X Close

Nigel Farage’s post-democratic revolt He is pioneering a new sectarianism

Farage announces he's running on Monday (HENRY NICHOLLS/AFP via Getty Images)

Farage announces he's running on Monday (HENRY NICHOLLS/AFP via Getty Images)


June 5, 2024   7 mins

Poor Rishi Sunak. He’s seemingly never met a boat he was able to stop: on Monday, one full of Lib Dems videobombed his press conference. Then, to make matters worse, he was upstaged again, when Nigel Farage announced his decision to replace Richard Tice as leader of the Reform Party, and to stand for Parliament in Clacton-on-Sea.

It was the first interesting thing to happen so far, in an election that has hitherto felt like the uniparty talking to itself while flinging other people’s spare change at OAPs. The interest doesn’t have much to do with Reform’s policies, which mostly read like a Tory manifesto, if the Tories were still a centre-right party instead of an agglomeration of corporate lobbies plus a granny annexe. Rather, Farage’s return is interesting for what it tells us about a wider trend: the demise of the franchise as our principal mechanism for political representation, and in its place the startlingly medieval return of “interests”.

But isn’t Farage the shadily post-democratic one? That was the thrust of numerous questions following his announcement on Monday, several of which mentioned Donald Trump, or focused on Farage’s power to make leadership decisions and backroom deals at the drop not just of a hat but also, at very short notice, of the existing Reform candidate for Clacton.

It’s true that Reform doesn’t conform to the 20th-century template for mass-membership political parties. It has, according to Farage, more than 30,000 paying members, but these are recruited online, rather than via local associations. It is also a limited company, and doesn’t have any obvious formal mechanism for forming, debating or voting on policies. Its critics make dark accusations about the motivations of its larger donors.

In all these senses, Reform UK is a political entity of some kind, but doesn’t adhere to the older template for party politics. Does this make it anti-democratic? To this, one might respond that it’s a bit rich to accuse Reform UK of ignoring the wishes of the masses, when its whole raison d’être is remedying just this indifference to electoral wishes among the mainstream political parties. We’re on our third Tory Prime Minister since the party was last voted into power, and the last one wasn’t even elected by the party membership. No vote apart from Brexit has changed anything very substantial in my adult lifetime. Even Brexit only happened against years of shrill establishment resistance, and failed to do the one thing voters wanted it to do.

In this context, we might reasonably ask: what would be the point of forming a mass-membership political party along early 20th-century lines? It should be obvious by now that bottom-up political activism aimed at directing the universally enfranchised voting public doesn’t reliably produce results in line with what that public wants. But if this is so, it raises the question of how different groups are to have their voices heard at all, in the wider political conversation. For it’s not as though even autocrats always get their way over the wishes of the masses. As the political scientist Julian Waller has shown, even regimes that don’t embrace formal democracy typically don’t last very long, unless they have some feedback mechanism for responding to different power blocs.

Prior to the universal franchise, indeed well into the early 20th century, it was common to talk about such blocs as aggregate political “interests”: groups such as the working classes, landed gentry, church, and so on. Further back still, the medieval formulation understood these as “estates”, all of which were — in theory if not always in practice — represented according to their needs and obligations.

Prior to mass democracy, though, no one thought the best way to represent each “estate” or “interest” was “one man, one vote”. Indeed, opponents of the franchise argued that flattening interests in this way would warp the overall political fabric to everyone’s detriment. But they didn’t get their way, and now we have the universal franchise — a franchise, indeed, that is set to become even more universal under Keir Starmer.

Does this mean everyone is now better represented than before? Perhaps not. For at the very moment the universal franchise was granted in the early 20th century, extra-democratic bodies such as NGOs and international regulatory entities began professionalising and proliferating, and in the process draining ever more power into pre-political fields closed to the democratic process. It’s possible that this was a coincidence, of course. But perhaps it wasn’t. Perhaps the patrician preference for keeping popular opinion at arm’s length never really went away, meaning that the arrival of the popular voice in the halls of power necessitated new mechanisms for routing around that voice where necessary.

Certainly, it was striking to see this lordly attitude at full volume, in the aftermath of the Brexit vote, as the Remainer great and good united in defence of their beloved, extra-democratic, supranational technocracy. And I’m sure you remember, as I do, every well-connected such individual insisting the referendum should be struck down because people didn’t know what they were voting for, and had been duped by the side of a bus.

Since then, though, I’ve started to wonder whether the technocrats were at least partly right. Given that a great many Tory MPs still don’t seem to understand EU regulatory mechanisms, it’s is at least plausible that no one else did either. Hence, the Remainers may have been, like Cromwell in 1066 and All That, “Right but Repulsive”.

The question nags at me: what if post-industrial society really is too complex for elected generalists to grasp its operations in anything like the detail required to make sensible governing decisions? Well, even if this is true, you may accept in principle that technocrats are a necessary evil, spreadsheets and chinos and all — but in practice, you don’t have to be a technocrat with five PhDs to make reasonable inferences as to whether life is getting better or worse. And on most of the metrics that matter, to most people, life under the Conservatives has been getting worse, with the process accelerating with every change of Prime Minister and attendant slide toward spreadsheets-and-chinos “centrism”.

“You don’t have to be a technocrat with five PhDs to make reasonable inferences as to whether life is getting better or worse.”

So even if we do accept in principle that without technocrats things would be even more dire, and hence that the problem isn’t technocrats as such, we may still be dissatisfied with the ones we have. And hence, logically, we still need some mechanism for holding to account whichever technocrats are now tasked with steering this wildly overcomplicated ship of state. But the whole point of technocracy is that it is impervious to such outbreaks of democratic feedback. So how do you course-correct your cadres of unaccountable wonks?

Enter Nigel Farage. My sense is that most of Farage’s supporters don’t want to wield power themselves, and that Farage himself doesn’t really want to be a constituency MP. Rather, Farage’s supporters seek representation, in something more like the medieval sense, as an “interest” or “estate” to be taken seriously. And not without reason: they’re a significant subset of the English polity.

Broadly speaking, Farage represents the English petit bourgeois that lives in villages and small towns, values cultural homogeneity and social trust, and intuits (accurately) that the end of the carbon economy spells disaster for their social class. This group, currently almost entirely voiceless within contemporary politics, would perhaps have been characterised by the now-very-cancelled high imperial writer Rudyard Kipling as the “Saxon” side of the Norman-Saxon hybrid people that has long made up England’s class hierarchy.

As Kipling saw it, the Saxon is generally uninterested in large-scale political power, and content to be governed provided this is done fairly. But the modern-day equivalent of Kipling’s Saxon is ill-served by the modern “Norman”, and is grumbling en masse. Worse still, the Saxon senses the contempt modern Normans have for him, as they sneer at the “bigots” and “gammons”.

This group’s anger was temporarily assuaged by the political realignment we were, however briefly, promised in 2019. But in the end, the realignment we got accelerated the trends that impelled Brexit in the first place: hollowing out the social fabric, draining away real-world jobs in favour of placeless knowledge-work that mostly benefits Normans, and trading in the nation-state and its people for an economic zone populated by fungible, interchangeable human work units — in which the English people have grown increasingly displaced and alienated.

Now, the Saxon is angrier than ever — but, as a consequence of that realignment, also more voiceless. And Farage is variously loved or loathed for his effortless ability to give them a voice. He has become a figurehead and avatar for an entire class, with a role that’s at least as much about symbolic embodiment as it ever could be about the dry legislation-and-policy aspect of politics.

The last time I wrote about him, it was in the context of his appearance on I’m A Celeb. And his return to Reform UK now is a continuation of his I’m A Celeb trajectory: pragmatic recognition that mass politics is both radically defanged, reduced to a branch of entertainment with little to distinguish it from reality TV — and that it nonetheless, paradoxically, still provides avenues for exerting popular pressure on an otherwise untrammelled technocratic class.

