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Welcome to Keir Starmer’s post-liberal order We are all living in Tony Blair's world

'A loyal Skywalker to Blair’s Obi-Wan.' Chris J. Ratcliffe/Bloomberg/Getty Images

'A loyal Skywalker to Blair’s Obi-Wan.' Chris J. Ratcliffe/Bloomberg/Getty Images


July 6, 2024   10 mins

So now Keir Starmer is Prime Minister, what will change? There are two apparently contradictory responses to this.

The first: nothing. The truly shattering revelation from the era since Brexit has been that you can experience a so-called “political earthquake”, followed by years of ululation and hand-wringing, and after it all dies down, the same spreadsheets-and-chinos people will go on pushing more or less the same policies as before, and ignoring more or less the same structural issues and popular preferences. It is the post-democratic and transnational new normal. We might call it “actually existing post-liberalism”. The election of Starmer will simply entrench it further.

But just because a political consensus exists across nominally opposing parties, it doesn’t follow that politics as such is over. This wasn’t true even before the mass franchise, and it isn’t true now, when growing numbers perceive the franchise to be all but worthless. But the terrain on which politics happens has changed, from the ballot box to an increasingly politicised lobbying ecosystem — even as the terms of our polarisation have changed too, from “Left” and “Right” to new and increasingly existential forms of identity politics. More ominously, the still larger question concerns the suitability of post-liberal governance in a 21st-century world of interlocking, and ever-escalating crises.

Back when Boris Johnson won his landslide on the promise to “get Brexit done”, it did seem for a moment or two that a political worldview that became known as “post-liberalism” was about to enjoy its moment in the sun. Leaders just had to set aside the liberal fiction that government need not have a substantive moral vision. If they could do this, so the hope went, perhaps they might be able somehow to restore little platoons and small farms and shops, and make people want to live with their ageing parents in thriving small towns, instead of pumping them with useless degrees and debt, then trapping them into childless, hand-to-mouth existences doomscrolling over industrially farmed GMO slop in overpriced urban shoeboxes.

“The election of Starmer will simply entrench the actually existing post-liberal order still further.”

It was not to be. Boris won, and in the blink of an eye, Covid happened. Suddenly everyone was stuck at home, doomscrolling while eating GMO slop. No more little platooning, even for the dwindling cohort that actually wanted to. Instead, we now enjoy the other post-liberalism. Not the one envisioned by writers who were mostly just social conservatives, but with extra Tolkien. The one in which state power is, yes, aligned with an explicit vision of the good — but one that has very little to do with the Bilbo Baggins Nationalism that bloomed for a moment in 2019.

Actually existing post-liberalism takes as its baseline what came next: the moment the populist uprising was crushed under a fusion of state and commerce, with the population under curfew and everything mediated by the internet. In other words: our nadir of maximum individual isolation, underwritten (aspirationally at least) by total penetration of the state, big business, and Big Data.

Under liberalism, the unacknowledged backdrop to politics was a Christian-inflected moral outlook centred on human dignity and individual freedom. The political unit was usually the nation state, and the franchise was a load-bearing element in political decision-making. This order corralled dissent via moral censure or physical imprisonment, while much of the political dialectic concerned which unintended side-effects of “liberation” should be prioritised for political remedy. Should politicians try to mitigate the negative side-effects of social liberalism, such as broken families, or of the economic sort such as poverty?

That world has gone. Never mind Tolkien Nationalism; under the post-liberalism we actually have, governing elites enjoy more in common with one another transnationally than with their nominal citizens, whose nation states are in any case heading for obsolescence (except when there’s a threat of war). In this post-post-Westphalia geopolitics, governance is internationalised and technocratic, and policy is shaped a long way upstream of elections. Humans, meanwhile, are believed not to possess any distinctive cultural, genetic, or affective bonds, but are seen instead as radically interchangeable, fungible work units that may be deployed anywhere according to economic imperative.

And the shared backdrop to all this isn’t a moral one, but a common relationship to the technologies that mediate citizenship, from participation in the digital public square to politics as entertainment. In accordance with this, dissent is no longer managed so much via social sanction or even incarceration; witness the now-common policy of releasing even serious criminals halfway through their sentences. Instead, it happens via the digital direction of public attention, while the most serious dissent results in revocation of access to the technologies that mediate public life, from posting privileges to banking services.

Having “got Brexit done”, the Tories in theory had a one-off opportunity to change the frame. They could have used the time to pack Britain’s NGOcracy with their people, or even tackle the plethora of New Labour constitutional innovations that paved the way for the post-liberal order. But they didn’t take it, which suggests that either they had so poor a grasp of the political machine they supposedly operated as to make an inadvertent case for the technocratic “experts” they affected to deplore. Or else, perhaps, they understood how that technocracy worked, and liked it just fine.

The latter position is understandable, if not commendable. When you can leave the machinery of state largely on autopilot and focus instead on lining your own and your friends’ pockets, who in their right mind would want actual responsibility? There are honourable exceptions to this: Danny Kruger and Miriam Cates have both stuck their necks out, while for voicing mainstream British views on migration control and the inadequacy of multiculturalism, Suella Braverman was smeared as the reincarnation of Oswald Mosley.

But that’s three MPs, out of what was (until the Tories’ roundly deserved electoral hammering) several hundred. As for the others, their behaviour in Parliament suggested that whatever the electorate may have hoped, they mostly accepted it is Tony’s world now, and we all just get to live in it. On Thursday, the electorate recoiled in disgust from this discovery, gifting Starmer a majority nearly twice the size of Boris Johnson’s on fewer votes than Jeremy Corbyn secured to lose against Theresa May in 2017. The public didn’t so much vote for Labour as for anything but the Conservatives. And having done so, we’re now in for a programme of constitutional changes that will entrench post-liberalism still further. Labour’s manifesto undertakes to drain what’s left of parliamentary supremacy away, with vetoes granted to regional representatives and courts. Meanwhile, the franchise may be diluted and trivialised still further, by extension to 16-year-olds whom the Left would in other contexts treat as barely having reached the age of criminal responsibility. We can be sure that no very serious decisions will be entrusted to an electorate that includes literal children.

But is wonkocracy even so bad? Maybe 21st-century civilisation really is too technical for government by elected non-specialists, voted into power by the masses. The tribulations of small UK businesses after Brexit arguably illustrates what happens, when you set about making major changes to the operations of a complex, high-tech state without a cadre of compliant nerds thinking through all the details for you. There’s always the chance you’ll end up with 10-mile lorry queues or a £25 billion slump in trade with your closest geographic partners, not to mention Cheeseageddon. So maybe His Toniness was right all along, and the plebs should be protected from meaningful political agency for everyone’s good.

“Maybe His Toniness was right all along.”

What Starmer chooses to focus on in his first few weeks will offer some indication of how committed he is to this view, as well as how in reliant he is on the more bonkers factions in his own party to deliver it. If he expends his post-election political capital imposing VAT on private school fees against the interests of his own middle-class voters, or perhaps institutionalising Islamic blasphemy laws or rolling back women’s rights, we can infer that he feels vulnerable to attack from his own factions. But if he prioritises gutting what remains of Britain’s unwritten constitution, we can assume that he has both the desire and political headroom to govern as a loyal Skywalker to Blair’s Obi-Wan.

But it doesn’t follow that politics will come to an end. On the contrary: if the old order had to wrestle with the unintended side-effects of freedom, the new must grapple with the externalities of trying to unite a polity through technocratic means. For even if the Davocracy likes to imagine that all peoples are interchangeable, some subsets of the population really do have more in common than others. Some cultures really are incompatible, and some really do seem more conducive to wealth and power than others. Humans really can’t change sex, no matter how clever your surgeon. And so on.

I expect much of the day-to-day noise in Starmer’s administration to come from his regime’s efforts to manage this reality. Which identities may be noticed and celebrated, and which must be treated as non-existent or even taboo? We got a glimpse of this negotiation during Covid, when churches and playgrounds were closed on pain of arrest, but racism was agreed to be a public health emergency justifying large and sometimes violent street gatherings. We can assume Starmer’s reflex incentive will be to push for egalitarianism by fiat; the predictable consequence of this will be identitarianism across the board.

