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Saturday, 1 January 2011

Surely no nice, intelligent person can be Right-wing…

By Ed West, December 14th, 2010, from The Telegraph

[The dinner party: just don't admit you're Right-wing (Photo: Corbis)]

My wife was at a party on Saturday night while I was looking after the kids (I say “looking after the kids” – I obviously mean “drinking alone”). There she met an old university acquaintance who said, apropos nothing and apparently with some venom: “By the way, I really hate Ed’s blog, it makes me so angry.”

My wife was slightly taken aback at first, but then the woman explained that she was surprised to read it because she had met me and I seemed like a nice enough person, and she couldn’t understand why I could believe such things. But then, the woman said, another friend had explained it all – Ed’s just a young journalist trying to make a name for himself so he writes these things to get noticed.

“Er,” my wife said, “actually, he really does believe what he writes.”

“Really?” the woman said in disgust.

I often get this on Twitter from weird angry types who accuse me of writing just to get a reaction. I had to block one particularly individual who simply couldn’t believe that an apparently intelligent person might oppose the EU, and so I had to be attacking it simply to appeal to the readers’ basest instincts.

I’m not sure what’s more depressing: that someone might actually hate me for holding a different (democratic) opinion to them, or the political autism that is so common among people of a particular narrow centre-Left ideology. It’s not that they disagree with conservative viewpoints; it’s that they cannot even comprehend that a nice and decent person might hold such a view. Anyone who expresses a different opinion must either be doing it for dishonest career reasons (which in any case, would surely be more reprehensible), mad or bad.

It’s hardly surprising when so many educated, intelligent people of my generation have never had their ideas challenged. From before their political awakening they are given the message by the education system, the broadcast media and the wider political culture that to be Left-wing is to be generous, tolerant and forward-thinking, and to be Right-wing is to be selfish, uncaring and bigoted.

Nothing they are taught in university challenges this; nothing they hear or see in the media challenges this; nothing they hear in the workplace, where such centre-Left views are the accepted norms, especially in the state and semi-state sector where so many of the brightest and best choose to enter, will challenge this. Nothing they pick up from a library will challenge this (go and have a look at any politics section of any public library to see just how institutionalised the bias is). And yet they can still decry the influence of the “Right-wing press”, despite newspapers being a medium that is very easy to ignore, and far less influential than the BBC.

This is not a political ideal, it’s a faith, and in a way I would love to believe it, and so fit in. I would love to believe that the state really can abolish child poverty, or that aid really can get Africa out of poverty, that the welfare state works or that increases in spending on education alone could make any difference to our comprehensive schools. I would love to believe that equality is achievable, considering our human nature – a belief that depends on a version of creationism in which the earth was made by a Guardian-reading god who had just read The Spirit Level.

I would like those things to be true, but the results of previous attempts, and the law of unintended consequences, suggests they don’t work, and that there can never be heaven on earth. Sometimes I feel like Richard Dawkins snowed in at a fundamentalist Christian revival.

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