Why America needs regime change

No sensible reader of the news could look at America and think it is flourishing. Massive economic inequality and the breakdown of family formation have eroded the very foundations of society.  Once-beautiful cities and towns around the nation have succumbed to an ugly blight. Cratering rates of childbirth, rising numbers of ‘deaths of despair,’ widespread addictions to pharmaceuticals and electronic distractions testify to the prevalence of a dull ennui and psychic despair. The older generation has betrayed the younger by saddling it with unconscionable levels of debt. Warnings about both oligarchy and mob rule appear daily on the front pages of newspapers throughout country, as well as throughout the West. A growing chorus of voices reflects on the likelihood

Reports of the demise of Italian populism are greatly exaggerated

Britain’s newspapers have called the results of the local elections in Italy the death of populism. The Times, for example, grandly proclaims that the Italian elections this week ‘appear to have brought down the curtain on an experiment in anti-establishment politics that inspired populist movements around the world.’ The Guardian, meanwhile, wonders joyfully if what has occurred signals ‘a renaissance’ for the left. I am sorry to have to ruin the party but yet again the mainstream media have got it wrong. The fact that the Italian left, whose main component is the post-communist Partito Democratico (PD), retained Milan plus Bologna and Naples, where the left has governed for donkey’s

The death of populism has been greatly exaggerated

Have we reached peak populism? This is the question being asked after a recent regional election in Italy delivered a setback to Matteo Salvini, the de facto head of Europe’s populist family. In the affluent and historically left-wing region of Emilia Romagna, Salvini’s right-wing alliance finished more than seven points behind the Left. It wasn’t even close. It is not a surprise that some have breathed a sigh of relief. For much of the past three years, Salvini has seemed unstoppable. While the 46-year-old has miscalculated – like last summer when he tried but failed to bring down the government – he has transformed his ‘Lega’ movement from a small

The invisible man | 11 July 2019

The Brink is Alison Klayman’s documentary portrait of Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s former chief strategist (he shaped the ‘America First’ campaign, proposed the Muslim travel ban, etc.) and former boss of Breitbart News, the place where unsuccessful white men go to whine. The film follows him for 15 months from the autumn of 2017 as he attempts to organise far-right European parties into a ‘populist nationalist’ movement, and you may wish to look away when Nigel Farage smarms all over him as it’s not a pretty sight. (I’m a delicate flower, so could only watch from behind my hands.) But it is not insightful and, alas, utterly fails to capture

Salvini’s common touch

While Britain continues to try to struggle its way out of the EU, perhaps it is wise to consider what is happening inside the bloc itself, not just in Paris where the fumes from burning cars fill the apartments and approval ratings for Emmanuel Macron continue to slide as he engages in a national listening exercise (which actually consists of him delivering Chávez-length lectures to the French public). But over the border in Italy, where the tone of the era is being set. Being both interior minister and deputy prime minister is a tremendous position for Matteo Salvini to be in. It allows him to fulfil some of his election

Economics is having an identity crisis

It has become commonplace for news reports to refer to almost any civic unrest, or even unusual patterns of voting, as evidence of ‘resurgent nationalism’ — implicitly suggesting a visceral hatred of foreigners and a desire to set the clock back to the glory days of racial homogeneity and casual homophobia. We should be wary of accepting this media trope: for one thing it may arouse far more fear than is warranted. But apart from the needless fear it generates, it is also slightly dubious to suggest that it is the gilets jaunes or the Five Star Movement or the supporters of Brexit or even Donald Trump who are acting

Macron vs Salvini

The first sign that Matteo Salvini was destined to do battle with Emmanuel Macron came in June, a few days after he was named Italy’s interior minister. Salvini, whose party, the League, wants to cut immigration drastically, announced that a German-registered rescue ship carrying 629 aspiring migrants from Africa would not be allowed to dock in Sicily. Macron reacted with disgust. ‘The policy of the Italian government,’ a spokesman for his political movement announced, ‘is nauseating.’ Salvini responded that if the French wanted to show their open–heartedness, they might make good on their unfulfilled pledge to feed and shelter some of the 100,000 African migrants Italy had until recently been

Sweden ablaze

 Uppsala, Sweden When I dropped off my kids at school early last week, I noticed that -another parent’s car was covered in ash — it had been parked in a garage where arsonists had been at work, attacking scores of vehicles. His Volvo had got away: just. ‘My car can be cleaned,’ the father told me, ‘but how can I explain this to my young kids?’ As Sweden goes to the polls next weekend, its politicians face another conundrum: how do they explain all this to the country? I live in Uppsala, a leafy and prosperous university town north of Stockholm. Around Gothenburg, the attacks have been far more dramatic:

The more extreme the left’s screeches, the greater the populist surge

The latest exciting news is that it may very soon be possible for surgeons to perform uterine transplants, so endowing a man who has ‘transitioned’ into being a strange approximation of a woman with the ability to gestate a child. And to give birth, after a fashion. The benighted child would need to be hacked out of the man’s midriff, because there’s not enough room down there for a child to come out naturally (yes, because he’s a man). Sweden — the world leader in uterine transplants — is anxious to reclaim the title of the world’s most batshit crazy nation, which the Canadians and that simpering idiot Justin Trudeau

High life | 5 July 2018

Oh, to be in England, and almost die of heat after the Austrian Alps. Yes, Sarah Sands was right in her Speccie diary about last week being a great week of summer parties in London, but the really good ones are still to come. This weekend both Blenheim Palace and Badminton House play host to great balls. I only mention them because there are only two English dukes whom I acknowledge, Beaufort and Marlborough, because I knew both men when they were in their teens. There has been some grumbling about the fact that neither house would give in and change the date, but I’m fine with that. Two simultaneous

Matteo Salvini’s decision to turn away a migrant rescue ship is an historic moment

The refusal by Italy’s new ‘populist’ coalition government of the alt-left Five Star Movement and the hard right Lega to allow an NGO vessel with 629 African migrants on board to dock in Italy is an historic moment. The leader of the Lega Matteo Salvini, now Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, is determined to fulfil his campaign pledge. That is to say: I will stop any more migrants being ferried to Italy by sea from Libya and I will deport all of the 500,000 illegal migrants already arrived from Libya by sea who are not refugees – i.e the lot. Since the first government in western Europe of what

‘Populism, fascism – who cares?’