What, then, are these avenues? Farage’s modus operandi isn’t grassroots constituency work, canvassing, local associations, policy development and all the other ponderous architecture of universal-franchise-era mass politics. Our obdurate post-Brexit return to uniparty consensus illustrates how resistant such mechanisms have become to deprecated “interests”. Against this, Farage has waged an insurgency on behalf of the English petit-bourgeois class — one now extended, judging by his recent social-media game, to Right-leaning zoomers — via a cocktail of media spectacle, meme activism, plus hacking formal political systems. The endgame isn’t bums on Commons seats, but forcing reluctant technocrats (whatever their formal political affiliation) towards policies that better reflect those outside the charmed circle. To date, Farage has proved a startlingly effective politician despite being yet to enter Parliament as an MP, purely via such para-Parliamentary methods. And it’s ironic that he should point critically at the “sectarian” political activism now emerging from Muslim groups in Britain, many of which increasingly employ much the same MO as Farage, to get their “interest” on the table.

It remains to be seen whether Farage can pull the Brexit stunt again, or indeed how the Saxon will fare, as an “interest”, against the increasingly politicised British Muslim community. Farage may well succeed on his own terms, with an MP or two and a vote tally that delivers a smack to both cheeks of the uniparty backside. Even if this does happen, though, the “interest” he represents within British post-democracy is unlikely to succeed in tilting policy very far in their preferred direction. But with Farage as their avatar, they at least stand a chance of not being entirely disregarded.


Mary Harrington is a contributing editor at UnHerd.

moveincircles

Join the discussion


Join like minded readers that support our journalism by becoming a paid subscriber


To join the discussion in the comments, become a paid subscriber.

Join like minded readers that support our journalism, read unlimited articles and enjoy other subscriber-only benefits.

Subscribe
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

150 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
David McKee
David McKee
1 month ago

Mary takes Farage altogether too seriously. Reform is, as she observes, a limited company, not a party. There is only one shareholder- guess who? Which is why Tice was brushed aside so easily. Compare that to the immense efforts to get rid of Corbyn and Johnson.

Reform is a vehicle for Farage’s ego-trip. Nothing more. We have many problems, and Farage isn’t the answer to any of them.

Michael Cazaly
Michael Cazaly
1 month ago
Reply to  David McKee

Possibly not, but neither are any of the alternatives.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
1 month ago
Reply to  Michael Cazaly

Labour, as you are about to find out, muchacho!

Dylan Blackhurst
Dylan Blackhurst
1 month ago

If Keir’s Labour Party is the answer it begs the response “what is the question?”

Paul T
Paul T
1 month ago

What does a charisma and talent black-hole look like?

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
1 month ago

Why are socialists drinking champagne, instead of best bitter?

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
1 month ago
Reply to  David McKee

“Farage isn’t the answer to any of them”.

Farage seems to have one thing the country does need: optimism. I’m always impressed by his positive energy. It was probably Cameron’s best quality too. Ronald Reagan, almost despite his policies, somehow infused a lot of the country with his sunny optimism. And that’s not worth nothing when a sort of grim obsession with unsurmountable problems has a country in its grip. Certainly a refreshing contrast to the depressing Starmer.

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
1 month ago

Hence why Boris Johnson was consistently elected, as London Mayor, MP & PM.

j watson
j watson
1 month ago

He certainly has a gift for communication, as does Trump. But as saying goes ‘campaign in poetry, govern in prose’. His prose never been tested, nor in truth does he want it tested.
As regards his optimism – ‘Brexit has been a total failure’ – yep one of Nige’s more recent utterances. You couldn’t make it up could you

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 month ago
Reply to  David McKee

Rather silly analysis that’s only plausible if you ignore entirely the UK’s political history for about the last 20 years.

Mary Harrington, as ought to be obvious, does not make that mistake.

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
1 month ago

We have no guarantee the technocrats are any more competent than the politicians, and at least we can vote the politicians out of office. Perhaps the problem isn’t that the world has gotten too complex, maybe it’s just that the government is trying to do too much. Less, in this case, would be more.
Or perhaps the ever-encroaching managerial state is now like one of those parasites that is so closely intertwined with the functions of the host that removing it will kill the host. It’s just a question of either being slowly bled to death or dying of toxic shock all at once.

Arthur G
Arthur G
1 month ago

100% spot on. If Gov’t would get out of regulating the 90% of things it shouldn’t regulate, it wouldn’t be complex.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
1 month ago
Reply to  Arthur G

This is the key problem with the EU:
you create a bureaucracy to regulate commercial activityafter a while you have all the regulation you needthen what? Does the bureaucracy stop regulating? Of course not.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 month ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Yes, it started with smoking in pubs. That should have been left to individual pub owners, not to the government. it was the first of many such blanket decisions the EU decided to take upon itself.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
1 month ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Left to themselves bureaucrats will be monitoring stools to determine if your diet meets the dietary goals they have set for you.

Chipoko
Chipoko
1 month ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Like the blanket policy of 20mph in Wales!

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
1 month ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Nor does it stop growing or digging in.

ChilblainEdwardOlmos
ChilblainEdwardOlmos
1 month ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Pournelle’s Law

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
1 month ago

Iron law.
I’d suggest tungsten instead, since it’s that unbreakable.

Peter B
Peter B
1 month ago

Completely agree.
One problem is that the technocrats believe themselves to be more competent. If they recognised their limitations, there would be less temptation to go with their endless mission creep to create ever more laws and regulations.
But this is what happens when you educate a large cadre of technocrats without practical experience of the world and then decide these are the best people to be running things.
Technocrats also only seem to go in for small, incremental changes. They seem incapable of big, bold decisions taken in real time. One reason why the current election campaign is so dull.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter B

Yes, a lot of public sector organizations are led by these ‘grey’ drones. Managerialism is often referred to as the silent ideology (lurking in the background behind its louder cousins Fa*ism and Communism).

JR Hartley
JR Hartley
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter B

They don’t just see themselves as “more competent” but as “right”. The common people are just wrong, and so can be ignored.

AC Harper
AC Harper
1 month ago

Imagine the (confected) uproar if ‘the Government’ decided that current cigarette package warning had done all that a reasonable Government should? Or that EV vehicle and heat pump adoption were now a matter of individual choice? Or that taxation should only be used to raise revenue, not shape behaviour? Or loosen the Town and Country Planning acts in favour of careful development?
Unfortunately ‘manageralism’ is driven by the desire that ‘something must be done’ and that there should be ‘no losers’ – and the various interests know how to exploit this tendency to their own benefit.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
1 month ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Unfortunately ‘manageralism’ is driven by the desire that ‘something must be done’ 
Of course – because what will the ‘managers’ do when everything that must be done has been done? Find something else that must be done.

Stephanie Surface
Stephanie Surface
1 month ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

That was so obvious during COVID. The clueless politicians in alliance with their “scientific”advisers/managers, competing with each other, who could introduce harsher lockdowns. Whenever Sturgeon came up with new Covid dictates, Johnson followed, because he was afraid of the wrath of his fellow politicians as something had to be done! (Sir Kneel Down was one of the fiercest demander of hard measures). It seems all the World governments were imitating each other with mostly pseudo-scientific warnings. Yesterday’s Congressional Hearing in the US showed how the mastermind and leader of the pack, Saint Anthony Fauci, had to admit that he totally made up most of the rules. Remember all the 6‘ marks in the shops, even in parks, people had to keep 6’ apart and wear masks. All in the name of: “Something had to be done”…

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 month ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Down with the managers!

