British horror stories
This week: the Blob has its revenge, why Britain is not America and some extremely nerdy map action.
“It is not Starmer Truss has to worry about,” begins a recent Andrew Neil column in the Daily Mail which, in a mark of my commitment to wading through sewage for you people, I have actually read. “It is what is best described as the Left Blob, which is now omnipresent in British public life, dominant in the citadels of power.”
These citadels, Neil goes on, include “most of the media (above all the broadcasters), the Civil Service, the NHS, the legal system (including the judiciary), education (especially the universities), social media, most public bodies and private charities.” That’s pretty much everywhere, which means either this is the most insidious anti-establishment plot of all time, or possibly that Neil has misunderstood something. “It’s even,” he goes on, in the hushed tones of a nun telling you she just caught someone with their balls out in the confession box, “wheedling its way into boardrooms.”
What this blob actually wants, though, is surprisingly hard to pin down. Neil lists the buzzwords that always show up in such columns and the tweets that inspire them: the “many shibboleths” of wokery, cancel culture and identity politics; sustainability, gender fluidity, stakeholding, governance, inclusion, diversity; LGBT+, BLM, CSR, CRT…
But these are quite obviously not all the same sort of thing. Some of them (diversity, gender fluidity) are things a social conservative would be expected to oppose, and we can argue, but, y’know, different strokes. Then there are things – identity politics; cancel culture – which, yes, are arguably a feature of our modern politics; but there is absolutely no way can enthusiastic backer of Brexit and the modern Conservative party can claim they’re a problem unique to the left without getting quite seriously laughed at.
Other items on the list, though, are jargon, but for perfectly useful concepts (sustainability; governance), and it’s not clear whether it’s the jargon he opposes or the thing to which it refers. That allows for some elision when he moves onto talking about movements like BLM or LGBT+: is he just opposing the jargon again? Or is he being too chicken to spell out some really pretty paleolithic opinions here?
So far as I can see, the only thing holding this variety of concepts together is the fact that Andrew Neil and the type of reader he represents don’t like them very much: this is, if it can be said to have one, the true meaning of the word “wokery”. It’s as if I were to pen a furious diatribe about the modern evils of cheese, Surrey, the early seasons of Star Trek: Voyager and Normal People by Sally Rooney, but then pretend they were all part of the same sinister plot by people who disagreed with me about fiscal policy. It’s nonsense.
What is more interesting, in some ways, is what this list says about where right-wing politics has got to.
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