Elections Without Democracy

Listening to David Aaaronovitch’s recent Briefing Room edition: Election special 2. Elections without democracy,  I was reminded of an incident I was present at in the German “Democratic” Republic ("East Germany") back in 1984.

The small village where Karin (who later became my wife) was living and teaching at the time was holding municipal elections. She was helping to supervise the voting – the sort of thing that as a young teacher one was expected to “volunteer” for in the GDR.

There was a sense of occasion in the village (where very little unfolded most days) that was not entirely confected. I joined the small audience to a rather charming children’s choir outside the polling station as they sung Summ summ summ! Bienchen summ’ herum![i]

As Wittgenstein argued in his critique[ii] of Frazer’s Golden Bough, the fact that rituals may be important to a community does not necessarily imply that the people in those communities literally believe that performing said rituals (say performing a rain dance) will actually determine the future (whether or not it actually rains).

Nobody in the GDR believed that their participation in an election could really affect the result. And yet they came to vote. People were not legally required to vote (as in Australia) but it was “expected” of you, and it would probably not be good for your future career prospects if you did not turn up.

Karin’s job was to tick people off the list as they arrived to vote – just as genuine volunteers do in the UK on poling days.

Then in walked Lutz (not his real name) the village alcoholic, and Karin could not find him anywhere on the list.

“Lutz” worked (when he did) for the local Landwirtschaftliche Produktionsgenossenschaft (LPG) – a “collectivised” farmers’ cooperative. At harvest or planting time, Lutz’s colleagues would drive round to his small flat and collect him. Most of the time he was left to his own devices and would be paid cash in hand for the days he actually managed to turn up on his own account – presumably days when his supplies of Schnapps ran out. Lutz was the sort of person who, in the UK, would probably have begged on the street and lived out of a shopping trolley. He managed to live something more like a normal life in the GDR. Nonetheless, this was the first time Lutz had ever attempted to vote.

After some fruitless searching on the list, Karin consulted her supervisor. He suddenly became somewhat evasive and muttered something about “the other list”, which he subsequently retrieved from a bag under his desk. Lutz was on this list, along (Karin observed) with a handful of other “ne'er-do-wells” who had clearly been excluded from the main list of voters.

The shenanigans with the two lists, Karin realized, were all to do with boosting the turnout figures. Even though the turnout for the people on the main list would have been in the high nineties, including people on that list who would almost certainly not turn up might have dragged down the percentage turnout by a point or two. (Conversely, if everybody – or nearly everybody – on both lists had turned up, the turnout would have been over 100%.)

After “die Wende” it emerged that even the figures for the results of elections in the GDR had often been outright falsified. Though victory for the Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands[iii] over the other parties was guaranteed by the rigged rules of the game, this was somehow not quite good enough for those conducting the proceedings. This kind of overkill obviously served to further delegitimize the whole exercise rather than to legitimize it.

Here in the UK, though we provide far less well for people like Lutz, we have genuine democracy. Not enough in some areas perhaps, but what we have is not counterfeit. But who among us can put our hands on their hearts and say we have never taken part in a “consultation” or a “performance” measuring scheme or similar activity (either in the workplace or in other area of public life) that was not essentially a sham?

[i] Buzz, buzz, buzz! Bees buzz around!

[iii] Socialist Unity Party of Germany


Scream if you want to go slower!

Why driving more slowly can get everybody to where they are going more quickly.


In a recent diatribe against slower driving speeds, the Daily Mail recently announced The Slow Death of driving”[i]. And the prime minister Rishi Sunak has just announced[ii] plans to restrict the ability of councils to impose “anti-motorist policies” such as 20mph speed limits.

So is driving more slowly really "anti-motorist"?

Well that, as they say, is “a complicated question”.

Let us consider a car driving along a single traffic lane (perhaps a lane on a motorway or one side of a single carriageway road) between two points A and B that are 1km apart:

Obviously, the faster the car drives, the shorter the journey time will be:

Graph 1: Journey times

Though it is interesting to note that this is not a simple linear relationship and faster speeds provide diminishing returns. In round numbers (my underlying calculations are all in metres per second) at 30mph, the journey will take 70 seconds; at 20mph, this will increase to 110 seconds. Going from 60mph to 70 mph only cuts the journey time by 5 seconds.

Now let us consider a more realistic scenario where the lane in question is saturated with cars:



Each car will have to drive so that there is a safe gap between it and the car in front. In the calculations below I have used the stopping distance to define this gap – allowing for the worst-case scenario where the car in front comes to a sudden and complete and unexpected halt (perhaps crashing into the back of a stationary lorry in fog) – but the same principles would still hold if I used figures that were more reflective of the less-safe gaps that average drivers actually maintain.

Graph 2: Stopping distances


The length of the safe gap increases in a non-linear and quite dramatic fashion. It doubles from about 12m at 20mph to about 24m at 30mph.

