Two Prophetic Anti- Socialist Satires

By Philip Vander Elst.

“I had spent an extremely interesting evening. I had dined with some very ‘advanced’ friends of mine at the ‘National Socialist Club’. We had had an excellent dinner: the pheasant, stuffed with truffles, was a poem…After dinner, and over the cigars (I must say they do know how to stock good cigars at the National Socialist Club), we had a very instructive discussion about the coming equality of man and the nationalisation of capital.” (Evergreens and other short stories, Alan Sutton, England, 1982, p.72).

Jerome K Jerome ( 1859-1927 )

With these opening words, the famous 19th century English writer and jerome-k-jerome-4humourist, Jerome K. Jerome , fired a satirical but penetrating broadside against socialism under the title, ‘The New Utopia’, one of a collection of essays and short stories first published in 1891.

Although he is best known and loved as the author of Three Men in a Boat (1889), Jerome deserves to be remembered for producing this anti-socialist literary gem, which combines great wit with acute political and psychological insight. It is, moreover, all the more interesting because it is not the work of a man who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, and therefore anxious to preserve aristocratic privilege, but the product of one who grew up in poverty, and suffered the premature death of his parents during his early teens. (See the Wikipedia article on him. )Three men in a boat

Instead of being soured by early misfortune and filled with resentment towards the rich and successful, Jerome’s varied career as a railroad worker, actor, writer and journalist, gave him a love of individuality and freedom which innoculated him against the socialist virus infecting so many of his Victorian contemporaries. Accordingly, his good-natured satire, ‘The New Utopia’, exposes the totalitarian logic of socialism, and its soul-destroying egalitarianism, with remorseless zest. Yet the sharpness of his attack is softened, and arguably made more effective, by its light-hearted tone.

Right from the outset, Jerome reveals his grasp of the essential character and goals of socialism. “Equality of all mankind was their watchword – perfect equality in all things – equality in possessions, and equality in position and influence, and equality in duties, resulting in equality in happiness and contentment…Each man’s labour was the property, not of himself, but of the State which fed and clothed him…When all men were equal, the world would be Heaven – freed from the degrading despotism of God. We raised our glasses and drank to EQUALITY, sacred EQUALITY; and then ordered the waiter to bring us Green Chartreuse and more cigars.” (Op cit, pp. 73-74).

Then, for the reader, the fun really begins as Jerome, in his imagination, returns to his lodgings after that dinner at the National Socialist Club, and lies awake in bed thinking “how delightful life would be,” if the “State would take charge of us from the hour we were born until we died, and provide for all our wants from the cradle to the coffin…” (Ibid). Not surprisingly, he then falls into a dream in which he imagines himself waking up from sleep only to find that he is lying under a glass case in a museum, in a new and unfamiliar socialist England in the 29th century.

Having been told by a museum official that his landlady forgot to wake him 10 years before “the great social revolution of 1899,” Jerome is then given a guided tour of the new socialist London, in the course of which we discover all the dramatic changes that have taken place since he fell asleep.

The tour begins with Jerome asking his guide whether all the world’s problems have now been solved, since “A few friends of mine were arranging, just before I went to bed, to take it to pieces and fix it up again properly…Is everybody equal now, and sin and sorrow and all that sort of thing done away with?” (Op cit, p.76).

This is a significant question, since the slightly flippant language in which it is posed shows a thorough understanding of the utopian social engineering mentality which underlies the socialist project. The naïve and arrogant belief, so  widespread on the Left, that imperfect human nature can be reshaped by the enforced reorganisation of society by the State, is mercilessly lampooned in the ensuing dialogue between Jerome and his socialist guide.

Social engineering lampooned.