Already, race-consciousness among British youth is not restricted to ethnic minorities or Left-wingers, but now includes an increasingly radical Right-wing white version. Starmer has already promised to entrench race consciousness in law and public policy, via a new Race Equality Act that promises guarantee equal pay across ethnicities, and to impose a public sector duty to collect data on staffing, pay, and outcomes by ethnicity. Anyone who imagines that this won’t intensify muttering among disaffected white British zoomers really hasn’t been paying attention.

Meanwhile, a question-mark hangs over the shattered remnants of the Conservative Party. Given that the scale of Tory losses were due not to an increased Labour vote share, but voters abandoning the Tories for a more Right-wing alternative, even the most wall-eyed of the surviving Tory “wets” will have trouble persuading the party membership that the future of conservatism is tacking to the centre. Not, of course, that this will stop them trying. But when the Tory “centre” in practice seems to have meant complaining about “wokeness” while ignoring the electorate’s preferences and governing for their friends, perhaps this coalition has in any case run out of road.

 

What will succeed it? My bet is more and more varied identity politics. Starmer’s post-liberal government will find itself harangued from one direction by the Muslim bloc vote that emerged in this election as a self-aware and increasingly well-organised political force, and from another by an also increasingly self-aware “Anglo-Saxon” one. Other blocs will likely emerge to join these. It is difficult to see much of a future for the surviving rump of Tory “wets” in that context, unless they do what they should have done long ago, and merge with that other clearing-house for obsolete political groupings: the Liberal Democrats.

As representative politics fractalises into interest-bloc lobbies, we can also expect pressure to increase on First Past the Post. As it stands, Reform secured 14% of the vote to the Liberal Democrats’ 12%, and yet won four seats to the Lib Dems’ 70; UK politics and the UK electoral system are now starkly mismatched. Labour was the greatest beneficiary of this disjunction on Thursday, meaning Starmer has little incentive to change it; this will doubtless fuel resentment against his regime from many quarters.

Looking further ahead, I expect whatever version of the Right emerges on the other side of One Nation Tory extinction to be sanguine about actually existing post-liberalism, and at ease with identity politics. One plausible hunting-ground for such a Right would be to accept managerialism as a done deal, and focus on promoting a less utopian relation to difference: that is, one fixated less on top-down imposition of “equity” by fiat, and more on policies that adapt pragmatically to normative variation between identity groups. Combine this with an optimistic view of tech innovation and a law and order policy robust enough to cope with a truly multicultural population, and you have something like the Right-wing progressive caucus already emerging elsewhere.

Despite a generous helping of Hitler-themed screeching in the run-up to the election, the presence in Parliament of Reform’s five new MPs will serve more as an impediment to this programme than an accelerant. I expect them to have minimal direct impact on lawmaking, while Farage is unlikely to become the nativist demagogue of his haters’ fantasies. His instincts are rooted in the liberal bygone England of tolerance and individual liberty, and he’s never to my knowledge expressed the kind of ethno-nationalist sentiment with which he’s routinely associated in the press. Indeed, he’s recently acted to rein in the more combative instincts of younger aides on this front. The one to watch will be whoever succeeds Farage as leader of an increasingly identitarian young British Right; as yet the UK has no Jordan Bardella, but it’s probably only a matter of time.

But if all Starmer has to worry about is race-conscious zoomers on TikTok, he will surely heave a sigh of relief. The portents are gloomy: he has no fiscal headroom, a restive population struggling with the cost of living, and a basket-case economy from which rich people are fleeing like rats leaving a sinking ship. The political fringes are aboil with Islamists and other mutinous groups. He’ll be told an ageing population and falling birth rate means confronting voters with the trade-off between unpopular mass immigration on the one hand, and stagnation on the other. He’ll be told by others that no, immigration doesn’t even deliver the promised economic upside, and by others again that he is obliged to open Britain to migrants displaced by climate change and global conflict.

Beyond Britain’s borders, popular backlash to the same fractious population dynamics have brought Giorgia Meloni to power in Italy, and Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, and may soon do the same for Marine le Pen in France. An increasingly Right-wing Europe will, in turn, have ramifications for a future Starmerite response to Channel migrants. This is further complicated by the fact that today Britain is both in self-perception and, increasingly, in beneficial ownership, an imperial province of America, meaning a great deal of what Starmer can do will depend on November’s Presidential election. With mounting concern over 81-year-old President Biden’s fitness for a second term, there remains no very popular alternative to an ebullient Trump. Should the latter be re-elected, and the Trumpist foreign policy faction succeed in its proposed policy of shifting US defence priorities away from Europe, pressure to remilitarise Western EU states will intensify existing divergent interests within the EU, with as yet unknown consequences.

Against this backdrop, David Lammy’s promised “progressive realism” may need to lean more heavily than he would prefer on the realism, rather than the progress. But realism requires subtlety and leadership; meanwhile, the post-liberal order is optimised for governance without leadership. It favours process, consensus, and institutional power over charisma, inspiration, and vitality. It values and elevates people like Rishi Sunak: intelligent, diligent, and wholly devoid of whatever the special sauce is that inspires mass affection and loyalty.

When faced with an extraordinary situation this headless, faceless, procedural regime produces something like an immune response: a whole-system reaction designed to expel or neutralise the irritant. The financial system’s collective response to the Truss premiership falls into this category, as did the collective chattering-class decision to bin existing pandemic plans, and demand mass lockdowns during Covid. But like an immune system, this kind of response to perceived attack is imprecise, prone to over-reaction, and incapable of strategic thought. If the international situation grows much more restive, this may prove a critical weakness.

So arise, Sir Keir, anointed avatar of actually existing post-liberalism. And good luck. If the worst you have to deal with is racist zoomers, you’ll be laughing. More likely, though, you’ll be battling to consolidate technocratic proceduralism for a population that blames crime, economic stagnation, the escalating cost of housing on (procedurally driven) immigration, the price of energy on (procedurally driven) Net Zero, and everything else on you personally. A leader who finds himself standing as the last island of Blairism, between a Trumpist United States and an increasingly hard-Right EU, at the head of a headless administration hopelessly ill-equipped to respond strategically to any of these challenges. It may be, in other words, that Saint Blair’s successor has taken the helm of a fully post-liberal Britain, at precisely the moment when that ceased to be a workable mode of government.


Mary Harrington is a contributing editor at UnHerd.

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Stephen Walsh
Stephen Walsh
5 days ago

What a treat on election night to listen to the likes of George Osborne and Ruth Davidson declaiming interminably that Sunak’s mistake was “appeasing” Reform, and not being “centrist” enough. George Osborne actually tut tutted about Tory ethical failings, and complained of Sunak’s supposed timidity in confronting the right wing “demons” of his party, as if the failures of 14 years of Tory rule had nothing to do with him. He and Ed Balls nodded on chummily as Nicola Sturgeon alongside them blamed SNP losses on the breach with the Greens, with no vulgar mention at all of the her and her husband’s arrests. The carefully curated election night coverage drew a discreet veil over the results in Leicester South, Birmingham Perry Barr, Blackburn and Dewsbury, and the near defenestration of Will Streeting and Jess Phillips in their own constituencies. We must draw attention away from garish reality, so that the only possible explanation for populist reaction is bigotry.

Andrew Horsman
Andrew Horsman
4 days ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

Does anyone have any info on the number of spoilt ballots at this election, and whether it’s more or less than 117,101 ballots spoilt in 2019, which was itself an increase of more than 50% over the 2017 number? I’ve not seen any reportage of it in the media, mainstream or otherwise. I’m sure there’s a totally innocent and reasonable explanation for this complete radio silence. Would anyone would be so kind as to enlighten me?

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
3 days ago
Reply to  Andrew Horsman

Rod Liddle did report on one of the Labour votes in his electorate that was annulled after a complaint by Reform that someone had scrawled only “KNOB” on the tick box which could hardly be counted as an endorsement. Rod wrote that Labour candidate Andy McDonald actually seemed like a nice guy and not a knob, but that wasn’t the question.
He (and other candidates) got to see the papers because candidates have a right to contest spoiled or possibly spoiled ballot papers.

Dr E C
Dr E C
4 days ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

Yes I managed to watch about 5 minutes of this Roundtable of the Dementedly Hypocritical before having to check out again. Who could possibly have imagined that this bunch’s crazed musings on election night was the commentary the British public would want?

