not about the substantive aims, and there does not seem to be much feel for the irresolvable conflicts over fundamental values that are at the heart of political life. He extols the speed at which the denizens of Parc got things done: meetings in the political world, by contrast, “tend to be just jibber-jabber”. He has a natural antipathy to entities that seem to him to do little but block innovation – professional associations, the civil service, trade unions, big organisations generally. His ideal form of government is one that operates like a small start-up: a few bright guys (they mostly seem to be guys), some unconventional thinking, no red tape and hey presto, something actually gets done. If Cummings has some claims to be regarded as an intellectual among technocrats, there is also a sense in which he is a technocrat among intellectuals. He is far more interested in abstract ideas than most technocrats, but he is far more interested in results than most intellectuals.

A striking further aspect of Cummings’s worldview is a lively conviction that total disaster for humanity may be right around the corner: as he says darkly, “it’s just a matter of when”. Think about the possibility of pathogens escaping from high-security bio-labs and causing a global pandemic: we urgently need to be testing these labs’ security by setting up a new team that should include “specialist criminals” (well, yes, I suppose they are the experts in “testing security”). Or again, if you can understand probability – few can, in his view – then you will know that the Earth will be destroyed by an asteroid before long unless we do something about it: “We know this for sure”. One major reason for exploring outer space is to find somewhere habitable in which humans can sit out the destruction of the Earth (no, really), “thus avoiding the difficult problems of keeping humans alive for thousands of years on spaceships” (just when you thought you had enough to worry about). Existential paranoia on a galactic scale is, it seems, the new normal.

But no summary does justice to the fizz and energy of his forays into the world of ideas. Here’s a representative example of Cummings wearing his historian-of-ideas hat:

“What we have learned about our world vindicates the evolutionary perspective of the pre-Socratics (Anaximander, Heraclitus), Thucydides, Hume, Smith, Darwin, and Hayek over the anthropocentric perspective of Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Hobbes, Rousseau (“the general will”), Bentham, Mill (who introduced the concept of the “natural monopoly”) and Marx. Evolutionary biology, neuroscience, cognitive science, and behavioural genetics have undermined the basis for Descartes’ Ghost in the Machine, Locke’s Blank Slate, and Rousseau’s Noble Savage and have established a scientific basis for exploring a universal human nature. Economic theory, practice, and experiment have undermined the basis for Cartesian central planning: decentralised coordination via market prices is generally a better method for dealing with vast numbers of possibilities than Cartesian or Soviet planning, though obviously markets have problems particularly with monetary policy and financial regulation.”

There is a grandeur and sweep here that it is hard not be impressed by. Just think: all those big names in the second list – they all got it wrong. It turns out that evolution and neuroscience and all that neat stuff explain everything. Descartes and Soviet planning can be put in the same box because they’re both about people deciding things, and that’s so last millennium.

But wait – aren’t some people playing for the wrong team? If the first group are all about impersonal evolutionary systems and the second about individual human reasoners, shouldn’t Marx be in (perhaps even captain of) the first team? Come to that, is Thucydides such an evolutionary thinker, or doesn’t he emphasise the power of unchanging basic human motives in a way that has some affinities with, let’s say, Hobbes? (Certainly that was Hobbes’s own view.)

The point is not to juggle the team selections so much as to wonder whether any useful historical purpose can be served by operating at such a high, and high-handed, level of generality. The differences among the names on the first list alone are far more interesting than any putative common characteristic. But also, is there really a logical connection between the diverse ideas of the first group and a commitment to markets, or is that list of big names a cross between window-dressing and bullying? Aren’t we moving a tad quickly to the conclusion that prices do better than planning? (It’s hard to know what “Cartesian planning” would look like: “I think, therefore I plan”?)



In so far as there is a consistent politics here, it looks Hayekian – that is, akin to the anti-statist thinking of the Austrian economist Friedrich von Hayek, whose 1944 book The Road to Serfdom influentially argued that central planning was inimical to liberty as well as being ultimately self-defeating. He quotes with approval Hayek’s dictum that “order generated without design can far outstrip plans men consciously contrive”. Cummings scorns traditional political labels, but his admiration for single-minded entrepreneurs, his obsession with the role of off-the-scale IQ and his belief in self-regulating economic systems scarcely make him a promising recruit for the left.

