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Why Covid won’t kill off populism Those hardest hit by the Great Lockdown are the ones who were already rejecting mainstream politics

The Great Lockdown will create a triple-headed crisis. Credit: Mark Makela/Getty

The Great Lockdown will create a triple-headed crisis. Credit: Mark Makela/Getty


July 6, 2020   7 mins

The present is pregnant with the future.

I thought of this quote while reading a whole raft of recent pieces on the future of politics — specifically the future of populism. Every few years, the same question rolls around. Have we reached ‘peak populism’, or is there still room for growth?

Your answer is inevitably shaped by your ideological priors. If you think that the world is generally going to hell in a handcart pushed by the populists, then you have probably spent this crisis searching around for any sign, however small, that things are about to shift gear.

Here’s one possible chain of events. Joe Biden defeats Trump in November; Emmanuel Macron is then re-elected in France, while Jair Bolsonaro loses in Brazil. National populists lose support at European elections in 2024, while Boris Johnson’s Conservatives are replaced by a Labour-led coalition. Suddenly the debate is transformed. Ding dong the populists are dead. Liberalism is back. The End of History returns. Francis Fukuyama smiles.

Populists, in general, have not had a good crisis. Trump’s approval ratings are down. Bolsonaro’s have fallen off a cliff. Matteo Salvini’s League has been sliding in the polls. Austria’s Freedom Party is down. Sweden Democrats are down. The Alternative for Germany is down. Spain’s Vox is just treading water. Marine Le Pen’s movement just captured the southern city of Perpignan but her candidate did not use the party brand, while her party stood fewer candidates and saw its number of councillors decline by nearly 600.

Furthermore, the grand coalition in Germany is up in the polls and so too is Macron. Despite suffering losses to the Greens a week ago, his own leadership ratings have improved. Meanwhile, contrary to the prediction that other EU member states would follow Britain by staging their own version of Brexit  — or what I am told would be called Quitaly in Italy, Frexit in France, Leavia in Latvia, No-Land in Poland, Out-stria in Austria and Czech-Out in the Czech Republic — the latest results of the most reputable survey on the continent find strong and robust public support for EU membership almost everywhere (including, um, Britain).

In short, no serious analyst can look at the coronavirus crisis and say that it has been good for populists. Perhaps then we really have reached peak populism?

There is a different and more nuanced view, however. It was put forward last week by Gideon Rachman who agrees that while the crisis might eventually kill populism, not least because Covid-19 demands evidence-led managers over ideology-led amateurs, “there is no guarantee that the populists will go quietly”.

What does he mean by this?

The renewed prospect of culture wars over emotive issues like race and national symbols, the fact that the underlying drivers of populism are deep-rooted and still visible and the possibility that democratic norms could still break down in America (I find this less likely) and Brazil (this is more so) all suggest that while we might soon be getting off the populist rollercoaster there could yet be a few more twists and turns in store.

It’s a perfectly compelling argument, not least because the one thing we know about all big crises, as sure as night follows day, is that they are followed by significant political volatility.

The Great Depression was followed by totalitarianism and global war, while even quite localised crises like the ERM crisis in Britain fed into seismic changes in the polls (John Major’s Conservatives never again enjoyed a lead over the Labour Party that was outside the margin of error). And then came the Great Recession.

Had readers been asked to take a guess at the effects of the post-2008 crisis in the immediate aftermath of the fall of Lehman Brothers, then I think very few would have forecast the sheer scale of the turmoil that was about to unfold.

Ten years ago, a younger you walks into your local bookie and asks for an accumulator bet that the then-host of the US show The Apprentice will become President, that the UK will vote to exit the European Union, and that a far-right party in Germany will win more than 90 seats in the Bundestag. Who’d have guessed that you’d clean up.