J Bryant
J Bryant
5 days ago

There are honourable exceptions to this: Danny Kruger and Miriam Cates have both stuck their necks out…
I’m not a Brit but I’ve read about Miriam Cates here on Unherd. She seemed to be delivering the type of conservatism Conservatives actually want. So why did her constituency vote her out?

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
5 days ago
Reply to  J Bryant

As a member of a much-reduced opposition, she’d be powerless to enact any of her ideas on behalf of her constituents. Whatever they thought of her as a politician of principle, the anti-Tory vote over-rode any other consideration.

Stephen Walsh
Stephen Walsh
4 days ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Her constituency of Penistone and Stocksbridge was not really a Conservative one. It is in Sheffield and it and its predecessor constituencies had been safety Labour for many decades before Miriam Cates won it in 2019. It wasn’t her fault they Boris Johnson, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak failed to deliver the sort of government her constituents voted for in 2019. Even so, her margin of defeat was smaller than the Reform votes. She was also the victim of a BBC hit job right before the election.

Nick Faulks
Nick Faulks
4 days ago
Reply to  J Bryant

She didn’t deliver anything, because she wasn’t in any position to do so. She was part of the collective punishment of the Sunak administration.

Peter D
Peter D
5 days ago

Once again, a fascinating article by Mary. The next few years will certainly be interesting to watch, from afar. My sister just returned from the UK and she was surprised by the fact that everyone seemed to afraid to speak their mind. Of course, the woke left are the only one who can. This is a shameful inditement on the current state of the UK. Australia is not much better though.
While I could write a much longer response, the long and short of it is as follows.
The migrants that will come in due to climate change or war will be the ones who will import their poverty to Britain. Migration for economic purposes does not work.
Population decline will be economically painful for asset rich landholders and difficult for the rest but it is far more beneficial for Brits to retain their culture and rebuild organically.
Multiculturalism does not work and Muslims generally do not integrate. This is a very bitter pill for most of us to swallow for many reasons and they have to leave. Europeans have been thrown out of parts of Africa and Asia and the same has to happen again. There should be no tolerance for any part of Europe being called too white. No one would criticise China for being too Chinese.

Clueless
Clueless
4 days ago
Reply to  Peter D

Too white? Being British is a mind set not a skin colour.
My Caribbean ‘heritage’ friends in the UK were as British as me.
I don’t believe it’s a skin colour issue, it’s a religious one unfortunately.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
4 days ago
Reply to  Clueless

You are of course joking.

Norfolk Sceptic
Norfolk Sceptic
4 days ago

Often, skin colour is a religion.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
8 seconds ago

No, actually not that often. Christians – vast majority today are not white. Also there are essentially black Jews and of course Muslims.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 minute ago

Whatever British may once have been, –
that racial definition cannot possibly be part of any future successful conservative movement. Perhaps yes “white”, but the British were very different from the French who were also pretty white, so that’s hardly at the core.

I truly despair at some on the Right, who seem to believe historical reversal is actually possible. Noone is going to deport millions of people whose ancestors originated from the Carribbean, the Indian subcontinent and Africa.

Last edited 1 minute ago by Andrew Fisher
Peter D
Peter D
4 days ago
Reply to  Clueless

Sorry, there has been too many cases where the phrase or the implication of “too white” has been used. Not to mention celebration around when a non-white person steps into a role for the first time. Whenever it was in the other direction, we look upon this in disgust.
But you are right about the religious element.

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
3 days ago
Reply to  Peter D

But the Afro-Carribean community is Christian and doesn’t push cultural separatism based in religious identity. For instance, they have their lefties but compared to the South Asian representatives, are noticeably agnostic on the Gaza/Hamas issue.
There is an issue with crime and poverty linked to fatherlessness and permissiveness towards street violence but that’s mostly a separate issue.

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
3 days ago
Reply to  Clueless

Yes, the communitarianism largely rests on the non-integration of Islam in a country with Christian roots and a persisting Christian ethos. Arguably though, secular left-liberals are just as much a threat to the British nation-state as Islamists.

Hazel Gazit
Hazel Gazit
4 days ago
Reply to  Peter D

Hear hear!

Pip G
Pip G
4 days ago
Reply to  Peter D

Peter: The one bit with which I disagree is “.. they [moslems, I assume] have to leave”. I agree we must ‘de-ghetto’ them, and remove use of hate speech, but we go down to a low level if we compel British citizens to leave our country.

Andrew R
Andrew R
5 days ago

Thirty years of failed technocratic utopianism, what’s the solution… more of the same of course.

A Starmer government will be just like a Welsh Labour government, it will micromanage every single aspect of your lives while claiming “to serve the people”.

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
4 days ago
Reply to  Andrew R

Agree. Mary is right to point not just to our Blairite New Order – but the impotence of this new State to deal with core ‘structural’ problems. They are indeed too deep now. A State cannot function if it denies its economy and people two fundamental needs – the provision of cheap affordable energy. And the provision of affordable housing. The housing crisis has been made permanent by the toxic combo of mass migration and planning controls. The energy crisis permanent because unlike the US or France we turned our backs on both nuclear power and fracking and so have lost energy independence. The third structural crisis is the alarming failure of cultural assimilation and destruction of national communal harmony under the assault of the identity and equality mania. All of these structural crises are directly linked to the rise kf the progressive ideology.

Dr E C
Dr E C
4 days ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

Because nothing says ‘national communal harmony’ like poisoned groundwater (from fracking) and identikit IKEA houses rolled out over every last inch of England’s green and pleasant land.
Can’t we get back to the basics of family, community, country, without literally destroying the ground beneath our feet?

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
3 days ago
Reply to  Dr E C

Fracking is not “the ground” but thousands of feet below both the ground and the water table.

Dr E C
Dr E C
1 day ago

I could send you hundreds of links to articles tracking the contamination of water by the chemicals used in fracking, but I’m sure you’re capable of using google, so I’ll limit myself to just one American study:

‘fracking-related chemicals – including dangerous volatile organic compounds – are making their way into groundwater that feeds municipal water systems, and that the potential for contamination is greatest during the pre-production period when a new well is established. With only 29 out of more than 1,100 shale gas contaminants regulated in drinking water, the results suggest that the true contamination level is higher. The study specifically finds that every new well drilled within one kilometer of a public drinking water source was associated with an 11-13 percent increase in the incidence of preterm births and low birth weight in infants exposed during gestation.’
https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/news/story/study-links-fracking-drinking-water-pollution-and-infant-heath

Last edited 1 day ago by Dr E C
Rob C
Rob C
3 days ago
Reply to  Dr E C

Actually identikit IKEA houses situated in a green and pleasant land sounds pretty good. I’m curious what you would like to see?

Dr E C
Dr E C
1 day ago
Reply to  Rob C

That’s the whole point Rob: the land is no longer green & pleasant once it’s tarmaced over with estates.

I’d like to see a lot more house building in sympathy with its context: other buildings & the trees and fields around it. I’d like to see brownfield sites developed before greenfield ones, & where estates are plonked onto a field, perhaps developers could think about retaining one or two trees for natural shading, privacy and the sheer beauty of having trees outside your window, rather than razing everything to the ground to squeeze an extra couple of houses in.

Andrew Buckley
Andrew Buckley
5 days ago

Philosophically I am a small state conservative (small “c”). Probably by ten years ago I had to accept that my sort could never win.
In the UK the state capture during the Blair years proved impossible to reduce. With Cameron/Osborne there was supposedly “austerity” but the reduced state spend was tiny and got things nowhere near back to the levels of the John Major Conservative era of the 1990’s.
A structural problem with reducing the size of the state is that those tasked with the job would need to be working to make themselves redundant. Not going to happen. Just an anecdote but in 2010/2011 I was working with local government and they had to reduce costs. So; a team of 30 people was recruited to manage redundancies. The only people let go were low grade people actually doing something! My contact three years later moaned that the team recruited were still all employed.
Technocratic government is hugely appealing to politicians as there is always someone else to blame. Think (in the UK) about the years and years when politicians of all colours could blame the EU (Brussels) for their inability to change things. Should a politician state the intention of changing things there is then resistance from the civil servant group, non-elected bodies and then even global bodies and the money markets. What chance would anyone have of actually reducing the size and hidden power of the big state?
A clear example for me of state capture was the furore when Boris Johnson attempted to prorogue Parliament in 2019. Parliament had a clear route to either vote to accept this or to reject it. But this would have involved a no confidence vote and then an election. So the Supreme Court was co-opted to block this, even though there were routes through Parliament to address the issue. What was in essence a political decision became a quasi legal case.
After WW11 there was (in my opinion) a flowering of democratic control. This has been cut and cut and cut since the 1980’s by successive governments seeking power but not accepting responsibility. The demos is the loser and the elites worldwide the winners. No idea if and how there could be a move back towards the acceptance of democratic control but the upheavals across the western nations at the moment seem to be signs that the wider demos has actually now noticed!

