Is populism here to stay?

Three perspectives from Britain, America and Italy.


Brendan O’Neill, Daniel McCarthy and Alessandra Bocchi join Fraser Myers to discuss the new populism. In this spiked podcast special – to mark the release of our new film, Deplorables: Trump, Brexit and the Demonised Masses – they discuss where the populist movements in Britain, America and Italy came from, and where they might be headed next. Listen and subscribe.

Picture by: Getty.

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Janet Mozelewski

27th September 2019 at 9:07 am

Ah, populism.
The term is used most by the self-styled liberal ‘elite’. It is used to describe how terribly selfish it is of the old/left-behind/disadvantaged/ people they haven’t given a thought about (except to sneer at) in decades (if ever) to vote in this way instead of considering them. Self-regarding doesn’t begin to cover it.
I presume, by extension, that the opposite of ‘populism’ is a good thing and we should all vote for the candidate that we like least and who purports to represent our interests the least, as a way of showing we are not stupid, ill-educated and racist.
I see many smug ex-pats here in France. I have no problem with people voting in their own interests. What I have a problem with is wrapping it up in moral superiority. These are people who have left the over-crowding and had the money to choose a new environment to live in …which happens to be a leafy area with a virtually 100% white population… the same time as accusing Brexit voters of racism.

Andrew Clitheroe

23rd September 2019 at 3:34 pm

The inherent flaw in populism is that distinguishing its benign forms from outright demagoguery and opportunism requires expertise and insight – qualities populists deride as inferior to ‘the will of the people’ (who have had enough of experts). It is a heady rush to feel part of a populist movement: a feeling of unstoppable grass-roots momentum. There are no problems, only enemies – and they are outnumbered!

But the sea cannot be voted sweet. When all enemies have been shouted down the problems they put a face to remain, and what is a movement predicated on the people being right to do when the people are wrong?

Gerard Barry

23rd September 2019 at 4:52 pm

“When all enemies have been shouted down the problems they put a face to remain, and what is a movement predicated on the people being right to do when the people are wrong?”

That depends on what the “problem” is. Take immigration: reducing immigration is actually quite simple. It involves a combination of enforcing existing laws (to curb illegal immigration) and, if necessary, drafting new laws to further reduce numbers. All that is required here is that governments stand up to the pressure applied by liberal media and liberal political opponents in order to achieve what most of the general public wants. Salvini’s government in Italy did this with great success, despite being vilified in many quarters for his efforts.

So-called “populists” usually don’t claim that they can make everything better. What they do claim is that things don’t necessarily have to be the way they are now, that they can, in fact, be better.

Andrew Clitheroe

24th September 2019 at 5:19 pm

And if the problem isn’t actually immigration, how will curbing it solve anything?

But for one fact I would accept populism as a valid – even desirable – route to progress, and that one fact is that people en masse are notoriously reluctant to discard faulty beliefs. So the people decide their problems stem from immigration. A populist government is duly elected to curb it – and let us even assume the bullets of opportunists and charlatans like Farage are dodged in the process. Still there is no improvement because immigration was never the problem.

What then? Do the people self-correct? Re-open the borders and try something else? Of course not, because all messengers bearing facts or figures or reasoning that predicted and could with hindsight explain this failure of policy have long since been shot.

The great advantage of non-populist politics is the distance maintained between party and people, who recognise something of what they desire in the policies presented but are spared the burden of complete ownership. In terms of climb-downs, “You told us this would work!” is a far easier route from the summit than “We all agreed this would work!”

Amelia Cantor

23rd September 2019 at 10:33 am

they discuss where the populist movements in Britain, America and Italy came from, and where they might be headed next

They come from white racism, white xenophobia and the refusal of those with white privilege and male privilege to recognize the legitimate claims of those without said privilege(s).

and where they might be headed next

They are heading for oblivion, as whites die out and Ccommunities of Colour grow inexorably in size and political influence. As I keep telling rightards: Once a progressive majority locks in on both sides of the Atlantic, that’s it for “free speech”, “gun rights”, “limited government” and all your other pathetic little political fetishes. Face it, rightards: The vast majority of Communities of Colour ain’t never gonna vote for anyone but the progressive parties.

But the horrible truth will not sink in, because (as I have often noted) reality and rightards aren’t even on nodding acquaintance.

Gerard Barry

23rd September 2019 at 3:01 pm

A little anecdote in relation to “male privilege”: I had to sit through a nauseating telephone conference at work earlier today where a couple of female colleagues complained about having to lift some crates of bottled water from the lobby of our office into the kitchen. They said that it’s bad for their backs, their pelvic floor and what if one of them was pregnant? It never seemed to occur to them that if we don’t do it, the delivery men will have to do it – the same delivery men who do this kind of lifting day, day out. But then spoilt modern princesses don’t ever think about men and their wellbeing, do they? So F**k you and your bullshit notion of “male privilege”.

Andrew Clitheroe

23rd September 2019 at 4:47 pm

Or, you know, maybe a deliveryman is better trained and more physically prepared for the task and therefore at less risk of injury. “Weekend Warrior” syndrome is a real thing; people hurt themselves all the time doing things their bodies aren’t accustomed to.

Janet Mozelewski

27th September 2019 at 10:26 am

Well, Andrew, most of the people delivering parcels to my door ….not small ones either….have been women. I also can lift a good deal more than many men half my age. I agree with Gerard. Some women, especially younger ones, do like their cake and eat it when it comes to equality. That is not news. However I often see an underlying glee and aggression behind it which I find distasteful. When I am driving and I let a male driver out at a junction(when I am in the UK, not France. In France nobody lets anybody out…) I frequently get a stunned look. When my husband is driving and he cedes his priority to a young woman driver he rarely gets an acknowledgement. Merely a self-entitled smirk.

Andrew Clitheroe

2nd October 2019 at 11:02 am

I didn’t say the deliveryman is better suited because he’s a man, I simply said a person is more likely to be prepared, physically, for the job he or she does than someone who doesn’t do that job.

To respond to the rest of your post, though a sense of entitlement is related to privilege it is not the same and should not be confused with it. Regardless of how a man or woman might respond to you defering to them in traffic you are still at liberty to defer to them or not; they enjoy no special privilege. Conversely, regardless of how many poor or working class white men there may be doing physical labour, white males are favoured in the business workplace and politics.

Jim Lawrie

22nd September 2019 at 11:59 am

Why do Spіked when speaking of this matter always seek to dismiss the immigration and race element? This time using a vox pop. It is not a red herring. Millions object to immigrants in their midst. Since mass immigration began the white indigenous population of London has been leaving at 70,000 people per year. This problem won’t just wash away by deluging us with ever greater waves of immigrants and telling us that we are alone in our objections.
Browbeating youngsters through schools and universities into toeing the line and not expressing their objections, then passing of as a change of attitude surveys that show only the success of this intimidation is not honest.
Quite a few young Asians I know had no compunction whatsoever about giving East European immigration as the reason for voting to leave. Unlike young white people, they did not have to worry about the racist accusation.

Amelia Cantor

23rd September 2019 at 10:28 am

Why do Spіked when speaking of this matter always seek to dismiss the immigration and race element?

Because Spiked, under the guidance of the Great Guru Dr Frank, want to have their cake and eat it.

1. On the one hand, Spiked pose as champions of the People.
2. On t’other hand, Spiked want Open Borders.
3. But the People don’t want Open Borders.

So Spiked / Dr Frank have to pretend that the People don’t really not want Open Borders. Not really not want. The People really do want Open Borders, but just don’t know it yet.

But if you expect honesty and realism from Trotskyists, you have a lot to learn.

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