The Sunday Poast
Everywhere I look I don't like what I see
Welcome to the first* Sunday Poast, a new weekly round up of things I’ve been reading I’d like to share and highlight.
2023 is the year I’m going to use the Potemkin Village Idiot more determinedly, and with more focus. Britain is once again crying out for a collective mission and purpose and for a politics that wants to change Britain’s course, not just mark time until the next election.
The Sunday Poast will help build up a picture of what that collective mission and purpose looks like. That means explaining 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.
The next piece on the PVI will be a look at David Cameron’s austerity agenda and how some of the mismanagement, missed opportunities and political choices of that programme lead to the managerial politics of today. If you’d like to read it, make sure to subscribe below!
The Thatcher Trap
A while ago I wrote about the hold Thatcher still has over the Conservative Party and how her ‘use as a leitmotif reduced the Conservative offering to low tax, high growth and precious little else.’
Sam Freedman has done an even deeper dive on ‘The Thatcherite Trap’ and the desperate need the Tories have to tackle the intergenerational divide it’s created:
Thus a Conservative government find themselves in an ironic position of standing against the Thatcherite pro-growth policies of their younger think tankers because to endorse them would mean depriving Thatcher’s initial beneficiaries of some of their gains. If they don’t, at some point switch position, the deep sense of resentment already in evidence will only grow further.
Ultimately if you care about the success of popular capitalism you cannot downplay inequality or the state’s role in redistribution because it has to be underpinned by a sense of fairness.
The Goldwater Trap
I've becoming deeply concerned that the reason Liz Truss is being touted as the 'new Barry Goldwater' is because many of the people doing that touting see themselves as a potential 'new Ronald Reagan.'
In UnHerd, Tom McTague asks if the comparison bears weight - and offers a much needed reminder that Goldwater was a more complex figure than just the guy who led the way for Reagan:
No wonder Liz Truss is reportedly comforting herself with the belief that she is the Goldwater of Britain, rather than just a humiliated former prime minister. If only it were that simple.
To begin with, the bridge from Goldwater to Reagan is quite a long one which, as Perlstein’s books show, starts with that distinctly problematic figure in American politics, Richard Nixon, before ending with Reagan. In other words, even if Truss were the Goldwater of Britain, if the American experience is anything to go by, it could be decades before the conditions are right for a Trussite agenda to triumph. And if it did, it would not be copy-and-paste Trussism, just as Reagan was not delayed Goldwaterism.
The DeSanctis Trap
Think it’s funny that Conservatives are waging the ‘war on woke’ by funding their opponents? Whether it’s funding the charities blocking its legislative programme or appointing political opponents to positions in public life, it doesn’t seem to be providing value for money.
Eric Kaufman writes that Florida Governor and possible Republican nominee Ron DeSantis shows a much more effective way forward to restore conservativism to the public sphere; by a conservative government legislating against things it doesn't like. It'll never happen here:
While Trump and some Tories are content to sound off against wokery, DeSantis understands that the only way to push back is through legislation and follow-through. His unsubtly-titled Stop WOKE Act curtails the teaching of CRT concepts such as white privilege in schools. Most recently, he rejected a high school curriculum in African-American history which featured numerous writers in the CRT tradition, while excluding black conservatives.
Recognising the well-documented pattern of political discrimination and Leftist capture of higher education, DeSantis has also initiated the takeover of a progressive Florida university, replacing its president and trustees with conservative appointees. In addition, he has tabled legislation to defund CRT-inspired equity and diversity programmes and to ban so-called “diversity statements”. These require candidates to affirm support for woke goals, a political litmus test that weeds out candidates unwilling to betray their conscience.
The Sturgeon Trap
The result of the Conservative failure to fight institutional capture likely means many of these problems are going to accelerate if (when?) Labour are returned at the next election.
But there’s hope; a recent report from UnHerd shows that Scots ‘are the most trans-sceptical.’ Nicola Sturgeon forcing these issues into the open has forced the electorate to confront them not as airy coffee house chats, but as concrete policies with consequences. If Conservatives lose power they’re going to have to continue doing this; the consequences of ‘anywhere’ unrestricted social progressivism are far out of sync with what Britain wants.
For each issue, the most “trans-sceptical” constituencies in Britain are found in Scotland. In aggregate, Scottish people are also more trans-sceptical than English people, meaning that a higher proportion of them disagree and disagree strongly with the statements we put in front of them.
This result confounds political cliches about the new gender ideology being synonymous with “progressive” politics, given that Scottish people in aggregate self-describe as more Left-wing than the English, and are led by a leading proponent of the ideology, Nicola Sturgeon. It provides a glimpse of what may happen in other nations when the debate moves from a theoretical side-issue to a mainstream political argument with real-world consequences.
The student Trap
Poppy Coburn was one of the writers I recommended last year on the grounds she ‘is pretty peerless on immigration, the determination there seems to be to keep increasing it and the effect it has on the population.’
In The Critic this month she details how poor funding models in Britain’s overinflated university sector are driving universities to prop themselves up with huge numbers of foreign students, who are more interested in a visa than an education:
This phenomenon of “missing students” isn’t new: back in 2014, the Daily Mail estimated that some 100,000 foreign students were “going missing” every year, with the majority being from the Indian subcontinent. While the illegal aspect was overblown (the gap in recorded entries and exits didn’t account for those who obtained legal leave to remain) Theresa May, as Home Secretary, was concerned at the increasing use of Britain’s student visa system as a backchannel for economic migrants…
Like so many other immigration problems, the current Conservative government is having to reckon with, the problem lies at the feet of Boris Johnson. Egged on by his former Universities Minister brother, Jo Johnson, Boris reversed the May-era requirement that international students would have to leave the country if they couldn’t find work in four months, expanding the window to two years.
The Sunday Papers
A new paper has evaluated a US diversity training program with 3,764 police officers across 251 trainings. It concludes that diversity trainings are unlikely to change police behaviour:
Relative to baseline, the training was immediately effective at increasing knowledge about bias, concerns about bias, and intentions to address bias. However, the effects were fleeting. Although the training was linked to higher knowledge for at least one month, it was ineffective at durably increasing concerns or strategy use. These findings suggest that diversity trainings as they are currently practiced are unlikely to change police behavior.
So…. why bother? Another paper from November 2022 suggests that companies adopt socially progressive stances largely as the result of a drive from middle management:
There is little evidence of systematic support for woke ideas among executives and the population at large, and going woke does not appear to improve company performance… We build on theories from agency theory, institutional theory, and intra-organizational ecology to argue that wokeness arises from middle managers and support personnel using their delegated responsibility and specialist status to engage in woke internal advocacy, which may increase their influence and job security.
Anyway thanks for reading, and have a great Sunday.
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*or last, if no one likes it.