Charlie Dibsdale
Charlie Dibsdale
1 month ago

Since Maastricht and Blair instigated a surge in quangos and devolution, Parliament has effectively divested responsibility. Many of the problems of governance are multifaceted and complex. Most quangos address single issues, which do not enable the inevitable trade-offs that are necessary for improving things. If only we can divest ourselves of EU techno-cratic red-tape, slash quangos and roll back devolution parliament may be able to improve, and be properly held to account to all voters.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
1 month ago

We have no guarantee the technocrats are any more competent than the politicians
Take it from someone who has worked (as a contractor) in pretty well every sphere of government: they’re not.
What is most striking is the almost complete inability to grasp the notion of opportunity cost ie: that someone else might be able to spend the resources that they employ might be put to better use by someone else doing something else.

Pedro the Exile
Pedro the Exile
1 month ago

All great points.Dominic Cummings was the recent face of the “technocratic elite” in Government and proved himself (and his team) to be as useless and dangerous as the generalist PPE Politicos.In any business sphere the key component is to define your objectives and prioritise your always scarce resources to achieve this objective.Governments over the last 30 years have shown themselves to be wholly inadequate in defining what they are in power for and then concentrating their resources on achieving this.In essence life or indeed the body politic is no more complex now than it has been in the past-the primary objectives are security, (national & international),prosperity and law & order.Achieving these requires competence, commitment and vision-all sadly lacking in todays careerist occupying positions of power.
A classic example is the “nut zero”ideology.Its obvious to anybody who cares to investigate beyond the soundbites that this will immiserate the vast majority of the UK population and thererfore should never have been adopted but the posturing political elite place a higher value on perceived virtue (no matter how misplaced) than their primary objective of securing energy independence,at a cost that supports business and ensures no one has to suffer fuel poverty.Similarly with immigration where the objective to be seen to be “caring and compassionate” overides issues of security,social cohesion and per Capita GDP maintenance.
Ultimately the demos who are currently disenfranchised need to find a voice which articulates their very real fears and concerns as to what they see happening to their Country & Community.The Brexit vote if it did anything proved that the demos can be mobilised and can effect change.
This election may not be that inflexion point but as Farage has himself acknowledged,this is the start of a long process.

Bruce Luffman
Bruce Luffman
1 month ago

Spot on, Pedro

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 month ago

A total rant, concocted for applause. Not one of your better posts.

Carl Valentine
Carl Valentine
1 month ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Agreed, poor quality demagoguery, the mob liked it though… shame

Mark epperson
Mark epperson
1 month ago

I agree! Technocrats may be very competent in measuring, collating, powerpointing, graphing, processing, and presenting. However, the great majority have no vision, can’t lead two people out of an elevator, and are controlling and paranoid. Plus they are for the most part boring. They are essential in support roles, not leadership or operational roles. Add no moral courage as a trait for most of these folks and we end up in the present in virtually every Western democracy. Technocrats, for me, mean bureaucrats, the entire tech industry, the finance industry, Academia, Media owners, and certainly our politicians. I also have a nagging gut feeling that China has bought a great number of these folks through business arrangements or blackmail. We have been frog-boiled and it started in the middle 1990’s. It seems the waters are starting to get too warm for at least half the population of all democracies and the race is on. I am, of course, rooting for the Saxons!

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
1 month ago

There not technocrats, they are bureaucrats, in fact clerks. Whate we have is a clerisy, run by clerks for the benefit of clerks. Therefore those who are innovative, honest, daring and blessed with fortitude are a threat to the clerisy.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 month ago

Very thoughtful essay

J Bryant
J Bryant
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Agreed. MH on top form.
If I was a Brit, my fear would be that if Farage, or any other effective populist, makes real headway, the UK establishment will import one more thing from the American imperial mothership: lawfare of the type deployed against Trump.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
1 month ago
Reply to  J Bryant

You think Nigel Farage should be above the law? Why do you think that?

Aidan Twomey
Aidan Twomey
1 month ago

The ones who think themselves above the law are those throwing milkshakes over Farage, and the ones laughing when it happens.

Alan B
Alan B
1 month ago

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Mark Phillips
Mark Phillips
1 month ago

Please point to where he said that.

David Ryan
David Ryan
1 month ago

Can we stop responding to champagne socialist, who is only here to provoke and infuriate, and not engage in any kind of reasoned discussion. Don’t even bother down voting this person

Liam F
Liam F
1 month ago

Shoulda gone to Specsavers. Try reading it again.

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
1 month ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Don’t forget, he was recently de-banked due to the technocrats at his bank deeming his views ‘unacceptable’.

D Glover
D Glover
1 month ago
Reply to  J Bryant

In a way that has already happened. Yesterday was not the first time NF has had a milkshake thrown over his suit. On one of the previous occasions, a couple of years ago, the lefty comedienne Jo Brand jested that they should have thrown battery acid.
She was not prosecuted for incitement, and she remains on the BBC’s roster of unfunny left-wing comedians.
Now, if someone suggested acid-bombing Sadiq Khan the police car sirens would be wailing down the street as soon as they finished speaking. Are the Brits really more civilised than the Yanks?

Thomas Wagner
Thomas Wagner
1 month ago
Reply to  D Glover

My observation is that no, the Brits are not more civilized than the Yanks. Just barbaric in different ways.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 month ago
Reply to  D Glover

It would appear Jo Brand earned her looks.

D Glover
D Glover
1 month ago

One would have hoped that she’d show more sympathy to fellow victims of disfiguring acid attacks.

Liam F
Liam F
1 month ago
Reply to  D Glover

Back in more congenial times (1990s) I recall one of John Majors ministers -Brian Mawhinney- having paint thrown over him outside Parliament. He was reported as having been ‘overcome with emulsion’.

Norfolk Sceptic
Norfolk Sceptic
1 month ago
Reply to  J Bryant

If it made the people wake-up to the dangers, it would be a plus. But it is a big if.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
1 month ago

“Farage has proved a startlingly effective politician despite being yet to enter Parliament as an MP”
Remind me of why he has yet to enter Parliament as an MP? Oh, he has lost spectacularly every time he has tried!
How many times is that? 6 I believe.
Madame clearly has a different idea of what startlingly effective looks like than the rest of the English speaking world!

Dylan Blackhurst
Dylan Blackhurst
1 month ago

For a politician that is so ineffective it’s weird that he creates so much animosity.

Andrew McDonald
Andrew McDonald
1 month ago

You haven’t either (a) read the essay or (b) understood it. Indeed she does have a different, and well argued idea about modern ‘effectiveness’ in politics.

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
1 month ago

I guess ‘startingly effective’ refers to his role in Brexit … was any other single person as responsible for that very big change as Nigel Farage?

Utter
Utter
1 month ago

Probably not – but then he carries more responsibility for the failure and miselling of this grand act of national self-harm. MH is reluctantly coming to realise that contrary to populist tropes, experts, elites (weasal words in themselves) etc are not just blob of self-serving opinion but some of them do actually know a thing or two about governance. They are also not all on one-side. A friend, high up in the UK technocracy, clearly spelled out his view of why Brexit would not work, and was based in a range of untruths, hyprocracies and misconceptions – not entirely, but largely. At first I just listened, then as time passed I came to be impressed by his insights coming true – and now I am furious – the thing is a predicatable man-made mess orchestrated by political players ignoring expert opinion.

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 month ago
Reply to  Utter

What evidence do you have to assert that Brexit is either a mess or responsible for a mess?

You are very obviously treating this as axiomatic, which isn’t good enough.

What evidence supports this assumption on your part?

j watson
j watson
1 month ago
Reply to  John Riordan

Well where does one start? One of lowest Growth rates in G7. Chamber of Commerce surveys of over 1000 UK Businesses highlighting many added problems and few benefits. Been to Dover recently? Seen how much slower it is both for private and commercial. And additional checks just starting. Border essentially in the Irish sea. Oh and 690k net migration, highest ever despite Brexit. Farage had good reason for stating ‘…it’s been an utter failure’. Who better to have answered your question.