By calculating the time each car takes, at the relevant speed, to drive the distances represented by these gaps (plus its own car length), we can calculate the throughput of cars (e.g. the number of cars passing point B in one minute) along the lane of traffic for different traffic speeds when the lane is fully saturated with traffic:

Graph 3: Throughput


At 20mph there is a throughput of about 34 cars per minute. At 30 mph, this drops to 30 cars per minute and, apparently paradoxically (though not really paradoxically if you understand what is going on), the faster the speed at which the cars go between A and B thereafter, the fewer cars will get from A to B in a given time.

Of course, for the individual driver in the situation presented thus far, Graph 1 above still holds. The faster he or she is allowed to drive, the quicker his or her journey from A to B will be. Why should that driver care about throughput?

The problem is that there are often more cars trying to make the journey (from A to B in our example) than the throughput for a given speed can cope with. If the cars are going at 30mph and there are hundreds of cars (rather than 30 cars) trying to make the journey between A and B during the same minute, a queue will form and most of the cars will come to a complete stop. Waiting in stationary traffic can dramatically increase journey times - especially if you are at the back of the queuing traffic.

At times when we became stuck in an endless queue of stationary traffic, my late father would ask rhetorically (and, obviously, jokingly) “Why doesn’t whoever is at the front simply drive off?”. Let us imagine just such a situation:



The car at the front of the queue drives off and accelerates to whatever the speed limit is on this road, and the next in line does the same as soon as it is safe to do so.

Assuming everyone sets off promptly and accelerates promptly up to the speed limit and then maintains that speed, the limiting factor in how quickly the queue of cars can dissipate is the throughput. (If, on the other hand, a car takes too long to set off, it might never catch up with the car in front before it hits the speed limit. Such behaviour would make the figures for throughput and waiting times worse than calculated below.)

The car at the head of the queue obviously has zero waiting time. The tenth car in the queue has to wait for 16 seconds before setting off if the moving cars are going at 20mph; 18 seconds if the moving cars are going at 30mph. At a speed limit of 70mph, the waiting time goes up to 28 seconds:

Graph 4: Waiting times for 10th queuing car for different speed limits


The waiting times for the 100th car in the queue are, respectively, 177 seconds, 197 seconds, and 301 seconds at 20mph, 30mph, and 70mph:

Graph 5: Waiting times for 100th queuing car for different speed limits

If the queue gets up to a 1000 cars (that is about 5km long and I have certainly been in queues as long as that) waiting times for the last car in the queue goes up to 30 minutes, 33 minutes, and 51 minutes at 20mph, 30mph, and 70mph,


The main argument in favour of 20mph speed limits in built-up areas is road safety. The calculations presented above are, therefore, only of partial relevance to this particular debate. Moreover, most of those calculations are based on what happens when the roads are fully saturated with traffic. This is encountered often enough, but will vary in different locations and at different times of day.

Nonetheless, the point has been established that, given the simplifying assumptions detailed below in Methodology, lower speed limits will, in certain circumstances, keep traffic moving and get more cars along the road in a given time than higher driving speeds would. These kinds of considerations are the basis of variable speed reductions on smart motorways, which keep traffic flowing in situations where it would grind to a complete halt if everyone tried to drive at 70mph.

Far from being a way to persecute motorists, the enforcement of slower driving often improves life for car drivers and their passengers, while killing fewer pedestrians, cyclists, and animals in the process.



Graph 1 simply uses the equation for time, distance, and velocity[iii] [t=s/v] to calculate the Y-axis values.

Graph 2 adds thinking distance to braking distance to provide stopping distance. Thinking distance is assumed to be 0.7 seconds in line with the Highway Code estimate[iv]. Braking distance is calculated using the equation for distance, final velocity [which is 0 after braking], initial velocity, and acceleration [s=(v2-u2)/2a]. Acceleration is calculated using the formula for acceleration, force and mass [a=F/m] and assumes a braking force of 7 Newtons per kg of car – an assumption that provides braking distance broadly in line with those given in the Highway Code[v].

Graph 3 divides 60 seconds by the time to travel the stopping distance at the relevant speed plus the time to travel a car length at the relevant speed. The time to travel the stopping distance and the time to travel a car length are calculated using t=s/v and an average car-length is assumed to be 4m in line with the Highway Code assumption[v].

Graphs 4 and 5 divide the queue position minus 1 by the throughput per second.

All the calculations are based on average cars, and no attempt has been made to factor in larger vehicles like busses and lorries. There has also been no attempt to take account of overtaking or changing lanes – as might happen on a motorway or dual carriageway.


Cold Lonely Puritans

 or reckless hedonists?