Pip G
Pip G
4 days ago
Reply to  Andrew Buckley

A brief PS to the parliament vote on Leave EU: I recall that PM Johnson proposed to implement Leave without the consent of Parliament. The courts ruled he needed approval, and simply the PM obtained this. The SC judgments were objective and well written, with 3 Law Lords (my old fashioned term) dissented in favour of the PM. The true disgrace was a newspaper calling judges “the enemy of the people” I.e. if you disagree with me you are a traitor.

Andrew Buckley
Andrew Buckley
4 days ago
Reply to  Pip G

You have misread my point Pip, although you are technically correct my view differs to yours.. The opinion of the people was sought on whether to stay or leave the EU. This was a political decision.
Two years after that vote parliament was going all over the place with little sign of progress. BJ became leader of the governing party. The decision to leave the EU was taken with a referendum. This was not a legal position and the Supreme Court had no place in judging the rights or wrong of this. This was legal over reach. Parliament had (and still has) all the power it needed/needs to stop the government from doing anything that it wants. A vote of no confidence in the Government was the correct way to judge this and not to abrogate responsibility to an unelected body of lawyers.
To me this is a prime example of democracy being negated and responsibility ignored in favour of unelected technocrats or as some say “the experts”. Those MP’s in the autumn of 2019 refused to take responsibility for formally leaving the EU.

Claire D
Claire D
4 days ago

Labour have their own constituents. Public sector workers, those on benefits, the ideological Left and politicised religious / ethnic minorities.

Tories could muster support from their own supporters ie. Everyone else. – And this for the most part kept the Left out.
But this game only works if they look out for the interests of this Everybody else, exclusively..

The Tories became confused and thought they could generate an appeal beyond their traditional base. They naively thought they could ‘Reach out’ to centrists.
Become the ‘Nice’ party.

But like in all good stories, their hubris has
left them shattered.

The moral.
UK politics, like everywhere, is already sectarian.
It’s just a numbers game, and all we ever do is import Labour voters or create them at higher education. It is a crude street fight.

Universal appeal is simply a fairytale.

Elon Workman
Elon Workman
4 days ago
Reply to  Claire D

Yes and have you noticed that the Labour government has promised to undo the Conservative legislation on for example minimum requirements for the public prior to strike action being taken whereas Conservative governments seldom if ever reverse Acts passed by a Labour government ? Where for example in the last fourteen years has the West Lothian question ever been properly answered i.e. how is it that Scottish M P s can vote on legislation affecting England whereas the reverse is not practicable due to devolution and domestic legislation being the business of the Scottish Parliament?

RA Znayder
RA Znayder
4 days ago
Reply to  Claire D

You know who are on benefits though? Those who own a lot of assets. Much of the money that was printed after 2008 and 2020 went into their portfolio’s and those who own a lot of capital can keep accumulating it. If there’s one group who are on government handouts its many of the big fish. Not that labour is going to do anything about that.

David Morley
David Morley
4 days ago
Reply to  Claire D

The Tories became confused and thought they could generate an appeal beyond their traditional base. They naively thought they could ‘Reach out’ to centrists.

Become the ‘Nice’ party.

For any party in the U.K. success can only be had through coalition building. This isn’t easy because one group is easily alienated by policies aimed at keeping other groups in the coalition happy. Boris wanted to appeal to socially conservative working class voters, without upsetting his traditional voter base. Conservatives have to do this because their traditional voter base is dying off, and their decendents are shifting leftwards.

Labour needs to maintain a coalition of traditional working class voters and precisely these left leaning “woke” decendents of the better off. Also tough, since they disagree on much.

The tories had to move beyond its traditional base because it is ageing and dying, and it’s children are jumping ship.

Claire D
Claire D
3 days ago
Reply to  David Morley

I’m sure you’re right.
But it didn’t work very well did it.

Steven Targett
Steven Targett
4 days ago

I am glad I’m in my late 60’s. In 20 years or so I’ll be gone but I grieve for what my grandchildren will inherit.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
4 days ago
Reply to  Steven Targett

It is no wonder the birth rate amongst native Britons is falling

Dennis Roberts
Dennis Roberts
4 days ago

That’s due to both partners having to work so they earn enough to pay the rent, and the cost of childcare being so high despite the staff being on minimum wage.

Pip G
Pip G
4 days ago
Reply to  Steven Targett

I too, Steven. Help your grandchildren to obtain a good education if they wish to do so; converse with them without rebuke, and tell them stories (as my forebears did to me).

Elon Workman
Elon Workman
4 days ago

What a depressing article but when you have a Prime Minister who appoints as Foreign Secretary a person whose grasp of English history is such that he believed King Henry vii succeeded King Henry viii and who regards those who voted to leave the EU (52% of those voting) as ‘Nazis’ you can then be in no doubt about where this is all going and what the eventual outcome will be- A United Kingdom ashamed of its history and divided into ethnic groups competing against each other.

Hazel Gazit
Hazel Gazit
4 days ago

Excellent article, clearly defining the UK today. My only quibble is the idea that the Conservatives should team up with the LibDems. 1) been there, tried that, not successful, and 2) disparaging Nigel Farage and Reform. As clearly proved by the actual vote numbers, the population prefer Reform to LibDems. If the general population continue to feel, and see, that their wishes are being ignored, we may well see the generally tolerant and law abiding masses

AC Harper
AC Harper
4 days ago

I shall laugh my socks off if Starmer becomes bedevilled with legal challenges. Either from nominal political opponents or, more tellingly, leftish activists who become impatient while waiting for their changes.
Those who live by the writ shall die by the writ, wielded in the very institutions that Starmer is so keen to promote.

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
4 days ago
Reply to  AC Harper

So true. Try messing with the EU’s newts…

Dr E C
Dr E C
4 days ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

Don’t you think we have bigger problems to address than the tiny amounts of legislation that are in place to protect a couple of native species from going extinct?

Victor James
Victor James
4 days ago

It’s great that white – or native Europeans zoomers – are becoming more aware of the anti-white hate that is the defining characteristic of the left.
I hope their ‘mutterings’ continue. After 70 years of virulent anti-white race hate, only a racist would object to them starting to stand up for themselves.

Caractacus Potts
Caractacus Potts
4 days ago

Whatever globalist hellscape is coming down the road from Starmer’s Davos overlords I shall take comfort that 80% of our 48m eligible voters did not vote for this.
Furthermore Winston Marshall has highlighted a poll that shows that less than 10% of the Labour voters voted for them because they actually like their policies. The vast majority voted for them just to be rid of the godawful Tories. Therefore they have little idea of what policies they voted for.
So I will also take comfort and quite a lot of amusement when even they are scratching their heads at the inevitable ‘WTF is this new insanity’ moments that are incoming.

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
4 days ago

The argument that we have existed in a Progressive State since EU accession and the Blair Revolution to the present day is not new; the Tory defeat was rightful punishment principally by their 2019 supporters for them being chaotic meek Quislings who served the interests & all ideologies of that new State – identitarianism/Socialism/High Tax Redistributive Taxation/NHS worship/Net Zero Climate Madness – and so betrayed the hopes of a decisive cultural counter revolution. So yes the Neo Blairite Starmerites will slide easily home and resume the left’s onward march – more identity politics; more quangos, more emasculation of Parliament more regulstory suffocation of SMEs. But what they fail to see is that their day of victory yesterdat has actually foreshadowed their and our death; the emergence of aggressive sectarianism with Muslims voting en blocs for religious self interest and the reaping 4 MPs for Gaza is a catastrophe. It signals that the progressive race and identity Experiment in the UK has indeed failed and will rip the fabric of society. With the State finances and NHS utterly ruined by 2008 QE/zero interest; the toxin of lockdown and magic money insanity still coursing through society, mass immigration unchecked and the criminal Open Border fully restored at Dover, Starmer has taken the wheel of a tanker heading fast to the rocks. All hopes of ‘growth’ to feed the baying broken bloated wfh public sector will fail – rather comically – due to the weight of the degrowth regulatory regime Blair and the EU have erected. The V2 of PFI Project Rachel dreams will similarly fail – like the hospital builds Imternational Finance will demand a huge return for all the chinese panels and towers that will carpet our arable land (unconnected to the Grid doh!!). The seeds of self destruction in this 30 year Progressive New Order – one committed to equality not meritocracy identity not community – were always there. Now the clouds have gone and the sun shines bright on them. Just watch these poisonous triffids flower.

