English readers can look away, if you want; you know all this. Foreign readers may be interested to know a little bit more about where this comes from. In England we have three social classes, and all social discourse is based upon the way they monitor each other furiously for signs of dress, speech and where they go to eat. The First is small, moneyed, and privately educated, usually very well, in things like humanities and law. The Second is larger, mainly state educated, often in things like social sciences or IT. They bitterly resent the First class, because they think they, the Seconds, could be running things better. The evidence for this is extremely dubious, as the First Class knows well, and constantly reminds the Second, through the columns of organs such as The Spectator, The Daily Telegraph, and the Daily Mail. The Second seeks comfort for its beliefs in the opinion pages of The Guardian, and even something called the New Statesman, which is very hard to get at on line.
Both hate and despise the Third class, calling them names which are too rude to repeat here. It is fair to say that this third class still carries out most of the essential functions of society. We thank them, but few will be reading here today. Their beliefs (as opposed to opinions) are largely derived from publications such as The Sun and Heat, many foreign owned, and tending on the side of sensation as opposed to analysis.
Everything that happens in England, even the coronavirus, is seen through the lenses of this conflict between Firsts and Seconds. We hope that foreign readers will enjoy our little comparison of how the two sides’ propagandists portray their views of the crisis. Both are well argued, well reasoned and based on fact. We are talking professional journalists here.
For the Firsts, Dr John Lee of the Spectator gives us ten reasons to end the lockdown. (We are grateful to Mr John Read of Henley on Thames for drawing our attention to this article) Dr Lee rightly points out that the health and social costs of this disease are colossal, nowhere more so than in the economic catastrophe it has inflicted on us in this country. And he rightly adduces that that lockdown cannot be sustained for ever. Or even very long at all. Even Keynesians admit that you have to balance the books. Or how about taking the Venezuelan Road to Socialism? Perhaps more controversially, he asseverates that the lockdown is based on flawed models, the disease is little worse than certain other viral infections, and will ameliorate anyway by the laws of natural selection.
Enter Aditya Chakrabortty in the Guardian. His piece too is well reasoned, factual, and from the heart. He points out that the richer you are, the more likely you are to escape the disease, just like in the Spanish Flu of 1918. That the chronic UK diseases of poor health, poor public funding, and social and informational inequality have exacerbated our plight. That any return to work will only return us to that unhappy status quo antes. And above all there can be no normality to return to as the economy is in one big humunguous great mess, which will take us decades to clear. If ever.
And so both sides will clobber away at each other like football supporters on a night out. Both using the weapons of fact, reason, and clear and persuasive writing. Both have been doing so since at least the 1840s. Both with that ineluctable righteousness which seems to be derived from the Protestant Reformation, so long ago. Who says you can’t build a nation on Heritage?
The most successful Prime Ministers have been those who have successfully united these warring tribes in a common cause. Or at least enough of them to give a stable majority. Thatcher and Blair come to mind, but there were brief, fleeting moments under Macmillan and Wilson. The Firsts have the money, the Seconds the brains: together they could still make Britain, or at least England, a first-class nation.
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