Due to other commitments, this will be my last Deep End post for the foreseeable future. Featuring and commenting on the best of the world’s online journalism has been a joy. I’m immensely grateful to Paul Goodman for his guidance and encouragement, to all the ConHome team and, of course, to Lord Ashcroft who makes the whole enterprise possible.
I also owe a huge debt of thanks to Tim Montgomerie, the founder of this site and many other good things. It was he who originally commissioned the Deep End, so it seems appropriate that my last post should feature a timely example of his work.
His argument for the Spectator is an urgent one, which is that capitalism is its own worst enemy. This wasn’t always the case. Over the years, capitalism has battled for survival against many other isms – many of them murderous: feudalism, mercantilism, protectionism, fascism, communism.
It’s a measure of capitalism’s current dominance that those opposed to it don’t have a coherent ideology of their own anymore. Rather they group together under the banner of ‘anti-capitalism’ – a derivative concept and appropriate to the fact that they’re in no position to beat the system:
“With Jeremy Corbyn they may take over the Labour party but they won’t get into Downing Street. With the socialist senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, they’ll give Hillary Clinton a bloody nose in the primaries but they won’t prevent her winning the Democratic party’s nomination. Even in Greece, where the angries did win power, there was a lot of huffing and puffing but eventually they surrendered and agreed to enact more Thatcherite reforms in ten days than the Iron Lady managed in ten years.”
Margaret Thatcher once described the far left as “the enemy within”. Of course, that was back in the 1980s. But even then the far left was no more than an enemy, soon to be as defunct as the Soviet Union. For the enemy within we have to look at the failings of capitalism itself:
“Ensuring that the public retains faith in the capitalist system will depend upon at least two ingredients. The first is a belief that we’re all moving forward in some way or other. Not necessarily all at the same pace but at least in roughly the same direction. The second is that there aren’t some people enjoying a special protected status. There needs to be a belief that the poor can get richer and, often forgotten, that the rich can get poorer.”
The shrinking of opportunity – as documented in the ConservativeHome manifesto – allied to the visible influence of crony capitalism makes for a poisonous brew:
“…what about the fact that chief executives earn 183 times as much as the average worker — as we learnt this week? Is this the free market working as it should or are we witnessing a massive failure of corporate governance? And what about the dirty money flowing into London’s property market at the same time that millions of young people can’t get on the housing ladder?”
Despite the rise of anti-politics, it may appear that pro-capitalist political parties are in a strong position. Just look at British election result and the winning performance of the Conservative Party. But surviving an election is like escaping from an angry dog – you don’t have to be faster than the slavering beast, just faster than the other people trying to get away.
Relying on your opponents to be more rubbish than you are is a dangerous strategy. Tim Montgomerie looks to Canada for an example of what happens when pro-capitalist parties take voters for granted:
“There, the Progressive Conservatives had run the oil-rich province of Alberta for 44 years until May of this year, and they had begun to act as if they owned the place. They’d seen protest movements of the kind I’ve already described come and go. They’d become complacent.”
After the province’s corporate establishment was exempted from the painful measures needed to deal with the budget deficit, the voters took revenge by booting out the ruling party in favour of the leftwing New Democrats.
Back home, the UK Government has a golden opportunity to take on the crony capitalists. Until now, this was contested territory; Jeremy Corbyn, however, hasn’t come to rescue capitalism, but to bury it. If he becomes leader, the Conservatives will have the reform agenda to themselves. They must run with it, because the angry dog of anti-politics isn’t far behind.
And with that thought in mind, goodbye and thank you for reading.