“Oh, yes,” replies the guide to his original question, “you’ll find everything all right now…We’ve just got this earth about perfect now, I should say” (Ibid), and we soon find out what he means by the word “perfect”: namely, total collectivisation and uniformity. Everyone now lives in the same government-owned barrack-like apartment blocs, wears the same identical clothing, and eats collectively cooked meals at prescribed times of the day – a chillingly prescient if light-hearted anticipation of social life in many 20th century communist societies. When, in addition, Jerome asks his guide why everyone they meet has black hair, the reply he gets appeals to our sense of humour, as it is meant to, but at the same time focuses our attention on the necessary conflict between absolute equality and freedom.

“What would become of our equality if one man or woman were allowed to swagger about in golden hair, while another had to put up with carrots?…By causing all men to be clean shaven, and all men and women to have black hair cut the same length, we obviate, to a certain extent, the errors of Nature.” (Op cit, p.77).

The same egalitarian principle, we discover, also applies to the issue of personal cleanliness, since it was found that it was impossible to maintain equality when people were allowed to wash themselves. “Some people washed three or four times a day, while others never touched soap and water from one year’s end to the other, and in consequence there got to be two distinct classes, the Clean and the Dirty. All the old class prejudices began to be revived. The clean despised the dirty, and the dirty hated the clean. So, to end dissension, the State decided to do the washing itself, and each citizen was now washed twice a day by government-appointed officials; and private washing was prohibited.” (Op cit, p.79).

It would be easy, at this point, to dismiss Jerome’s attack on socialist egalitarianism as a whimsical satire, especially after his guide reveals that in this new socialist England, good looking and intelligent people are subjected to mutilation and brain surgery to prevent them rising above the human average. But that would be a mistake. Jerome deliberately regales us with these absurdities to bring home the fact that the socialist project is necessarily coercive and totalitarian because it flies in the face of human nature and the human condition. What is more, the truthfulness of Jerome’s analysis has been abundantly confirmed by the experience of socialism in the 20th century. In Communist China, for example, during the dictatorship of Mao Tse-tungthe chairman (1949-1976), conformity of thought, behaviour and dress was rigorously enforced, and during the infamous Cultural Revolution (1966-1969), anyone who was considered to be of above average ability or education was denounced as an enemy of the people and subjected to savage humiliation and .persecution. (See: Clarence B. Carson, Basic Communism, American Textbook Committee, Alabama, 1990, chapter 17).

Jerome’s satirical tour of socialist London explores three other prominent themes with the same acuity and lightness of touch, the first being the obliteration of personality and the family in order to facilitate the absorption of the individual into the collective.

“Why does everyone have a number [on their collar]?” asks Jerome. “To distinguish him by,” answers the guide. “Don’t people have names, then?” “No,” the latter replies, “there was so much inequality in names. Some people were called Montmorency, and they looked down on the Smiths; and the Smythes did not like mixing with the Jones: so, to save further bother, it was decided to abolish names altogether, and to give everybody a number.” (Op cit, pp.78-79). When, a little later, Jerome asks his guide where the married people live, he is informed that marriage has been abolished. “You see,” explains the guide, “married life did not work at all well with our system. Domestic life, we found, was thoroughly anti-socialistic in its tendencies. Men thought more of their wives and families than they did of the State…The ties of love and blood bound men together fast in little groups instead of one great whole.” (Op cit, p.81).

Here, once more, Jerome perceives the logic of full-blooded socialism, and once again his prophetic satire has been vindicated by history. Names may not have been replaced by numbers in the revolutionary socialist societies of our times (except in concentration camps), or marriage abolished, but in every single one of them the family has been subordinated to the State, and individuals (especially the young) herded into compulsory mass movements and organisations. (See: John Marks, Fried Snowballs: Communism in Theory and Practice, Claridge Press, London, 1990, and Clarence B. Carson, op cit.).

