Left liberal consensus coming to an end?

A couple of American friends visited this afternoon. Both are US Republicans. However, one had been convinced George Bush would lose the White House last November in the teeth of a four year attack from Democrats, which: 1 questioned the legitimacy of his 2000 election victory and; 2 sustained personal attacks on him throughout his first term. That he won may have come down to a new Sluggeresque rule of politics: playing the man at the expense of going for the ball, simply means you lose the ball. Alternatively, David McWilliams may have it when he suggests a forty year metropolitan liberal consensus is coming to an uncomfortable end.

  • Alan McDonald

    As an American Democrat, I can give you a different point of view on Bush’s victory. The Republicans successfully played up the fears of 9/11 in the heartland (a geographical reality in the USA) and convinced enough people that the absence of WMD’s and a tanking economy did not matter.

    As for the McWilliams piece, there has not been a liberal consensus in the US since the Reagan administration. We are way ahead of Europe when it comes to being screwed by the multinationals. In my view, we’re pretty much a third world economy when it comes to jobs.

    Now, can you tell that I’m a currently unemployed 50-something whose been downsized twice after my American employers where bought by European conglomerates?

  • peteb

    There was a “forty year metropolitan liberal consensus”, Mick?

    Ah.. that’ll explain Reagan and Thatcher being re-elected then..

    Although, to be fair to David McWilliams.. he refers to a “metropolitan, liberal, left-wing elite”.. first against the metaphorical wall?… maybe.. more likely to adapt to the changing times.. as usual.

    The cycle of history argument is a little too glib for my liking.. there may well be a cycle of tensions.. the response to those tensions may not be the same as before though..

    Welcome the Era of the New Empire? That’s not necessarily a cause for concern, you know..

  • Joe, canada

    In my experience, political forecasters are no more accurate than astrologers

  • 6countyprod

    I do not agree with Alan’s reasons for George Bush’s re-election.

    As an interested observer of US politics (having lived there for a couple of years in the 80’s), I have been amazed at the concerted attempt by the big media organisations in the States, with the help of the BBC, to undermine the actions and policies of the previous and current US administrations.

    First it was CBS with a Rather bogus Bush National Guard story. Then the New York Times’ pre-election story on 370 tons of explosives missing in Iraq. After that, CNN exec Eason Jordan, accuses the military of targeting journalists in Iraq. And a few weeks ago Newsweek was all in a flush. The NYT and AP seem to be the most consistent with their stream of negative reporting, and also with hiding any positive things that might benefit Bush.

    The US blogs, of course, have helped to expose some of the more extreme falsehoods of the US mainstream media. Unfortunately, UK blogs are not developed or mature enough to keep the media here more accountable for their careless words.

    I would suggest that Mr Bush was re-elected because people: recognised the unrestrained bias and partiality of many of the US news organisations; wondered about Kerry after the boat vets questioned his integrity; agreed with Bush’s stand on the hot social issues; wanted to give the finger to Michael Moore; believed that Bush was/is genuine in his desire to give an opportunity for democracy to take hold around the world (despite what the UN or Chirac think); felt he had proved that he was a good leader in post 9/11 America.

  • aquifer

    That left liberal consensus was built on the ability of national governments to generate socialistic posts for the faithful and improving conditions for workers, based on national economies that enjoyed technological supremacy, cheap energy, and commodities from past and current colonies.

    Global competition means that a large public sector salaried workforce and tax take become a handicap, and manufacturing is no longer the preserve of richer western nations, with workers facing competition at home from immigrants and abroad from cheap imports.

    Faced with these assaults and with rapid change, people may well become literally conservative, to keep and value what relative wealth, including cultural and spiritual resources, they already have.

    Faced with global competition from much larger populations for goods, oil, and commodities, egalitarianism and support for low consumption lifestyles may be the appropriate domestic policy responses if the poor are not to fall through the net entirely.

    Can we have a highly egalitarian society without a bloated public sector payroll and lots of unemployed?

    Stop taxing employment, start taxing land and resource use?