It’s only by looking back now, over a decade later, that we can see how the crisis cleared the way for the rise of anti-establishment populism, the fragmentation of Europe’s party systems and much higher rates of political volatility. We can also see how it sparked a general collapse of public trust in politics and a sharp decline in satisfaction with democracy, most visibly in southern Europe — an area that has today once again been hit by yet another crisis.

So, if we accept that political turbulence always lies downstream of crises, then perhaps we can agree that the Great Lockdown will also have seismic effects. I would probably go further than Rachman and argue that this crisis looks set to have a far more profound impact on our politics than we probably realise.

What differentiates the Great Recession from the Great Lockdown is that while the former presented a double crisis that started in the markets and then trickled down into society, the latter has thrown us into a far more complex triple crisis that is unfolding on three fronts — health, economics and politics.

It is already massively reshaping the relationship between the citizen and state. If the 1930s saw the return of the state after the failure of financial markets, and the 1980s saw the return of the markets after the failure of the state, then the Great Recession and the Great Lockdown combined have paved the way for the return of the state after the failure of the markets.

The end result, as we can already see, will be bigger government that is more willing to intervene and spend. The sheer number of private-sector workers who have relied on the state, the bailouts, the sharp increases in deficits and rocketing piles of debt all point to how fiscal conservativism was one of the first victims of this crisis. The ‘neo-liberal’ free market capitalism that ran riot in earlier years is simply no longer in touch with the public mood.

As Fukuyama has pointed out, just try to make the Reaganite argument to voters today that government is not the solution but the problem. It simply no longer sounds credible. We are living in a world where Jack Dorsey donated $1 billion to tackle the crisis while the US congress has so far thrown more than $2 trillion at it. This could help mainstream parties that are more experienced at using the state and government to deliver results.

But it seems to me that this more protectionist mood in politics could just as plausibly chime with the arguments that populists are making. Back in the 1990s it was argued that the winning formula for the populist right was a combination of economic liberalism and cultural authoritarianism. Stay relaxed about the markets but crack down on migrants, basically. But since then many populists have been drifting Left on economics, becoming more critical of globalisation, corporate elites and crony capitalism. It’s Tucker Carlson, Steve Bannon and Marine Le Pen mixed together.

Only a few years ago, economic nationalism was widely derided but it’s worth pointing out that today you do not need to look far to find mainstream politicians and governments making similar ‘nation first’ noises. Populists might not need to win power. Things might simply move in their direction anyway.

The sheer scale of the crisis also means that the issue agenda of politics will likely change. It was nearly 30 years ago, in 1992, when James Carville convinced a lot of us that it really is the economy, stupid. But then along came the 2010s with the message that it’s the culture too, stupid. Perhaps, though, the 2020s will see the revenge of Carville as debates over identity make way for a resurgence of debates over the economy. We’ve all grown used to talking about the arrival of a second values dimension in politics that runs from liberal to conservative. But perhaps the ‘Left versus Right’ dimension isn’t finished with us just yet.

Some have argued that it was in the aftermath of the depression of the 1930s and then global war that people found a new spirit of collective solidarity that led to the New Deal, welfare states in Europe and a compromise between governments and workers. But this more optimistic take does not sit comfortably with the fact that Covid-19 has been an asymmetric shock — we have not been ‘in this all together’. And this is especially true in Europe.

I tend to treat all economic forecasts with caution as they are like sausages; when you’ve seen how they are made you don’t want to go near them. But even then, the IMF tells us that while states like Germany will see a 7.8-point drop in GDP next year, in Italy and Spain this will be closer to 13-points. The asymmetric shock was not only visible as we headed into the crisis but will be even more visible as we eventually come out of it on the other side. Growth rates, jobless rates, the scale of debt and the level of investment will all look remarkably different according to whether you are in the north or south of the continent. The clear and present risk facing Europe is also something that will likely produce more of those twists and turns: economic divergence.

This time around it could have a harder edge. Quarantini-sipping professionals spending the crisis on Zoom have had, and will continue to have, a profoundly different experience from the left-behind workers who have, essentially, kept the show on the road.