Steven Carr
Steven Carr
1 month ago

It is amazing how pro-Europe people laugh loudly at the very idea that being a Member of the European Parliament is a real political job.
Farage – a MEP – what a joke! Tell him to be a real politician….

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
1 month ago

Political momentum doesn’t begin and end with what goes on in Westminster. Both main parties fear Farage. He can move the dial in ways that no other British politician can.

j watson
j watson
1 month ago

Farage has definitely had an impact, but largely negative. What’s he created/solved? Zilch.
He’s a clever amplifier of rage, not a purveyor of practical solutions. He knows this v well and made himself richer and more famous along the way.
Furthermore it’s well overstated whether he was responsible for Brexit. If he’d been the primary face of Leave they’d have lost. Bojo made the difference (albeit he went with it for personal career reasons and never truly believed)

Utter
Utter
1 month ago
Reply to  j watson

A demagogue. Unherd comments are generally very measure, insightful; but for some reason where Trump/Fargage/Brexit is the topic this trend goes in reverse. Sunk cost fallacy I think. Conservatives have strong points – freedom, realism – but psychological awareness is often absent.

David Butler
David Butler
1 month ago

A wonderful commentary, as always, Mary.
It is often said that the people get the government that they deserve. I think they’re about to find out just how undeserving they have become.
With a Starmer government, which virtually no one is enthusiastic about, now a forgone conclusion, everyone is free to vote for their two-fingers candidate.
There is no better person than Farage to deliver that Foxtrot Oscar sentiment and for that reason alone deserves every consideration.

Ron Wigley
Ron Wigley
1 month ago
Reply to  David Butler

Wonderful response David, and they ain’t seen nothing, yet.

Robbie K
Robbie K
1 month ago

Here’s hoping there’s a surge in milkshake sales wherever he goes.

Tom Lewis
Tom Lewis
1 month ago
Reply to  Robbie K

Yes indeed, let’s attack anyone we disagree with, or doesn’t speak for ‘us’. That’s bound to improve things. It might, at least, making the election more entertaining for those in the cheap seats.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 month ago
Reply to  Robbie K

Yes? I was rather hoping for a surge in civility all over the nation, so that people of all political persuasions, can enter public life without fearing physical attack. 

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 month ago
Reply to  Robbie K

Richard Tice clearly hopes so too, given that he’s convinced every such attack on freedom of speech creates thousands of new Reform votes.

It certainly pushed me closer to a Reform vote, anyway.

Sue Sims
Sue Sims
1 month ago
Reply to  Robbie K

You are Jo Brand and I claim my £5!

Peter Principle
Peter Principle
1 month ago

Ms Harrington wonders whether technocrats were partly right about the Brexit vote, i.e. that voters were “duped by the side of a bus”. In major public debates, it is invariably the case that one side can easily quantify its arguments, e.g. Boris saying Britain sent Brussels £350mn per week (ignoring the rebate), whereas the technocrats had great difficulty quantifying the benefits of collective sovereignty. The asymmetry is not surprising since if both sides could quantify, there wouldn’t be much to debate.
Nigel Farage has a great instinct for exploiting this asymmetry: gross immigration of 1 million per year versus woolly arguments from the pro-immmigration parties about “labour shortages” (aka unwillingness to presuade the unemployed to take jobs as care workers).

Peter Shevlin
Peter Shevlin
1 month ago

You would not want the majority of the unemployed to become care workers. The British do not have a very well ingrained culture of caring for their own families let alone others and many cannot even care for themselves. The care workers who come fron SE Asia such as the Phillipines have a much greater culture of care in their communities.

Peter Principle
Peter Principle
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter Shevlin

In 2023, 106,000 visas were issued to foreign care workers for jobs in the UK. Currently, unemployment in the UK is 1,486,000. Consequently, 7% of the unemployed would have been sufficient, not “the majority”, as you state.
Actually, the UK has a very flexible labour force, but only if the pay is right.

Claire D
Claire D
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter Shevlin

Translation:

We’re not that keen on care work – so rather than revise the pay, conditions, career pathway and status of care work to make it more appealing to UK workers –

Take the easy way out and just import cheap foreign labour to do it for us..

Classy

Tom Lewis
Tom Lewis
1 month ago

I am Saxon !
Maybe the Trumps, Johnsons or Farages of this world aren’t the answer, maybe they are nothing more than two (one) fingers put up against the ‘regime’, a cry of rage, but they are a scream nonetheless, and the more the ‘Technocrats’ try to denigrate and suppress them the stronger that rage will become (even the most politically disinterested of souls will see that the game is rigged with a thumb on the scales). And yes, maybe, maybe we will end up with a Hitleresque, or Mussoliniesque, or Trump (in the febrile imagination of the anti-MAGA’s) character, but it won’t be the ‘Saxons’ who are to blame, even if they attempt to put these ‘villainous’ characters in power, but the people who ignored and disenfranchised them and dismissed their voice in the first place.
As an aside, with regard to the article in ‘The Critic’, hyper-linked by MH, does anyone NOT think this is the future: an increasing Lebanonisation (or Balkanisation) of politics in the UK ?

Tom Lewis
Tom Lewis
1 month ago

Maybe I’ll get a badge (or button) made up, in honour of Mary Harrington, that proclaims “I AM SAXON”. An insider ‘joke’, and two fingers up to the Cambridge Early medieval, and their neighbours, society. Yes, we do exist !

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
1 month ago
Reply to  Tom Lewis

The sub postmasters were also Saxons – little people treated with contempt by the Normans of Post Office management. I was shocked to see an email from a PO executive calling Alan Bates just ‘Bates’, not Mr Bates or Alan or Alan Bates. As if he was m’lord’s gamekeeper.

Tom Lewis
Tom Lewis
1 month ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

Could have been worse, they might have called him ‘Master’.

Thomas Wagner
Thomas Wagner
1 month ago
Reply to  Tom Lewis

Ow.

Peter Beard
Peter Beard
1 month ago
Reply to  Tom Lewis

Whether another person is a Saxon or Norman can normally be quickly assertained by asking them if they consider the Norman Conquest was a victory or a defeat.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
1 month ago

As always an interesting slant on current events but also some fabulous phrases

“election that has hitherto felt like the uniparty talking to itself while flinging other people’s spare change at OAPs”

“if the Tories were still a centre-right party instead of an agglomeration of corporate lobbies plus a granny annexe.”

Brilliant

AC Harper
AC Harper
1 month ago

If you were so inclined you could see the milkshake assault as a Global Big Business attacking someone who sees the political effects of undemocratic interests.
Such a metaphor would be overdone perhaps, yet just as Eisenhower warned against the military–industrial complex more than 60 years ago, the tendency of ‘interests’ to dominate political activity has gathered pace, not diminished.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 month ago

Mary has hit upon a greater truth here. The form of government doesn’t necessarily determine how responsive said government is to its people and the popular will, however it is expressed. My cynical and unsentimenal take is that the critical element is fear.

Altruism in humans is a relatively weak motivating factor. The greatest part of that weakness lies in its inconsistency. It is powerful in some yet all but absent in others. It is far from universal. Any philosophy of popular government that relies upon people helping and supporting each other for no personal gain will fail, period. It devolves into conflict between the motivated and unmotivated, the collectivist and the dissident, believer and infidel and tends to end in authoritarian systems as the zealots realize they can never convert the unbelievers and instead enforce conformity through fear of punishment. I hardly need to list any examples here. We all know them.

What zealots of history’s various “common good” philosophies inevitably realize is that their righteous conviction cannot serve as a universal motivating factor. Fear, however, is universal; fear of death, fear of loss, fear of pain, fear of ridicule, fear of punishment. It relies upon instincts that are universal within our species and across other species as well. It requires no conversion nor education. It needs no justification nor explanation.