I’ve been listening to Ian Dunt and Dorian Lynskey talking about climate change denial on one of their two-part Origin Story podcasts[i]

and would enjoin you to do likewise. The subject is very interesting in its own right and Ian and Dorian do a splendid job of examining its history and background; but I want to pick out a particular thread from their observations.

Ian and Dorian rightly point out that oil money has played a big role in funding all kinds of utterly cynical mendacity in this field. What caught my attention more, however, was their observation that one of the reasons that climate-change denial gains the purchase it does, among all sorts of people with no particular vested interests, is that those warning of the dangers of climate-change come across as puritans who wish to stop us all having a good time. The denialists, on the other hand, tell us we can happily throw all caution to the wind and continue enjoying ourselves.

One can see why that can be a popular message.

But then I remembered some other things I have been reading over the last few days ….

In “In defence of Ozempic (Why the weight-sadists hate the new drug)”[ii]

David Aaronovitch notes that

… if I’ve noticed anything beyond the initial “miracle drug” hype that greeted injectable semaglutide’s arrival, it’s the obvious ambivalence of many of our fellow citizens towards the idea that losing weight should be in any way made easy.

And hot on the heels of that, came an article by Stuart Ritchie on “Why you can ignore the WHO claims that Diet Coke sweetener is a cancer risk”[iii]

in which he confronts the media glee, over claims that aspartame may cause cancer, with some facts and reasoned analysis.

What unites David’s and Stuart’s pieces (in my mind at least) is that they relate (in different ways) to a popular strand of thinking which insists that anything that makes life easier or better or more pleasant, without any obvious costs, must have some hidden dangers or drawbacks; or, at best, is a form of cheating.

So here (cf the context which Ian and Dorian consider above) we seem to have an example whereby the puritanical is also strangely popular.

Of course, one thing that ties the anti-puritans and the puritans together in these examples is an overarching belief that the universe is governed by the same principles that dictate their own thinking. Versions of this belief are extremely common, but extremely misguided (as I tried to illustrate here). The facts of climate science or drugs or nutrients are whatever they are – something to be discovered by scientific enquiry. The universe simply does not care about our moral or ideological commitments or arrange itself to fit in with them.

And the kinds of puritanism and anti-puritanism described (under a belief that the universe is structured in accordance with one’s own prejudices) are often found in the same individual. Melanie Phillips (climate change denialist, purveyor of all kinds of nonsense about recreational drugs …. and anti-vaxxer to boot)[iv] springs to mind here.

So now I confess to being puzzled.

I think we have demonstrated that both puritanism and anti-puritanism can be popular causes with the same group of individuals, or even within the head of the same individual. But I struggle to make sense of this.

How can the madding crown be full of self denialists and equally full of profligates?[v]


Are we on the cusp of developments in genetic coding that will be game changers in how we understand inherent difference between groups?

This being a  question derived from some recent remarks by Matt Goodwin[i] (remarks which I reproduce in full below[ii]).

If you view the complete context for Goodwin’s remarks, they seem to flow from his complaints about "diversity" policies at Universities and a story in the Telegraph about white students allegedly being blocked from applying for a course at Cambridge University. It is not entirely clear why Goodwin suddenly starts talking about health differences between groups in the context of differences (or the absence thereof) in academic achievement between groups, but, in either case, similar principles apply and we can address the question posed in the title.

I suppose the short answer to this question is “probably not”, or at least, “probably not in the way that Matt Goodwin imagines".

There are many reasons for my saying this but I should like to focus on just one of them.

Most human genetic traits are polygenic in nature rather than controlled by a single gene.

Perhaps you remember school-textbook pictures like this:


Figure 1 Simple four-generation Mendelian Pedigree of Brown and Blue eyes[iii]

Now there is nothing wrong with diagrams like this are far as they go, but it turns out that, even eye colour, is a lot more complicated than our school textbooks would suggest and is controlled by dozens of genes working together in complex waysiii.

And when it come to things like height, or academic ability, or health conditions, or nearly everything actually, the genetics gets really really complicated.

So why is polygenic (cf monogenic) control such a big deal? 

After all, one might reason, I used to naively imagine that there was only one gene for being good at cricket (or whatever) and now I know that there are twenty-seven genes for being good at cricket and I can search for the presence of this set of genes in different groups of people and thereby make generalizations about the average cricket-abilities of those different groups.

But, as the song goes, “It ain’t necessarily so!”

Let us pursue a simple thought experiment:

We note that some people in Littleengland have a condition called “Dysportia[iv]” which renders them incapable of understanding or successfully joining in any sporting activities. We then discover that everyone in Littleengland with Dysportia has genes A and B (whereas everyone else in Littleengland has A, or B, or neither, but never both together.

Ah ha, we conclude, we have discovered the genes for Dysportia!