In the first phase of the crisis, our social isolation was compulsory. Now it is voluntary. And that means that over the longer-term it will become an economic luxury. Excluding ethnic minorities, the groups that are being hit hardest by the economic and health crises are the very same groups that were swapping the mainstream for populists before the crisis. Will they suddenly have a change of heart? Perhaps. But I just don’t find that very convincing.

They could stop voting altogether, of course. Or they could turn to even more radical parties. One recent development that few people appear to have noticed is that whereas national populists overall have had a mixed or bleak crisis, in states such as Netherlands, Italy and Denmark, there are signs that new movements are on the rise. Italy’s Brothers of Italy, the Forum for Democracy in the Netherlands, the New Right in Denmark are a few examples.

If, as Voltaire said, the present is pregnant with the future then there is no guarantee that the populists of tomorrow will look the same as the populists of today. But, either way, even if the rollercoaster might be about to slow down it looks certain to me at least that we will not be getting off the ride anytime soon.


Matthew Goodwin is Professor of Politics at the University of Kent. His new book, Values, Voice and Virtue: The New British Politics, is out on March 30.

GoodwinMJ

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Geoff Cox
Geoff Cox
3 years ago

Covid has been the perfect tool for the main stream media to reassert itself over government and thereby the people. Firstly they whip up the story to frightening levels, then demand action. “Populist” leaders don’t want to act but get forced to, or be called a murderer for the rest of history. Then they act half-heartedly and the result is a mess.

But Covid is here today and gone tomorrow (I hope). I really wish Matthew Goodwin would turn his hand to writing an article on immigration – the real game changer for the West.

ishel99
ishel99
3 years ago
Reply to  Geoff Cox

I love your hopeful parenthetical ‘I hope’. It’s only just beginning, I’m afraid. This is just the warm-up. You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

mike otter
mike otter
3 years ago
Reply to  Geoff Cox

Very accurate summation IMO. Boris’ schtick is that reason and science are fake, history is made by men in togas (or amour) with swords and magical thinking is all you need to achieve your ends. Now he has had a big dose of his own medicine perhaps he’ll be shocked into sobriety, but i am not holding my breath!

Chris Mochan
Chris Mochan
3 years ago
Reply to  mike otter

Is that Boris’s schtick? When did he ever say reason and science are fake?

mike otter
mike otter
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Mochan

Mainly in the brexit campaign (btw i voted for out) but more specifically read his book on Churchill – amazing – either he is a Bismarkian historicist or he pretends to be one to generate book sales – either way his anti reason credentials match any goon from the 1930s, he lives by the fascist motto – “reason is the enemy of action” and he doesn’t even have the style and fashion sense of a Mussolini or d’Annunzio.

Jay Williamson
Jay Williamson
3 years ago
Reply to  mike otter

You seem to be something of a fool.

Dennis Boylon
Dennis Boylon
3 years ago
Reply to  Geoff Cox

Compare it with Tuberculosis. It is nothing. If you take them seriously you have to ask the question. Why hasn’t the WHO or the CDC been hyper focused on Tuberculosis is they are so concerned about people’s health. It really doesn’t make any sense other than the fact that we have been living with it for decades.

rickhayward47
rickhayward47
3 years ago
Reply to  Geoff Cox

The MSM has, for some time, acted as the advocate of a government/establishment agenda, not a n alternative.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
3 years ago
Reply to  rickhayward47

‘Sometimes” ? I’d say 24/7.

hijiki7777
hijiki7777
3 years ago
Reply to  Geoff Cox

Well Bolsinaro was not bullied by anyone, he has ignored the crises. Brazil has suffered the consequences and he is now very unpopular.