Fear is the universal motivator. If I might hazard a guess, the shifts in policy that have endured from Trump to Biden, such as economic nationalism, the trade war with China, and a certain distancing from woke narratives are a result of fear. The elites of the USA have good reason to fear the people. The “working class” are the people who fight America’s wars and buy enough guns to support a globally dominant weapons industry. The elites are afraid of triggering widespread violence and revolution. They are afraid of a populist leader returning the USA to an isolationist position. They fear these things because these things undercut their global ambitions and could lead to their professional or personal ruin. Because they yet fear the people, they will be careful not to push too hard or too far against the grain of public opinion. They will still pursue their goals, but they will respect certain limits and respond to overt public pressure. Everything I am seeing lately tells me the course corrections are already well under way on this side of the Atlantic, quiet and reluctant though they be.

On the other hand, the politicians in the UK don’t seem to fear the people, and why should they? Hasn’t been a revolution there in four centuries if you don’t count ours. There hasn’t even been much in the way of protest. In France they had people marching in the streets. In the Netherlands it was farmers on tractors. Those protests produced results and are continuing to do so because it put a little fear into the thinking of people in power. None of us are angels. I think if we’re honest with ourselves, we are all a little bit more careful when we have something to fear. As Jefferson said, a little rebellion now and then is a good thing.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Nevertheless, I believe we are only doing as bad as we are–and don’t find ourselves even worse off–because of the determined altruism of many, if not most. Thank God for those who dare to be good in that way, even if it doesn’t catch on with everyone. There is a seed or spark of altruism in almost all of us; it touches the edge of universality. What results are you hoping for from Rebellion? Be careful what you wish for.
***I have made a new reply to you Steve, partly in agreement, but it won’t post yet, probably because of offense-taking comment-flag-wavers.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 month ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Rebellion doesn’t necessarily suggest violence. It can also mean a mental state of ‘walking away’ when the prevailing narratives no longer follow logic. Like the end days of the Soviet Union, our systems are collapsing under the weight of their own internal consistencies. Boundless immigration, DEI-nepotism, same-sex relationships, transgender genital mutilations, hatred of Jews: none of these are markers of a healthy society. We either continue as we are until the proverbial sh*t hits the fan or we wake up to cold reality.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 month ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Well said.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 month ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

True. I like your reply. But I’d argue that reality is warm, and not solidly fixed, instead from moment to moment. And it is not as cornered into your, or my preferences in the way we’d like to think.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 month ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

First off, rebellion need not mean violent revolution. The trucker protests in Canada, the yellow vests in France, and the farmer protests in The Netherlands are all forms of rebellion. A little rebellion like that is a good and necessary thing. I’m convinced this is what Jefferson meant. It’s generally forgotten that Jefferson and the other founders attempted many different kinds of non-violent protest and civil appeals to the government for unfair treatment. They only resorted to revolution when these other methods had failed and indeed made things worse. Secondly, I don’t WANT a rebellion. I want the fear of such a thing to inspire the establishment to back down in the face of the popular will. Still, the threat must be real. Incidents like Jan 6th, ugly and dangerous as it was, makes the threat of rebellion seem very real. Elites aren’t stupid. They know that if people will storm the capital for Trump, they’ll do it for other reasons as well, and they have a lot to lose. During the first Civil War, the US was an unimportant backwater in terms of world politics. That is no longer the case. The establishment needs the US strong and able to impose the conditions of global freedom of trade and movement. Any rebellion would immediately throw the entire world into economic and political shock regardless of the outcome. Even if the elites won, they would still have lost. That’s what I mean when I say the elites should fear the people.
I don’t anticipate any of that happening. As I said, in the US, I can already see things changing. It’s a slow, halting, and begrudging change, but it is a move away from where we were. The political reality has changed, and everyone knows it. What they hoped to accomplish in 2016 is now demonstrably impossible, and all but the most zealous realize it. The elites know they can’t impose technocracy or neoliberalism or whatever you want to call it without a severe and escalating costs well short of a breakdown into violence. Angry and protesting people can impose severe costs and make things very difficult for elites without resorting to violence. Even now, young people in China are ‘lying flat’, which means participating in society only minimally out of protest against the CCP and the harsh surveillance state. They are not giving their all, and China’s productivity suffers for it. Unhappy people will impose these sorts of problems and costs long before a single shot is fired. I personally revere the likes of Gandhi and MLK Jr. because they were able to accomplish great change without resorting to violence. They found ways to push for change against resistance that involved imposing costs without violence. We should strive to follow their example as much as we can, but we’re not gods.
At the end of the day, it’s not a perfect world, and some people are simply so determined to get their way they won’t be stopped by anything other than brute force. Part of the reason we jail criminals is that we know most of them will continue committing crime unless they are physically prevented from doing so and the fear of harsh punishment limits crime. It’s not perfect. We know from experience that there is no such thing as eliminating crime. It can be reduced and minimized but never entirely eliminated. We cannot abolish war and conflict either, nor change the fact that men and women will seek to control, manipulate, and wield power over one another. There is no system so perfect that it can always guarantee the people freedom from tyranny. That’s a daydream no more real than unicorns and dragons. There must be a point where we fight for freedom rather than simply give up, or we have already lost. Governments do not and never did grant people freedom out of some altruistic desire. We know that from history. The freedoms we have today are a result of the rebellions and protests of generations past. We should not take them for granted. People must demand their rights and freedoms and make the consequences unbearable to any person, organization, group, or government that would attempt to compromise them. This is not an ideal scenario, but it’s the one we face.
You’ll not gain much purchase arguing for the basic decency of humanity to me. I was jaded and cynical by the time I was fifteen. I’m now 44 so you can imagine how entrenched my cynicism has become. I appreciate your sentiment and good will on a personal level. I really do, but there are far too many examples of well intentioned reformers and do-gooders who ended up committing the worst sort of crimes in order to attain the purity necessary for their ideal society. Put simply, there aren’t nearly enough of you, and there never will be. There are far too many like me who are jaded and cynical and not much interested in humanity collectively, and there’s plenty of people much worse than me who have no ethical standards and are perfectly willing to step on others to get ahead. Even if you were to overcome the truly egotistical self-interested sort of people, you’d be defeated by the apathy of people like myself. My advice is do what you can for people on a personal level, give up on idealism at the collective level, and make your peace with the fact that there is nothing you can do to ‘change the world’.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

That makes sense to me overall. I was quite cynical at 15 too, but I’ve had experiences of transcendent grace and individual mercy that have changed me, though I’m still given to frequent sarcasm, and bouts of cynicism.
Altruism is not always idealistic. It is a belief in the value of helping others for its own sake, even when no reward for oneself is likely or possible. Why would the fact that some are too malevolent or profess not to care remove the value in that? Nor do I think a full-time thoroughgoing cynic would expend as much thought and energy as you do explaining your valid reasons for a more pessimistic view, your causes for apathy. Yet I suggest you take a more skeptical view of the depth and changelessness of your cynicism, Steve.
I have a stubborn hope and a certain generousness of heart and hand, but–in case it’s not obvious–I’m no MLK or Gautama Siddhartha. While I sometimes get inspired and play guitar and sing and read poetry (some of it my own stuff) to a captive public audience in parks or on the boulevard, I’m in not danger of suffering genuine martyrdom anytime soon. But I might get killed if I’m not careful–almost have several times. I have more than a trace of rebellious and disruptive spirit myself. There are rebels with cause and those without, violent and nonviolent dreamers.
I’d like to see a shake up of our troubled society, but my skimming of the historical record shows that change that’s too radical or rapid tends to comes at a very bloody cost, and not deliver much of what it promises in the plus column. When you spoke of rebellion in the context of this board–and with reference to other exchanges we’ve had–I did think you meant the something of the MAGA kind: a mobocratic overthrow of institutions brought on by a leader and followers with a huge willingness to commit violence, supposedly in the defense of liberty and traditional values. I take a very skeptical, even cynical view of such mobs. Don’t like the ones in Seattle or Portland either.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

[just a note that I’ve made longish reply but the Editorial Guard will not let me post for now–thanks for your thoughtful response].

