We are in the middle of an age in which the “liberal metropolitan elite” are the whipping boys for any and all things wrong for the ills of western society. Who even constitutes the dreaded “LME” changes seemingly day by day. Once upon a time, it was strictly the political elite: MPs, people who worked in Westminster think tanks like me. Now it seems to encompass anyone who lives in a conurbation larger than Warrington. I suppose as problems grow larger, you need more scapegoats. I get it.
What really interests me is that the Right that has jumped on this narrative so unquestioningly all of a sudden. There are more than a few things ironic about that end of the political spectrum adapting this narrative, but first and foremost is that the Right used to drone on and on about the “politics of envy”. This was the notion that left-wing politics is simply all about people coveting the possessions of the better off (and by implication, those who had worked harder and/or were more talented) and that this was unpardonable (or at least unbecoming). But really, what is the politics of disliking the “metropolitan political elite” than the politics of envy at its most acute? The only refutation you can make to the this is to say that living in a falling down semi in Clacton, surviving exclusively on packets of Rahem noodles, is pretty much the same thing as living in a four bedroom, multi-million pound house in Chelsea and eating at five-star restaurants. It’s all about life style choices and how dare anyone suggest the Chelsea option is somehow superior.
Of course, we’ve seen this from the dopier end of left-wing politics as well, a better of example of which you will not find than when Natalie Bennett said in an interview that it was worse being poor in Britain than it was in India because at least in India almost everyone is poor. As if the real problem of poverty isn’t that it takes away your life choices or contributes heavily to lower life expectancy, but rather that you have to cope with the fact that people who live nearby have accumulated more crap than you have been able to.
Surely what’s bad about the “liberal elite” isn’t that eating nice food, liking nice things and traveling to nice places is bad – but that many more people in our society should have access to such a lifestyle? Don’t we want to bring more people up to a higher level rather than shoving society down to a worse level just so everyone is more equal? At the very, very, very least, shouldn’t the Right believe in such a thing? Isn’t that the very essence of centre-right political thought? Not anymore, I suppose.
It seems the politics of envy has infected everyone, right and left. And just from that alone, we are all a little bit poorer.