July 2, 2001

The Presence
British politics is getting nasty, and the Liberal Elite has no idea what to do about it.


I do not despise our liberal elite, far from it. They believe in the sorts of things, tolerance, decency and the poor not starving, that even a crusty old reactionary like me can identify with. I may marvel at their total, indeed almost pathological, inability to grasp elementary economics or their obstinate belief that history is a diverting pastime rather than a guide to human nature, but I do not despise them. Regard them as totally wrong-headed Panglossian optimists leading us to a myopic future, yes, but actual hatred, not a bit. Sure their economics do not add up, their view of international relations ignores human nature and their social policies could not be better calculated to decimate society at its base but they are merely a misguided bunch.


While I do not despise the liberal elite that runs the government, the media and large chunks of the right wing and big business I never really pitied them. First, they are dangerous, even if they do not know what they do. Secondly, they are too good as political operators to feel any pity for them, after all that is why we have a liberal elite rather than a conservative one. Pity, however needs to be extended to them, for they seem to be losing their grip if not on their comfortable jobs, then on all sense of political reality. Unfortunately, the good guys do not look like they will benefit from this.


The first inkling that the liberal elitists were losing their grip was in the Irving trial, which pitted the Holocaust historian, Deborah Lipstadt against the Holocaust revisionist David Irving. Before I get any angry e-mails, let me say that I think that Holocaust denial (which is basically the position of David Irving) is preposterous, and as devoid of factual support as the flat earth theory. I also believe that its adherents are mostly dishonest, a category in which I include David Irving. Deborah Lipstadt made the same points in an academic book. David Irving sued. It was a ridiculous suit, and David Irving knew it. In academic circles these accusations are made all the time, and usually with far less justice. It is part of the price one pays for trying to be part of the academic, or indeed the polemic, world. In the old, conservative days, a judge would have taken that sort of view. The case would have been dismissed as superfluous, the judge making special effort to quietly punish the time wasting litigant with a hefty share of the large legal costs, while maintaining the pretence of an impartial legal system. Not for the new improved liberal judiciary, however. The judge went beyond Lipstadt's claims and said that Irving's work was racist and without any merit. The judgment was so favourable that it was published by the defendants. What they did not seem to realise was that they had done just what Irving had wanted and had created a martyr, the best way of expanding a fringe movement. The fact that neither the judge, nor the media, realise that they have played straight into this odious man's hands made me realise that there is something rotten in the state of our elite.


The Irving episode was stupid, but it is a smouldering problem that can be corrected later. The latest specimen of stupidity from our elite is more current and dangerous. England in 2001 has seen a number of small riots involving the Asian and White working classes, usually, but not totally, confined to northern mill towns. The complaints are familiar, the Asians feel discriminated against and poor and the Whites feel discriminated against and poor. Both claim that their taxes are funding the other community. So far, so familiar. There has of course been some complexity in this. The rioting has involved Asians rather than West Indians, which surprised the unconsciously racist denizens of the elite who assumed that all Asians were as demure as that nice Mr. Patel, the news agent There were also reports that the rioting had a religious flavour, as the Muslim mobs attacked Hindus and Sikhs. There was another element in this, the spectral presence of the British National Party or the BNP.

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The mishandling of the BNP by the elite should ring alarm bells amongst all those who want to live in a decent society. Firstly, the elite misunderstood the riots. To the elite, it was not a result of disenfranchisement and an ethnic spoils system, it was a result of the BNP who were active in (some) of the distressed areas. That the BNP (who did well in many of these areas) were beneficiaries rather than originators of the fear and loathing never crossed the liberals' minds. To the liberal, politics creates social problems and by no means should be seen as a reaction to them. They then thought that the BNP would be defeated by being smothered with liberal loathing. To the amazement of the political classes, the BNP seems to have survived this. A particularly stunning example of this was on a recent edition of the current affairs programme "Newsnight" when the presenter, Jeremy Paxman, tried to floor the media-savvy leader of the BNP Nick Griffin. What became embarrassingly clear was that not only did Griffin and his target audience not accept the elitist confines of debate, but that Paxman didn't realise this. The supposedly killer blow was a question as to whether Griffin would allow his child to marry an Asian. Would an unemployed young man with a vague feeling of being discriminated against give a fig for who Nick Griffin's kids would marry? Paxman, who is used to knocking out the more deferential representatives of the Conservative Party, did not seem to get the rules of the new game.


We must recognise that the views and methods of the liberal elite are irrelevant in this fight. The Liberal elite despises the working class and their more conservative instincts, so the working class is not deserting them the working classes were never welcome in the first place. The BNP is not pushing against the weakness of the Liberal elite, but against the weakness of social conservatism and working class politics. Although I am no particular fan of social conservatism at least not in the political sense the BNP are tapping into a well of disillusion. The feeling is that politics is made up of the graduates of the best universities who feel either contempt or indifference towards concepts such as family or nation. The problem is that this is not far off reality. One of the things that the right needs to do is to articulate the genuine concerns of those who feel that they have no alternative to the BNP. BNP voters are not wannabe Nazis, but as long as their concerns are treated with contempt (for example on capital punishment or abortion) they will go where they are listened to.


The other vacuum that the BNP fill is the lack of working class organisation. The ruling party may be known as "labour" but what do you see on TV? Barristers, teachers, second rate academics and overgrown student leaders. It is hard to find a minister, apart from the idiotic John Prescott, who has any experience of manual labour. The Labour Party has forgotten its working class roots, and is instead looking at a core vote of the Celtic fringes, ethnic minorities, and public and private sector bureaucrats a tiny core. Of course the hard left are just an extension of this, with the vast majority being social workers of one kind or other, and showing as little understanding of the working class as they do of economics. If the Working Class is ignored it will go to the one party who listens to them and it is not Labour.


We are witnessing the strange death of a Liberal England. A smug and self-satisfied elite no longer has the answers for the identity crisis that faces this country and they are gradually becoming a pitiful irrelevance. Conservatism is ashamed to show its face in Britain and the left is a pathetic shambles that cannot even speak the language of their target constituency. Vacuums are always filled, and this is a dire situation for all those of us who want to live in a democratic and tolerant society.

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