Mint Julip
Mint Julip
2 days ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

Brilliant post – I feel and share your rage.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
4 days ago

Yeah, this is a win for the establishment.. no doubt about that but the electorate has voted for net zero is the bottom.line whixh.means majority are effectively brain washed in to poverty. Tories also went for net zero. Tata steel was the nadir for british conservatism and they deserved to lose. Most sensible people stayed away i suppose

Jeremy Daw
Jeremy Daw
4 days ago

Harrington is as sharp as ever here. Painfully so. The underlying revelation of the last 8 years (that I don’t matter, never have and never will) is one I’ve been slow to grasp, but, trust me, I get it now.

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
3 days ago

They have nothing to offer except identity politics and Eurofederalism.
And support for the Chinese Communist Party’s coal-based drive for growth.

Malcolm Webb
Malcolm Webb
3 days ago

Good article. Labour is deluding itself if it thinks it has any great mandate when only one in five of the electorate voted for it ( and less in number than at either of the previous two Elections) . It won by default ( for just being there and not saying much) and as a result of significant anger over repeated Tory incompetence. It is more than likely that this anger will now be directed against Labour. If the right of centre in British politics can successfully realign, under new and principled leadership, Sir Kier may well prove to be a one term PM.

Bromley Man
Bromley Man
3 days ago

Sounds like politics as usual for us ‘masses’. Has Maary been reading too much Brave New World?

Corrie Mooney
Corrie Mooney
2 days ago

How utterly depressing.

laurence scaduto
laurence scaduto
2 days ago

Toward the bottom of Mary’s wonderful essay there’s a link, “also increasingly self-aware “Anglo-Saxon one” that leads to a great video about Salisbury and the genuine value of the centuries old heritage of Englishness. Fifteen minutes; watch it if you have a chance.

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
5 days ago

Government, through mismanagement, incompetence, and blatant self-interest, creates complexity and confusion, the solution to which is always more government.

Santiago Excilio
Santiago Excilio
4 days ago

Absolutely. There is little in this article I agree with, and there are the usual irritating tropes wheeled out: modern states are too complex for elected politicians to manage, you either have to have immigration or no economic growth, constitutional changes have been made that are irreversible, populism and effective government are incompatible, and so on. The pathway back to democratic control is quite possible to plot, in the same way that when skiing every black run has a green run concealed within it – you simply have to look, rather than shrug and declare “we’re all post-liberal now” – whatever that might actually mean.

Chris Francovich
Chris Francovich
5 days ago

This is wonderful – as usual. I am also interested in thinking which makes sense of the way forward. What is this thinking? Who is doing it? Why should we listen?

Frank Litton
Frank Litton
5 days ago

A clear sighted view of the patient with a convincing diagnosis. Well done. Some reservations about the treatment, or rather the lack of a plan for treatment. The character of a state is found in how it claims legitimacy for its monopoly over the legitimate use of physical coercion. So the nation-state claimed legitimacy with its commitment to defend and advance the interests of the nation. In its democratic version, political parties emerged with roots deep in society and its conflicts. They competed with different versions of what best served the nation. The nation-state has gone, replaced by the ‘market’ or ‘opportunity’ state with its promise to maximise the opportunities of its citizens. In the old days citizens trusted the political party with which they identified to instruct them in what their interests were. Today voters are encouraged to calculate what party’s manifesto best advances their particular interests. While we should respect those who, however inchoately, morn the demise of the nation-state, we should not join them. There is no going back, anyway, the good old days were not all that good. Nor should we expect that they will be defeated by the shower of adjectives we throw at them- far, hard, extreme Right/Left. Democracy remains our ‘mode of existence’ . Our efforts should be directed at devising institutions that realise it in these new circumstances.

Rachel Taylor
Rachel Taylor
4 days ago

I broadly agree, but this underestimates the power of the political class to keep a lid on things, as it did during Covid. The BBC will run a ticker tape of how our lives are improving in every possible way. The police and judiciary will prosecute dissent. You can fool some of the people all of the time, but that’s enough to get elected, as Starmer has shown.

Andrew Buckley
Andrew Buckley
4 days ago
Reply to  Rachel Taylor

The BBC have to support Labour to ensure their charter is renewed in 2027!
I would expect there to have been “conversations” over the past months/year to make sure this happens.

John Riordan
John Riordan
4 days ago

Superb analysis by Mary Harrington. Worth reading at least twice.

Bob Ewald
Bob Ewald
4 days ago
Reply to  John Riordan

Or more times, there’s much grist for the mill!

RA Znayder
RA Znayder
4 days ago

Interesting article, I read some Mark Fisher undertones in this essay.
My own interpretation is that, roughly speaking, most ‘common people’ want a somewhat progressive economy and solid but fair welfare state – similar to the postwar consensus – and a somewhat classical liberal cultural consensus with limited migration. Any status quo party gives you the opposite. Also this ‘opposite’ is indeed deeply embedded in (international) institutions.
All the talk about the little narratives, the cultural issues: woke, conservative, identitarian etc. – is mostly PR. The sort of PR that thrives in a postmodern culture. But it never changes anything, it distracts from the actual underlying system which has to be protected at all costs: the kleptocracy ruled by oligarchs who have secured their power in the late 70s. The PR is the way to manufacture consent, as Chomsky argued a long time ago, of course. It is something you still need in a democracy.
I always like to point out that the GFC in 2008 shows that the managerial state and international technocrats don’t really know what they’re doing either. However, the way 2008 was ‘solved’ shows exactly what status quo had to be protected even if the system was now effectively bankrupt. This is also when the culture war went into overdrive, incidentally.
2008 also makes remarks like “Starmer has no fiscal freedom” a bit cynical. Do we have any idea how much capital accumulated in the hands of the oligarchs, floating in the deregulated international scamconomy? This capital is not being invested in anything useful and if you could tax it, that would make a lot of difference. Instead, we all have to forget that when the G7 banks needed trillions they got it immediately. Worse still, that much of that public money ended up in the hands of big capital. The lockdowns subsequently laid bare another dirty secret of the managerial corporate state: that David Graeber was right, it’s full of bullshit jobs. A little fiscal stimulation in the real economy was able to address excess productive capacity and everything just kept running while everyone was at home. It shows that the entire “we need migration” narrative is suspicious as well.
You can say a lot about the deal, but those who sat down at Bretton Woods had a lot of guts. The years that followed were stable and characterized by a relatively wealthy middle class and high trust in the institutions. The goal was precisely to prevent repeating the horrors of the 20th century. We probably need a similar change in world order if we want to stop the slow but clear radicalization of the Western population.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
4 days ago

Excellent article. Will be reading it several times to properly absorb and reflect.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
4 days ago

Nothing changes if nothing changes. Rearranging the deck chairs on a leaky vessel is not change. You have swapped one wing of the same bird for the other wing. There may be a couple of different feathers but nothing that will make a significant difference to anyone. Bureaucracy will not suddenly become more efficient, the wave of illegals will not subside, and the steady erosion of a unique culture will not decrease.
I say that because we face the same issue across the Atlantic, with irrational hopes pinned on the shoulders of one man. No single person can stop an avalanche, especially against a nameless, faceless permanent blob bent on remolding the country into something unrecognizable. He may be able to slow it down, but then what? Four years hence, we’ll be dancing the same number all over again, convinced that “our” guy is the messiah and the “other guy” is the devil.
The EU is hardly “far right.” It’s just that so many abnormal things have, over time, become normalized that a change away from them looks extreme in itself. It’s not. It’s people saying they’ve had enough. Look at who is being violent in France; it’s not the far right, the extreme right, or even the right-leaning. The same holds true everywhere else, including the US. Substantive change never occurs quickly but the idea that simply hiring a new manager turns a bad team into a champion is fuzzy thinking.