The last few pages of ‘The New Utopia’ unfold the remaining themes of Jerome’s critique of socialism. Thus we learn that in the new socialist England, all old books, paintings and sculptures have been destroyed and all freedom of thought and expression forbidden, in obedience to the will of the egalitarian “MAJORITY.” As the guide emphatically states earlier on in the tour, “A minority has NO rights,” revealing Jerome’s awareness, shared by all the great 19th century classical liberals, that democracy can be as destructive of liberty as traditional autocracy, especially within a socialist culture which sees individuality and personal excellence as a threat to social unity and equality. That has certainly proved to be the case throughout the post-colonial period in Asia and Africa, where time and again majority rule elections have spawned dictatorships, ethnic-cleansing and genocide – the victims usually being the most productive members of society. (See, for instance, George B. N. Ayittey, Africa Betrayed, St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1992, and Freedom House’s annual global surveys of human rights).

It is particularly interesting that Jerome’s satirical attack on socialism was not an isolated example of anti-socialist fiction in the 1890s. In 1893, only two years after the appearance of ‘The New Utopia,’ a far more comprehensive literary assault on socialism was mounted in Germany, with the publication of Eugen Richter’s Pictures of the Socialistic Future.

Eugene Richter  ( 1838-1906 )

A German lawyer, civil servant and politician, Eugen Richter  was a strong advocate of free trade and a market economy, and as leader of the German liberals in the Reichstag (Germany’s parliament), one of the greatest critics of both the Social Democratic Party (the German socialists) and the policies of the Imperial Chancellor, Otto von Bismark.Eugen_Richter From 1885 to 1904 he was also the chief editor of the liberal newspaper, Freisinnige Zeitung, and it was during this period that he wrote his great anti-socialist satire.

Pictures of the Socialistic Future develops similar themes to those found in ‘The New Utopia,’ but at much greater length and less fancifully. Whilst retaining its satirical tone, its vision of a socialist society is entirely realistic, especially in its prophetically accurate analysis of the impact and consequences of socialist institutions and policies.

Eugen Richter’s story begins on a note of celebration following a successful socialist revolution in Germany. “The red flag of international Socialism waves from the palace and from all the public buildings in Berlin,” exults the narrator, the proud father of a socialist family. “The old rotten regime, with its ascendancy of capital, and its system of plundering the working classes, has crumbled to pieces. And for the benefit of my children, and children’s children, I intend to set down in a humble way, some little account of this new reign of brotherhood and universal philanthropy.” (Pictures of the Socialistic Future, Dodo Press, England, 2011, p.1). This he then proceeds to do, but with growing disillusionment.


A Story of growing disillusionment

As might be expected, the narrative is initially upbeat, presenting us with enthusiatic descriptions of all the new changes introduced by the socialist revolution. We learn that all private property has been confiscated, all industry and services nationalised, and all personal and family life subordinated to the needs and control of the State. In addition, we are informed, all able-bodied citizens between the ages of 21 and 65 are compelled to register for work, with the government alone deciding where and how they are to be employed. But instead of ushering in a new era of social harmony and plenty, these socialist measures and decrees eventually produce the opposite outcome. And here Eugen Richter is particularly skillful, because his satire reveals the unfolding consequences of socialism as they affect the narrator and his family.


Obviously not the edition referred to in the text above.

The collectivisation of childcare, education and housing, for example, is particularly painful in its effects. The removal of the narrator’s young daughter to a State orphanage, and of the narrator’s aged father to a government rest-home, has a devastating impact on all the family, whilst the new decrees enforcing State control of the labour force have a similarly demoralising effect. Not only are the narrator’s son and prospective daughter-in-law forced to postpone their marriage by having to live and work in different towns, but the confiscation of their savings blights their ambitions and plans for their future. And as if all this were not bad enough, the enforced collectivisation and redistribution of dwellings and furniture, and the establishment of “State cookshops” at which all citizens are obliged to eat their communally provided meals, is a source of further demoralisation.

The rest of Eugen Richter’s narrative describes the processes by which the last socialist straw breaks the German camel’s back. The collectivisation of the economy and of all cultural institutions, discourages effort, creativity and production, destroying living standards and provoking the emigration of all the most talented and enterprising members of society. At the same time, the centralisation of all power and decision-making in the hands of the State, and the need to discipline the increasingly restive and rebellious population, produces a vast increase in the size of the State bureaucracy and security apparatus, assisted by a growing army of paid informers. As Richter’s narrator explains, democratic elections have become a farce since “every single individual is a spy on his neighbour.” (Op cit, p.76). Eventually, of course, simmering discontent, exacerbated by the closing of the frontiers and the gunning-down of all those seeking escape from the socialist paradise, erupts into full-scale counter-revolution and civil war.Can anyone presented with this picture deny its prophetic anticipation of the course of socialist revolution in the 20th century?

