Commentary on Political Economy

Monday 20 November 2023



Javier Milei, Rishi Sunak and the War for the Soul of the West


The culture war in the U.K. between the people and the establishment—in which the people for a heady moment seized control over matters such as immigration, national sovereignty, criminal justice, and the right not to be ashamed of their race or cultural heritage—has ended, and the establishment appears to have won.

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Last week the formal surrender papers were signed.

First, Rishi Sunak, who became prime minister a year ago after a pantomime performance by his ruling conservative party had ousted two predecessors in quick succession, brought back into government David Cameron, the man who inadvertently fired the first shot in the populist revolt by calling the referendum on Brexit seven years ago.

If you wanted a caricature of the English establishment there’s none better than Mr. Cameron—sorry, Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton, as he now is, resplendent in a title that might have come straight from the pages of Trollope. Mr. Cameron isn’t just the man who insisted the British people endorse membership in the European Union on pain of economic punishment. Among other dubious efforts, he also boasted of having inaugurated a “Golden Age” of relations between the U.K. and the People’s Republic of China, and has reportedly spent the years since he left office engaged in lucrative promotional exercises on behalf of Beijing. He is now foreign secretary, charged with leading Britain’s international relations.

Mr. Cameron’s return was occasioned by another signal of the establishment victory: Mr. Sunak’s dismissal of Suella Braverman as home secretary. Ms. Braverman, a barrister, is a much less polished figure than his lordship. After the political chaos of last year she has emerged as the most outspoken advocate of a tough approach to immigration, crime and the woke mind virus in the public sector.

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Staunchly pro-Israel, she has in recent weeks been extremely critical of the British police force’s tolerance of often violent pro-Hamas demonstrators on the streets. In Britain, you can be arrested for silently saying a prayer within a few hundred yards of an abortion clinic, but you can call for the destruction of Israel and praise Adolf Hitler and the boys in blue will ensure you’re allowed to scream your bile unimpeded.

Ms. Braverman didn’t like any of this. She also didn’t like that, despite the government’s promises, illegal immigration to the U.K. is out of control, with hundreds of thousands of refugees arriving in flotillas of small boats to claim political asylum, although vast numbers of them have no such legal claim. In an attempt to deter the flood of “asylum seekers,” the government signed an agreement with the government of Rwanda, by which some migrants would be sent to live and work in the central African country instead.

Last week five judges on England’s supreme court unanimously struck down that agreement. Mr. Sunak pledged to present legislation that would enable the plan to be reinstated but it quickly became clear that the members of the unelected House of Lords would reject any bill that tried to resettle asylum seekers this way.

Civil servants, the police, the supreme court, unelected peers of the realm, and other establishment figures can all claim credit for defeating the people’s expressed will. But the largest share of the credit should probably go to the media, and especially, the British Broadcasting Corporation, the gargantuan media organization that dominates the distribution of news, information and culture in the U.K. The BBC is financed by a compulsory levy on everyone with a television, whether or not they watch the broadcaster’s drippingly woke, green output.

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The scale of the BBC’s harmful influence has been vividly on display in the past few weeks in the way it has helped shape opinion on the war in the Middle East. Its coverage is relentlessly anti-Israel, with endless credulous coverage of almost every claim made by Hamas and false reporting about the actions of the Israel Defense Forces.

Mr. Sunak is a decent man trying to do the right thing in impossible political circumstances. The chaos of the past few years combined with high inflation will almost certainly send Conservatives to a historic defeat next year at the hands of a Labour Party that has done a fair job of reassuring voters it can be trusted again.

And yet, the war isn’t really over. Though the elites may have silenced the voices of revolt for a while, popular anger about immigration, crime, national sovereignty and the takeover of cultural institutions by the neo-Marxist left won’t go away.

The war for the soul of the West will rage on.

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