breaking news from the world of ideas

by Jack Hutchison
Monday, 16
December 2019
Debate
16:46

Jeremy Corbyn was too much like Tony Blair

Corbyn completed the middle-class gentrification of the Labour Party that began under Blair
Jeremy Corbyn and Tony Blair attend the annual Remembrance Sunday. Credit: Getty.

Three days on from the election result and we already have various post-mortems on Labour’s loss. Not many, however, seem to have pointed out that Corbynism, instead of being a definitive break with Blairism, actually represented a strange continuity with the New Labour years.

A rejection, of course, of its neoliberal economics, but a perpetuation of the middle-class sensibility which came to characterise its social policy and cultural positioning.

Corbynism can’t take all the blame; but the so-called ‘centrists’ don’t have any answers either. The 2019 election finally severed Labour from its working-class base, but the drain of those voters away from the party began in the late 1990s. Working-class support for Labour fell from 55% in 1997 to 37% in 2015. By 2017 the more working-class a constituency, the more likely it was to back the Conservatives. Labour’s shift from a party representing working people to a bourgeois liberal party has been a slow process – not a bang, but a whimper. The paradox of the Corbyn project is that it completed the gentrification of the Labour Party that began under New Labour. ...  Continue reading

by Giles Fraser
Monday, 16
December 2019
Debate
12:21

Labour’s problems all start at university

Students cutting their ties from their home town is more of a problem for Labour than they realise

The Left only succeeds when it can establish an alliance between the working class and the university educated. Broadly speaking, Brexit drove a wedge between them and so Labour failed. That is one popular analysis of the Johnson victory.

But the challenge is much deeper than Brexit and will not go away now that Brexit is all but guaranteed. Brexit was symptomatic of a more widespread commitment to place, and here the university itself presents something of a conundrum.

Thanks to my Andrew Sullivan Confessions I have been rather taken with Michael Oakeshott of late, but this quotation from him gives a clue as to why the university and the local community exist in tension with each other: ...  Continue reading

by Ed West
Monday, 16
December 2019
Idea
10:49

What’s the matter with Bolsover?

History shows that when elites don't share the same faith as the ruled, they end up losing

What’s the matter with Bolsover? That’s the question many will be asking after last week’s election, and one many have asked quite angrily over the past few days. Emily Thornberry’s apparent explanation is that they are “stupid”. That working-class conservatives are rubes tricked by the wealthy to vote against their own interests is an old theme on the Left, prominently given voice in Thomas Frank’s 2004 polemic What’s the Matter with Kansas? 

There are various reasons why the Tories now do better in the north — one of which is that housing is much more reasonably priced. But a lot of it is clearly down to values, and that gulf between the Labour hierarchy and former voters. If you appreciate that politics is simply religion by other means, then it becomes easier to understand why people might not vote with their wallets. ...  Continue reading

by Elizabeth Oldfield
Saturday, 14
December 2019
Weekend read
07:00

Robin Ince’s conversion to curiosity

The shift from an anti-religious stance goes deeper than just branding

I was delighted to see that a London Christmas institution has had a rebrand. Comedian, writer and very public atheist Robin Ince has been running Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People, what The Guardian described as a “silly but rousing celebration of rationalism”, for a decade. He packs out venues with audiences who want to see scientists, mathematicians and philosophers riff on the season of goodwill, rather than bible readings. It always looked a lot of fun, but I’ve never been because the name appeared to exclude me.

Maybe I will go this Christmas because it has been renamed Nine Lessons and Carols for Curious people. The shift from a self-consciously anti-religious stance seems to go deeper than just branding, because the charity receiving support from the event this year is The Trussell Trust. ...  Continue reading

by UnHerd
Friday, 13
December 2019
Video
13:40

WATCH: five interesting moments from election night

Labour's civil war has been thrown into full display

Last night’s decisive victory for the Conservatives ensures that Boris Johnson will be returning to Downing Street with a much bigger majority than before. It also means that Labour are consigned to the Opposition benches for a fourth election in a row, with the widening schism in the party thrown into full display. As the party’s civil war unfolds, here are UnHerd’s five interesting moments from the past 24 hours.

1. Former home secretary Alan Johnson scolds Momentum founder Jon Lansman for refusing to listen to their working class base.

Alan Johnson vs Jon Lansman pic.twitter.com/7CxdJZOZE4 ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Friday, 13
December 2019
Reaction
10:23

Boris Johnson’s biggest weakness became his strength

The shape-shifting character of the Prime Minister was a necessary part of his victory...

In all the thousands of column inches written about Boris Johnson in the past few months, perhaps the most common critique has been that he has no principles. The line is that he’s an opportunist, who having been the liberal mayor of London, became a populist nationalist in service of his own career goals. “He doesn’t believe in anything but himself,” is the refrain.

But in the face of this historic election victory, it seems that that very weakness – that Protean adaptability — has really been his greatest strength; and in an important sense it mirrors the strength of this extraordinarily adaptable country. ...  Continue reading

by Mary Harrington
Thursday, 12
December 2019
Reaction
16:08

Outside London, Giles, it really isn’t that bad

It's harder to have a political argument with someone in a small town like mine

Giles Fraser writes movingly today about the erosion of our ‘imagined community’ as a nation. He worries that that the dwindling of this overarching sense of solidarity could undermine our capacity to recover from political divisions following this most fractious of general elections, and come together as a nation.

I want to offer a message of hope: outside London, Giles, it really isn’t that bad. I live in a small town in the shires and while the invigilators at my polling station report that turnout has been high so far, the mood in the polling station was cheerful. And ordinary small-town life is trundling on: our preschool daughter’s nativity show took place his morning, and the talk between parents over coffee and biscuits afterwards was about three-year-olds in adorable costumes, not whether people who vote this way or that are evil. ...  Continue reading

by Tom Chivers
Thursday, 12
December 2019
Factcheck
12:35

No, the rain probably won’t affect voter turnout

The much-quoted idea that bad weather is good or bad for one party is likely nonsense

It’s absolutely bucketing it down in north London, where I live. I voted a few hours ago, back when it was merely overcast, because I am very virtuous and you should all admire me greatly.

Now, I’m sure >80% of people reading this have watched The West Wing, because the sort of person who reads blog posts about electoral turnout are also the sort of people who watch The West Wing. And they’ll remember that scene in the season four episode Election Night, when Will Bailey stands outside, invoking the rain gods, praying that they unleash a storm to suppress voter turnout.

(Spoiler alert: the storm arrives, a dead guy gets elected to Congress as a result, and the upshot is that Sam Seaborn is written out of the series because Rob Lowe got greedy with his wage demands. But I digress.) ...  Continue reading