Many of us Salisbury Review readers interact daily with middle-class liberal-lefties, who abhor everything we stand for. Tell them that Boris is just what the country needs and they’ll pull a face like a bulldog licking piss off a nettle. Nobody with a sprinkling of grey matter would support such a boorish populist, so they think.
But what on earth is this ‘populism’? For the patronising progressive class, it seems to mean anything that (a) they don’t like and (b) the plebs like very much. The masses are too thick to understand political and economic complexities, hence Brexit. But in a properly functioning democracy, surely what is popular is what counts? The current political crisis in the UK is not primarily constitutional, but a negation of franchise. A hundred years after universal suffrage, the British political establishment has decided to no longer trust the people.
Alongside other neoliberal media, the Financial Times is very concerned about the threats to globalisation from regressive tribalism. In the magazine last weekend, Simon Kuper gave six reasons why populists are winning: –
- Populism is majoritarian
- Populist topics such as immigration, Islamophobia and anti-elitism dominate debate, and so seem urgently in need of intervention
- Right-wing populist messages are more popular than conservative messages
- In power, populists embolden the extreme right
- Taboos diminish as populist language is normalised
- Trump and Putin protect the far right worldwide
In the same glossy pages, Gillian Tett wondered whether populism has peaked. Fearing it has not, she referred to a recent Ipsos global survey showing that two-thirds of adults want ‘a strong leader to take their country back from the rich and powerful’, and almost as many ‘feel that experts don’t understand the lives of people like them’. Half of the respondents agreed that ‘to fix the country we need a strong leader willing to break the rules’. These rules, we should understand, are not derived from natural justice or Judaeo-Christian mores, but those of a self-serving elite with a façade of liberal virtue.
Our political and cultural superiors will never understand the concerns of the hoi polloi while they continue to label disagreeable opinion as ‘populist’. They are poor doctors, unable to assess, diagnose or cure society’s ills. Focusing on the symptoms rather than causes, they pathologise normal thoughts and behaviour. The appeal of Trump and Brexit is dismissed as an emotional flight from reason, allowing those with power and privilege to avoid any rational enquiry into electoral spasms.
Distaste for national identity and heritage is selective. Ironically, the cover feature in the same FT magazine was ‘Silencing of a culture’, on the fate of the Uyghur Muslim people at the brutal hands of the Chinese communist regime. This oppressed community deserves more attention, as I have raised elsewhere, but for me there is no contradiction in supporting indigenous cultures on the other side of the world while also promoting the cultural rights at home. Progressive liberals, immersed in identity politics, lack such principle. They determine whether groups are deserving or not, leading to absurd notions such as Scottish nationalism good, British nationalism bad.
The Scottish National Party is not labelled as populist despite its dog-whistle deed to destroy the United Kingdom. English or British pride is banished, unfairly demonised as jingoistic and xenophobic. A Teessider is silenced, while a Taysider is not. I have heard middle-class students say that the English have no culture at all: only shame, mitigated by some good pop music.
Isn’t populism a cry of cultural pain? Our political and cultural leaders would rather not hear.
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