More generally, it’s hard to know how one could decide whether his “Odyssean education” essay, which his subsequent blogs draw upon extensively, is a) an astonishing intellectual tour de force knowledgably knitting together material from a wide range of disciplines, or b) a load of cod-science based on cobbling together hasty conclusions from random reading. Rather to my surprise, I now think it’s more of the first than the second. A lot of the time I found myself struggling to keep up, while admiring the sheer intellectual courage involved in trespassing so daringly. At other times, I felt I had been backed into a corner at a party by a wild-eyed obsessive jabbing his finger into my chest and saying, “Not many people know this, but … ”

Cummings clearly has a talent as well as an enthusiasm for expounding really quite technical scientific ideas. Even I had moments, reading his account, where I thought I half-understood something of what is involved in, say, sequencing the genome. But at other times, the jump from the science to the policy seemed altogether too confident to be persuasive. For example:

“Most of our politics is still conducted with the morality and the language of the simple primitive hunter-gatherer tribe… Our ‘chimp politics’ has an evolutionary logic: our powerful evolved instinct to conform to a group view is a flip-side of our evolved in-group solidarity and hostility to out-groups … This partly explains the persistent popularity of collectivist policies … and why ‘groupthink’ is a recurring disaster.”

Whoa, hold on! There is a good reason why all attempts to draw a straightforward inference for current social life from something referred to as “evolution” always end up with a lot of egg on face: the supposed “evolutionary logic” explains everything and nothing. No amount of Attenborough-like attention to the gambolling of chimps in trees (a gaze already vitiated by its anthropomorphising tendencies) can yield an explanation for the “persistent popularity of collectivist policies”. After all, quite a few “chimps”, it turns out, prefer to vote Tory. And anyway, why is the popularity of “collectivist policies” any more in need of deep (and in some sense discrediting) explanation than that of, say, individualist policies? Somewhere along the journey from the science to the politics, an awful lot of non-scientific baggage seems to have got stacked on the wagon.

Dominic Cummings is now, in effect, the country’s project manager. He’s the Downing Street version of the Deliveroo guy who doesn’t care whether you’ve ordered pepperoni or four-cheese: his job is to make it happen, and if that involves cycling the wrong way up one-way streets then that’s probably a plus. His writing displays an alarming ability to focus on a goal to the exclusion of noticing, or caring about, any amount of collateral damage. Emotions mostly figure as forms of irrational distraction. Toes, after all, were put in the world largely to be trodden on. People around him don’t have to take umbrage: he gives it to them, makes a present of it, with a liberality that would put a drunk in a bar to shame. He knows he has the intellectual firepower to be able to say: “Get your thinktanks off my lawn.”

Cummings himself quotes William James’s pronouncement: “When superior intellect and a psychopathic temperament coalesce … we have the best possible conditions for the kind of effective genius that gets into the biographical dictionaries.” It may be that that’s how we should think of Cummings – as “an effective genius”, or, rather, a genius of effectiveness. He is admirably committed to learning from science and to basing policies on evidence in a more than cursory way, but in the end, delivery is the point. “Get x done”, where (we might pseudo-mathematically say) the value of x equals a multiple of results from focus groups plus the square root of whatever appears to favour breakout thinking.

I would hesitate to treat Cummings as representative of anything: he’s made being a one-off into an art form. But in so far as his writing chimes with certain contemporary cultural traits, perhaps one common element is a kind of dismissive impatience. The widely remarked decline of deference over the past couple of generations has been welcome on several counts, but in many quarters it has gone along with an unwillingness to find much of value or interest in anything that doesn’t speak directly to one’s own wishes in the present. When expressed in political terms, this kind of impatience is obviously not a monopoly of the left or the right; if anything, it can tend towards a rejection of the traditional forms of politics and political debate altogether. When combined with a fascination with the potential of science and technology, this urge translates into a form of technocracy; when laced with a hostility to traditional “elites”, this generates that distinctive modern hybrid, populist technocracy. Screw all those convoluted arguments: this is what we want, let’s get it done.

It may be that the left has more to fear than the right from this irritable dismissal of political argument, since any progressive politics is reliant on reasoned discourse in making the case against the injustices of the status quo, and such discourse is inevitably a laborious, uneven business, much indebted to the thinking of earlier generations. Cummings is clearly not a conventional Tory, but perhaps his impatient individualism does express one of the most fundamental structures of feeling informing contemporary attitudes towards politics – one that the left needs to challenge rather than simply to accommodate.