  • chuck werden

    Brilliant work 6countyprod. And black is white, evil is good. I doubt you seriously believe that Americans really gave a toot about the boat vets or that they just don’t like that fat Michael Moore. The public may be dumb, but polls clearly show that they don’t fall for all of your crap. 45% approval rating. Most americans strongly want to get out of Iraq. When actually quizzed on the issues most Americans had no idea what Bush’s actual policies were and found that in blind tests they disagreed with them.

    Most people would like the death and destruction to stop.

  • peteb

    “and found that in blind tests they disagreed with them”

    According to?

  • michail Darley

    Let me get this straight: a ‘left-liberal elite’ that supports ‘globalisation’ and the neo-liberal agenda?

    This is straight out of a right-wing Republican lexicon.I really wonder why David McWilliams bothers with the term ‘left’at all?

    The real ‘left’ opposes aspects of globalsation that increase inequality and the wealth and power of elites, including transnational corporations. They generally support aspects of globalisation that lead to social and cultural integration, as well as economic integration of certain kinds. Those well off Parisians who voted yes may be liberal, but they cannot be left.

  • fair_deal

    1. George W Bush won the election for a simple reason the Democrats candidate sucked. For all his flaws he looked and acted like a President Kerry didn’t.

    The early warning signs were there but the Democratic Party ignored them. In the primaries Democrats, desperate for a win, largely followed the line of the party leadership that someone electable was needed and Dean had to be stopped as he was deemed unelectable. Kerry was perceived as the best of the others. This ignored the fact that while people were prepared to vote for Kerry in the primaries when asked about the qualities and values they wanted in a president, Kerry polled poorly. Kerry was the wrong candidate for the wrong reasons.

    2. The analysis on the different voting patterns of different classes from France is interesting. Social mobility may be the line that is sold but social dislocation seems to be doing well enough.

    3. His picture of globalisation is a bit simplistic. The ‘polish plumber’ does not only reduce the costs of services for rich people but poor people too. It also overlooks that a number of states need the ‘polish plumber’ because of skills shortages and general labour shortages (although in the UK and others the latter is skewed by the inability to find effective mechanisms for tackling economic inactivity). In the 1990’s the USA worked globalisation to the benefit of some 22 million jobs. The UK economy has been too slouchy lately either.

    4. On the liberal metropolitan vision, the european and American traditions are somewhat different so mixing them does not help clarity. However, the liberal view of society and mankind is in difficulties as the type of society it promised did not arrive.

  • Ciaran

    That is an interesting article, my own thoughts on what the EU no votes meant were that parrallels can be seen with the churches reformation – how the christian church was decadent, highly wasteful, had lost its way and for a concept that must rely on popularity had lost touch with what people think.

    Brussels and its marble-chaired politicans need to wholesale reform themselves, their institutions and their image if they want to be relevent in the 21st century.

    Oh lord its so hard to be humble when youve been on the gravytrain for so long

  • Armand

    I wonder if any of the American contributors have considered that Bush might have “won” because the elections were rigged?
    And what do they think of Patriot 2?

  • 6countyprod


    Even the exit polls last November were suggesting a Kerry win! Don’t be fooled by polls. The ultimate poll took place, and Bush won it handsomely. Was it around 5 million of a majority with more votes than any other presidential candidate, ever? Correct me if I am wrong. Maybe I have got the figures mixed up.

    Looking forward to next year’s elections when the GOP will undoubtedly make more gains at the Democrat’s expense. Howard Dean is a blessing in disguise for the republicans!

  • fair_deal


    I don’t think the republicans can count those chickens just yet.
    1. The economy is still lagging
    2. The Bush election platform is running into the ground
    3. Iraq drags on
    4. The two wings of the republican party are not getting on (as they prepare the vicious battle for the next presidential candidate)
    5. The Democrats presently have sizeable leads in Congressional polls (though the have managed to fritter those away before).
    6. Some Dems have started to be warmer to parts of the social conservative agenda.

