I see from the latest column that the road across Mittleuropa led directly to Brighton. Dave spent his journey fondly looking upon the young and the vibrant, while wobbling his jowls at the news that Hungary’s public sector was too large and that Slovakia had endured some unpleasant nationalistic types. Now, at the Labour Party conference, the journey reaches its conclusion:
DEREK SIMPSON, leader of Amicus, had just finished a conference speech that was all about protecting and defending British workers. He had been rightly worried about the bad employers over at Gate Gourmet but also concerned about “off-shoring” and the risk that giving work to outsiders would “displace our people”.
A minute or so later a small crocodile of international delegates made its way across the floor in front of the press seating. Behind me a Mail sniggerer — spotting an Oriental couple — began to make Fu Manchu sounds and to crack little jokes about the United Nations. And there, I felt, you had it in one speech and one hack’s ribaldry: the foreigner, either risible or threatening. There’s a revolution going on out there in the world and sections of the Left and of the old-school Right want to shut the doors on it.
There’s a revolution going on. Ya don’t say Dave. Now, there’s a certain category of middle class liberal that has benefited from the economic processes of the last decade or so, but is uncomfortably aware that others lower down the chain have not. It’s the kind of thing that can lead to a bad conscience when some union leader or hairy lefty type says that such folk need to have economic policy take account of their interests. Unless of course you can smear them as …well, not exactly racists but the next worse thing. And we can’t be helping racists out can we? No. My bank balance is secure.
Of course, if the poor are racists then we need to be protected from them…but let’s not piss all over that particular cache of Dave’s powder while he’s trying to keep it dry. Let the line evolve.
You can see how this might be a way for Dave to evolve out of his Iraq embarrassments, which gave his columns the sense of a man trying to come up with the wit of the staircase two months after the dinner party. But he’s on somewhat overpopulated ground. In fact, one of the interesting shifts in European opinion forming over the past few years is the way in which old fashioned, bog standard social democrats have been marginalized – repurposed? – as racists-cum-nationalists. A certain sort of mandarin liberal is absolutely outraged at the thought that a Labour government might find a better use for taxpayers money than kicking a failed state to pieces. Likewise, the spiteful curl of the lip at the reluctance of the French and Germans to take granny’s pension and, inter alia, hand it over to the kind of funky young entrepreneur who people like Dave would be pleased to break bruschetta with.
Now the market leader for this segment in Britain is Timothy Garton Ash, who had the advantage of actually being there while the revolution was going on. It’s everyday fodder for the continental bureaux of the posh papers. It lurks like flatulence around the editorial desk of the Economist. It needs a little more oomph than this:
This is what the Chancellor sees, and he sees it as clearly as the man he is likely to succeed. The debates we engage in with such obsessive repetitiveness and attention to detail, are minor considerations set against the strategic questions of Britain’s stance in the world. Do we face the global competition by retreating into our shells and hoping it will go away, or do we march towards the sound of the guns?
The choice is not about principle versus political positioning, so as to garner short-term centrist votes. It’s about whether Britain is a progressive, successful country, full of plumbers, or becomes a backward-looking, defensive one. Gordon Brown has, I think, made his choice.
There was a time during the Cultural Revolution in China when practically everything that dropped from Mao’s lists was made into a slogan and repeated ad nauseum throughout the country. Eventually, Mao ran out of sloganable snippets and his acolytes were reduced to putting stuff like “The People’s Communes are Good” up in twenty foot high big character posters.
Is this it, Dave? “Gordon Brown is Good” Jesus H Christ, is the Times readership these days entirely composed of flunkies and functionaries or what?