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

not allowed to reply yet…

Carl Valentine
Carl Valentine
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Excellent post Steve.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

It’s questionable whether the kind of abstract altruism that has become the currency of all political dialogue nowadays actually has any value. After all, when Theresa May timidly suggested that a small part of the trillions in unearned property wealth that middle class metropolitans have acquired (mostly as a result of bad fiscal and monetary policy under new Labour) might be spent on their own social care the loudest howls of outrage cane from the Guardian. Put a migrant reception centre in Putney or Richmond and see what happens. Most of this ‘altruism’ is just performative. It would be better if we were educated to be honest about our self interest.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 month ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Abstract altruism is stillborn. So is abstract conservatism and liberalism. Any ism worth its salt has to hold a hand out or ball a fist. But you are an utter cynic who calls himself a realist.
Nietzcshe went insane

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 month ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

You believe in nothing, and consider that to be sensible.
Too far, sorry.

j watson
j watson
1 month ago

Some interesting perspectives, but overall yet another failure to properly critique Farage along with Author’s regular, although sometimes camouflaged, dislike of Muslims.
Let’s be straight here – 60-70% of UK public would welcome considerably less net legal migration when the question put like that. Where we struggle is then how the consequences for specific industries and service sectors are addressed. If you ask folks – ‘are you ok if a bunch of Care Homes close due to lack of staff and you look after you’d aged Mum/Dad instead’ they universally say no. Now Farage ducks what he’d do, repeatedly, and knows he can get away with it because he’s no accountability.
There is a discussion industry by industry on what we can/should do to reduce reliance on migrant workers. There are key investment decisions we must make and some will need to be paid for. Farage, and this Author, shirk from being honest about these. It’s performative.
The snide reference and link to Muslims tars them all with the same brush. Author doesn’t mention in many constituencies there will be a Christian Party, or similar, picking up a dribble of support. But she’s happy to dog whistle. Just like Farage. Question for readers is do they have the reflex to a dog whistle they hope.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
1 month ago
Reply to  j watson

It’s a hamster wheel though isn’t it? If 700,000 people a year come in you need more of everything, from doctors to houses, to accommodate them. If you stop people coming in, the situation stabilised in two ways.

Wages rise in those sectors at the bottom of the pile, tempting more people into them. This happened in the hospitality and haulage sectors when all the Poles went home.

The population stops growing as does the additional number needed to support them,

You are right Farage avoids addressing the detailed, industry by industry, short and medium term issues such a change would throw up. But so do the main parties, which is why immigration won’t slow down until there is a genuine powder keg situation.

j watson
j watson
1 month ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Not quite. They are younger so don’t place same demand on services- despite the mythology. Fewer old and fewer v young needing schooling The evidence on EU workers, pre Brexit, was they then returned home more often in older age, hence even better for us. Alas lost on most when it needed to be understood.
Nonetheless we’d still want to take steps to innovate, train our own etc and need much less from wherever they come. Currently we can’t fill all the extra nurse training we’ve finally created, so what are we to do? V difficult.
I’d agree main parties also give limited detail on what they’ll do to wean us off reliance. That’s partly because too many of us want our cake and eat it and give politicians the impression that if they tell us the truth we won’t vote for them. I suspect actually we’ve been lied to enough and would be ready for more honesty, but I can see why they behave as they do. We are all far from blameless.

Andrew R
Andrew R
1 month ago
Reply to  j watson

Mass immigration was a solution to a problem that never existed. It did however depress wages, reduce incentives to come off welfare, for companies to train staff and innovate. Placing extra demand on services and infrastructure that could not cope.

Maybe we just keep on importing people just so that we won’t have to educate children or train young adults (that’ll be the nurses and carers taken care of). That’s has to be one of the most ridiculous arguments I’ve ever heard. That’s the having your cake and eating it.

Your whole premise is nonsense from start to finish. I expect you to come up with it all again some next week.

SMH

j watson
j watson
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew R

You need to go and ask likes of Braverman why she signed off the legal Visas for the range of industries that had requested they be allowed to recruit abroad.
Here’s a thought on training too, although I appreciate detail tends to annoy you even more – to become a HCA and work in a Care home the basic requirement is an NVQ. Ask your local college how many places they have funded. Woefully short of funded places. Then consider the problem of getting someone unemployed re-trained in this field – let’s assume they are motivated. The moment they start training benefits stop as they’ve made themselves unavailable for work. So how do they manage for the 6-12mths whilst training? Not many have sufficient savings. Worth looking up what they do in Germany to aid retraining and the sum you get allocated for it. We could have done similar last 14yrs but haven’t.

Andrew R
Andrew R
1 month ago
Reply to  j watson

You offer nothing, just business as usual. Not sure how sending students to university to undertake degrees in post colonial studies is going to solve the care crisis or our poor productivity.

Andrew R
Andrew R
1 month ago
Reply to  j watson

Where does Mary say any of those things you’ve mentioned? She hasn’t, just your (usual) projection

You continue to write the same fatuous garbage over and over again.

You are probably the most dishonest person on this message board.

j watson
j watson
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew R

The Author doesn’t have to try hard to hoodwink you AR. You’re halfway there before she’s started. But keep reading the alternative view.

Andrew R
Andrew R
1 month ago
Reply to  j watson

You offer no evidence or genuine counter argument, that adequately questions Mary’s premise.you truly are an idiot.

Sue Sims
Sue Sims
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew R

You are probably the most dishonest person on this message board.

But what about our beloved Champagne Sneercialist?

Andrew R
Andrew R
1 month ago
Reply to  Sue Sims

CS is pure snark, but the two of the them are full of projection andcertainly like smearing people with false accusations, quite disgusting.

Ben Jones
Ben Jones
1 month ago

I particularly enjoyed the Norman / Saxon comparison. A great article and a timely riposte to the ‘Farage is a failure because he’s never been elected’ sniping.

Jack Martin Leith
Jack Martin Leith
1 month ago
Reply to  Ben Jones

Farage is a failure because he’s never been elected

As spouted by Piers Morgan just last week on BBC’s Question Time.

annabel lawson
annabel lawson
1 month ago
Reply to  Ben Jones

Incidentally was the late Queen Norman or Saxon?

Edward Hamer
Edward Hamer
1 month ago

I share this concern that modern polities and societies may have become too complex for elected generalists to govern effectively – the technocracy is a regrettable necessity, though government should always be trying to stop it metastasizing too much.
This is one of the key problems with Brexit (and I speak as a Leave voter). It is very difficult to make a change like that stick when it is opposed by most of the professional middle class, unless it can be shown to work for them as well as for the Saxons (though obviously there is some overlap between those groups). I think Peter Hitchens was probably right to say at the time that we should stay in the EEA, because that would actually have reflected the general feeling in the country; not wanting to be full members (52%) but also wanting the technocratic side of things to work smoothly (48%).

Martin M
Martin M
1 month ago
Reply to  Edward Hamer

I too was a Brexit supporter, but would have been happy enough with a somewhat softer Brexit. The problem was that the Remainers kept pushing that “people’s vote” nonsense, rather than negotiating in good faith in relation to what Brexit would look like.

Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
1 month ago

spreadsheets and chinos and all

So good she used it twice.
As a general comment, the polictical developments that exist everwhere came into being as a response to various pressures. These change over time, usually gradually, but at present if feels as if a major realignment is emerging and the Best Before date has expired.