There is a long tradition of advisers to princes sharing their political understanding with the rest of us. To take just the best-known example, Machiavelli’s reflections after working in Renaissance Florence’s equivalent of Whitehall became a classic. Nothing Cummings has written up till now is in this league, but it will be interesting to see what he produces once he has laid down his carrier bag. Thus far, if there’s timeless political wisdom here, it’s more Warren Buffett than Walter Bagehot (Buffett is another of Cummings’s heroes, a model of focus). But I suspect his place in future “biographical dictionaries” will depend more on what he does than what he writes, despite all the indisputable power of mind exhibited in his forays into recent quantitative and biological research. And from that perspective, I only hope that, rather than figuring as an amalgam of Thucydides and Stephen Hawking, he doesn’t end up looking more like an unnerving cross between Robespierre and Dr Strangelove.
 

formby001

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Been in four of these Pubs: The Phil (Philharmonic), The Vines & Peter Kavanaghs which are all in Liverpool many times and The Haunch of Venison in Salisbury several times.

The Phil, was a favourite of the Beatles, especially John Lennon who said it was his favourite boozer.

 

Pimpernel Smith

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Enjoyed this:

Source: www.theguardian.com

Inside the mind of Dominic Cummings

He is now the country’s de facto project manager, but what does he actually believe? In a bid to find out, I read (almost) everything Cummings has written in the last decade. By Stefan Collini

When the prime minister of the day describes you as a “career psychopath”, your chances of preferment in the political world may not seem rosy. When associates of a leading minister refer to you as “that jumped-up oik”, you may sense you’re not winning friends in high places. When a senior official in the department where you are employed calls you “a mutant virus”, you may feel less than wholly accepted. And when a prominent MP in the party you work for denounces you as “an unelected foul-mouthed oaf”, it may seem that the game is up. Furnished with these testimonials, some downsizing of career ambitions may appear to be in order.

But Dominic Cummings has never played by the rules, and now, as Boris Johnson’s de facto chief-of-staff, he has become perhaps the most powerful unelected political figure in the country. He thus has an exceptional opportunity to put his ideas into practice. But what are his ideas? Commentators seem vaguely aware that, although he studied history at university, he has dabbled in more than one scientific discipline over the years, but no one, it appears, has really tried to take the measure of Cummings as a serious thinker.

There has, of course, been no shortage of comment on the various roles he has played in British political life in the last couple of decades. He came to the fore as a special adviser to the Tory politician Michael Gove between 2007 and 2013 (ie both before and during Gove’s tumultuous years as secretary of state for education); he attracted further attention as the chief administrative mastermind behind the successful leave campaign in the 2016 referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU; and when Boris Johnson became prime minister in July 2019, Cummings was installed as his chief aide, directing operations from within Downing Street.

What may be less well known is that for much of this period Cummings has maintained an unusual blog, where he has posted extensive ruminations on his reading, enthusiastic reports about breakthroughs in science and pungent contributions to debates about education, spicing the mix with some notably unbuttoned ad hominem side-swipes – for example, describing David Davis, then the Brexit minister, as “thick as mince”. Several of these posts have an intrinsic intellectual interest, but, given his current role at the heart of power, they may also yield insights into the thinking of someone whose ideas could soon have consequences for all of us.


I can’t honestly claim to do much by way of community service but, as some twisted equivalent of a new year resolution, I decided I would sacrifice myself for the common good in January by spending the greater part of the month reading The Complete Blogs of Dominic Cummings. Well, perhaps not quite complete, as I have only gone back to 2013 and I have skipped several of the more functional or repetitive pieces, but I have more than compensated for any light-footed skimming by reading all 133,000 words of his magnum opus, posted in 2014 and titled “Some thoughts on education and political priorities”, in which he described his ideal of “an Odyssean education”. What follows is my report on this unusual body of work.

Dominic Cummings is the best-known unknown historian of ideas in the country. Learned contributions to this scholarly field are, of course, not what he is celebrated for, but a surprising amount of what he writes falls under this label. He is fascinated by ideas – partly fascinated by their beauty and power, partly fascinated in the same way as a small boy is fascinated by firecrackers that can be let off behind unsuspecting old ladies. In Cummings’s view, the world seems to be largely populated by old ladies, metaphorically speaking – timid, easily spooked people whom he delights in unsettling.