We are in a hotel suite at the Park Hyatt Hotel in Zurich when Stephen K. Bannon tells me he adores the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. But let’s be clear. Bannon — as far as I can tell — is not a fascist. He is, however, fascinated by fascism, which is understandable, as its founder Benito Mussolini, a revolutionary socialist, was the first populist of the modern era and the first tabloid newspaper journalist. Il Duce, realising that people are more loyal to country than class, invented fascism, which replaced International Socialism with National Socialism. He was thus able to ‘weaponise’ — to use a favourite Bannon word — what the

The populist revolution has only just begun

Why aren’t children called Roger any more? I wondered this when reading about the sad death of Sir Roger Bannister. Coincidentally, the evening before, my young daughter had been watching The Great Escape and most of the Englishmen in it seemed to be called Roger. The only time you hear the name is in early episodes of Midsomer Murders, the ones produced before they were forced to have black people being killed in a ludicrous fashion alongside the whites, to demonstrate our commitment to equality. It does have an awkward connotation with sex — but then it always did, Roger having been a slang word for penis right back to

Racism is a grey area

This book is an exercise in crying wolf that utterly fails to prove its main thesis: that Europe is abandoning its core liberal values under threat from a resurgent populist right. It is a largely fact-free polemic that passes itself off as an open-minded work of interview reportage. Yet if you can ignore the author’s sly interventions on behalf of his left-liberal premises, he does introduce the reader to a fascinating cast of characters, mainly from the European populist right. And, at least for someone (like me) who is predisposed to an interest in the subject, he also provides real insight into the internal debates about immigration and national identity,

Meritocracy isn’t fair

I’ve just made a programme for Radio 4 about the populist revolts that swept Britain and America last year. Were they predicted in a book written by my father, Michael Young, almost 60 years ago? I’m thinking of The Rise of the Meritocracy, a dystopian satire that imagines a 21st-century Britain governed by a highly educated technocratic elite. Eventually, the intellectual and moral hubris of these Masters of the Universe is too much for ordinary people and they’re overthrown in a bloody revolution in 2034. It often surprises people to learn that my father’s critique of meritocracy was underpinned by his belief that human differences are rooted in genetics, a

The liberals and the deplorables

In America, an argument has broken out among journalists, writers and intellectuals in the aftermath of the presidential election about whether Trump’s white working-class voters were decent, upright citizens let down by the supercilious liberal establishment or whether they were, in Hilary Clinton’s words, a racist, sexist, homophobic basket of deplorables. The curious thing about this debate is that the defenders of Trump’s supporters are, for the most part, left–wingers, like the Berkeley sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild, who spent five years chronicling a depressed blue-collar community in Louisiana, while those who disparage them as ‘in thrall to a vicious, selfish culture whose main products are misery and used heroin needles’

A choice of revolutions

Is France on the brink of a political revolution? Already, four established candidates for the presidency — two former presidents and two former prime ministers — have backed out or been rejected by the voters, and another, François Fillon, is on the ropes. The campaign is being taken over by outsiders, principally the Front National’s Marine Le Pen and a youthful former banker, Emmanuel Macron, while the Socialists have chosen an eccentric radical, Benoît Hamon. Should we welcome a shake-up in the cradle of European revolutions? What kind of shake-up might it be — socialist (the least likely), liberal with Macron or nationalist with Le Pen? Or can the outsiders

Populism vs post-democracy

Europeans are usually alarmed or sniffy about American concern for democracy’s fate, but this time liberal opinion on both sides of the pond sings in unison: populism is a threat to democracy. A recent issue of the Journal of Democracy (a sober publication published by America’s National Endowment for Democracy) provided a handy compendium of all the parties, policies and histories that can be included in the vast cabin-trunk of populism. A lead article by Takis S. Pappas, a Greek political theorist living in Hungary, lists 22 different parties he cautiously calls ‘challengers to liberal democracy’. He breaks them down into three categories: anti-democrats, nativists and populists. (All are commonly

Power and the people

When The Spectator was founded 188 years ago, it became part of what would now be described as a populist insurgency. An out-of-touch Westminster elite, we said, was speaking a different language to the rest of London, let alone the rest of the country. Too many ‘of the bons mots vented in the House of Commons appear stale and flat by the time they have travelled as far as Wellington Street’. This would be remedied, we argued, by extending the franchise and granting the vote to the emerging middle class. Our Tory critics said any step towards democracy — a word which then caused a shudder — would start a

Thank God for Sir Philip Green, the perfect modern hate figure

Good old Sir Philip Green. Where would we be without him? So often, those national hate figures let you down. That lady who put a cat in a bin in 2010, for example. Bit of a tragic loony, in the end. Likewise Tony Blair. Not this one. His diamond has no flaw, and we can all join in. He’s perfectly awful in every way. He looks the part, too. Rich-guy hair, of the sort most rich guys don’t deign to have any more. Nonexistent at the front, lacquered and far too long at the back. Brilliant. Clothes that don’t quite fit, because he clearly pays a stylist to tell him