The New Yorker may have hit the spot

There’s a piece by John Cassidy currently on the web-site of The New Yorker. Viewed from a comfortable distance, he still finds: An Exciting Election Beckons in the U.K.

His thesis amounts to:

The outcome of the election will therefore offer some indication of whether the shift toward conservatism that much of Europe experienced in the wake of the Great Recession was a temporary reaction to hard times, or something deeper and more disturbing.

I question that on a number of (equally-superficial) grounds:

  • Has there been a shift towards conservatism … across much of Europe? What about the election of a socialist President of France? The success of Syriza in Greece? Podemos in Spain (Giles Tremlett does a long essay on that in today’s Guardian)?
  • Is this shift towards conservatism (if has happened) something deeper and more disturbing? Could it not also be interpreted as a revulsion against Big Capital, Big Government and Mr Big in general? I, for one, see in UKIP a kind of local Poujadism.
  • Why should whatever happens in a British General Election have wider applications than the local ones?

Did I lose you there with “Poujadism”? I reckon my definition has moved on from that given by the OED:

The political philosophy and methods advocated in France during the 1950s by Pierre Poujade, who in 1954 founded a populist right-wing movement for the protection of artisans and small shopkeepers (Union de Défense des Commerçants et Artisans), protesting chiefly against the French tax system then in force. Now also: any similar populist movement of the right identifying itself with the interests of small businesses.

Wikipedia is closer to my appreciation:

In addition to the protest against the income tax and the price control…, Poujadism was opposed to industrialization, urbanization, and American-style modernization, which were perceived as a threat to the identity of rural France. Poujadism denounced the French state as “rapetout et inhumain” (“thieving and inhuman”). The movement’s “common man” populism led to antiparliamentarism (Poujade called the Chamber of Deputies “the biggest brothel in Paris” and the deputies a “pile of rubbish” and “pederasts”) a strong anti-intellectualism…

Compare that, say, with The Observer Magazine profile of Nigel Farage.

Later in Cassidy’s account is this:

Amid signs of nervousness in the Conservative camp, Cameron visited the Queen at Buckingham Palace on Monday, and subsequently promised to campaign in ”all four corners of all four nations of the U.K.” over the next thirty-eight days. Moving to quash rumors that he was already thinking about retiring to his country house in Oxfordshire, Cameron also promised to serve a full five-year term if he wins, saying that he wanted to “see the job through.” Miliband, meanwhile, launched Labour’s business manifesto, pledging to keep Britain inside the European Union and describing the Conservatives’ plan to hold a referendum on E.U. membership (a position it adopted in response to by-election gains by UKIP) as “a clear and present danger” to British jobs.

I’ll have to confess I missed the ”all four corners of all four nations of the U.K.”. I look forward to Cameron tripping through the western reaches of the County Fermanagh — perhaps Beleek — which is about the westernmost “corner” of the Saxon Empire, before it dissolves into  … outer darkness.



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Filed under David Cameron, New Yorker

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