But his firecrackers are assembled from genuine scientific components. Cummings is knowledgeable about an impressive variety of disciplines, and from this formidable if eclectic reading he has attempted to synthesise ideas he believes would transform the way the world is run (lack of ambition is not a defect of his thinking). The sense in which I am, tongue only slightly in cheek, calling him a “historian of ideas” is that he traces in some detail the evolution of the ideas that interest him, and gives us, especially in his remarkable book-length essay on the elements of a university curriculum that comprise his “Odyssean education”, a crash course in the history of mathematics, physics, genetics, psychology, economics and much more.

He takes the term “Odyssean education” from the Nobel-winning physicist Murray Gell-Mann, referring to “an education that starts with the biggest questions and problems and teaches people to understand connections between them”. The aim would be to “train synthesisers”. He appears contemptuous of most politicians, almost all media commentators, and all civil servants: none of these people really understand statistical modelling, quantum computation, synthetic biology, and so on. (Too many of them studied PPE (philosophy, politics and economics) at Oxford University – which, in his view, just turns duffers into bluffers.) As a result, they make or encourage poor decisions. Better “project management in complex organisations” is what we need, and his essay sketches a wide-ranging syllabus that would educate the effective decision-makers of the future.

More broadly, Cummings repeatedly argues that the processes of government need to include 1) a number of outstanding scientists capable of bringing fundamental science to bear on policy formation, and 2) a general level of scientific and numerical literacy such that MPs, officials, journalists and others can understand basic scientific discoveries and their significance. The overall aim should be to make the UK “the leading country for education and science”.


At times, he can make this seem like the merest common sense; at other times he sounds like CP Snow on speed (Snow’s Two Cultures lecture of 1959 is mainly remembered for its ardent advocacy of the need for scientific literacy among policymakers). He has attained an impressive level of scientific understanding himself, but with it has come more than a touch of the boffin’s bee-filled bonnet. A good example of this unsteady combination is provided by his attempt to imagine the effect that genome-sequencing may have on the NHS in terms of identifying risk factors for certain diseases, eliminating congenital defects, and so on. The potential benefits and efficiencies are certainly striking. But he cannot resist going further, a little too quickly: “We will soon be able to re-make human nature itself,” he writes. No point in pussy-footing around just doing hip replacements – let’s do a complete makeover while we’re in there.

As all this suggests, Cummings is undeniably clever, even if not always notably judicious. Intellectual restlessness is one of his hallmarks: his capacity to stretch his mind, to absorb new ideas, to see parallels and analogies that jump across the tracks, is constantly on display. He is an Oxford history graduate who has turned himself into a numbers guy, or at least into the frontman for the numbers people – someone who understands enough of what they do to make the case for its importance to the rest of us. He says he’s happy to be told where he’s wrong, though you can’t help feeling that he doesn’t expect there will be much call for such frankness.

And there are any number of things he is right about, or anyway right-ish. One is the foolishness of diverting funding away from basic “blue skies” scientific research in order to promote more applied work. Governments are prone to think that doing this will lead to more immediately useful outcomes, and hence it will be easier to justify the public expenditure involved, but the historical record is against them. Over and over again, theoretical enquiries that looked at the time to have no useful application turn out to be what enabled various later practical advances and inventions, from code-breaking to computers. Cummings understands this: he not only prioritises basic science, but he gets the need to give people the autonomy and security to explore not obviously useful-looking avenues of enquiry.

At times, he can seem to flirt with a kind of anarchic libertarianism, attracted by a vision of unconstrained individual creativity, but against this is his recognition of the need for central state funding of basic science. He rightly stresses the role of federal funding in providing the research base for the Silicon Valley phenomenon in the US, for example, and he looks favourably on institutions such as the CNRS in France that are designed to sustain research on a long-term basis. (He also says, rather gnomically, that he is not a libertarian because it’s “not consistent with evolutionary biology”.) Overall he is surely right that public debate desperately needs more statistical literacy, as well as a better appreciation of the long-term benefits of basic research.