  • Young Fogey

    I don’t know that the liberal-left élites are that different either side of the Atlantic. In both Europe and the USA, working-class participation in politics has collapsed, particularly through the decline in union membership. As a consequence, the left no-longer has deep roots in its base and is very vulnerable to raids on support from the populist right; John Howard in Australia is a master of this.

    What’s worse is that the left, dominated by members of the public-sector middle-class don’t seem to notice how detached they are from their base (a quarter of both the Labour and LibDem parliamentary parties in the UK are teachers!); at times they seem actively fearful of and hostile to what you might call ‘traditional’ white working-class communities. In America, this is made worse with the Democrats being in hock to special interests (trial lawyers – people of the people!).

    Although Thatcher and Reagan might seem to give lie to the left-liberal establishment theory, remmber Reagan had to govern with huge Democrat majorities in Congress – a far cry from the current Republican domination of all three branches of government; Thatcher won due to split opposition and a Labour Party intent on electoral suicide. During the ’80s the bourgeois liberal-left strengthened its dominance of civil society institutions – in England think the BBC and the Church of England!

    So, yes, I think the liberal-left is in trouble and the alternative – xenophobic populism or anti-progress, anti-capitalist, ecobabble doesn’t exactly impress, either.

  • Carrington

    In Britain the liberal-left consenesus is not in trouble at all.

    The modern Tory Party, under the leadership of the Notting Hill set (Osbourne, Cameron etc.) will sign up to all of the things on the liberal check-list for fear of coming accross as extreme at election time.

    Abortions for all, Gay marriage and higher taxes have all been endorsed by the “Conservative Party” – will the real conservatives please stand up?

    You may have guessed I’m backing Davis for leader!

  • Young Fogey

    You may have guessed I’m backing Davis for leader!

    Passed me right by, Carrington, passed me right by.

  • fair_deal

    “The modern Tory Party, under the leadership of the Notting Hill set (Osbourne, Cameron etc.) will sign up to all of the things on the liberal check-list for fear of coming accross as extreme at election time.

    Abortions for all, Gay marriage and higher taxes have all been endorsed by the “Conservative Party”

    The Centre for Social Justice did some interesting polling which showed that the softer image people wanted from the Tories was not on issues like gay rights but actually on the education and pensioners.

  • Carrington


    Exactly! Labour have done a marvellous job over the last decade and a half of porttraying the Conservatives as a party of Alan B’Stards, out to trample on the NHS and pensioners.

    The Tory Party should be about helping those people, while encouraging free enterprise, lower taxes and maintining a Conservative stance on moral issues.

    Gay marriage is wrong. Taxes should be slashed. Civil servants should be laid off. Abortions should be difficult to obtain, not treated like a form of birth control.

    There I’ve said it! Now why can’t the rest of the bloody party do likewise.

  • Young Fogey

    Gay marriage is wrong.

    That is a vote loser in Britain, as is your view on abortion. This is not the USA.

  • fair_deal

    “Now why can’t the rest of the bloody party do likewise”

    A London-based media with values that differ from most of the population?

    There is also one glaring reason why the Conservatives have lost since 1997 that nevers seems to enter the debate – the economy has perfomed reasonably well and it isn’t easy to unseat a government when it is – no matter how good your alternative policies.

  • Carrington

    The views I have outline above are not extreme – they are widely held by millions of people in the United Kingdom who have been brow-beaten into silence by the architects of the cosy liberal-left consensus – The Anglican Church (sorry YF – although I do share your other interests), The BBC (Today Programme and Dimbleby especially), the “teaching” profession, The Gaurdianistas (Polly Toynbee) etc. etc.

    If The Conservatives don’t tap into this poll of votes, nutters lke Kilroy will.

    I pride myself that unlike France, one-fifth of the people of the UK do not vote for a fascist party, but this liberal consensus that exists amongst the governing elite on the type of issues I have mentioned might well push lots of people in that direction.

  • fair_deal

    What is the evidence that opposition to gay marriage is a vote loser?

