Economically and socially, the Prime Minister remains an instinctive libertarian
That’s it! True conservatism is dead. Boris Johnson, closet pinko, has ditched the Tories’ traditional low-tax, small state philosophy and, in its stead, adopted some kind of Blue Labour agenda.
Can this be true? Well, certainly it is the case being made by some Right-wing commentators in the wake of the hike in national insurance contributions and the resulting inevitability that the tax burden will hit its highest-ever level.
Assuming that these commentators are referring to the distinct Blue Labour movement, and not using the term as some loose pejorative, I for one don’t buy the analysis. While it is undeniable that the Tories have, over the past couple of years, adopted a kind of “radical on the economy, conservative on culture” Blue Labour posture — to great effect, it must be said, across much of working-class, provincial England, as the 2019 general election showed — there is little evidence that they “get it” instinctively or that the messaging will ever translate into reality. ...
BLM has alienated large chunks of the country — and it shows
“That some fans are booing players taking the knee shows just how far football still has to go in tackling racism.” That is the type of high-minded narrative beginning to take hold following the hostile reaction displayed by many supporters when England’s players took the knee before recent matches against Austria and Romania.
In truth, things are not quite so clear-cut. While it is certainly the case that a schism has emerged on the issue, it would be wrong to portray it as one between a few hardcore bigots and everyone else.
On the one hand we see the game’s authorities and big-name stars who, in supporting knee-taking, appear driven by a desire to flaunt their progressive credentials (as well, no doubt, as an acute fear of causing offence by being seen to display anything less than full-throated support) and, on the other, thousands of ordinary fans — and not just those emitting boos — who are, let us be frank, growing increasingly frustrated at what, for them, has become a protracted moral lecture. ...
Ben Houchen shows the Conservatives are still wedded to free markets
Just prior to viewing UnHerd’s interview with the freshly re-elected Conservative mayor of Tees Valley, Ben Houchen, I had (fun-loving guy that I am) been watching an old Channel 4 documentary filmed during the 1982 party conference season.
A contribution from a speaker at the Tory gathering was, looking back from this distance at least, quite astonishing. He called for the abolition of job centres, arguing that it was the duty of the jobless themselves — over three million of them at that point — to find work, with no assistance from the state. Perhaps he was riffing off the then employment secretary, Norman Tebbit’s, infamous comment the previous year about how his unemployed father had “got on his bike and looked for work”. ...
Voters care more about the issues affecting their everyday lives
It is often said that it was sleaze that did it for the John Major government of 1992-97. But did it really? Scandals such as ‘cash-for-questions’ and ‘back to basics’ unquestionably inflicted damage on the Tory brand during those years. But, in truth, sleaze was only part of the story. The ignominy of Black Wednesday, which saw interest rates ramped up to 15% and helped to destroy the Conservative party’s reputation for economic competence, surely did far more to repel the average voter than revelations about the financial or sexual indiscretions of individual Tory MPs.
That is why Sir Keir Starmer and the Labour party need to be careful. Assuming that media furores such as the current one surrounding the refurbishment of the prime minister’s flat will automatically translate into a shift in their favour in the polls is risky. In the long run — and even accounting for the fact that this particular affair involves the PM himself — these brouhahas tend not to be electorally significant. ...
The plan violates the spirit and ethos of the sport
If someone had sat down to devise a plan to unite millions of usually-partisan football fans across Europe, they would have been hard-pressed to come up with anything better. My social media feeds are filled with diehard supporters spitting tacks at the proposal for a breakaway European Super League. These include fans of the six English clubs involved in the caper. They have been joined in their fury by pretty much everyone else involved in the game, from its authorities to high-profile former players and pundits. Even presidents and prime ministers have got in on the act.
These individuals and groups see the proposal for what it is: a cynical and unashamed attempt by billionaire owners to generate ever more colossal sums of wealth for their clubs by creating a closed shop at the top of football. ...
James Moore's transgression? Upsetting some people on social media
The reputation of yet another public servant bit the dust this week. James Moore, some sort of higher-up within NHS Wales, committed the ultimate sin – a high crime for which the destruction of one’s career is the only appropriate sentence.
His transgression? Upsetting some people on social media. And, these days, nobody in public life can, having crossed such a line, expect to survive the inevitable fall-out.
In a post on his personal Facebook account, Moore complained about the ‘zealotry’ of Welsh nationalists and likened the treatment of those in the principality who do not speak the native tongue to that of black people in apartheid South Africa. It was a clumsy comparison for sure. Stupid even. ...
Throughout the pandemic, firefighters have worked for the national interest
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) is being lambasted across the media today, accused in a report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) of acting as an obstacle to the engagement of firefighters in the national response to the pandemic.
As ever, it is crucial to go beyond the headlines and examine the facts.
Last year, as the pandemic began to take hold, FBU leaders reached a tripartite agreement alongside fire and rescue service chiefs and local government employers that would see firefighters pitched into the front line of the response.
The agreement was ground-breaking: established industrial relations processes were streamlined to ensure firefighters could swiftly be mobilised to undertake the most critical work — work that sat well outside of their contractual role and for which many had received only the most basic training. ...
Insecurity over inconvenient facts quickly leads to anger and a mob mentality
I was a eugenicist who was guilty of peddling fascism, apparently. One man stated publicly that he would “personally murder” me if our paths were to cross; another implied I should be hanged from a lamp-post; and a woman “comedian” called for my arrest.
Others joined the bandwagon of rage with various insults and accusations — much of the language too choice to republish here.
So what heinous crime had I committed to provoke such an onslaught? Well — look away now if you are squeamish — I had tweeted, without comment, an official statistic published by NHS England which showed that there had, since the start of the pandemic, been 377 Covid-related hospital deaths involving patients who were under 60 and had no pre-existing condition. I provided within the tweet a link to the relevant data. (I should say that my original tweet didn’t mention the likely small number of additional deaths in non-hospital settings, but this was clarified in a follow-up tweet.) ...