But then we investigate Farflungland where everyone has the AB gene pair but nobody has Dysportia. So what is going on? Well it turns out that everyone in Littleengland, and nobody in Farflungland, also has gene C – which, it transpires, is necessary to make the AB gene pair do its thing.

But then we investigate Evenfurtherawyland where everybody has gene C but nobody has the AB gene pair; and yet (we find) Dysportia is quite common in Evenfurtherawyland. Of course, it then turns out that the people in Evenfurtherawyland with Dysportia have the gene triple DEF that (in combination with gene C) has the same effects as AB (in combination with gene C).

This is already mind-boggling complicated and we are talking about a 100% genetic condition controlled by a handful of genes with all or nothing effects – genes that are incredibly neatly and conveniently distributed amongst our chosen groups.

In any real situation, every finding would be statistical rather all-or-nothing; environmental factors would play a major role; there would be all sorts of “noise” in the data; the various genes involved would be very untidily distributed across the different groups; and there might be hundred of genes and countless gene interactions involved.

This does not imply that we shall not expand our understanding of the genetics of Dysportia enormously over the coming decades but, in the meantime, if you want to employ some people who are good at (say) cricket, you are probably better off putting them on a pitch and throwing balls at them than asking to see their genomes or considering which groups they are from.


NB if you wish to become a lot better informed about human genetics, the limits of our understanding thereof, "groups", and the dangers of "a little learning" in these areas, you could do a lot worse than to read Adam Rutherford's splendid books:

How to Argue With a Racist: History, Science, Race and Reality 



Matthew Cobb's splendid book:

The Genetic Age: Our Perilous Quest To Edit Life

[i] Director of the Legatum Institutes Centre for UK Prosperity https://www.openforumevents.co.uk/speakers/professor-matthew-goodwin/

[ii] “We are on the cusp of developments with genetic coding … and science that are going to be complete game changers in how we understand health, medicine, life-expectancy … all of that stuff. So the idea that there are not inherent differences between groups is just going to be completely unsustainable …I mean it already is, if you look at the evidence, but over the next 5 to 10 years it’s going to look utterly ridiculous as a lot of this research and evidence comes through.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gbQ9UNPy23g&ab_channel=Triggernometry 

[iii] Mackey, D.A. What colour are your eyes? Teaching the genetics of eye colour & colour vision. Edridge Green Lecture RCOphth Annual Congress Glasgow May 2019. Eye 36, 704–715 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41433-021-01749-x

[iv] I have this condition.


Britain’s "New Elite" and the Gary Lineker furore


"Nothing better illustrates how out of touch Britain’s New Elite are with the rest of us than the Gary Lineker furore"

writes Matthew Goodwin in the Daily Mail

My comments in blue.

There are moments in politics when the governing classes pull back the curtain and reveal themselves to be dangerously out of touch with the rest of the country. We have just had one such moment.

We are talking about a football commentator. The “governing classes” fully support Matthew Goodwin’s views.

Had you listened to the hysterical support for Gary Lineker after he idiotically compared Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s plans to stop illegal migrants crossing the Channel with Nazi Germany, then you might have been left with the impression that the British people oppose this policy.

Gary Lineker did not compare Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s plans to stop illegal migrants crossing the Channel with Nazi Germany. He said that the language used to talk about such policies was similar to that used in Germany in the 1930s – i.e. during the lead-up to the worst Nazi crimes. The support (or otherwise) of “the British people” (a YouGov poll suggested that the public thought the BBC were wrong to suspend Gary Lineker) is A) a different question, and B) irrelevant to the morality of Sunak’s plans.

From his fellow sports presenters who refused to appear on Match Of The Day in Lineker’s absence, to TV personalities such as Carol Vorderman and Emily Maitlis, as well as the usual raft of virtue-signalling politicians and pundits on the Left, the outrage over his very temporary suspension from the BBC dominated the media for days.

Perhaps people who signal their virtue are able to do so because they really are more virtuous than those who signal their maleficence? Perhaps they simply agreed with Lineker.

‘I have never known such love and support in my life than I’m getting this morning (England World Cup goals aside, possibly),’ gushed Lineker. ‘I want to thank each and every one of you. It means a lot. I’ll continue to try and speak up for those poor souls that have no voice. Cheers all.’

And yet the truth is that most people think his views on illegal migrants are plain wrong.

Is this true (see above)? Even if it is true that does not make his views wrong (see the argumentum ad populum fallacy).

More than half of Britain, including at least 80 per cent of Conservative Party voters, believe it is entirely acceptable to remove illegal migrants from Britain and block them from returning to the country in the future.

See again the argumentum ad populum fallacy. But that aside, there’s a problem with the notion of “illegal migrants”. These are people who cross the Channel in small boats (not in itself illegal) and request asylum. The UK government has passed laws that kind of make this “illegal” but (as I understand it) UK law may now be in breach of international law. A lot of this has yet to be tested and I’m not aware of any successful prosecutions of asylum seekers under the UK’s new laws.