General Store
General Store
1 month ago

Very astute – but Mary under-estimates the power of the nation-state to reassert bounded sovereignty and re-create conditions of shared civic identity and social trust. The power and capacity is there – should someone choose to wield it. For that to happen however, we would need a rather major crisis….A systemic energy crisis (check), war (proxy is here, real thing could be coming soon), de-globalization of international supply chains and economy (this has begun – Chinese invasion of Taiwan would accelerate it), and clear public failure of the technocratic project (Net Zero will see to that)….and a demographic shift towards conservatives. The latter is easier to see in North America – because conservatives do have more children. The woke lunatics are sterilizing themselves and failing to reproduce everywhere…..but in Britain, the conservatives are failing to step up.
So as ever: have faith, have hope….go back to church, have as many children as you can, get an allotment and a pair of ferrets (rabbits taste great and meat will be expensive luxury), pull your kids out of technocrat indoctrination camps, and keep voting for the Farages, Trumps, Le Pens and other civic-nationalist shit-disturbers. Oh – and don’t let your kids go to campus universities. OU degree in economics or STEM + work experience + set up business…. No humanities or social science
Finally – if you have a thick skin. Stop hiding your allegiances. Wear that Trump/MAGA, F*** Trudeau, Farage hat. Raise a cross in your garden. Make it clear where you stand.

Alan B
Alan B
1 month ago
Reply to  General Store

This is perfect incoherence: revive civic republicanism by staying home and racking up technocratic credentials!

Martin M
Martin M
1 month ago
Reply to  General Store

You were making some sense for a while, but then fell away rapidly. The pivot point for me was “go back to church”….

Matthew Powell
Matthew Powell
1 month ago

The purpose of the third parties in a FPTP system tends to be influence rather than representation.

Whilst this may seem a depressing situation, I would argue that it can be very successful, with the Lib Dem’s having essentially been in power since 1997, after forcing first the Labour Party to adopt their ideology to see off the SDP split and then in turn the Conservatives, where in the Home Counties disgruntled voters will vote Lib Dem in a flash if the party displease them. They have influence not because they can beat either party on a national level but because they can prevent each from winning unless they pander to their ideology.

Reform can exert a disproportionate influence over the big two if they are able to do the same.

Adrian Smith
Adrian Smith
1 month ago

I guess the left wing equivalent to Farage is the grifter Galloway. Imagine how Starmer would behave if there was someone as credible as Nigel wanting to punish Labour for selling out its working class bass in favour of the woke middle class. Quite a few of the real problems we face today are thanks to Phoney Blair doing exactly that when he was in power.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
1 month ago

Not just the petit bourgeois, Mary. Farage represents the traditional working classes, who have been abandoned by Labour. There were more ex-miners on the Tory benches than the Labour benches in the last Parliament.

Angus Douglas
Angus Douglas
1 month ago

Interesting comments here about the over-reach of managerialism. Iain McGilchrist blames the rise of self-serving (reason-defeating) bureaucracy on left-brained derangement. I think he is onto something.

Norfolk Sceptic
Norfolk Sceptic
1 month ago
Reply to  Angus Douglas

Practicing STEM subjects require a lot right-brain, trying to understand concepts but, once understood, need the left-brain to ‘do the work’, with all those equations! And it’s giving the right-brain a chance to reassess what is in progress that helps to reduce mistakes.

Aidan Anabetting
Aidan Anabetting
1 month ago

MH is quite right that “the trends that impelled Brexit in the first place: hollowing out the social fabric, draining away real-world jobs in favour of placeless knowledge-work” have actually accelerated since the referendum. Whereas there has been growth in the financial / service sector in the UK, trade in goods and manufacturing have declined by 11% (compare that with Japan which saw a 9% manufacturing growth in the same period). The imbalance between the knowledge economy that favours the educated, and the “physical economy”, has increased rapidly since Brexit, further widening regional inequality. The fact is that this was entirely predictable but not of great concern for many of the political architects of Brexit many of whom were themselves beneficiaries of financialisation and asset inflation.

Norfolk Sceptic
Norfolk Sceptic
1 month ago

It concerns many, otherwise the Reform Party wouldn’t exist. After all, many do have children and grandchildren that need a more positive future than we have now.

Aidan Anabetting
Aidan Anabetting
1 month ago

Why can no one see that Messrs. Farage and Tice are, respectively, creatures of financialisaton and property rent extraction? Behind a thin veneer of cultural conservatism, they are de-regulating neoliberals through and through with no ideas other than let the market rip. Like 18th century quacks who, when told the patient is weakening, suggest opening up another vein.

Philip Stott
Philip Stott
1 month ago

‘Worse still, the Saxon senses the contempt modern Normans have for him, as they sneer at the “bigots” and “gammons”.’
We now know Champagne Mentalist’s Christian name – Norman.

Citizen Diversity
Citizen Diversity
1 month ago

How did the contest between the Saxon peasant and the Norman baron work out after 1066?
Not very well at all until the Black Death reduced the number of Saxons. Magna Carta did nothing for the Saxons. Nor did Cromwell, who was essentially always squirearchy.
The petit-bourgeoisie who look to Farage are like the last of the D-Day veterans. People who have been fixed in shape by one event. Like the last Cornish speakers of the 18th century, both are living remnants of a society and a civilisation that no longer exists. Like coelacanths dredged up from the abyssal depths of history.
In old Saxon ‘Welsh’ means foreigner. Thus the Welsh were the people who were made foreigners in their own land.
In her comment about Mr F delivering a smack to the two cheeks of the same uniparty backside, MH alludes that he is of the same mould as Mr Galloway. Unfortunately, all too many people are only too happy to kiss either cheek in the GE.
In a contest between NATO and the Russian Federation, would the Americans exchange Atlantic City for Clacton-on-Sea?

James Kirk
James Kirk
1 month ago

Reform is a gig. You buy tickets and if you like them you go again. The gig being to stop the perceived erosion of traditional England and not force unwanted experiments on us. Excess immigration, Net Zero, gender stuff. Can’t speak for Wales or Scotland, only they can with their dubious preferences.
I can understand the gig of socialism but wishful thinking won’t make it work without totalitarian dictatorship and you will only ever vote once for that. I’ve no idea what the recent Tory gig is about and nor, it seems, do they.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
1 month ago

 Its critics make dark accusations about the motivations of its larger donors.
Of course, they do. It’s what the powerful do whenever any challenge to their hegemony emerges. Unable to defend one’s own record, the only remaining course of action is to lash out at challengers. It does not really matter whether Farage would be an improvement or not. His presence and that of others like him speaks to a discontent with the status quo, but for the two major parties to recognize that would be for them to recognize that they’re supposed to work for the people, not the other way around.
It seems that you in the UK have the same problem as we in the US: a govt that has grown far beyond its capacity to serve the public, populated by venal careerists motivated by self-interest rather than the public interest. Most Western govts are struggling to perform their basic tasks satisfactorily, yet those within see no problem with taking things well beyond their scope of expertise. What’s worse is that far too many voters are okay with that, frequently believing that every societal question demands a govt response.

Stephanie Surface
Stephanie Surface
1 month ago

For my part I am looking forward to listening to Farage‘s speeches in Parliament. His charismatic speeches in Brussels, in front of an empty house, were usually great internet hits, especially in other EU countries…

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 month ago

This article could easily be interpreted as a harking back to 1930s ‘blood and soil’ National Socialism. Brexit is at its most basic level simply an anglicised manifestation of that and Farage its high priest. The social and economic collapse of Brexit voting areas you rail against is a direct and unavoidable consequence of Brexit. It continues to astonish that brexiters don’t get that mass non-eurpean immigration would follow a Brexit victory in order to replace the ethnically cleansed European workforce. People were warned but the dullards believed the Brexit scam. Countries tend to get the governments they deserve. Welcome to Brexitland

Richard Calhoun
Richard Calhoun
1 month ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Your arrogance says it all … your sophistry fools no one … the EU is imploding, which you clearly fail to see, or perhaps just in denial of what is actually happening.
The next decade will see a very different UK emerge, a UK that will be able to lifts it’s head high in the certain knowledge that we have our own Sovereignty and with that the ability to make decisions for our own people, rather than others make decisions on our behalf.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 month ago

Sovrinty innit.