David Bell
David Bell
3 years ago

You lost me when you describe Covid 19 as a “failure of the market”. The market has not failed, the action of the state has closed the market, there is a massive difference. If anything it has emphasised that the market is essential to our way of life.

malcolmwhitmore18
malcolmwhitmore18
3 years ago
Reply to  David Bell

I suspect he was referring to the failure of the market to provide adequatemeans of preventing more than 60,000 people dying in the UK in comparison wih much smaller numbers of deaths in less market oriented states than theUK.

Stephanie Surface
Stephanie Surface
3 years ago

The UK Health system is less Market oriented than the German one. NHS failed terribly.

Dennis Boylon
Dennis Boylon
3 years ago

So. People don’t die in China? Or Vietnam? Or Venezuela? Lol. In what country did they cure death? That is amazing.

Paul Savage
Paul Savage
3 years ago

You are joking surely. What country has a less market (ie more state) oriented health system than the UK? It’s the state, in the form of Public Health England and the civil service, that were charged with healthcare in the UK and it’s the public sector (ie the state) that has failed spectacularly.

David Bell
David Bell
3 years ago

But you are referring to the NHS, it has nothing to do with market because it is a nationalised industry. How can you blame the market for failing in an industry in which the market has been excluded?

But then there is the big question of the “60,000 people dying”. Which 60,000 are you referring to? Was it the cancer patients, the heart patients or some other patients who have remained untreated?

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
3 years ago

Wrong way round – the market had nothing to do with the government’s decision making, or the state owned healthcare services (Public Health England & NHS) decision making processes concerning care homes, provisioning for PPE etc.

By all means bring forward an argument that the government made poor decisions due to what it thought about how the market might be impacted by a harsh Covid 19 containment policy. But that’s the government and not the market.

As a side note, countries with better managed differently structured private/public healthcare arrangements seem to have been better prepared for the virus, by and large.

For all the good work individuals do in the NHS, i really hope that the lessons learnt aren’t blinded by a love for the institution and look at the facts.

Lucy Smex
Lucy Smex
3 years ago

The unelected, socialist bureaucracy of Public Health England managed to kill off at least 20,000 of the elderly in care homes by discharging all those “bed blockers” from NHS wards, to make way for the expected flood of covid-infected patients. The “market” never got a look in.

Martyn Hole
Martyn Hole
3 years ago

I am becoming concerned. In the same way that I now read the Spectator where with increasing regulatory I scroll down to the comments, which are usually far more interesting than the article itself, Unherd is trending in that direction.

Gerry Fruin
Gerry Fruin
3 years ago
Reply to  Martyn Hole

It’s already there Martyn

Hugh Jarse
Hugh Jarse
3 years ago
Reply to  Martyn Hole

Am unsure whether you are tongue in cheek or serious. But your point is one I share. Even to to the extent of your Spectator experience. Unlike 99% of stuff on the internet, UnHerd is free of trolls, properly moderated and the comment contributions are generally interesting, well argued and which after reading I am better informed.

jmitchell75
jmitchell75
3 years ago

One thing that’s missing from this analysis. If, over the next year or so, excess deaths rise further than deaths caused by the virus (and today NHS England have predicted an extra 35,000 cancer deaths in the UK alone in the next calendar year), then more and more people may begin to question the rationality and proportionality of the lockdown.

As the debate has been conveniently framed by the liberal media as populists wrong, the establishment right, the current support for the lockdown measures could turn to disillusionment, and a slow realisation that the mainstream narrative was wrong and has caused untold harm to peoples lives, way beyond the threat of a disease that is essentially on a par with a bad flu year

This could turn people even further away from mainstream politics, and this political witch-hunt could backfire very badly

Dennis Boylon
Dennis Boylon
3 years ago
Reply to  jmitchell75

I don’t see how it could be any other way. What does the establishment actually have to offer that could turn this around?

david bewick
david bewick
3 years ago
Reply to  jmitchell75

The lockdown has been questioned for some time now. The evidence is there and was there some time ago that the infection rate was declining before the lockdown. There is an amount of evidence that taken all together at the beginning of May suggests schools should’ve been reopened immediately and a move to an age related/underlying condition lockdown could’ve been done. The MSM are culpable for the type of reporting they have descended to which has effectively caused the govt to retreat to a bunker mentality when the exact opposite was required.

rickhayward47
rickhayward47
3 years ago
Reply to  jmitchell75

‘excess deaths’ – simply an error in a predictive model. Talk about variation from the mean or median instead. There’s no decreed ‘normal’.