Pip G
Pip G
4 days ago

They say most of us are ‘left’ in youth and ‘right‘ in old age, but I suspect the old measure of left/right no longer applies.
In the 1960s society changed for the better: hanging and criminalizing homosexuals abolished; race relations law; in the early 1970s equal pay & sex discrimination laws. Unchanged was your right to think as you wish. I benefited from the great reforms of 1945-50 – a free education on terms you later paid back through higher tax; an indefinable feeling that class did not limit you.
Labour went mad under Corbyn with the Stalinist Milne, Fisher & Murphy and the revolting anti-Semitism; and yet in 2019 – despite the barking mad spending promises – I could hold my nose because the local candidate was good. Last Thursday I could not vote Labour despite it supposedly being more moderate. My epiphany was outrage at the adoption of ‘Self ID’: simply illogical, immoral, dehumanizing and a source of harm to women.
The above article brings home that political parties have abandoned principles and become managerial administrators. Are the public deluded so as to believe that Taxes need not rise, that economic growth will resume? Are material wealth and consumerism the only values? Meanwhile society becomes more fragmented: TMV winning 4 seats on the ‘Gaza’ issue shows that a permanent sub-part of Britain has entirely different values hostile to British culture over past centuries.
I have not become ‘right wing’ in my 70s; but I do dislike the contemporary public discourse and crushing of opportunities for my children & grandchildren. Today you cannot take a different view on any subject – it means you are evil and to be treated with contempt. I hope I am wrong.

Tessa B
Tessa B
4 days ago

“Humans, meanwhile, are believed not to possess any distinctive cultural, genetic, or affective bonds, but are seen instead as radically interchangeable, fungible work units that may be deployed anywhere according to economic imperative.
NFT = Non Fungible Token
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-fungible_token ?
“We’ve already seen everything being tokenised. NFTs show us this. It’s only a matter of time until our rights and privileges are too. Unless we bring this into the awareness of the people.” ?
https://www.instagram.com/tv/CbICzS0PUnb/ ?
Alison McDowell explains the true intentions of blockchain technology and how that merges into everyday life.

Graeme Laws
Graeme Laws
4 days ago

A ‘post liberal order’ can’t ‘favour’ anything. Big words and long sentences do not of themselves guarantee a coherent essay.

Tessa B
Tessa B
4 days ago

“GMO slop”. Some thoughts?
It’s partly about what’s coming (deregulation)….. unless the educational/political system and more is changed….not the GMO slop we already have in the UK. So not sure the author understands the situation. It’s a big topic. Depends on your definition. I guess the most common genetically engineered food consumed currently is GM soya cooking oil? So yes your takeaway chips are probably cooked in GMO slop so to speak. This would need to be checked with Beyond GM and GM Freeze. There is also GM animal feed.
https://www.gmfreeze.org/shopping/gm-on-the-shelves/
Please see;
https://www.testbiotech.org/en/topics/
https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/genetically-modified-organisms-applications-and-consents#consents-granted-to-release-genetically-modified-organisms
Reason for Brexit to follow.
It’s not just about the corporates pushing GMOs but how scientists practice science? A multi-layered issue.
https://abiggerconversation.org/regulatory-science-as-propaganda/
Please also see Ursula Edgington, corruption and academia.
https://propagandainfocus.com/how-universities-control-the-narrative/
What you can do?
Sign up here:
https://www.gmfreeze.org/why-freeze/
Write to your new MP. Of course labelling does not stop cross contamination.
https://www.gmfreeze.org/2024/06/14/candidates-action/
Agroecology
https://www.soilassociation.org/causes-campaigns/a-ten-year-transition-to-agroecology/what-is-agroecology/
Very important to read up on SDGs etc pros and cons as it looks like Starmer will be following much the Tories and free market think tanks/lobbyists/World Economic Forum/World Health Organisation etc have pushed regarding Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies. Including agriculture and the NHS.
https://www.coreysdigs.com/global/who-is-they/ ?

David Yetter
David Yetter
3 days ago

All of this is the British political expression of the death of capitalism at the hands of the professional managerial class. James Burnham, writing about conditions in the United States, thought capitalism had been replaced with managerialism (in which effective control over the economy “the means of production” in Marxian terms is no longer in the hands of capitalists, the bourgeoisie, whose claim on profits is based on their capital resources being at risk in an enterprise, but in the hands of professional managers) as early as 1949. I think he was early, but it is clear that is the system we throughout the Anglosphere, certainly in the EU, and in the West, more generally, now live under.
And the professional managers float from the for-profit sector in and out of non-profits, including NGOs (and quangos on your side of the Pond), and in and out of government, all the while acting their class interests. They have arguably instituted fascism throughout the West, not as the bugbear the professional managerial class raises against populist threats to its supremacy, not as the meaningless pejorative the Left has used since the days of Stalin, but in the meaning Mussolini himself gave the word: the union of state and corporate power.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
2 days ago
Reply to  David Yetter

The lads at Lotus eaters were saying pretty much the same thing a few weeks ago.

j watson
j watson
5 days ago

Oh dear the usual two common themes and conclusions to an MH article. We’re all Doomed and it’s all Blair’s fault. Private Fraser indeed.
So much in that one could further unpack, but the thing Mary never really digs into is economics. She prefers to roam across a culture war landscape. But she misses it’s all about the economics stupid. Why has inequality increased? Why have the v Rich got richer? Until Mary starts to asks these questions and starts to follow the money she’ll never entirely grasp what’s gone wrong.
Whether Starmer and Reeves can arrest this exorable trend to ever increasing inequality remains to be seen. They’ve not shown their hand sufficiently yet to really know. But it certainly isn’t a light switch.

Andrew R
Andrew R
5 days ago
Reply to  j watson

Inequality increased during the Blair/New Labour years, the house price to wage ratio and the gap between CEO/average worker salary too. Those who had money borrowed more and bought up those assets (with the very low interest rates), increasing their value. There’s your answer.

This shouldn’t be a a surprise to you JW you’ve been told it many times…

…you just choose to ignore it.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
5 days ago
Reply to  Andrew R

Yes. The sheer boneheadedness is almost admirable, isn’t it?

j watson
j watson
4 days ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

You two as echo chamber bedfellows is part of the comedy.

Mark Phillips
Mark Phillips
4 days ago
Reply to  j watson

Are part.

Utter
Utter
4 days ago
Reply to  j watson

Unherd comments have descended into an echo chamber – the comments have gone from being mixed, interesting back-and-forths, to the point where they nearly all expressing the same predictable stance (a circle jerk). Clearly demonstrated by the votes – “98/0”, or “0/-12” etc. BTL MH articles, for example, are always led by a hagiographic comment. You are just about the only one still bothering to post dissenting views; I’m not sure what keeps you going; don’t you tire of ad-hominem attacks that don’t engage with the points you made? I guess it helps you let off steam after a hard day in the hospital? Certainly minds are not being changed, not here, nor are different ideas being enngaged with; just fantasy reactionary politiking – a populist mirror (or support group) of the type endessly complained about (elites/’The Left’/The Blob/The Media).

Andrew R
Andrew R
4 days ago
Reply to  Utter

JW hardly makes any points, arguments riddled with fallacies, regularly projects and dissembles bit like your post here.

Utter
Utter
4 days ago
Reply to  Andrew R

Projection is a slippery thing; as with the term ‘gaslighting’ the accuser is often the one actually doing it. Two twists that sit alongside of a broad range of other cognitive distortions that are part of the human condition – glass houses and all…

Andrew R
Andrew R
4 days ago
Reply to  Utter

JW to a tee. Narrative as truth, and does repeating the same tired debunked argument over and over again make it anymore real. No

j watson
j watson
4 days ago
Reply to  Utter

I welcome reading different articles and different comments. Who the heck wants to be in an echo chamber. It kills neurons. I subscribe to what I like to think is a broad range of publications of which Unherd one. Being semi-retired I’ve a little more time to read and comment, but varies with when I work a bit more and how short staffed the team I still work with are and need additional cover. The thing about down or upticks is if you worry about them it’s slightly narcissistic IMO. And besides a downtick means someone has read something they might have wanted to avoid hearing. Rarely do folks change opinion immediately on anything but stuff percolates away. My views, I hope, don’t stay entirely static either when exposed to a good, logical counter view.

