After the 2008 financial crash, many people on the Left took to their blogs (and sometimes, their newspaper columns) to write about how the crisis would mean the end of capitalism, the rise of socialism and the triumph of left over right. We all know how that one turned out. The Left is making a similar mistake again, at least so far they are. They are assuming that the crisis will work in their favour when they should be worried about the opposite taking place.
The current left-wing theory about CoVid goes: as western societies, even ones governed by traditionally fiscally right-wing leaders and parties such as in the UK, pump massive amounts of public money out to keep the economy going, this will normalise socialism. It will deal capitalism either its death blow or a wound so deep it will never fully recover. Classical liberal ideas about how the world should be run are going to be one of the victims of CoVid to be replaced by much larger states with a much more interventionist bent. Socialism is about to win.
Except there are loads of ways to realistically predict the crisis unfolding from here where the exact opposite happens. The Tory government spends huge amounts of money over a short period of time in order to save the economy. The message then is that we need to tighten our belts to save for the next crisis – and the public go along with this. Any Labour plan to spend money on almost anything could be characterised as wishing to risk people’s lives “for the sake of ideology”. When you lay on top of this the still weak Labour Party, it is not that difficult to imagine playing out.
Beyond worrying about a low spending state making a big time comeback, the Left also need to contend with the nationalist right possibly gaining ground. Far Right groups flourish in a crisis and could make hay during this one. We can only hope not, but it cannot be discounted as a risk. In other words, we could end up with large states with lots of power and a distinctly un-left approach.
I suppose my main point here is to ask why the Left seems to always assume that things are going to go their way when they never do? Why don’t they stop and evaluate the situation and how it pertains to them in the most level headed way possible? Part of it is the religiosity of the far left; there is a feeling within it, unconsciously borrowed from Christianity, that the end days are bound to come soon and when they do, the righteous, i.e. them, will be saved. I think it is hard to mingle practical thinking with this sort of belief. But that is only a hypothesis on my part.
Whatever the reason, I think there are a lot of reasons the left as well as the centre-left should be hesitant in their appraisal that we are on the cusp of some new progressive age. It sure doesn’t feel like that’s happening for a start, does it?
In a few weeks time, I have another book coming out. It’s called “Politics is Murder” and follows the tale of a woman named Charlotte working at a failing think tank who has got ahead in her career in a novel way – she is a serial killer. One day, the police turn up at her door and tell her she is a suspect in a murder – only thing is, it is one she had nothing to do with. The plot takes in Conservative Party conference, a plot against the Foreign Secretary and some gangsters while Charlotte tries to find out who is trying to frame her for a murder she didn’t commit.
Also: there is a subplot around the government trying to built a stupid bridge, which now seems a charming echo of a more innocent time!
It’s out on April 9th, but you can pre-order here: