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"Too Close To Business, Too Far From The Nation"
Mathew Goodwin on the Tories at The Unherd Club
His hand tremors, seemingly trying to fight its way back to his side, displaying discomfort as he completes the purchase. The bleep of the card mocks the victim in this transaction; the man sighs as he takes his small bottle. His face is fraught, he seems to stagger, and he winces as though subject to a sudden invasion of his rear orifice. He paid £7.50 for a beer. Not for one of those big 660ml bottles, or even a pint, just a miserly 330ml.
Alcohol is expensive nowadays, especially in London. £7.50 for a 330ml bottle of beer is egregious, and the relevant organisation will receive at least one complaint. Never have I come across such a shocking charge for a beer. Thankfully, I was not drinking on this occasion. In future, if I do indulge at the Unherd Club on Queen Street in Westminster, I will pour my beer of choice into my bottle before entering the premises. Unless sense prevails and change occurs.
Exorbitant alcohol pricing aside, an engaging event, The Technocrat Restoration, was held on 27 March. At the intimate venue, Freddie Sayers brought together an all British panel comprising Mathew Goodwin, Baroness Claire Fox, and Tom McTague. Goodwin is a Professor of Politics at the University of Kent. Fox, formerly a member of the Revolutionary Communist Party, stood for the Brexit Party in 2019 and won election to the European Parliament. McTague is Unherd’s Political Editor. The question under discussion was: is the party over for populists?
After acknowledging the triumph of the technocratic/globalist regime, with particular reference to the emergence of coronavirus and the government response, Goodwin said that a significant proportion of the British public, probably the majority, disapprove of a profoundly aloof elite. There is disillusionment with the institutions and things in general. Goodwin spoke of the current state of British galleries, museums, and TV advertisements. Our galleries and museums often present Britain as a uniquely negative entity; this finds expression in various exhibitions today. Such displays do not treat the British past in a historical context and reveal incredible bias. People who watch at least a bit of TV will be aware of a compulsive over-representation of ethnic minorities in commercials. These trends have done much to engender a view of a social elite who diverge drastically from broader society.
Family breakdown, the promotion of an extreme trans agenda, and sick attempts to sexualise children are issues that the Tories should be addressing but fail to. Goodwin said that at some schools, eleven-year-old children are taught how to choke their ‘partners”. Many of us would have heard examples of the same and similar horrors. It says a lot that incidents like this no longer provoke great shock. As cultural leftism has become increasingly prevalent since the Tories came to power in 2010, Goodwin points to a fundamental failure of conservatism. “They are too close to business and too far from the nation.”
When the final provocation snaps the last chain that ties us to our polite conciliatory character and “tolerance” is more widely understood to be undesirable and even dangerous, what will insults like “racist” do to restrain simmering indignation made ferocious?
When asked by Sayers if his prescription for the Tories was to be more conservative, Goodwin said there are three main issues they need to address. Political correctness/wokeism has gone too far. Immigration is too high, although Goodwin was keen to stress that large swathes of the public remain tolerant towards incomers. His work finds that the narrative surrounding British national identity is vital to the public. People want to see the “promotion of Britain’s distinctive national identity” and feel that ‘‘There is something special about this country that I want to be able to talk about.”
Goodwin predicts a low turnout at the next general election, and the Tories are heading for defeat. In failing to resolve issues important to many who voted Tory in 2019, the government have not thrown potential supporters any “red meat” to encourage rare or first time Tory voters who care about Britain’s cultural decline to opt for them again. The term “red meat”, one Goodwin has used in recent interviews, led Fox to simulate hurling food while the audience laughed along. Fox was keen to reassure those in doubt that voters were not animals but people, and she said we should treat voters with dignity. It is probably undue to attribute condescension to Goodwin, whose analogy was likely innocent enough.
When giving voice to his personal view, Goodwin spoke of an illiberal intolerance within our institutions that he would like to see dealt with. This sentiment probably reflects the majority view of the audience at the event, who are likely liberal, liberal-left even, but distinguished from others of their bent through opposition to the crazier aspects of leftism plaguing the West.
Fox does not see the current cultural disputes as dichotomous left-right issues, and she is right about this. She discerns little potential for a new political party breaking through to assuage the current malaise. Goodwin opines that a faction within the “Conservative” Party may emerge and initiate a change of tack; this seems too high a hope. He accepts the chance of a social movement gaining ground. Such an approach may be the best prospect the public has of making a tangible difference. The panel would not assert that patriotic populism is dead. On the contrary, something, or someone, may stoke its flames again. While there may not be a viable political vehicle for the country’s long-suffering malcontents, their sentiments remain strong.
Goodwin claims that only fifteen per cent of British adults identify as hyper-woke. While this may encourage optimism, the percentage among the elite who peddle poisonous ideas is undoubtedly higher. A reality of relatively small-scale popular support for the hardest leftism is the prime reason arch-leftists like Owen Jones and Ash Sarkar refuse to debate with many they oppose. Goodwin said he tried to establish a dialogue with the pair, but they have not accepted the invitation. He reasons they ‘‘have run out of road intellectually”. They did not even have an intellectual alley before them anyway.
The brazen behaviour of the left may be their undoing. Sarkar made a video declaring success over white-British people in a race war. She later claimed this was a joke taken out of context, but this is not believable, especially if we consider the video alongside the causes she espouses. Acts like this may soon arouse the British population from its slumber. When the final provocation snaps the last chain that ties us to our polite conciliatory character and “tolerance” is more widely understood to be undesirable and even dangerous, what will insults like “racist” do to restrain simmering indignation made ferocious? In the cause of civilised discussion between those whose views diverge, Unherd hears different perspectives; this approach is the best way to ensure that things do not get out of hand.
Most of what Goodwin had to say is not new or arcane knowledge, but the number of people wanting to hear about the subjects discussed at this event is broadening. The Unherd output may be too normie or left-leaning at times, but in the paradigm of regime acceptability at least, they often countervail this by facilitating an array of views. Sensible voices and platforms willing to host a variety of opinions should be welcome in what can be an uncivil public space.
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Freddie Myers, 9/3/20, Ash Sarkar: woke segregationist online, Spiked-Online: https://www.spiked-online.com/2020/03/09/ash-sarkar-woke-segregationist/, accessed: 6/4/23