Andrew R
Andrew R
2 days ago
Reply to  j watson

“I hope, don’t stay entirely static either when exposed to a good, logical counter view”.

That really is laughable.

j watson
j watson
5 days ago
Reply to  Andrew R

As ever you seem to have emerged from a coma AR and missed the last 14yrs.
That said i would agree some of the underlying trend can be traced back much further – to Thatcher and the whole neo-liberal agenda. Blair mitigated it with better public services but did not arrest the trend. On that we may agree.

Andrew R
Andrew R
4 days ago
Reply to  j watson

Perhaps you can point me to where I’ve defended the last 14 years of Tory government. You can’t because I haven’t.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
4 days ago
Reply to  j watson

The last 14 years we have been governed by the heirs of Blair who far from undoing the damage he did only sought to cement it

j watson
j watson
4 days ago

Mad Liz and Bluster Bojo heirs of Blair? You are puling quite a contortion there ER. It’s not credible. Least with Blair we had decent public services.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 day ago
Reply to  j watson

You mean Blair the war criminal

Duane M
Duane M
4 days ago
Reply to  j watson

Yes, here in America a shared faith in neoliberal economics (free markets over everything) is the mortar that binds liberals and conservatives together into a single uniparty. Though they may differ on social issues, it is their shared economics that cause real ongoing damage, no matter which party is in power. I suspect it is a similar case in Britain. Thatcher and Reagan were good friends and both worshiped Milton Friedman.

j watson
j watson
4 days ago
Reply to  Duane M

Yes DM, although sometimes what is meant by a liberal in the US is not quite the same in the UK, on economics at least.
There is perhaps much better awareness the ‘market’ fundamentally fails in certain sectors and there is a role for the State. The Neo-liberal default that the market is always better has been debunked. But the State makes mistakes too and accountability and incentives must be clear.
The conflict between free trade and protectionism another fault-line, albeit the US big enough to take a tougher line than we can in the UK. Which is why we needed the strength of the EU bloc. Alone we are tossed about on a sea we can do little to control.
Finding the balance on these issues the art of good government.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
5 days ago
Reply to  j watson

A growing economy will always produce inequality. What matters is if people are better off. Stagnation is not the answer.

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
5 days ago

Indeed. Inequality is built into the human condition. Seeking to change the condition results – always, as history has shown – in tyranny and suffering on a colossal scale.

It’s the same mindset as trans-activists. There you go, j watson, they’re your natural tribe.

Those individuals who’re genuinely struggling, either with earning a living or their sexual orientation, should be helped of course. Seeking to engineer society entirely for their benefit will always, and only, ruin the society.

David Morley
David Morley
4 days ago
Reply to  Lancashire Lad

Seeking to change the condition results – always, as history has shown – in tyranny and suffering on a colossal scale.

You’re being too black and white. Yes, inequality is inevitable, even desirable as a motivator, but this does not justify extreme levels of inequality or make them desirable.

And yes, extreme measures to totally change the human situation end in catastrophic failure. It does not follow from this that more moderate measures to improve things must also fail or are a bad thing.

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
4 days ago
Reply to  David Morley

Nor did i claim that they’d be a bad thing. In terms of ‘black and white’, i’d suggest that’s what you’re guilty of conveying, probably just for the sake of it.

It was pretty clear i was referring to tyranny rather than (for instance) education for all, to allow opportunities to be taken where possible.

David Morley
David Morley
2 days ago
Reply to  Lancashire Lad

Fair enough – but it’s not what you said.

j watson
j watson
5 days ago

The issue BOL is not that some inequality isn’t useful – it is – but that it’s growth and increasing gap at a time when trickle down is not working either begs much more fundamental questions about how an economy actually works. You’ll have noticed asset prices rising much faster than growth rates. Ask yourself more often why that is, who benefits and what we can do about it? And we’re not talking here about the middle class home that’s worth more. We are talking about the real holders of huge assets.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
4 days ago
Reply to  j watson

And we’re not talking here about the middle class home that’s worth more. We are talking about the real holders of huge assets.
Give some examples.

j watson
j watson
4 days ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Stock market grown at same rate as average wages HB? And look at Wall st too given how many UK pensions aren’t invested in our SE.
Property price trends miles ahead of wage rate growth, and what’s important here is you ponder who owns the mortgages and what proportion of salary a mortgage holder now needs to commit. (You tend to fixate on the elderly beneficiary who doesn’t have a mortgage anymore). And Land prices – up a third last decade. Wages up a third?
Have a think too about Bankers pay growth and bonuses? Anywhere near connected to the pay growth rates in rest of economy? And who’s paying still for the bale-outs 16yrs ago?
Where did the £600b furlough money end up? Once normal folks paid their rent and food who retained an income unaffected and bought even more assets?

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
4 days ago
Reply to  j watson

The stock market has been stagnant since at least 2008. Why would UK pension funds invest in the UK and lose money.
Property prices are fuelled by immigration which keeps the Ponzi scheme going

j watson
j watson
4 days ago

You are wrong on the first matter and ignorant on what cheap money does for the latter.
As regards pension funds – classic admission. And you wonder why growth so low in the UK. When only 2% invested here and yet we supposedly have one of the two greatest financial centres in the World.

j watson
j watson
4 days ago
Reply to  j watson

Let’s add a bit of maths ER – if you invested £10k in FTSE 100 in 2012, and didn’t take any dividends but left things accumulating, you’d be c£18k ten years later. Now I’m sure you can work out that’s c80% growth.
Has the real economy grown like that? Have wages grown like that?
So you see if you have assets you can pull away from those without. The increases of course become almost exponential the more asset you have.

Rob N
Rob N
4 days ago
Reply to  j watson

Maybe your FTSE calculation is correct but you need to remember inflation. Most of that gain was wiped out. Sure those without assets may have done even worse but inflation is the, mostly unseen, destroyer.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
4 days ago
Reply to  j watson

I hope you don’t think Starmer is going to fix any of this, JW, because, if so, you are doomed to disappointment. His constituency is the unholy alliance of public sector professionals (which effectively includes bankers) and middle class rent-seekers who, not content with hoarding all the wealth gifted to them by Gordon Brown in artificially inflated property prices, now insist that the state should lavish care and attention on them out of all proportion to any contribution they’ve made.
Look at what happened to Theresa May when she suggested that some of this wealth should be used to pay for social care. The loudest howls of outrage came from the Guardian. If that doesn’t tell you everything you need to know then you’re clearly not listening.
We’re living through the most brutal class war for 100 years and, I’m sorry to say, defending this status quo in the way you do puts you are entirely on the wrong side.

RA Znayder
RA Znayder
4 days ago

A growing economy can still be stagnant. GDP growth is just a number and there are a lot of ways to make it happen without producing anything of value. In fact, that is probably one of the biggest problems of the West, we turned our economy into a casino while China and immigrants do our production because big capital wants the keep salaries low. The Chinese still play along because they still see some benefit in this relation but that might not last forever.
Moreover, some inequality is ok, especially if it originates from a meritocratic system. But that is usually not the case. Much of the extreme inequality we see today originates out of cronyism, speculation, rent seeking and nepotism. That’s why the entire thing needed the central bank lifeline after 2008, a lot of wealth was based on scams.

j watson
j watson
4 days ago
Reply to  RA Znayder

An additional problem with GDP RAK is it’ ignores the distribution. We can be growing but with v disproportionate benefits. And we grow v slowly with disproportionate benefit inequality accelerates.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
4 days ago
Reply to  RA Znayder

GDP includes all sorts of irrelevant stuff these days. I would not use it as evidence of growth. I’d like to see some measure of productivity, jobs that are created by means other than governments printing money and expanding the bureaucracy. The innovation index used to work as a good measure but now that’s been corrupted too.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
5 days ago
Reply to  j watson

Why have the v Rich got richer?
All of the ‘v Rich’ people I know got that way under Blair/Brown and without doing anything at all to merit it. Just like you, I suspect, JW.