How do I know this? Because I have been conducting polls that show it to be true.

I think I prefer to take more notice of truly independent polling by reputable bodies that don’t have a personal axe to grind.

These are not just one-off opinions. Consistently, over the past six months, while holding voter focus groups from the Red Wall to the Tory shires, I have found that most people want a harder, not softer, approach to dealing with the immigration crisis.

Remember that “holding voter focus groups” basically means Goodwin discussing his views with (hopefully) random groups of people. It is not an entirely worthless way of investigating how people think about various issues but it is no substitute for objective and quantitative measures of public opinion.

And only a small minority think it’s acceptable for European courts and conventions to block decisions about Britain’s borders that are made here in Britain by democratically elected British politicians.

Erm, it was democratically elected British politicians who created these institutions and/or signed up to abide by their judgments. And courts can’t really “block decisions about Britain’s borders”, they decide things like whether or not we are complying with our own laws or with international rules we have signed up to. Again, what the majority may or may not think here is only tangentially relevant.

So, what explains the hysteria against the Prime Minister’s plans on small boats?

The fact that they are arguably unethical, probably illegal, and certainly unworkable?

The answer is the power of the elite minority that’s behind it. And this is merely the latest example of how Britain and its institutions have been taken over by a new ruling class which has lost touch with much of the country it claims to represent.

Ah. We have “been taken over by a new ruling class”. I thought we were ruled by “democratically elected British politicians”?

It’s not just on small boats but a wide range of issues. An enormous gulf has now opened between those who dominate Britain’s politics, institutions and culture, and the much larger number of people who have to live with the consequences of their disastrous policies.

But our politics is entirely dominated by people who share Matt Goodwin’s view on asylum seekers. Their “disastrous policies” include taking years to process asylum claims (apparently in the mistaken belief that doing so discourage asylum applications) and warehousing asylum seekers in hotels rather than processing their claims and returning them to safe places like Albania (if they come from a safe country and their applications are found to be unfounded) or granting asylum and allowing those refugees to begin contributing to the UK’s economy. After all, our “ruling class” is accepting record numbers of immigrants (despite having ended freedom of movement). If numbers are the problem, we could cut the number of immigrants to match the much smaller number of refugees.

As for our “institutions and culture”, what does Matt Goodwin propose? A kind of new McCarthyism? “Are you now being or have you ever been kind to a foreigner?”

The ever-higher numbers on mass immigration; the rise of an oppressive ‘cancel culture’; the deeply worrying imposition of ‘woke’ policies in our schools, universities and other public sector bodies; the denigration of British identity and history; the obsession with diversity, sex and gender; none of these commands popular support and every one of them has come about as a result of this New Elite.

“The ever-higher numbers on mass immigration” are the explicit policy of our current democratically elected government. They are doing exactly what they said they would do after they ended freedom of movement. I don’t think people like Gary Lineker are responsible for any of this.

Okay, “Cancel culture” is a problem. See how (for example) Professor Kathleen Stock was treated at Sussex by smoke-bomb throwing protesters in balaclavas. But smoke-bomb throwing protesters in balaclavas are not exactly the ruling elite. In fact, the ruling elite has been busy making all sorts of protest illegal. On the other hand, Gary Lineker was cancelled by the BBC (for a while) and loudly decried by members of the actual ruling elite … and by Matt Goodwin.

“The denigration of British identity and history”? I suppose Matt G means teaching the facts about Britain’s role in things like slavery, famines, subjugation of foreign countries etc?

“The obsession with diversity, sex and gender”? Well this one is rather complicated! Just to take one example: J K Rowling – who is the bête noir of many people who champion trans rights – is fully behind Lineker when it comes to the plight of asylum seekers and when it comes to many other “woke” causes. So the notion that there is a monolithic pro-trans-rights pro-asylum-seekers “ruling elite” seems somewhat wide of the mark.

This chasm between those who rule us and much of the rest of the population is already having profound consequences.

Again, “those who rule us” are people like Rishi Sunak and Suella Braverman – the people who have Matt Goodwin’s and (according to him) the people’s full support.

It is making Britain more and more difficult to govern and leading to an increase in rebellions and populism.

I presume this is a reference to the mob setting fire to a police car outside a hotel housing asylum seekers? But isn’t “populism” more the endorsement (active or tacit) of, or stirring up of, such behaviour by politicians and propagandists rather than the behaviour itself?

The rise of Nigel Farage, and the fact that 17 million people voted for Brexit in the 2016 referendum were, to my mind, direct consequences of the disdain this New Elite holds for the majority.

