Right of Centre political commentator and academic at the University of Kent, Matthew Goodwin, has said this about the ‘“values” (his word) of Boris Johnson’s supporters:
“They prioritise the nation and the national community. They prefer stability over change. And they favour continuity over disruption and discontinuity. This is why they cherish Britain’s history, heritage and collective memory and are more sensitive to attempts to deconstruct them.”
My comments in response.
This is brave but I’m afraid doomed attempt to give an intellectual substance to prejudice. That prejudice prefers its comfort zone to the challenge of considering new ways of doing things. To “prioritise the nation” is nationalism by any other name. Because it’s obverse is to have to denigrate other nations. The “English, The English, The English are best” poppycock so brilliantly mocked by Flanders and Swann 50 years ago. The “English community” extends this xenophobia to race and culture. That “community” is white and if it has a religion it’s Christian. What it certainly isn’t is brown and Islamic.
“Stability” actually is retrospective and nostalgic. The change (e.g. to a multiracial society) has already happened and the status quo is now this. The “national community” is diverse – not just from immigration but also from freedom of movement from the EU27. So the days of the continuity of the “White, Anglo-Saxon, first language English are in the distant past (1950s Britain.
“Disruption and discontinuity” is a further euphemism for the perceived threat of the culturally challenging. Race and nationality are at its heart. When the policemen, the doctors, the teachers and the rest of the service sector employees are more likely to go to the Mosque than the Church and the plumber is Polish that shakes up the status quo and is perceived as disruptive.
“Britain’s history, heritage and collective memory” is the reason to believe that it once was better. And as we say that we begin not to recognise our nation any more so we rerun the newsreels of the times when it was “better”. The spirit of the Blitz which hardly any alive today remember and the blue birds over the white cliffs of Dover. The poppy police around Remembrance Day are a modern phenomenon – we don’t just want to Virtue Signal our own patriotism with at least a fortnight of poppy wearing we want to condemn those who opt out.
Whether what Mr Goodwin identifies here are truly “values” I would strongly challenge. A prejudice is an uniformed attitude not a value and most of this is the narrowest form of prejudice. And you don’t have to have more than a passing understanding of 20th Century nationalism and the horrors that ensued from its dominance to want to avoid it ever happening again. But, as I say, the “value” of “prioritising the nation” is profoundly nationalistic.
In our binary world there is little room for nuance. The “Black Lives Matter” slogan is a pretty straightforward one but it won’t appeal to those who have the pseudo “values” Mr Goodwin identifies. And the problem is that real values are more complex, not binary and require a generosity of spirit and a social intelligence which Boris Johnson does not stand for. Those who vote for him even less. You can’t disguise raw prejudice as a value set.