Jos Haynes
Jos Haynes
3 years ago

“the Great Recession and the Great Lockdown combined have paved the way
for the return of the state after the failure of the markets.” What? Virus containment is a state function, not the market’s. Any failures are entirely attributable to govt policy and the NHS.

Nor do I accept the condescending attitude to populism – the we-know-better-than-the-ordinary-guy attitude. It seems from referenda and election results that the so-called populists are actually the majority of the country. Yes, they have different opinions from academics, generally, but why do academics think they are right? Most of them have third rate educations, no experience outside the educational system and live in an echo chamber with those of their own ilk.

annescarlett
annescarlett
3 years ago

Are you talking about the current bout of flu that they have wiped out the economy for?

henk korbee
henk korbee
3 years ago
Reply to  annescarlett

Agree. Covid was used to wipe out economy; economy down down, national debts up up, jobs down down, pensions down-although still the same payment in west-eu-when that goes down down the sentoment will change rapidly, having made people almot totally dependent on government that’s up up for socialists, and above all in what way can we trust scientists- two Norwegian scientists claim that for 90% sure that it was man made. Will there be a foodshortage soon? When yes, the sentiment will change rapidly regardless political main stream. Political consequences will be clear within a year or two. The moment populists have good representatives, p.e. trustfull, they will rise rapidly according to what I hear around me as being dissatisfied with the info they got about covid and the wrongly management of measurements from the point that it looked less dangerous than in the beginning.

ishel99
ishel99
3 years ago
Reply to  annescarlett

Yup, that flu which will also rip your cardiovascular system, your liver and your kidneys apart if you have the right preconditions, whatever they may be. But don’t worry, it’s just the flu.

Lucy Smex
Lucy Smex
3 years ago
Reply to  ishel99

It’s not just the flu. It’s an extremely nasty virus that has potentially long-lasting effects if it doesn’t kill you.
But it isn’t Ebola, or anything like it in deadliness. It isn’t deadly to the vast majority of people. It mainly kills the elderly with pre-existing conditions. It has killed tens of thousands in the UK, but so has a bad flu season.
This virus is unique in that it has also put our economy on life support, or should I say, the government was panicked into putting our economy on shutdown, and that’s why it’s now on life support. Pubs and churches have closed, unlike during the plague epidemic which killed indiscriminately and in its thousands upon thousands.

annescarlett
annescarlett
3 years ago
Reply to  ishel99

I worked with lots of nurses and doctors throughout my career and am still in touch, all have worked through this and told me they have had no covid patients, they have had nothing to do and have been told not to speak to anyone. On doctor friend told me he was told to put covid on the death certificate of an 82 year old woman with terminal cancer of the liver.The truth will come out

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
3 years ago
Reply to  annescarlett

It’s a balancing act.

The virus is demonstrably more dangerous to more people than the average flu. Saying otherwise is just as daft as overplaying its lethality.

The right balance needs to be found between protecting people from the virus until it is understood better and (perhaps) vaccines can be found, and between destroying the economy and the damage to people that will also do.

Hugh Jarse
Hugh Jarse
3 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

Spot on. It is indeed a balancing act. The lethal nature of Covid is just as real as is the economic and other damage caused by lockdown. If you care to look you will find plenty of very credible accounts on the internet from front-line clinicians that debunk both the ‘it’s just a flu’ merchants and the conspiracy theorists.
Should you be a non-white, obese, metabolically-impaired 60+ year old male, you can argue the ‘it’s only the flu’ only until you get infected. Then, if you do come out the other side, your view of Covid is certain to have changed completely.
Am very interested to see to what extent Bolsanaro’s position evolves now he is infected.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
3 years ago

Populist is a pejorative used by people to describe a politician whose popularity they find inexplicable because his views differ from their own.