But Matt Goodwin supports Nigel Farage’s views on asylum seekers and his views on Brexit. In any case, the research suggests that there are no simple (or single) explanations for the Brexit vote. Support for Brexit does not correlate well with any other set of opinions or demographic category – save perhaps for support for the death penalty (see e.g. Brexit Voters: Not the Left-Behind – from an academic who shares many of Goodwin’s values).

And when Boris Johnson won an astonishing mandate by listening to voters, the New Elite took every opportunity to denigrate him and his popular policies.

Boris Johnson was denigrated and then deposed by Matt Goodwin’s heroes on his own side for breaking rules (some of which he had created) and lying about what he had done. And the people who have replaced him are far less liberal in their attitudes towards foreigners than Boris Johnson is.

By ignoring the views of the majority, I believe it is playing with fire. If things carry on as they are, the drumbeat of rebellion will only grow — as I explain in my new book Values, Voice And Virtue: The New British Politics.

“The drumbeat of rebellion will only grow”. Hmm. I thought this was all about democratic expression? So if mob violence does start to grow, I wonder which side Matt G will be on.

This sounds a bit like the man who appears in your restaurant and warns you that you might be at risk from some other people setting fire to it.

The title reflects what the New Elite is doing to ordinary people. It is spurning their values and imposing its own ‘progressive’ nostrums on them. It is stifling their voice by ignoring their opinions. And it is failing to credit them for their virtues — of patriotism and community, for example — by dismissing them as out of date and morally inferior.

“Patriotism and community”. Hmm! I mean Goodwin does have a bit of a point here, but one that has also been made by “woke” commentators like Owen Jones and Billy Bragg – both of whom support asylum seekers (and trans rights). Life is complicated!

The New Elite has been on manoeuvres for decades. It consists predominantly of middle-class professionals who went to the most prestigious Oxbridge and Russell Group universities, individuals who mostly come from affluent and privileged families.

They tend to live in the big cities and university towns, to marry and socialise with fellow members of the elite: people who, over the last 50 years, benefited handsomely from an economy that was reshaped around the prosperous South East with an emphasis on academic rather than vocational achievement.

Well yes, we still live in a class society and individuals who come from affluent and privileged families tend to go to Oxbridge and Russell Group universities and do better in life. But what is to be done about this? And what has this got to do with refugees?

BTW, Gary Winston Lineker came from a family that ran a fruit and veg stall in Leicester Market and left school with four O levels.

Britain has always been dominated by an elite, of course. But in days gone by the governing classes had much more in common with the millions of ordinary people who shared their nation.

“In days gone by”.

Okay let’s take the 1930s since we’re on the subject.

The governing classes (including the Royal Family) were hopelessly split between support for and opposition to Hitler. The ordinary people were too – though many were also indifferent.

Even after we went to war, the divisions continued. Winston Churchill (who was a great wartime leader who we were lucky to have but also a white supremacist and antisemite) led an ultimately successful fight against German fascism and much of the British governing classes. It's probably true to say that “the ordinary people” only fell fully in line behind the war effort after the end of the “Phoney War” and (later) Operation Barbarossa (though we didn’t really have sophisticated polling going on in those days).

After the War, the ordinary people voted Churchill out of office.

Again, it’s all very complicated and trying to apply Goodwin’s simplistic analyses here would be ridiculous.

Certainly, they were very rich but they also shared the instinctively conservative outlook of voters who believed in Britain, its history, and saw the best not the worst in the country.

Some of us see the truth in our country – like the fact the Churchill won a great victory over German fascism but also denied help to famine victims in Bengal to stop them “breeding like rabbits”.

The truth about Britain is complicated. There’s much to be proud of and some things to be ashamed of.

This is what I mean by the ‘values’ in the title of my book. The values of the majority chimed with those of the elite — both parties understood and, to a certain extent, sympathised with each other.

Well yes. In 1930s Britain, I suppose most ordinary people shared the ruling elite’s view that we shouldn’t let in "floods" of Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany. Fortunately, some ordinary people (at Liverpool docks for example) ignored the values of the majority and smuggled such people in. Many lives were saved as a result.

In contrast, members of the New Elite are defined by values that could not be more different — and foremost by their strongly liberal views.

“Members of the New Elite”. Are we talking the ruling elite (very much on Matt G’s side) or graduates from good universities or entertainers in the public eye or what?

They have in common a tendency to prioritise the rights of minorities over the rights of the majority and an insistence on rapid and relentless social and cultural change — for example by redefining the definition of a woman, or pushing through endless measures to boost diversity.

As noted, there’s huge controversy and differences of opinion about “redefining the definition of a woman”[i] among people who don’t support Matt Goodwin’s values when it comes to refugees. But on diversity, a moment ago Matt G was complaining that people from poor backgrounds are under represented in our institutions and national life. If we are going to fix that, surely we need more measures to boost diversity? Or is making our institutions more representative of our population only a problem when those involved are brown or whatever?