    Abortion is an issue that I have a nagging suspicion will grow over the next decade. A further reduction in the time-limit is certainly plausible.

  • Carrington


    I don’t think my view on abortion is out of line with mainstream thinking at all. I am not calling for an outright ban, but I am calling for abortions to be made much more difficult to obtain. It is a national disgrace that despite the free availability of literally hundreds of thousands of abortions every year in this country, we still have the highest rate of teenage preganacy.

    Perhaps if local authorities spent a bit less time filling the heads of youngsters with filth – albeit under the guise of “sex education” – and instilled the value of marriage and stable relationships at an early age we wouldn’t have half of the problems we do in this area.

  • Davros

    Perhaps if local authorities spent a bit less time filling the heads of youngsters with filth – albeit under the guise of “sex education” – and instilled the value of marriage and stable relationships at an early age we wouldn’t have half of the problems we do in this area.

    Fine words. Wasn’t it a happier and better society 100 years ago here when there was no sex education or divorce ? I don’t think so.

  • Carrington


    Personally I don’t think 7 and 8 year olds should be being taught about sexual relations in school, but obviously you disagree. Lets pollute the mids of our young people and robb them of their childhood, in the name of progress.

    Perhaps it’s a strange coincidence, but the greater availablity of the contraceptive pill and the greater usage of “sex education” in schools has done nothing whatsoever to prevent growing rates of teenage pregnancy. In fact, since these liberal innovations start to come through in the late sixties, early seventies, the situation has gotten much worse.

    Coincidence, I think not.

  • Davros

    Carrington – in the golden days of yore when children weren’t given sex education the brothels were full of Kids being used for gratification by the self-same pillars of the community whose outward respectability was cherished by a society every bit as rotten as the one in which we live today. The magdalene laundries weren’t established after sex education was introduced into schools and many, many thousands of children grow up on farms learning about the reality of reproduction without becoming degenerates…

  • DCB


    I suspect you may have a point on abortion but I wouldn’t be too sure that being against gay marriages would be such a vote winner.

    The last election showed that, unlike France, emmigration wasn’t a big vote winner either.

    About time somebody started talking about cutting taxes though. Brown is doing his best to push business out of Britain with an ever expanding tax system that increasingly relies on government whim rather than the rule of law.

  • Carrington


    More or less teen preganancies before sex education in schools, free availability of abortion and the contraceptive pill?

    A brief aside – if the declared aim of these social pioneers in the 1960’s was to “liberate” women and empower them as individuals they have failed.

    As a result of the promisquity introduced by removing the fear of preganancy and the ability to dispose of unwanted children by murdering them in a clinic, women have become more brutalised, more exploited and more sex objects for the desires of leering men than ever before, hence we have youngsters going around in T-shirts bearing the slogan “Porn Star”.

    If that’s progress, I want none of it.

  • Young Fogey

    I am calling for abortions to be made much more difficult to obtain.

    I think that is a big vote loser. Personally I am rather queasy about abortion but I have no doubt that the vast majority of the population, while they might agree with vague opinion poll statements that there are ‘too many abortions’, when it comes to the crunch support abortion on demand.

    I agree that there is a serious debate to be had about what the term limit for abortions should be. But there is no way the country at large will wear any interference with women’s right to have early term abortion on demand. This is not, not, not, the United States, and cultural conservatives looking wistfully at the other side of the Atlantic would do well to remember why most polling in Britain was showing a 3:1+ majority for Kerry over Bush.

    As for teenage pregnancy – the rate of teenage pregnancies has been falling consistently for about a decade. The UK’s rate of teenage pregnancy is indeed the highest in Western Europe, but also well under half that of the United States. A lot of those God fearing, silver ring wearing, girls in the heartland are up the duff, while their Godless Dutch and Danish cousins are enjoying their childhood innocence.

    Personally, I don’t see the problem in starting a sensible, sensitive conversation with children about sex at 7 or so. By that stage, kids are already picking up a lot of playground smut anyway, and they need to receive more balanced messages. I also think sex is the one issue where the liberal left establishment and ‘ordinary decent working-class people’ (sic) largely agree.