Cummings’s call for a curriculum that might combine, say, maths, science and history is driven by his focus on “project management” in politics. Such an education would, he contends, provide a training in the calculation of probabilities when weighing competing proposals. But there is a recurring difficulty with schemes that attempt to build in “interdisciplinarity” from the start. Yes, it sounds great to scorn those who are “stuck in their disciplinary silos” and to laud imaginative thinkers who address the really “big problems”, and so on, but the fact is that you can’t educate someone to be interdisciplinary. You have to educate them in particular disciplines (possibly more than one), and then set up more specific or temporary or opportunistic arrangements for bringing them together and cross-pollinating. If we are to stay on Cummings’s preferred ground of intellectual history, we would have to point out that, in modern times, nearly all the influential ideas and great discoveries have come from people working within a particular discipline. Specialisation is the precondition of intellectual advance, even if subsequent interdisciplinary thinking can then sometimes be an effective way to address complex practical problems.

In his ambitious intellectual and educational synthesis there are some obvious, and rather predictable, lacunae. He is dismissive of most of the social sciences, especially sociology and anthropology, precisely because they purport to explore the distinctive power of “the social”: their practitioners are mostly “charlatans”. Here he sounds like a souped-up version of Margaret Thatcher: there is no such thing as “society”, just the patterned interaction of evolutionarily moulded individuals. There are frequent irritable swipes at something called “French literary theory” and the damage it has allegedly done to the humanities; here we seem to be encountering nothing more than a lazy journalistic stereotype, a headline-happy approach that contrasts so strikingly with the care with which he expounds ideas from, say, evolutionary psychology.

His voluminous writings suggest no cultivated interest in the study of art or music, nor, a few allusions to Dostoevsky and Tolstoy aside, in literature, or anyway not in literary criticism, though one wonders whether he might not have a taste for certain forms of science fiction. A few philosophers get walk-on parts (he quotes Nietzsche fairly often, but then who doesn’t?), but on the whole he seems to treat modern philosophy, certainly the discipline of academic philosophy, as an irrelevance or an obstruction. Although he expresses a general commitment to including the humanities in his synthesis, in practice they (with the exception of history) seem marginal to his main interests.

However, there is another omission that is less predictable, yet, in its way, more revealing. Cummings is practically silent about jurisprudence and the law. (In his diatribes against the always obstructive civil service, “legal arguments” are occasionally mentioned, but only to be swatted aside as another typical ruse by these masters of delay.) This is significant because legal systems and legal reasoning involve attempts to draw up general rules and procedures to govern human interaction. The law, especially in a common-law system, is a historical enterprise in a way that Cummings should, in principle, approve of. That is to say, it seeks constantly to modify the agreed rules in the light of new circumstances; in this respect, it is one large feedback loop. And it attempts to take into account not just the purposes informing any given individual’s actions, but the likely effect of such actions on the interests of others, now and in the future. Accumulated legal reasoning becomes, therefore, the great repository of wisdom about the social consequences of allowing this action or preventing that action, and it is, in an important sense, no respecter of persons: no one, as the phrase has it, is above the law.




Great leaders, revolutionaries, “men of action” and over-confident mavericks of all types always want to sweep the law aside, seeing only its negative character as a slow-moving body of outdated constraints on freedom of action – but that, of course, suggests why it is so precious. There’s a fine exchange in Robert Bolt’s play A Man for All Seasons between Sir Thomas More, the lord chancellor who was to be executed for his opposition to Henry VIII’s break with Rome, and his earnest son-in-law, William Roper, in which Roper says he would cut down every law in England to get after the Devil, and More replies: “Oh? And, when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you – where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat?”

More’s point, of course, is that if, when we have the power, we impatiently strike down all the laws that stand in our way, we shall have no protections to turn to when power is in the hands of others. Cummings writes from the perspective of someone who’s in a hurry to get the thing done, never from the perspective of the judge who has been schooled to reflect on the potentially damaging consequences in the future of licensing this particular action in the present.

To balance Cummings’s imagined course of maths, science and history, I could, teasingly, suggest that a no less valuable preparation for public life might be a combination of philosophy, jurisprudence and literature. Philosophy would introduce habits of analysis and undermine certainty or dogmatism; jurisprudence would teach an appreciation of rules, procedures and the judgment of consequences; and the study of literature would weaken the hold of cliche and all exaggerated beliefs in the fixity of meaning. It might be said, not altogether unfairly, that Cummings’s course would produce doers and mine would produce critics (though the disciplines I suggest constantly generate new ideas rather than merely criticising old ones), but I would say that a healthy politics needs both, and that the more we emphasise the first category and try to give its occupants their head, the more we need the virtues of the second category to hold them in check.