Mark Walker
Mark Walker
3 years ago

The 500,000 deaths forecast and UK lock-down was lead by ‘managers’. When Populists discover it was a HOAX by DHSC, similar mistrust will reoccur as with Brexit. Ignore ‘experts’. So no chance that for the liberal elite will arrive at their goal: “….the crisis might eventually kill populism, not least because Covid-19 demands evidence-led managers over ideology-led
amateurs………”. Dream on.

Edward Paul Campbell
Edward Paul Campbell
3 years ago

Dear Professor Goodwin,

I have downloaded your presentation of prophetic predictions based on your determination on the current trajectory of perceived shifts in populist influence and ascendancy in the West generally. It will be interesting to see how the situations evolve with the remaining underlying, class action dissatisfactions with the cosy bureaucracy of Brussels.

You could be right on target with your analytical crystal ball, or the worm that has turned may yet evolve and adapt further to threats against its newfound voice. Such is the nature of voting demographics dynamics and the shifting sands of political fortunes. If you are mostly correct in your assumptions then perhaps, like America, we in Europe will get exactly what we deserve.

Half of America the last time couldn’t pluck up the energy to fight for the ideal which destroyed many countries and cost the lives of 100 million 20th century people to preserve and restore. Vote for the Apathy Party, if you can be bothered to vote at all. What must our departed grandfathers be thinking?

It is only when freedoms are harshly or brutally repressed that we start to realise that freedom is far from free. In fact it demands the highest sacrifices of all.

mike otter
mike otter
3 years ago

Numerous contributors below have pointed out that the scamdemic has come from an orchestrated attack on the economy by leftist “public servants” and a nebulous pseudo-science backing track played by academics who should know better. The public at large are aware that you cannot legislate against flu pandemics. The next generation of populists also know this and will tailor their message to suit. Once SARS-CoV2 reaches the herd immunity of say HKU1 the actions of many governing elites will be seen in perspective. This will be a great opportunity for a popular reaction. Hopefully it will resemble the popular reaction after WW2 in Japan and the West: A yearning for the stability of reason and enlightenment, rather than the reaction in the Eastern Block and China, whose motto was Burn Loot Murder before the BLM mob was even a thing.

Andrew Baldwin
Andrew Baldwin
3 years ago

Matthew writes: “the Great Recession and the Great Lockdown combined have paved the way for the return of the state after the failure of the markets”. Other commenters have noted that ascribing the Great Lockdown to a failure of the state is simply bizarre given it was a state action. Maybe the best document against the lockdown strategy is the May 2020 AIER publication, “Urgent Report on Pandemics and Freedom”. In the Great Recession, on the other hand, there was a lot of blame to go around, and in the case of Britain, Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown’s light touch regulation didn’t work out so well, so it is fair to speak about market failure. Generally speaking, though, the Great Recession was more about incompetent governments than a failure of markets. Thomas Sowell makes this clear for the US in his magisterial book “The Housing Boom and Bust”. (Unfortunately, Sowell ignores the problem created by the US Fed not having housing prices in its preferred measure of inflation, the personal consumption expenditure price index.) Rather than bigger, more intrusive governments, surely what the West needs now is leaner, more competent governments.

rickhayward47
rickhayward47
3 years ago

“Populists, in general, have not had a good crisis.”

Au contraire : Covid-19 responses *are* populism writ large : distraction and control by threatened dssolution and victimhood whilst the burglar walks in the unlocked back door.