    Gay marriage is a non-issue; people who don’t agree with it usually don’t care, those who agree usually care a lot. The German Right tried to use the introduction of gay marriage there as a campaign theme in the 2002 General Election over there and it blew up in their faces completely; and that’s country where much of the electronic media leans to the right, so no BBC conspiracy at work!

    I had just the sort of traditionalist sex education you seem to extol (Catholic school, Belfast, late ’80s/early ’90s). Frankly it was as much use as a wheel on a chicken. I don’t think anyone took it seriously and as a gay man, well, I didn’t seem to exist. Kids don’t live in hermetically sealed bubbles, and as Davros rightly points out work these things out for themselves.

  • Carrington


    No sign of a response to my question?

  • Davros

    Can you repeat the question ?

  • Carrington

    More or less teen preganancies before sex education in schools, free availability of abortion and the contraceptive pill?

  • Davros

    I don’t know- have you figures ?

    Are you saying the teen pregnancy levels are linked to sex education ? Personally speaking I suspect it’s to do with hormones and much bigger changes in society. I’d point out that levels of teen pregnancy were lower before the widespread availability of washing machines. I’m a bit puzzled as to why you think preganancy levels would rise if girls go on the pill. Surely levels would drop ? Quite a few teenage girls are put on the pill for dysmenorrhea and don’t end up pregnant.
    I suspect a lot of the problems are down to changing lifestyles and the irresponsibility of the media.

  • Young Fogey

    More or less teen preganancies before sex education in schools, free availability of abortion and the contraceptive pill?

    Less in the early 20th Century.

    A lot more in the 19th Century. There’s a wonderful if horrifying Dostoevsky account of a trip to London in the 1880s were he’s taken aback at the age of many of the girls working as prostitutes in the Haymarket. The average age was about 12, according to Dostoevsky, and many were younger. This was during the apogee of Victorian moralism. What tackled it was the creation of a decent social safety net which ended the near starvation which made people desperate enough to do things like this.

  • baslamak

    Memo to comrade carrington,

    Im one hundred percent behind your suggestion that the Tory Party takes on board your proposals on Gays, abortion, etc, the reason being if they do they will be in opposition throughout this century. Keep up the good work Comrade, your doing an excellent job for the left.. Although this may be the time to propose public executions and concentration camps for asylum seekers, as we don’t want your local branch of the Tory Party to think you have gone soft having been influence by the reds at the BBC.

    Comradely Regards

  • Carrington


    It must be awful to support a party that has betrayed every principle it ever held.

  • Paddy Mattjews

    Perhaps if local authorities spent a bit less time filling the heads of youngsters with filth – albeit under the guise of “sex education” – and instilled the value of marriage and stable relationships at an early age we wouldn’t have half of the problems we do in this area.

    Pardon my naivety, but I’d have said that most of the “filth” is coming from the mass media (tabloid newspapers and magazines, trashy TV (Celebrity Love Island, etc), videos, etc. – pretty much all of which comes from the commercial private sector. That – and the parental control or lack of same that allows exposure to this stuff at an inappropriate age – might be a more appropriate target.

  • Alan McDonald

    Since the thread started with a reference to the 2004 presidential election in America, turned left to discuss Euro-Liberalism, then morphed into a discussion of teen pregnancy, let me try to tie it back to my country. Since there has been a call for statistics, for information on the situation in the United States, see Teen Pregnancy Rates in the USA

    For information regarding the UK, see Teenage Pregnancy
    Of particular note is the statement that England has the worst record for teenage pregnancies in Europe – the teenage birth rates are twice as high as Germany, three times as high as France and six times as high as the Netherlands. Surely the Netherlands is far more liberal than the US and even the UK.

  • baslamak


    It must be awful to support a party that has betrayed every principle it ever held.

    Posted by: Carrington


    Pray tell me when the Monster Raving Looney Party betrayed any of its principles.