It’s not just Brexit that has deepened society’s divisions

At the ipaper  With the appalling letter-bomb campaign in New York and following the divisive Kavanaugh row, political polarisation seems to have become an existential issue in the US. Yet there are plenty of reasons to believe that here in the UK we might be following this route, a division triggered by the 2016 referendum. The extent to which the vote has created new political identities in such a short space of time is revolutionary. A new report this… Read on

The Weekly Standard: Handing Britain To Jeremy Corbyn To Own the Libs

Me at the Weekly Standard. I wish I’d bothered to learn more poetry when I was younger so that I could think beyond Yeats’s done-to-death ‘Second Coming’ when musing British politics right now. Perhaps in 2018 it is better explained in meme form, as the dog in the burning house muttering ‘This is fine’, or the sweating man forced to choose between two buttons: ‘Renege on Referendum Promises’ and ‘Destroy the economy and Tory party’. After close to 200… Read on

Everyone loses in the clash between liberalism and democracy

At CapX It seems odd that liberalism (in the older, wider sense) and democracy might be in conflict, like the scene in Superman 3 where Clark Kent fights his alter ego in a junk yard. The two once went together almost like a compound, with “capitalist” as the third crucial element. People spoke about fighting the Cold War in terms of defending democracy. It was what defined our way of life — and yet increasingly intellectuals in the centre… Read on

A Tale of Two Brexits

At the Spectator At one point during Boris Johnson’s speech today he asked the audience ‘We all want to make Britain less insular, don’t we?’ [Silence] Media-training experts use an initialism to try to get journalists and other talking-heads to come across well on television – BLT. Does the audience believe you? Do they like you? Do they trust you? The Foreign Secretary has never had a problem with the middle one, perhaps the most important of the three,… Read on

Brexit: The boredom of living through ‘interesting times’ 

At Spectator Coffee House Robert Tombs, author of the majestic The English and their History, is writing in the latest magazine about how Brexit has become the trigger for a new culture war in Britain. He likens it to the sectarian arguments of the 18th century, pointing out that: ‘When I hear prominent Remainers unquestioningly supporting the demands of the EU Commission, however incoherent and excessive, I cannot but remember the opposition leader Charles James Fox happily admitting… Read on

How many Remainers does it take to fix a light bulb?

At the Spectator So Russia launched some fake Twitter accounts, a tiny, tiny number in the greater scheme of things and which almost certainly had no impact on the result. Oh, but even if it didn’t swing the result, the argument goes, they still helped to polarise the debate. I don’t know about that; quite a few people have spent the last 18 months tweeting about how they can’t wait for Leave voters to die of old age, or… Read on

I want to see how a culture war is fought so badly

At the Spectator blogs One of the strange things I keep on hearing about this feeble government is that it has been spurred by Brexit to launch a culture war and reverse the Cameron-era detoxification of the party. They’re taking us back to the 50s, or the Victorian era, or maybe 1065. It’s one of those things one sees being written so often that it must surely be true – except if you actually read what government ministers say,… Read on

The Week: Jeremy Corbyn’s topsy-turvy culture war

Me, in The Week: That referendum turned into a bitter and ugly culture war, a marked sign of the shifting from the traditional left/right axis towards a conflict between globalism and nationalism. Yet it has had a huge unintended consequence, too: What started as a battle for Britain’s soul between metropolitan liberals and conservatives seems to have left both sides exhausted and impotent and instead emboldened hardline socialists, viewed until recently as harmless relics of a bygone age. And… Read on

I’m a Leaver who would be happy for a second referendum

At the Spectator I voted Leave but if it looks like clearly being an economic disaster, then it’s ridiculous to pursue it whatever the cost. In no field does someone continue along the same course, knowing it will end in complete failure, whatever the consequences. It is true that there would be public anger at a second referendum, but there would be far more if the economy went down the toilet. There is also the fact that, while we… Read on

13 things we have learnt about Britain since the EU Referendum

At the Coffee House A large gap between the elites and public is a really bad thing. I’m not of the opinion that the people are necessarily right and the elites wrong – I’m, I suppose, a member of the elite, albeit an obscure and unimportant one. But well-educated and sociable people are more susceptible to fashionable ideas, which are often idiotic (indeed idiotic ideas have many advantages over sensible ones). The gap on the critical, existential issue for… Read on