A nation of authoritarians? Give me a break

Guy Birchall

Topics Politics

The BBC reported last week on a study that showed that 50 per cent of the British public harboured authoritarian views.

According to academics at the University of Essex and the University of Exeter, half of the British population are just waiting for the chance to pop on their jackboots and have a good old dance to the Ring Cycle.

The findings of this study cite various criteria for labelling several million people ‘authoritarian populist’. Being negative about immigration and the EU is apparently among the symptoms of this latent crypto-fascist tendency afflicting half of our adult population.

The findings are unsurprising, not because they hold any truth, but because we have come to expect such overblown and dishonest studies cropping up in reaction to uncomfortable political views. Liberals accuse people who disagree with them of having some kind of moral defect. They avoid tough issues like immigration or foreign policy by implying the person putting forward an opposing argument to theirs is immoral.

The first attribute assigned to an ‘authoritarian populist’ in this study is the desire to ‘roll back the state’. Just read that sentence again and process it for a moment. According to this lot, authoritarians want to roll back the state. The mind boggles.

The study’s authors concluded: ‘The analysis shows that there is a coherent set of beliefs, held by a surprisingly large proportion of the UK electorate, which can reasonably be described as authoritarian populist.’ But all it really shows is that this study is utter nonsense, and that the BBC isn’t even trying to maintain political balance these days.

You know what is authoritarian? Requiring people by law to have a licence to watch television. Next time someone is criminalised for not paying the poll tax that funds Chris Evans’ lifestyle, remember that.

Guy Birchall is a writer based in London.

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Topics Politics


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