Cummings, of course, believes that this is just what we don’t need. We “don’t want more Oxbridge English graduates who chat about Lacan at dinner parties with TV producers and spread fake news about fake news”, he wrote last month. This is an economical bit of target practice – everyone knows, don’t they, that one can hardly move in north London these days without falling over “chat about Lacan at dinner parties” – but there may be deeper cultural antagonisms at work here. The datedness of the jibe about Lacan may suggest a long-nurtured touchiness. At one point Cummings says of himself, rather engagingly, “I am not articulate”, but you sense that he doesn’t particularly rate articulateness in the first place. So much of what others think of as “culture” he regards as “noise”. Perhaps his recent call for “super-talented weirdos” to apply for staff jobs in Downing Street should be seen as something of a dating pitch.

In Cummings’s ontology, the world appears to be made up of an extremely small number of outstandingly clever individuals and a mass of mediocrities. Human progress depends on giving those with the highest IQ (he’s very keen on the notion of IQ) the education that will allow them fully to develop their talents and then the freedom to apply them. His culture heroes are those few outstanding mathematicians and scientists who fundamentally changed a whole intellectual field, such as Kurt Gödel, John von Neumann and Richard Feynman. He has an abiding interest not just in what kinds of conditions have favoured scientific breakthroughs in the past and how we might replicate those today, but even more in the organisational or management processes that enabled complex, long-term, science-based projects to translate brilliant new ideas into successful practical outcomes, such as Nasa (putting the first man on the moon) or Parc (the Palo Alto Research Center, which was the foundation of Silicon Valley’s triumphs), and he gives illuminating accounts of their modus operandi. Just how far such procedures could be transferred to the muddy, shifting, contested world of politics is an open question, but Cummings insists they would be a big improvement on what we have now.

Politics is, by definition, the terrain of conflicting convictions, and although in principle Cummings lauds the idea of “feedback” and the correction of error, in practice he seems to struggle with the idea of genuine intellectual disagreement. There are traces of that kind of absolute certainty that is more often shown by fellow-travellers of science rather than by first-rate scientists themselves. And he is a bit quick to write off opposition to his ideas as yet another example of the self-protective vested interests of the establishment (as the maverick’s maverick, he, of course, is not part of “the establishment”). “The political-media system actively suppresses thinking about, and focus on, what’s important”, he writes. One of the things that irks him about politics is that it involves so much damn talk. For example, he speaks contemptuously of the debate about the EU referendum in 2016, the outcome of which he played such a signal part in influencing: “Most of the ‘debate’ was moronic as political debate always is.” At least he cannot be accused of seeking cheap popularity.

In a curious way, there is very little politics in Cummings’s political thinking: it’s largely about the operational process, not about the substantive aims, and there does not seem to be much feel for the irresolvable conflicts over fundamental values that are at the heart of political life. He extols the speed at which the denizens of Parc got things done: meetings in the political world, by contrast, “tend to be just jibber-jabber”. He has a natural antipathy to entities that seem to him to do little but block innovation – professional associations, the civil service, trade unions, big organisations generally. His ideal form of government is one that operates like a small start-up: a few bright guys (they mostly seem to be guys), some unconventional thinking, no red tape and hey presto, something actually gets done. If Cummings has some claims to be regarded as an intellectual among technocrats, there is also a sense in which he is a technocrat among intellectuals. He is far more interested in abstract ideas than most technocrats, but he is far more interested in results than most intellectuals.

A striking further aspect of Cummings’s worldview is a lively conviction that total disaster for humanity may be right around the corner: as he says darkly, “it’s just a matter of when”. Think about the possibility of pathogens escaping from high-security bio-labs and causing a global pandemic: we urgently need to be testing these labs’ security by setting up a new team that should include “specialist criminals” (well, yes, I suppose they are the experts in “testing security”). Or again, if you can understand probability – few can, in his view – then you will know that the Earth will be destroyed by an asteroid before long unless we do something about it: “We know this for sure”. One major reason for exploring outer space is to find somewhere habitable in which humans can sit out the destruction of the Earth (no, really), “thus avoiding the difficult problems of keeping humans alive for thousands of years on spaceships” (just when you thought you had enough to worry about). Existential paranoia on a galactic scale is, it seems, the new normal.