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 month ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Reductive nonsense that serves only as a fig leaf to (unsuccessfully) cover your own bias.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 month ago
Reply to  John Riordan

NF is a fraud, a political illusionist skilled at working the mob. Clearly he is also your political soul mate. One need say no more about you

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 month ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

The fact you can prefix the word “clearly” to such a ludicrously-baseless extrapolation of what you think my opinions are on this subject, once again merely emphasises that you’re doing nothing here except projecting your own bias.

Steve Crowther
Steve Crowther
1 month ago

‘He is pioneering a new sectarianism’. Where does she say that?

Campbell P
Campbell P
1 month ago

‘ An agglomeration of corporate lobbies plus a granny annexe’… Perfect,!

Christopher Chantrill
Christopher Chantrill
1 month ago

Yes. Farage is not really out of the top drawer, old girl. I mean Clacton! Where Butlins Holiday Camps used to reign.
But I suggest that Mary Harrington read On Power by Bertrand de Jouvenel. Yes, he’s a Frenchie, but he develops an anti-narrative, that the last couple-hundred years have not been a glorious burst of freedom but a brutal annihilation of the “little platoons” by Power, so there is nothing between Power and the helpless individual.

Richard Calhoun
Richard Calhoun
1 month ago

Farage and Reform, like UKIP before, have come about to disrupt the poltical class who are so far removed from working people.
This is a continuation of the brexit battle, which has still not been accepted by the majority of the poltical classes.
This disruption, could result in a minority Labour govt or being forced into coalition with the Libdems
The disruption has only just started … expect up to 3 general elections between now and 2030 before the electorate decide on how we govern the UK.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
1 month ago

Good luck with that, champ!
Labour majority of >50, Tories annihilated, Reform maybe get one seat but their candidate is too stupid to find Westminster and never takes his seat.
Labour in power for a generation and save Britain.

Martin M
Martin M
1 month ago

Nah, the Tories will be back even if they lose badly this time. They are the natural party of government in Britain.

Richard North
Richard North
1 month ago

Bravo Mary Harrington who is one of the few writers (Melanie Phillips, Frank Furedi, Douglas Murray) who brings intelligence and a strong understanding of history to enlighten the issues of 2024.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
1 month ago

“So how do you course-correct your cadres of unaccountable wonks?” Donald Trump is promising a number of initiatives to clean out the Augean stable on the other side of the pond where the Blob is called the Deep State. Erdoğan pulled it off in Turkey so it’s not as if it can’t be done if there is but the will.

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 month ago

“Our obdurate post-Brexit return to uniparty consensus illustrates how resistant such mechanisms have become to deprecated “interests”.”

This, and other points about Brexit above, tend to give the impression that Brexit as a process is somehow in the past and fixed as a mostly-failed political project.

What I’d say is that as an event it is in the past, but the returned competencies it produced are still with us, and we can use them whenever we want, except that an unreformed political class, still nostalgic for the glory days when it could strut about pretending it’s in charge but still clutching Brussels’ apron strings whenever called upon to defend unpopular policy, doesn’t want to.

Or to repeat Daniel Hannan’s insight, it’s a process not an event, and we’re still in the process. I tentatively agree with the insight that perhaps the vote for Brexit was a general rejection of the technocratic globalist system within which the EU is only a particularly egregious example, explaining why we’ve left the EU but it sometimes feels like we’re still in the EU, but once again, we are now governed by a system that is not under the control of Brussels, and we can make it behave appropriately if we collectively want.

Mary’s insight above that perhaps democracy itself was only ever a temporary departure from a more stable system of patrician class-based politics that was less accountable yet somehow nevertheless more responsive, that’s an intriguing notion. The only thing I’d say about it is this: if indeed it was such a thing, I suspect it depended crucially upon monoculturalism. The idea that it could work in an open society that tries to accommodate multiple cultures often in possession of conflicting sectarian interests and activist political arms, I suspect is a dangerously short-sighted idea, even while admitting the fact that one-man-one-vote democracy hasn’t exactly worked out how to square this particular circle either.

Val Pierpont
Val Pierpont
1 month ago

The Conservatives forgot that someone who doesn’t know where he’s going to live, and who can’t make a plan for his next steps in life, isn’t going to be a Conservative.

Caroline Galwey
Caroline Galwey
1 month ago

If ‘Saxon sectarianism’ isn’t as successful as Muslim sectarianism, perhaps that’s partly because of its reluctance (so far) to resort to violence, which both scares and titillates our technocrats so much.

james elliott
james elliott
1 month ago

Farage is a *reaction to* sectarianism.

Tom K
Tom K
1 month ago

Poor effort from Mary Harrington. She should be joining the effort to stick it to the Normans, as she puts it, rather than joining the sneering.

Gordon Arta
Gordon Arta
1 month ago

The world is too complex to be run by ‘generalists’, especially poorly paid generalists selected by local party activists whose horizons don’t extend much beyond constituency boundaries, and are ‘held to account’ by equally clueless generalist journalists. Here’s an idea to address both; replace the HofL with an indirectly elected expert body representing all the professional and interest groups – ‘estates’ – charged with developing strategic policy options for all those issues which extend beyond HofC term limits. The HofC assisted where necessary by referenda, would select from the options via its manifesto commitments; once voted in, that option would be implemented, and removed from petty political consideration.

Victoria Cooper
Victoria Cooper
1 month ago

Lucid breakdown of the history of politics. Echoes the thoughts of the somewheres v the nowheres. Long live the Saxons, a curse on the Normans!

M L Hamilton Anderson
M L Hamilton Anderson
1 month ago

…….the UK needs its own Javier Milei.

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
1 month ago

A good essay and a good question; if the quality and power of our elected politicians has been hollowed out and corroded, what do we do when the permanent managerial ‘technocracy’ proves to be even morw inept and unfit (see What danger from QE/I see no inflation BoE bunglers; the banana Republic chaos of the independent NHS; the duff regulators of hyper expensive energy, t**d water and City killing dud investment rules?? Brexit offered a two day hope of the necessary counter revolution to our shiny new EU State. But then the Blob exploited covid to de-rail that fleeting hope. Until the core now twisted foundational laws of the progressive state – equality and human rights – are overturned, we will be like Russia post 1922, trapped in a Red Hell. Escape is only possible in a 1989/90 moment; a total collapse. But with meritocracy and wealth creation scorned and a Big coercive State in thrall to a Pol Pot dogma on energy, that Fall may come rather sooner – maybe 10-15 Years. Tins hats and misery.

karlheinz r
karlheinz r
1 month ago

Technocrats shouldn‘t be political activists or activists of any sort. They should just be well schooled in their trade.Politicians should strive to permanently reduce complexity to keep the system understandable and tractable. A little pruning now and then might continually remind the technocrats that they are the servants not the masters.

laurence scaduto
laurence scaduto
18 days ago

In terms of “what could be done”:
I realized something while involved in a local tussle about the little park around the corner. The real currency of politics, considering how seldom we actually have a chance to vote, is the crowds packing (or ignoring) their accursed meetings, town-halls, etc. The politicians and their minions need to be able to pretend that they have “the people” behind them and that decisions are being made only after all due consultations. They need an audience, aka “bums in chairs”.
The activist organizations of all sorts have an advantage; those strange people actually enjoy this sort of crap. But if the rest of us would start a) finding out about these meetings, and b) showing up and insisting on being heard, we might be able to shut down some of the craziness. It worked for me and my neighbors!