Tackling Populism: Hope Over Fear
I hadn’t been to the London School of Economics since 1969. Then in support of a student sit in I was arrested, the cry, Free Free the LSE; Smash Smash the Bourgeoisie, has never left my lips. Needless to say my mother paid the fine, as well she might, sauvignon socialist that she was. However on my visit last week I was surprised to see there was no blue plaque up to commemorate my part in The Struggle. Maybe it had been taken down to be cleaned, Modesty forbade me asking.
I was there to hear a lecture and debate, Tackling Populism; Hope Over Fear. Organised by various pro European groups. It was in fact the day the day before Bonny Prince Tony raised the Remain flag so disastrously. But if anyone was going to follow that king across the water in a children’s crusade against Brexit, it was the good and the insignificant who,that evening filled the LSE’s number one lecture theatre.
The speakers Gozi, Kalder, Legrain, Alemann. A kaleidoscope of European accents and names which suggested they could have been the Real Madrid front four.
But no, these were professors, authors, euro crats,citizens of Europe, cadet members of the liberal elite. So busy that one had to leave early to catch a flight so he could attend another important meeting. All paraded their various multiple nationalities and defied the idea that they were citizens of nowhere. They were the post 1989 (fall of the Berlin Wall) generation who enjoyed the freedom and the privileges of a wider more successful Europe. Educationally, professionally, financially, they had done well out of this state of affairs, their mission was to make sure more in Europe were aware of this oh, so happy state .
So how would they fight the wave of cynicism, alienation, disconnect, nostalgia, nativism,and ouch, popular, populist nationalism which was sweeping Europe.
With a warm, damp cloud of a meaningless slogans, nonsense ideas and self regarding plugs for their recent or up coming books
Construct a new discourse, save Greece, close the gap between intentions and actions, stop worrying about short term goals and come up with the big idea, work trans nationally, get involved –on and on it went. Most of those present nodded approval or asked arcane questions which referred to the village politics of their holiday homes in Tuscany or the South of France.
To think all those years ago as I languished in the Bow Street slammer, for not one but three hours-the time it takes Mozart to write a symphony- I did it so these enlightened ones, these children of Erasmus and Copernicus could waffle on and on. I thought this level of debate was only used by husbands talking on the phone to their wives on the train going home.
The attraction of Brexit is summarised brilliantly by George who says,”The problem is that no one talks to anyone any more, and ,if they do they dont speak English.” I think constructing a new discourse ,working transnationally and closing the gap between intentions and actions may well miss George.
The speakers and the audience lamented the nostalgia for a past golden age being a major recruiting sergeant for Brexit and “populism” generally, However it was they, who were nostalgic for a wider still and wider Europe, whose waste and profligacy were once taken for granted and never questioned. As Keynes said, When the facts change, I change my mind. They haven’t.