But no summary does justice to the fizz and energy of his forays into the world of ideas. Here’s a representative example of Cummings wearing his historian-of-ideas hat:

“What we have learned about our world vindicates the evolutionary perspective of the pre-Socratics (Anaximander, Heraclitus), Thucydides, Hume, Smith, Darwin, and Hayek over the anthropocentric perspective of Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Hobbes, Rousseau (“the general will”), Bentham, Mill (who introduced the concept of the “natural monopoly”) and Marx. Evolutionary biology, neuroscience, cognitive science, and behavioural genetics have undermined the basis for Descartes’ Ghost in the Machine, Locke’s Blank Slate, and Rousseau’s Noble Savage and have established a scientific basis for exploring a universal human nature. Economic theory, practice, and experiment have undermined the basis for Cartesian central planning: decentralised coordination via market prices is generally a better method for dealing with vast numbers of possibilities than Cartesian or Soviet planning, though obviously markets have problems particularly with monetary policy and financial regulation.”

There is a grandeur and sweep here that it is hard not be impressed by. Just think: all those big names in the second list – they all got it wrong. It turns out that evolution and neuroscience and all that neat stuff explain everything. Descartes and Soviet planning can be put in the same box because they’re both about people deciding things, and that’s so last millennium.

But wait – aren’t some people playing for the wrong team? If the first group are all about impersonal evolutionary systems and the second about individual human reasoners, shouldn’t Marx be in (perhaps even captain of) the first team? Come to that, is Thucydides such an evolutionary thinker, or doesn’t he emphasise the power of unchanging basic human motives in a way that has some affinities with, let’s say, Hobbes? (Certainly that was Hobbes’s own view.)

The point is not to juggle the team selections so much as to wonder whether any useful historical purpose can be served by operating at such a high, and high-handed, level of generality. The differences among the names on the first list alone are far more interesting than any putative common characteristic. But also, is there really a logical connection between the diverse ideas of the first group and a commitment to markets, or is that list of big names a cross between window-dressing and bullying? Aren’t we moving a tad quickly to the conclusion that prices do better than planning? (It’s hard to know what “Cartesian planning” would look like: “I think, therefore I plan”?)



In so far as there is a consistent politics here, it looks Hayekian – that is, akin to the anti-statist thinking of the Austrian economist Friedrich von Hayek, whose 1944 book The Road to Serfdom influentially argued that central planning was inimical to liberty as well as being ultimately self-defeating. He quotes with approval Hayek’s dictum that “order generated without design can far outstrip plans men consciously contrive”. Cummings scorns traditional political labels, but his admiration for single-minded entrepreneurs, his obsession with the role of off-the-scale IQ and his belief in self-regulating economic systems scarcely make him a promising recruit for the left.

More generally, it’s hard to know how one could decide whether his “Odyssean education” essay, which his subsequent blogs draw upon extensively, is a) an astonishing intellectual tour de force knowledgably knitting together material from a wide range of disciplines, or b) a load of cod-science based on cobbling together hasty conclusions from random reading. Rather to my surprise, I now think it’s more of the first than the second. A lot of the time I found myself struggling to keep up, while admiring the sheer intellectual courage involved in trespassing so daringly. At other times, I felt I had been backed into a corner at a party by a wild-eyed obsessive jabbing his finger into my chest and saying, “Not many people know this, but … ”

Cummings clearly has a talent as well as an enthusiasm for expounding really quite technical scientific ideas. Even I had moments, reading his account, where I thought I half-understood something of what is involved in, say, sequencing the genome. But at other times, the jump from the science to the policy seemed altogether too confident to be persuasive. For example:

“Most of our politics is still conducted with the morality and the language of the simple primitive hunter-gatherer tribe… Our ‘chimp politics’ has an evolutionary logic: our powerful evolved instinct to conform to a group view is a flip-side of our evolved in-group solidarity and hostility to out-groups … This partly explains the persistent popularity of collectivist policies … and why ‘groupthink’ is a recurring disaster.”

Whoa, hold on! There is a good reason why all attempts to draw a straightforward inference for current social life from something referred to as “evolution” always end up with a lot of egg on face: the supposed “evolutionary logic” explains everything and nothing. No amount of Attenborough-like attention to the gambolling of chimps in trees (a gaze already vitiated by its anthropomorphising tendencies) can yield an explanation for the “persistent popularity of collectivist policies”. After all, quite a few “chimps”, it turns out, prefer to vote Tory. And anyway, why is the popularity of “collectivist policies” any more in need of deep (and in some sense discrediting) explanation than that of, say, individualist policies? Somewhere along the journey from the science to the politics, an awful lot of non-scientific baggage seems to have got stacked on the wagon.