Peter Mott
Peter Mott
3 years ago

A quotation from Michael Lind’s new book The New Class War: Saving Democracy from the Metropolitan Elite (p. 86):

The historical record in many countries shows that when populist outsiders challenge oligarchic insiders, the oligarchs almost always win. The oligarchs may not have numbers, but they control most of the wealth, expertise, and political influence and dominate the media, universities, and nonprofit sectors. Most populist waves break and disperse on the concrete seawalls of elite privilege.

Is this what we are seeing now? MG’s provides few clues.

I guess that in the UK there may indeed be “aftershocks” of the populist earthquake, but they become successively weaker as we embark on a new form of Tory paternalism under Rishi Sunak. Or perhaps Keir Starmer will lead a revival of the the post-war corporate state that Harold Wilson epitomised. Then looking back people will say that the referendum of 2016 started the new settlement (Lind favours this). With that act populism had actually done its work

But what about Italy and poor Greece?

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
3 years ago

Good piece. The point about the return of the big state is apposite. Governments globally are printing money like there is no tomorrow. But there is a tomorrow and governments have a responsibility to that tomorrow. And while governments can now suddenly pretend that there is in fact a magic money tree after all, as left leaning academics have maintained for years, there is no magic money tree (if there is, we may as well do as the Golgafrinchans, and adopt tree-leaf as currency, we can all be fabulously wealthy). What there is instead, is the present holding a gun to the future’s head and demanding it lends to us, *now*, so we can finance today. Because whether economists admit it or no, all borrowing, to fund salaries during the lockdowns, bailing out industry after industry, helicopter money, etc, is all predicated on a gargantuan tax take tomorrow. But no one seems to be asking what that really entails. It means us eating our childrens lunch. And then saying to our future generations: “whassa problem? we borrowed from *you*, why can’t you borrow from your future generations? Come on guys, you gotta keep the ponzi going!” And if the burden we put on the future becomes too great, and the future dies? Why, that’s no problem! Just means we don’t have to pay back our debts! Reductio Ad Absurdum.

I have no doubt the unbelievable scale of value destruction of the global lockdowns will eventually come to be see as some form of herd mania, mass insanity of the type found in religious cults when the smell of death enters the air. Because for politicos, the truth is, there were no good choices to make here, only the horrible task of picking the least worst long term option, with unremitting criticism a given, no matter what any politician did. By ducking unpopularity now and instead embracing the snakeoil of the lockdowns, by not having the guts to present their populations with unpalatable choices, politicos globally have guaranteed a now unavoidable global depression, which will cost way more lives than they will ever save. With the additional cost of a smashed global economy to boot, which is well on the way to plunging hundreds of millions across the globe into destitution.
Was it worth it?

Mad Mockingbird
Mad Mockingbird
3 years ago

“Covid-19 demands evidence-led managers over ideology-led amateurs”

It looks much more to me that it is getting ideology-led managers with total disregard for evidence …

Steve Gwynne
Steve Gwynne
3 years ago

It would be useful to define populism before using it extensively in your piece.

If populism
/ˈpÉ’pjÊƠlÉÂȘz(Éℱ)m/
is a political approach that strives to appeal to ordinary people who feel that their concerns are disregarded by established elite groups.

then Covid-19 has for all intents and purposes been synonymous with a Populist moment for most Western States. State concern for ordinary people has seen huge expenditures to satisfy the concerns of ordinary people along with a roll back of Liberal Establishment cultural elitism, especially in Britain.

This Populist moment was also accompanied by a much greater regard for key workers who as ordinary people are often ignored.

Certainly from my activist perspective, covid has helped to facilitate a political realignment on the Right with national resilience, a reformed State and free markets being progressively valued with equal worth.

The real question is what does contemporary Populism signify. On the Left it tends to signify an activist State that is willing to intervene economically for the benefit of ordinary people with a view of creating national economic resilience. On the Right it signifies an activist State that is willing to intervene more culturally with a view of creating national cultural resilience.

