The Potemkin Village Idiot's 2022.
Read on, and know me better man.
2022 was quite a big year for this Tom Jones. I've bought a house, got a new job, been elected to council, become a whip and started Spoons But Nice.
It was also a pretty good year in terms of the low bar of my writing; I started this substack and I’ve been featured elsewhere quite a bit too. It may not have been much of a breakout year compared to some, but then not everyone can be Jose Bautista.
I thought I’d do a quick writing-based round up of the year, of things I picked up in 2022 and where I intend to take this in 2023, but before that I’d like to say thanks to everyone who has subscribed. I’m constantly flattered and amazed that people have signed up to hear from me, and the same goes for the opportunities to write elsewhere too. Thanks for reading.
No one likes someone celebrating or talking about themselves, so I’ll keep this brief. I’ve written two articles this year I’m happiest with; the first is Doomposting, which I posted here. I think I did a good job defining it and identifying its’ underlining causes, as well as laying the ground for future work (more on that later).
The other was Postliberal pubs, which I wrote for The Critic. I think I spoke to a concern that many people have about the future of their pubs and used that to talk about bigger concerns around fracturing communities and how postliberalism can offer a future for the common life of the nation - and our boozers.
I was also quite pleased about some of the architectural writing I did, but the market was somewhat limited by the fact it was pro-brutalism.
Choosing an article written by someone else, there’s one I read that’s far and away the best, but it wasn’t written this year - in fact, it’s nearly 20 years old. Unfortunately Too Diverse?, David Goodhart’s 2004 essay for Prospect, is still hugely relevant. It stirred up a lot of controversy when it was published and despite that, I don’t think it’s as well known - or as well read - as it should be. I wish I’d read it years ago.
Least favourite piece
Self-criticism, this is more my speed. My writing output has increased significantly this year, being relatively infrequent beforehand. However that means I’ve started from something of a low bar, so I have plenty of pieces I look at and question whether I did a good job - or whether I should have written them at all.
One of the latter was Hitchens vs Benjamin. This was a piece that somebody was going to write, but it probably shouldn’t have been me. I hate writing about Twitter and this was slightly too culture war-y a topic for me (which meant I was far less familiar with the subject matter than I should have been, if I wanted to write successfully about it) so the piece was a bit too far out of my comfort zone. Despite being my most off-brand it’s also my most-read post, so it's my 'Reelin' In The Years.'
And this year there seems to have been a real flowering and useful newsletters-BritanniQ is one that’s worth subscribing too, but I think the best out there is The Conservative Reader. That’s because it chimes with my postliberalism, and sense that conservatives are drifting a bit too listlessly.
Himbonomics was only launched this year but is great fun; when it comes to economics I’m a functional illiterate, but it’s focus on stymied growth is entertaining and accessible, even to me.
But if you must subscribe to just one, make it the Wrong Side of History. I always said I liked reading Matthew Parris, but it was depressing to see someone so articulate be so wrong so often. I like reading Ed West too, but it's depressing to see someone so articulate be so right so often. Having intelligent and articulate people expressing the same concerns as you makes it clear those concerns don’t arise from your warped perception of reality, but from a genuine problem. You aren’t the problem; it really is them.
An increased use of Twitter this year (sorry everyone) means I’ve built up a far bigger roster of writers to look out for. Some of them - Sixsmith, Roussinos, West, - are big enough not to need recommendations from me, even if they deserve them.
Meanwhile Poppy Coburn is pretty peerless on immigration, the determination there seems to be to keep increasing it and the effect it has on the population (and is pretty good at everything else she writes about too).
Yuan Yi Zhu’s pieces on assisted dying are convincing more and more people that what is pitched as a policy of moral liberalism is actually a monstrous inhumanity.
Although I don’t always agree with his conclusions John Oxley is excellent on the decline of the Conservative Party and has beaten me to the punch on a few articles, whilst Tony Dowson writes so well about law even I can understand it.
Sebastian Millbank has been a brilliant editor for me, so I’ve started reading more of his work; it’s not always a subject I’d have chosen to read about but it’s always worth reading, thanks to his thoughtful and gentle style.
Fred Skulthorp burst onto my radar from basically nowhere this year, but I think he’s more than worth a follow. He’s developing a niche of doing travelogues - first on Albania, and a piece on Ukraine out soon - so his work is not just interesting but different as well from the usual opinion pieces as well.
I finally moved into my own house this year, so my space for books has expanded exponentially. As a result, my collection of books has expended exponentially.
They’ve mostly been picked up from charity shops or bought used as I don’t read a lot of brand new books, but I made an exception for James Heale’s biography of Liz Truss, Out of The Blue, which I enjoyed immensely (it should be noted he and I are good friends). James described it to me as, ‘a curious beast: part obituary, part administrative autopsy’, and reading it after her fall adds an enjoyable element of prescience - like watching Evil Under the Sun for the second time.
I also finally got around to reading David' Goodhart’s The Road to Somewhere the premise of which, I think, has become stronger since it was published. Appealing to his Somewheres is a central concern to me, because they want the same thing I do; a culturally conservative Britain that’s fit for the 21st century.
Least favourite book
The Ascent of Everest by John Hunt. How can you make the stirring, romantic tale of endurance, bravery and superhuman strength it took to make the first ascent of Everest so boring? Don’t ask me, ask John Hunt.
Everyone is listening to The Rest is History, so it’s pointless recommending it. I have enjoyed it’s sister podcast however, We Have Ways of Making You Talk, which has reignited my interest in the Second World War.
I also highly recommend About Buildings and Cities, which is one of the few podcasts so good I’m happy to pay extra. It’s completely changed the way I think about space and architecture and I’d recommend it to anyone with even the vaguest in buildings or cities.
Post Liberal Pete’s threads are brilliant; absolute mines of information I work constantly, and which he constantly updates. He is an unpaid researcher on almost every article I write; thanks, Pete. I owe you more than just this mention.
Favourite short story
Love Among the Ruins by Evelyn Waugh. Everything by Waugh is worth reading, but this is even more so. An imagined future of the welfare state written at its’ conception, it’s a immensely quotable, bitingly funny, pathos-filled satire.
I’m going to try and use the Potemkin Village Idiot more determinedly and with more focus. I was so interested in doomposting because people aren’t fundamentally happy with our political settlement, and they’re concerned at the want of courage and ability to tackle the challenges we face. I think Britain is once again crying out for a collective mission and purpose.
My writing has always been a way for me to lay out what I think, and in the future much of it will be a kind of written record of my thought process for what that collective mission and purpose looks like. That means explaining with what road we’re on, how we got there and where we’re going - which I’d like to be a conservative Britain fit for the 21st Century.
I won’t always get things right but I will try and make sure that my writing isn’t just doomposting. I want to set out where the road we’re on should lead, not just moan it’s full of potholes.
But the potholes… they will need fixing.
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