Those who have read Roland Huntford’s book on Sweden,New totaliarians The New Totalitarians (Penguin Press, London, 1971), will also recognise the relevance of both satires to the evolution of the Welfare State in the increasingly ‘politically correct’ western democracies, especially in the field of education. Again, we cannot say: “We were not warned.”


Philip Vander Elst  is a freelance writer, lecturer, and C.S. Lewis scholar. His many publications include Power Against People: a Christian critique of the State (IEA, London, 2008).

This piece was originally published by The Foundation for Economic Education ( often known as FEE ) of Irving on Hudson New York, in their excellent magazine The Freeman ( October 2012 ), who have kindly given us blanket permission to use their publications. We are most grateful to them for this. Their web site is, of course, among our American links.



































Europe an end in itself?

By Michael Dwyer

To the surprise of many the invective post referendum has if anything intensified. Neither side has covered themselves in glory.

remain-800x500The rank and undisguised contempt of Remainers have displayed for their fellow citizens shown the ugly face of liberal Britain in a way that has shocked your correspondent, and many who had in fact voted to stay.

However an ugliness that has gone largely uncommented, is that shown by Mr Junkers and others in their public statements, about the dissolution of Britain’s contract with the rest of the EU is to be managed.

They have not gone for the nuanced warning or the veiled threat. Nor have they been careful to hide the underlying motivation of their animus. Britain is to be punished. It must suffer in consequence of the decision to leave. This pain will be a salutary warning to any other countries within in the EU which might be considering departure themselves. “Look” they are being told “ at what we can and will do to this powerful trading nation and ponder what we could do to you, smaller poorer and less connected people.”

This is not the language of respect or of democracy. It is not, surely the language which should accompany the decision of one sovereign democracy to leave peacefully an association of other democracies. This is not the language of rational diplomacy, but of the Mafia, and of the ideologue.

The optimists on the pro brexit side both within the UK and outside it pooh pooh the threats as mere bullying and an attempt to intimidate at the beginning of a negotiation. “The EU,” they say, “cannot afford a hard Brexit. Economically it would not be in its interests. After all the Union runs a considerable trade surplus with the UK and many of the member countries are also military allies and collaborators in NATO.”

It may be though that the optimists and rational actor folk are missing the point. What is the EU for ? Well once upon a time I think you would have had almost universal agreement had you answered that with ‘Peace and Prosperity’. Should that still be the case then the economics and politics would dictate a reasoned and reasonable negotiation.

However I do not believe that I am alone in believing that for some, perhaps many deep in the European ‘Project’ the teleology has changed.

For Junkers et al the purpose of Europe is increasingly Europe.juncker The EU has become its own telos; it has become an end in itself. It may (they, no doubt, still believe) bring many happy consequences with it, such as peace and prosperity, but now in post Christian Europe it is acquiring an almost religious, even numinous, quality.

Here then is a problem that the sane, the sensible, and the moderates do not yet see. For the true believers the rational considerations of mere economics will not deter the ever onwards rush to the higher ideal that is Europe.

The metaphor most commonly used to describe the forward momentum is that of a train. Get on the Euro train to the future. Well the thing about trains is this. When your are on one getting off is very tricky indeed if it doesn’t want to stop. When it stops it is  only for a moment, and then off it goes again. And most problematically, a train only really goes in one direction, where the tracks laid down by the owners lead it. In train terminology changing direction without changing the tracks is called a crash.