They support the march towards globalisation — the closer interdependence of economies across the world — which routinely puts the interests of big business ahead of the national community.

“They”. Again, who is this “they”? Daniel Hannan?

They are less concerned about the notion of national borders than most of us, which explains their strong desire for a much softer approach towards the small boats.

I don’t even know what this means. We have a controlled sea border with France, and also with NI (though it’s part of our nation), and an open land border with the EU (in Ireland). These are facts not “notions”. I’m not quite sure what any of this has got to do with our attitudes towards people seeking asylum.

On many of these issues, the Left-leaning New Elite are often in a galaxy of their own, with views — or ‘values’ — that are simply not shared by much of the rest of the country.

Ah! So the New Elite is ruling and pro-globalist and pro-big-business and left-leaning and in its own galaxy? That explains it then.

And what really sets them apart from the old Right-leaning elite is their open scepticism about the things that have long held Britain together — our remarkable history, and our very distinctive national culture, traditions and ways of life.

We do have a remarkable history: Neolithic farmers from Spain via Belgium, Beaker people (probably) from central Europe, Gauls, Romans, the Scotti (from Ireland), Saxons, Vikings, Normans (originally from Scandinavia but, by then, from France), Flemings (from Belgium), Roma (originally from India), Huguenots (France), South Asians, Irish people (again), Africans, Germans (again), Belgians (again), Jews, Italians (again) … and, since the 1930s, people from the entire world. All of these people have contributed to our national culture, traditions and ways of life.

Whereas members of the old elite derived their sense of status by projecting their wealth and inherited family connections, the New Elite derives its self-worth from what it perceives to be moral righteousness over others, whether in the present day or in the past — insisting wrongly, for instance, that Britain is institutionally racist or that the Empire was universally evil.

Well it’s hard to speak for the intergalactic New Elite so (from now on) I’ll simply provide my own reflections:

Until relatively recent times, Britain was certainly, and deeply, institutionally racist. It’s changed a great deal for the better in my lifetime but there’s still work to be done.

It is evil to invade and subjugate people in other parts of the world but I also recognize that we exported things like education and democracy and advanced technology to some of those countries and thereby did sometimes did much good.

Like everything, it’s complicated.

Unlike a large swathe of Britain, the New Elite disparages its country and feels less attached than others to our shared national identity. Its members are less likely to see Britishness as an important part of who they are, and more likely to see it as a source of shame and embarrassment.

I used to feel quite proud to be British. Post Brexit I do find my Britishness more of an embarrassment when I mix with other Europeans. I’m not sure how to fix this.

So there is a yawning gap between the values of the New Elite and the majority. But what about the ‘voice’ — namely, do the majority of people any longer feel they have a voice that is heard and respected in our politics and culture?

Gary Lineker, in that tweet supporting the people who arrive here on boats across the Channel, lamented the fact that these “poor souls” have “no voice”. But my contention is that it is the majority of Britons who now have no voice.

Well apart from the Daily Telegraph, the Daily Mail, the Sun, the Daily Express, GBNews.…..

Over the past half-century, members of the new middle-class graduate elite have not only reshaped Westminster and much of the prevailing culture around their strongly liberal values. They have also, as I say, taken over almost all of the most important and influential institutions, where their voice now booms out to the rest of the country through a megaphone while the voice of others is silenced.

Matt G mustn’t read any of our most widely sold newspapers; or watch BBC Question Time, or listen to the Today programme, or have noticed who currently runs the BBC or our national Parliament.

Just look around. The House of Commons, the civil service, the creative industries, the cultural institutions, the BBC and a large swathe of the media, the charities and the NGOs, the public bodies, and the universities, are all now dominated by an elite graduate class who talk a great deal about diversity but are themselves not diverse at all.

As just noted, the House of Commons and the BBC are currently dominated by an elite graduate class who share Matt Goodwin’s enthusiasm for the indefinite incarceration of all asylum seekers (while we exile a few hundred of them to Rwanda to show how tough we are).

And “diversity” again? I’m losing track of whether our institutions should reflect the diversity of our population or should not. Our prime minister and home secretary are on Matt G’s side, but neither of them are poor and white it's true.

They went to the same schools, the same universities, share the same values and a view that the voice of people who come from different backgrounds, who hold different views, should either be silenced or stigmatised as unacceptable, as an underclass of racists, gammons, Karens and bigots.

Well they all went to different schools and different universities and have a range of values. But, yes, the elite graduates who dominate our Parliament and who share Matt G’s values do despise poor people; but these elite graduates have been busily engaged for many years in encouraging this demographic group to blame their plight on foreigners. None of them openly refer to the underclass as “racists, gammons, Karens and bigots”. They want those votes.

Today, a large majority of workers and people who do not belong to the graduate class feel that ‘people like me have no say in politics’. And they are right to feel this way.

