We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

The ‘Mainstream’ is out of touch with reality

I would like to qualify Natalie Solent’s agreement with Brendan O’Neill that right-wing is “out of the mainstream”.

In 1992 the British left was utterly convinced that Labour would win the election. I know this because I spoke to activists from the Communist fringe to the social-democrat Labour ‘wets’ who want deals with the Liberal Democrats. All were convinced at 10pm on election night that Neil Kinnock was the new prime minister. On 1st May 1997 the same people were convinced that “something will go wrong”, “somehow the Tories would narrow the gap”. On both occasions, most Conservatives agreed. I made over a hundred pounds (a fortune for me) in bets with these people about the outcomes of these elections.

My trick is extremely simple. I have noticed that the last people to understand what’s going on are the inner cabinet. In concentric circles around the elite are rings of isolation from the truth. The people who know most are those who spend the least time watching TV political programmes, never listen to the Today programme and don’t rely on reading press clippings for their news gathering. Never speaking to a national politician or spin doctor is a definite advantage. I try to make a point of listening to as little as possible of what politicians are talking about. I also find that it keeps me relatively sane and in good humour.

Instead of asking Alistair Campbell or his Tory equivalent who’s going to win the next election (which is literally how most of the media decide, especially foreign correspondents), I talk to people about the World Cup, house prices and the pleasures of “cheating” the Chancellor out of cigarette and alcohol taxes. Asking about family discloses the local horrors of crime and the national health service.

My conclusions on the National Health Service are that the system is expected to collapse soon, that if this can be avoided by massive tax rises that’s fine, but there is a deep worry about what the future may hold. The public private partnerships are seen as publicity stunts or dodgy deals to enrich politically connected businessmen. At best it is considered a stop-gap solution. The problem that is not being addressed but which is on the minds of many people is “How the hell am I going to afford health care for myself and my family when the NHS collapses?”

On education, as Brian has reported elsewhere, there is a growing underground of teaching going on, not just home education but extra tuition for children. This is primarily a growth industry in the poorest sections of British society and is almost completely unknown to politicians.

On the third world the idea that British experts can or should do anything is a minority view.

The idea that the Common Agricultural Policy is bankrupt morally, financially and practically is almost universal. There is no debate necessary on these issues, what is lacking is the product, the advert for a business that offers a solution rather like the solution to traffic jams mentioned below by Tom Burroughes.

In this respect there is little to be gained from telling international aid obsessives that they’re wasting our money and their time. Everyone else knows. If I were on a TV programme talking about Third World poverty I would make two points: 1) that there is nothing outsiders can do if the locals don’t understand the value of trade and the rule of law, 2) that viewers who care should write to MPs, newspapers a short letter or email saying that the CAP is a disgrace and must be scrapped at once.

If proof that the public debate is way ahead of what the ruling class calls ‘political reality’ is needed, a look at the political demise of all the Clinton/Blair clones around Europe and the USA should be instructive.

The shattering defeat of the British Conservatives in 1997 has been matched by the left in France, Spain, Italy and is likely to be followed in Germany. Gerhard Schroder’s main selling point used to be that he was “Germany’s Tony Blair”. Today his best hope of avoiding oblivion would be a German victory in the World Cup. Defeat to England would be catastrophic (i.e good). Democrats in the USA are reduced to sending out pictures of themselves standing next to president Bush to try to hold onto their fiefdoms. Will anyone remember what these guys were saying about Mr Bush less than two years ago in connection with Florida?

In Britain the Conservative Party is outside the mainstream, almost everywhere else the ideas of free markets and opposition to total welfare statism look to be if not dominant, at least competitive.

The €uro is quietly picking up in the foreign exchanges as the balance tips towards welfare reform. I reckon we will either see remarkably swift demolition of state welfare programmes in Europe, or the €uro is going to lose some of its members. The Euro-socialists are desperate for Blair to take Britain into the €uro soon. British socialists are beginning to wonder if staying out might not be the best way to keep the socialist welfare system going a bit longer. Labour euro-sceptics don’t want to protect the monarchy from Corpus Juris or prevent a European with-holding tax. They see the euro as an expensive policy which will lead to international currency traders deciding what the government is allowed to spend on the NHS. They suspect that Socialist parties will either be socialist and be over-ruled by the bankers, or ditch socialism and be ditched by irate public sector workers. If the recent French experience of the Socialist Party is anything to go by the Labour socialists have a point.

It can’t be a coincidence that the issue that has most agitated Libertarian Samizdata lately: the RIPA, has seen a government back-down (at least for a while) which was prompted by amateurs taking on the government and the Tories playing catch-up. The ‘Grauniad’ (Guardian) readers may shout to each other how important they are, but hardly anyone else is listening.

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