For small folk like us Irish we have to hope that we can make use of the stop afforded us by the UK pulling the emergency brake. It might the be time to get on the platform and check timetable, just to make sure we are quite happy with the advertised destination. If we are not,  we had better get off now than either jump off at high speed or wait for the crash. Because with Junkers stoking the fire the crash is going to come.























UnHerd is a new web site organisedunherd by Tim Montgomerie who formerly ran the Conservative Home site ( which is, of course, among our British links). Mr.  Montgomerie has form as a successful entrepreneur on the centre right of British politics. Consequently, while we have not yet had time to explore Unherd, we have had no hesitation in adding it to our British links. We wish him well with this interesting project.

Jacob Rees Mogg and the silly season.

There used to be something called “silly season.” This was the time in the late summer, after Parliament had stopped sitting, when Fleet street, as it then was, relaxed its not very demanding standards and encouraged the inventiveness of its journalists.  The column inches which had been devoted to the verbatim reports of what was going on in Parliament were instead filled with all kind of stories about crop circles, shattering windscreens, and to I do not know what all.

Such stories no longer have the prominence that they once enjoyed. The press has become more serious, and the arrival of American style fact checkers has caste an unwelcome gloom over our summers. Woodward and Bernstein with their obsession with “well sourced”  ( i.e. boring ) scoops have a lot to answer for! But the phrase “silly season” has remained as a way of dismissing stories in the press which really do not cut it as real news.Jacob-Rees-Mogg-643080 It is not surprising therefore that the wave of enthusiasm for Jacob Rees Mogg as the next British prime minister has been disparaged a silly season chatter, as in some respects it is, or was!

Moggy is good. There is no doubt about that. He is immaculately presented. He is bright. He is well informed, unnervingly articulate, and consequently a star on Youtube, where clips of his performances have deservedly become hugely popular.

In many ways he reminds me of William F. Buckley junior ( 1925-2008 ). Like Buckley he comes from a rich Catholic background ( God love her, his wife has just given birth the their sixth child! ) And above all like Buckley he is in love with the English language as a spoken medium.

For others appearing on television is a duty, a chore, something that they have to do because it is demanded by the role that they play. But for those like Buckley and Rees Mogg, it is obviously a delight. This gives them a huge advantage. Buckley not only had things to say, but he relished the process of saying them. I detect the same pleasure in Jacob Rees Mogg. Unlike his father William, who was the editor of “The Times” and a highly professional journalist, young Jacob does not shine in print. His web site is unremarkable, but he dominates the studio in the way that Buckley did.

There is however a crucial difference between Buckley and Rees Mogg. Buckley had no real ambitions for office, despite the fact that he did run to be the mayor of New York City in 1965.reuters_william-f-buckley-jr_600x600_gd_160923 Buckley understood that his gift was as a publicist. He understood that his “charism,” to use the theological term, was to be spokesman, and as an enabler of others as editor of “The National Review” – the magazine that he founded. But Rees Mogg is a member of Parliament who is being seriously promoted as a potential  prime minister. While being articulate is, or should be, a necessary condition for being Premier, it is not a sufficient condition. This is especially true in parliamentary system like the British where nuts and bolts are everything. The overwhelming objection to Jacob Rees Mogg succeeding Mrs May as prime minister is that he lacks any kind of administrative experience.  We know he can talk. But we do not know he can walk.

That said though, he is obviously, like Buckley, an enormously talented man. A man, moreover, who is popular not only within his own party, but is also liked by his opponents too. He is transparently decent, and is clearly to not on the make. For all these reasons he deserves promotion in the next reshuffle, perhaps even to one of the great offices of state. It is only by seeing how will he performs in such a position that we can judge whether he is a indeed new Disraeli, as his supporters imply, or whether Moggmentum is just a piece of silly season fun!




The Travellers as victims.

By Michael Dwyer.

For many long years the progressive left in monochrome Ireland has used Irish Travellers as an ersatz racial minority to push its divisive identity politics.Irish_Traveller_Movement_flag_svg

The notion that it is only by carefully segmenting the nation into distinct and competing sets of victims we can create united and pacific country is one that eludes many. It has been tested to destruction.