Dominic Cummings is now, in effect, the country’s project manager. He’s the Downing Street version of the Deliveroo guy who doesn’t care whether you’ve ordered pepperoni or four-cheese: his job is to make it happen, and if that involves cycling the wrong way up one-way streets then that’s probably a plus. His writing displays an alarming ability to focus on a goal to the exclusion of noticing, or caring about, any amount of collateral damage. Emotions mostly figure as forms of irrational distraction. Toes, after all, were put in the world largely to be trodden on. People around him don’t have to take umbrage: he gives it to them, makes a present of it, with a liberality that would put a drunk in a bar to shame. He knows he has the intellectual firepower to be able to say: “Get your thinktanks off my lawn.”

Cummings himself quotes William James’s pronouncement: “When superior intellect and a psychopathic temperament coalesce … we have the best possible conditions for the kind of effective genius that gets into the biographical dictionaries.” It may be that that’s how we should think of Cummings – as “an effective genius”, or, rather, a genius of effectiveness. He is admirably committed to learning from science and to basing policies on evidence in a more than cursory way, but in the end, delivery is the point. “Get x done”, where (we might pseudo-mathematically say) the value of x equals a multiple of results from focus groups plus the square root of whatever appears to favour breakout thinking.

I would hesitate to treat Cummings as representative of anything: he’s made being a one-off into an art form. But in so far as his writing chimes with certain contemporary cultural traits, perhaps one common element is a kind of dismissive impatience. The widely remarked decline of deference over the past couple of generations has been welcome on several counts, but in many quarters it has gone along with an unwillingness to find much of value or interest in anything that doesn’t speak directly to one’s own wishes in the present. When expressed in political terms, this kind of impatience is obviously not a monopoly of the left or the right; if anything, it can tend towards a rejection of the traditional forms of politics and political debate altogether. When combined with a fascination with the potential of science and technology, this urge translates into a form of technocracy; when laced with a hostility to traditional “elites”, this generates that distinctive modern hybrid, populist technocracy. Screw all those convoluted arguments: this is what we want, let’s get it done.

It may be that the left has more to fear than the right from this irritable dismissal of political argument, since any progressive politics is reliant on reasoned discourse in making the case against the injustices of the status quo, and such discourse is inevitably a laborious, uneven business, much indebted to the thinking of earlier generations. Cummings is clearly not a conventional Tory, but perhaps his impatient individualism does express one of the most fundamental structures of feeling informing contemporary attitudes towards politics – one that the left needs to challenge rather than simply to accommodate.

There is a long tradition of advisers to princes sharing their political understanding with the rest of us. To take just the best-known example, Machiavelli’s reflections after working in Renaissance Florence’s equivalent of Whitehall became a classic. Nothing Cummings has written up till now is in this league, but it will be interesting to see what he produces once he has laid down his carrier bag. Thus far, if there’s timeless political wisdom here, it’s more Warren Buffett than Walter Bagehot (Buffett is another of Cummings’s heroes, a model of focus). But I suspect his place in future “biographical dictionaries” will depend more on what he does than what he writes, despite all the indisputable power of mind exhibited in his forays into recent quantitative and biological research. And from that perspective, I only hope that, rather than figuring as an amalgam of Thucydides and Stephen Hawking, he doesn’t end up looking more like an unnerving cross between Robespierre and Dr Strangelove.
Sounds exactly like someone you would want in your team.

Been in four of these Pubs: The Phil (Philharmonic), The Vines & Peter Kavanaghs which are all in Liverpool many times and The Haunch of Venison in Salisbury several times.

The Phil, was a favourite of the Beatles, especially John Lennon who said it was his favourite boozer.

Only know The Phil, thought it was a gin palace? Gets a mention in Elvis Costello's autobiography too.
 

formby001

Well-Known Member
Messages
140
Sounds exactly like someone you would want in your team.



Only know The Phil, thought it was a gin palace? Gets a mention in Elvis Costello's autobiography too.
The Phil has two ante-rooms (snugs) called Brahms & Liszt. Brahms to the left & Lizst to the right.

The Vines is in-between Lime St station and The Adelphi.

Peter Kavanagh's is in the Georgian Quarter just off Upper Parliament St.

Lion Tavern on Tithebarn St is another ornate pub.
 
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