In each iteration, what is being challenged is unchecked elite liberalism whether economic or cultural. Covid has demonstrably exposed the weaknesses of both. As such, it is not so much that Populism has receded, it is that, with the help of covid, many of the goals of Populism have been realised. This has allowed Populists to take a step back and see how the changing circumstances unfold.

Jay Williamson
Jay Williamson
3 years ago

In 2017/18 there were, sadly, in excess of 50,000 flu deaths in the UK. Where was all the media screeching, then?!

Frederick B
Frederick B
3 years ago

The UK manifestation of populism being Brexit, Boris hitched himself to that wagon and was rewarded with his 80 seat majority. But he is emphatically not a populist himself, but a liberal grandee – witness his failure to respond robustly to the BLM provocations, and his new “almost open borders” immigration policy (not to mention Hong Kong).

So there is a vacuum forming on the populist right, and it will be interesting to see what comes along to fill it.

Christopher Chantrill
Christopher Chantrill
3 years ago

The best way to understand populism is by class, that there are three classes in the western world: the globalist educated Gentry; the middle-class Commoners; and the Subordinate people of color who are usually the political Clients of the educated Gentry.

Populism is a reaction by Commoners against the educated Gentry that run the world for, by, and on behalf of the Gentry.

And judging by the article, the average educated Gentry swell doesn’t have a clue how his political power and his world view add up to an unjust domination of the middle-class Commoner.

Like I say: there is no such thing as justice. Only injustice.

Whatever you are doing with your political power, however you are congratulating yourself on your knowledge and your wisdom, someone somewhere is experiencing it as injustice.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
3 years ago

“Suddenly the debate is transformed. Ding dong the populists are dead. Liberalism is back. The End of History returns. Francis Fukuyama smiles.”

Liberalism has died, probably never to return at least in its past form. There are dozens of books on the phenomenon to attest to its passing.

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
3 years ago

‘The Great Recession’ is only just starting. The financial crisis of 2008 was just the aperitif. When the next financial crisis occurs, there will be no interest rates to cut and no balanced budget to loosen, just endless QE designed to concentrate wealth in the hands of the few.

mattclarke153
mattclarke153
3 years ago

New companies need to disrupt the market with Hinokitiol.

Russ Littler
Russ Littler
3 years ago

I cannot decide whether this author is simply naive and un-researched, or is just doing what the media always does, ie, put out fake news and propaganda. We are in the midst of a monumental battle between two warring ideologies and the future direction of the world will be decided on the 3rd of November 2020. This is not about populism versus liberalism, it is about the globalist elite bringing in their long planned “new world order”. It is about final control of the worlds population. A fight against the ordinary people. The farcical “Russia” hoax was the first attempt at getting rid of Trump, then there was the Syrian Gas attack, then the attempt to drag the Trump administration into wars with North Korea, then Iran. then of course came the nonsensical secret whistle-blower of Adam Schiffs, (Eric Cairmella) who was actually a CIA guy, again all fake. So, Pelosi sat with the hoax accusations on her desk for a month to buy the time to get the “plandemic” to get underway. Now, they see, this has failed, so they start the race wars with BLM and Antifa. (They forget that we have witnessed this whole modus operandi many times before.) The whole plan was to keep the US locked down in order to get Mail in ballots for the election, to give them a chance of cooking the election. The globalist cabal know, that if Trump gets re-elected their whole world crumbles, and everything they’ve tried to do for the last 50 years goes down the tubes. This is why the world is in so much turmoil right now. This secret war has been waging for the last 4 years, with a comatose’d public who have no clue what is going on.

mike otter
mike otter
3 years ago

I think recent generations are probably more on board with the 8th track on this excellent compilation album, you know – “bragging that you know how the n-words feel cold and the slums got so much soul”. I believe the album was released so they could re-coup some of the money Cherry Red got from the first album/singles? If so the plan worked as it went gold in the USA.