In the polling conducted after victory of Donald Trump in last years Presidential election one of the most consistent themes that emerged among blue collar ex democrats who voted for him was not, as many would have liked, a nasty resentment for the advances made by persons of colour, but the perception that the playing field was no longer level, the rules no longer fair.

It is ironic that in an Ireland  vastly more diverse than it was that the Dail should now chosen to invent Irish Travellers as a separate ethnic group. A combination of virtue signalling by politicians and rent seeking by the Representariat has brought this about. Whether the majority of ordinary travellers on the street desire to be considered as somehow other than simply Irish is not clear.

What is certain is that this will cost money, much more than anyone of our virtue loving TDs imagine. It will deepen the already concerning level of hostility felt by many settled people for travellers. It will further discourage the important conversation that must take place about to what extent poor outcomes are results of internal cultural issues rather than social marginalisation.

Finally and sadly, it is another nail in the coffin of the Republican idea. The ideal is that we are all citizens to be esteemed equally, none higher or lower, to be judged and protected equally under the laws of our Republic, regardless of race, sex, or creed. This decision is then another unconsidered uncosted step towards a democracy where power will be wielded by coalitions of victims.

Ray Bassett and the EU.

A major talking point this week has been the suggestion made by Ray Ray-BassettBassett, a former Irish ambassador to Canada, that Ireland should leave the EU in the wake of Brexit. Mr Bassett’s argument is essentially economic. He believes that the Irish economy is still so intertwined with the British that Ireland will pay an unacceptably high cost if it remains in the EU after Britain has left.

The part of the  interest in all this is the way in which Mr. Bassett’s argument reveals the limits of purely economic thinking. Of course in one way we are all Marxists now. Economics is important. But as J.R. Lucas emphasised they are not all important. And no doubt the British connection is still vital in Ireland- especially up and down the East coast- although London does feel a long way away in Galway.

Human beings though are not solely controlled by economic motives. They have loyalties, loves and hates which go far beyond getting and spending. Just as the British people showed when they voted in June 2016 that taking back control was more important to them than the claims of the experts- most of whom seemed to be economists- so the Irish people at present believe that the European Union is more to their political taste than a free trade relationship with Britain- which seems to be the alternative being promoted by Mr. Bassett.

There are two parts to the explanation for this. There is, of course, the difficult legacy of Anglo Irish history. Ireland still wants to differentiate itself from England. If England measures in miles, then “sure as eggs is eggs” Ireland will want to measure in kilometres. But this tendency is becoming less important. England is increasingly being seen not as the ancestral enemy but simply next door. More important now is the point that Britain and Ireland have quite different experiences of the EU. In Britain the EU appears to be just another level of intrusive, unnecessary, and  welcome bureaucracy. But in Ireland it is associated with modernity, efficiency, good administration, transparency, and a new prosperity. In Britain the EU is about square bananas, whereas in Ireland it is about new motorways. Unsurprising then the EU has sunk deep roots in Ireland. The Irish people were as much puzzled as shocked by Brexit. They just didn’t “get” what the English Brexiteers were worried about.

All this is reflected in the opinion polls. The EU is still very popular in Ireland. And any proposal to withdraw Ireland from the EU would have to be voted on. And there is at present no chance that any such referendum would pass. Indeed it would probably be very heavily defeated in every constituency in the country.

The danger then of Mr. Bassett’s visionary proposal is that it will detract attention from the real difficulties that further European integration poses for Ireland. This country’s newfound wealth is not due just to access to European markets- important as they are; but also to our low rate corporation tax- and, of course, the much higher equivalent rate in the United States. It is simply impossible, as Mr. Bassett recognises, to imagine modern Ireland without our low business tax regime. It is the very foundations of modern Irish prosperity. And yet this relative advantage of that Ireland enjoys is under active threat from integrationist forces deep within the EU that are determined to harmonize tax  rates throughout the Union.  The most important immediate challenge then for Ireland today is simply this:  How can we protect our low business tax rate on which our prosperity depends? 