Susan Grabston
Susan Grabston
4 days ago
Reply to  j watson

You’re all right. Blair encouraged house price inflation (who filled his boots more than Bliar)? Let alone Mandelson’s quips on the rich. QE post GFC then put this on steroids. Anyone with assets saw prices explode. The result has been a grotesque explosion of inequality, which has never been less merited, nor more fragile (it’s all paper money). Even now the central banks have not closed the liquidity spigots which maintain this. However, for the second time in my life I smell the stuff of revolution. People are very angry and the youth incandescent. I believe a combination of elite over-production/hubris and feral youth (in the most positive way) bring the system down. The only question is what replaces it.

j watson
j watson
4 days ago
Reply to  Susan Grabston

Not so sure it’s as incendiary as you might feel SG. Brits still moderate.
But they should be much more angry given the trend on inequality. The problem is we are prone to blaming the wrong target. It’s not migrants that have caused this.

Andrew R
Andrew R
4 days ago
Reply to  j watson

Very dishonest of you JW, people are blaming successive governments for the policy of mass immigration (without electoral consent), which has clearly failed not the actual migrants.

j watson
j watson
4 days ago
Reply to  Andrew R

No AR you always major with a complaint about mass migration. You never outline a practical policy you’d have taken to reduce the need or what trade offs you’d promulgate(let’s focus on legal migration here as much the largest). You are quite happy to blame the symptom. What I can’t work out is are you clueless on what we might have to do to reduce the need, or just v reluctant to have to make any sort of call on the trade off? Let’s go with one of the biggest areas for legal migration – social care – what would you do to stop the need?

Andrew R
Andrew R
4 days ago
Reply to  j watson

What upper limit should there be on legal migration JW, 500k pa, a million perhaps, and “irregular” migration 50 – 100k pa? What do you think is the carrying capacity for the UK, 70 – 80 even million people. How do we accommodate all these people, what DO YOU propose? I’m sure all your cliches will solve the problem

If businesses aren’t compelled to adapt, they won’t but the inequalities will continue to grow. Are you really this clueless.

j watson
j watson
4 days ago
Reply to  Andrew R

Typical swerve away there AR. Social care – it’s a business. How long would you give them? Or immediately now no more overseas recruitment?
The stupidity of limits is they aren’t based on an assessment of industry by industry need and thus will be overridden v quickly if not thought through. What we could do is give some future deadlines to allow time for adaptation.
I’d do ID cards v quickly too. Needs to be done well but crucial to reduce impact of illegal migration and to act as a disincentive

Andrew R
Andrew R
4 days ago
Reply to  j watson

Social care could have an exemption reduced over time with a commitment from the government to restructure training. The universities and other business will simply have to adapt otherwise the special pleading will continue as it has done for 20 years.

There are upper limits everywhere you look. Too many people on a boat and it sinks, too many people in a building there is a crush risk. All systems have limits, we are now seeing them being tested to the limit in all our infrastructure and public services.

I will say it again, mass immigration is responsible for all these structural problems it was done purely for ideological reasons and ideology always fails because of inbuilt paradoxes.

Stopping irregular immigration will require a fundamental reframing of the 1951 Refugee Declaration and Universal Human Rights, it is decades out of date.

I have told you several times what needs to be done but here you are doing yet another circular argument. You are either deliberately obstuse or a plant/stooge. Which is it?

j watson
j watson
3 days ago
Reply to  Andrew R

Well at last you’ve ceded the Social care problem and the need. The training point has validity too. Not clear if you recognise that it will need a different funding model and it’ll have to cost us all a bit more?
I daresay in some industries it’s become too easy, but the jolt may have unintended effects. You will, for example, be eating more imported food.
On Universities it means less places and less foreign currency being spent in the UK. A switch though to more vocational training no bad thing, but will take time and will need to be paid for.
Overall the bit you like to avoid mentioning is we’ll all pay more and there will be some significant transition problems. So long as you don’t run away from those consequences it’s not a dishonourable position. It would come across better if you focused on these enablers and your demands for them than just repetition on mass migration. That’s a symptom not the cause.

Andrew R
Andrew R
2 days ago
Reply to  j watson

Of course it’s going to cost more! It would have cost a lot less if “we” hadn’t got ourselves in this mess in the first place but hey ho, nevermind.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
4 days ago
Reply to  j watson

There shouldn’t be a ‘need’. And without New Labour, there wouldn’t be.

j watson
j watson
4 days ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Oh dear HB you have to block out the last 14yrs it’s so painful. The highest years of legal migration all under the Right.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
2 days ago
Reply to  j watson

New Labour were in power for the past 14 years. You need to stop kidding yourself that we live under a system of competing parties. We don’t.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
4 days ago
Reply to  j watson

It’s not migrants that have caused this.
Are you finally going to own up?

David Morley
David Morley
4 days ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

The richest 10% of households benefitted by £350,000 during the first round of QE alone. More than 100 times the benefit of the poorest. And the QE of 2009 would later be dwarfed by future rounds.

https://www.economicshelp.org/blog/215114/economics/does-qe-distort-economy-and-housing-market/#:~:text=QE%20involves%20creating%20money%20out,shares%2C%20bonds%20and%20house%20prices.

Worth a read. Inflation (including house price inflation) is caused by too much money chasing too few goods, so anything which increases the demand or limits the supply will have an impact. And if property becomes more remunerative relative to other investments then that worsens the situation.

Migration will have had an impact, but so will family breakup (2 homes instead of one), older professionals with no kids but lots of money etc. Planning restrictions likewise. And of course QE had enormous impact, in a way that strikes as deeply immoral – it made the rich richer by bailing out the assets of the rich and loading the debt onto the public purse.

j watson
j watson
4 days ago
Reply to  David Morley

It is of course Piketty’s R>C in action.

David Morley
David Morley
2 days ago
Reply to  j watson

Yup – but supercharged – clearly we are both fans.

David Morley
David Morley
4 days ago
Reply to  Susan Grabston

You’re all right.

Yes, seen from the outside this is an odd argument in which commenters who seem to agree on much insist on tearing strips off each other.

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
4 days ago
Reply to  David Morley

Pot, kettle, black (and white)…

Citizen Diversity
Citizen Diversity
4 days ago

Much of this fascinating article and its fruit of delicious prose could be summed up in Sir Roger Scruton’s phrase he used to describe the USSR in its dotage. Software ossified into hardware.
The software couldn’t be rewritten and the bugs in it proved fatal.
Or like in the Horizon scandal, having no identifiable centre of power to make any corrections or to be held accountable.
Farage seems intent on doing to Reform what Starmer did to Labour. Make it electable by ejecting the embarrassing supporters. In the ‘Right’s’ case, the sort of flag-wearing imbeciles who form the fan clubs of certain unattractive individuals. This will keep such persons out of any chance of leading a reformed ‘you’re next Labour’ Reform.
Starmer is a True Believer. Such people are single-minded, driven, and ruthless. But is he a leader as defined here? If it were desired to enter a world of trans centaurs or LGBTQ dryads, a rectangular piece of bedroom furniture is the thing to have. But it wouldn’t inspire anyone to take up carpentry.
Pity that Liz was defenestrated. She would have been a handy albatross to hang around the neck of the Conservative Party remainders to impede their grim revival act.
Though the LibDems’ politics as Margate funfair attraction would at least make a funnier froth to technocratic governance. And more appropriate to the 21st century than the ship’s band playing Nearer, my God, to Thee. Going laughing into that Goodnight.
And it’s rather difficult to see the ‘first non-dynastic empire’ being hard-Right. Isn’t it’s reaction to Meloni a sort of conversion therapy?

Steve Walker
Steve Walker
4 days ago

What?

R MS
R MS
3 days ago

If by the ‘elite’ you mean consensus economic expert opinion, it wants big changes to raise productivity, viz. – fundamental planning reform, rebalancing of the tax and benefit system to take more from high incomes, capital gains, property and inheritance, and massive cuts to welfare payments to the affluent, all to fund investment in productivity, STEM, skills and training and infrastructure and transfer payments to the least well off. Oh, and latterly, defence, including the strategic industrial base.
It’s not managerialism blocking this. It’s the public who are addicted to middle class welfare, NIMBYism and house price subsidies.