It is not obvious in the short run, that talk of Ireland leaving the EU will make this vital task any easier. Given the state of our public opinion about the EU, we have then, on this issue, no choice but to collaborate with our European partners. For now we need all the friends we can get in Europe if our present tax regime is to continue..

In the long run though Mr. Bassett’s proposal may will be of value if it concentrates the minds of Irish decision makers on another but less immediate question that faces this country, namely whether of not Ireland is really a good fit in a European super state dominated by France and Germany, or whether some alternative might be worth considering? But that, as we say in North Wexford, is “another day’s work!”

Europe: Two Catholic views.

“Every wise man has desired the reunion of our civilization  and has desired it in spite of increasing despair, for now four hundred years. Wise men are rare; but the most foolish can see to-day that the reunion of our civilization is vital to its mere survival. For our disunion has reached a pitch in which we are capable of destroying ourselves in mutual combat to no purpose, nation against nation, each killing itself n the struggle; [ and ] after that, class against class.”

Hilaire Belloc, Wolsey ( 1930 ) p. 6


Glendalough, Co. Wicklow

“The “anywhere” people are cosmopolitan. They do not feel strongly attached to any particular place, local custom or traditions. They are very multiculturalist in outlook. In their hands “somewhere” starts to look like “anywhere” because, in the name of diversity they tend to leech local communities of their own identities. The local culture becomes submerged.

In Ireland today, there is a very strong attempt to make Ireland an “anywhere” place, to leech us of our particular colour and identity even when that is harmless to any reasonable person.”


David Quinn “Making a desert and calling it progress” Irish Catholic May 11, ’17

President Hadrian ?

“Think of [ President Trump’s proposed ] wall as an expensive public-art  project that will marginally increase the profits smugglers and traffickers [ will ] make from circumventing it.”

Gunther Peck in the “Duke Magazine” Winter 2016


The fog of political battle is still dense over Britain. But just as sometimes I can see the hills of Wales to the East of me rising above the Irish Sea so the outlines of what has happened in Britain are now gradually  becoming clear.  The result of the election, due in equal measure to the unexpected effectiveness of Jeremy Corbyn, and a miserably mishandled campaign, has changed the balance of forces. The mandate provided for by the result of last years referendum has been compromised. There can now be no Brexit but a relatively soft Brexit. And this has deepened an already wide fissure in British politics.

Just as for many years, and to a surprising extent still today, the form of Irish politics was about Ireland’s relationship with Britain so for the foreseeable future British politics will be moulded by the aftermath of Brexit. The immediate question for British conservatives is whether Mrs May is now a suitable leader of their party?

Mrs May is a decent woman. But as soon as the above question is posed it becomes obvious that, at best, her future is as a backbencher. The problem is not so much that she lost seats in the election when a competently run campaign could have increased them, but the flaws in her character that the election and the subsequent disaster of Grenfell Tower have revealed.  Her problem is not that she cannot feel, her problem is that she cannot communicate. Her demeanour is defensive, even stilted. As we saw her instinct is to avoid debate.  But willingness to engage and communication are now everything. The leader of the Conservative party has to be able to persuade the Brexiteers that they cannot have everything that they want- at least not for now. The leader of the Conservative  will also have to persuade the Remainers that there is no escape from Brexit. They will too have manage the relationship with the devolved governments- without re-igniting Scottish and Irish nationalism. They will have to handle the most complicated negotiations that Britian has ever conducted, as well as being able appeal to public opinion throughout the EU, at the same time as helping to create new trading relationships throughout the world.

These are challenges indeed. There could well be no one who could meet them all. But clearly they are well beyond Mrs May’s capacities. She has repeated too many stale mantras, and she has already had far too many “Ratner” moments. The longer she stays the more damage she will do. Only a new leader of the Conservative Party can hope to manage Brexit and win the next general election that could come all too soon.

RTE got close to the truth when it referred to a “botched snap election!”