A valid point and one often made by people like Owen Jones – who disagree with Matt G on almost everything else he says.

The blunt reality in Britain today is that if you come from the working class, have not graduated from one of the elite Oxbridge or Russell Group universities, and hold a more traditionalist set of values, then you have been pushed out of the national conversation about who we are as a country.

Again, has Matt G ever watched BBC Question Time?

Look at the Labour Party, for goodness sake, the ‘party of the working class’. Whereas Labour used to ensure there was a wide range of voices in our politics, ever since the era of Neil Kinnock the number of Labour MPs who have previously held a working-class job has completely collapsed, from 64 to just seven today. Like one of those strange creatures on a David Attenborough documentary, the working-class MP has become an endangered species.

Working-class MPs have become an endangered species but do any of those left agree with Matt G’s views on refugees?

Remarkably, Labour MPs are now more likely than Conservative ones to belong to the graduate class and are a staggering 20 times more likely than the average voter to have a degree from either Oxford or Cambridge.

Why this this statistic “staggering”? I’m surprised it’s not greater.

And when it comes to their professional ‘experience’, the largest single group of MPs in Westminster today are political careerists — people who have only ever worked in politics.

Yep! This is a problem too. But, as Lenin asked, “Что делать?”.And if there were more factory workers (also an endangered species) in Parliament, is there any guarantee that such individuals would share Matt G’s antipathy towards refugees?

We have entered, in other words, a ‘diploma democracy’, in which the entire political system has been skewed around the graduate minority at the expense of the forgotten non-graduate majority.

Well except that the forgotten non-graduate majority regularly vote for the graduate minority who do share Matt G’s antipathy towards refugees.

Understandably, this has left millions of voters with a palpable sense they have no voice at all. When people look at the adverts on television, the museums, the latest book releases, the BBC home-page, the newspaper columns, they often feel they are living in a foreign country, a world that is simply no longer interested in listening to, or hearing from, people like them.

“The adverts on television”? The ones designed to appeal to as many people as possible so they can sell more stuff? “The museums, the latest book releases” – seriously? “The newspaper columns”. What? “They often feel they are living in a foreign country” – well I suppose they are as far as 99% of the world’s population is concerned. And we have a brown leader too! But one who is fully on side with Matt G and all the white working-class voters who hate refugees.

Just look at the adverts on television at the moment — do they look like a realistic portrayal of Britain to you? Or do they reflect the world of the New Elite?

Ah! “The adverts on television”. Again!

Yes they look like a realistic portrayal of Britain to me – though not always literally. Families with brown and white people in the same family are not as common as some adverts might suggest. But my interpretation has always been that the advertisers are trying to represent the country as a whole within the microcosm of a single family. I think this works quite well. And the advertisers must be finding it does too or they’d do something else.

As polling shows, around half of viewers believe that ethnic minority and LGBT communities are over-represented on television.

Viewers may believe this. That doesn’t necessarily make it true.

And now this profound sense that people’s values and their voice are being written out of the story, is being compounded by something else — how today’s elite now think that only certain groups in Western societies have virtue, while others are morally inferior and to be stripped of social status.

Funnily enough, some of the strongest claims of moral superiority I’ve encountered in life came from better off white working class people talking about poor working class people in the “underclass”. The educated “elite” always seem far more sympathetic to the people in the underclass. But perhaps Matt G has different experiences.

Let’s be clear. Increasingly, the New Elite is reshaping British society around an entirely new hierarchy. At the top, with the most status, esteem and recognition are the elite graduates and racial, sexual, and gender minorities, who score points simply because of their minority identity.

At the top we have Rishi Sunak (from a “racial” minority) who got there because he is stinking rich and was up against a narcissistic congenital liar and, unlike that narcissistic congenital liar, could actually answer questions using coherent sentences when he stood beside him. He also got there because we are no longer the institutionally racist country that we were – in a past which Matt G seems to romanticize. And as I keep having to point out, this top elite graduate from a racial minority wants us to be just as beastly towards refugees as Matt G and all the white, straight, working-class, non-graduate “traditionalists” who voted for Sunak's party do.

At the bottom are the white working class, straight men, non-graduates, and those who cling to more traditionalist views, such as supporting Brexit.

See above.

But what is “traditional” about supporting Brexit?

One powerful symbol of this is how white working class kids have been treated. While elite universities have fallen over themselves to recruit minority ethnic children, their white counterparts have been left behind.

So I looked this up. It seems that 24.2% of students getting AAA or above at A level are “Black and Minority Ethnic” and the proportion of students at Oxford (who’d normally require AAA or above at A level) who are “Black and Minority Ethnic” is 24.6%. This looks about right to me.

The New Elite, of course, denies this is happening, but recently the University of Cambridge was revealed to have initially advertised a programme for under-privileged students only to those from minority ethnic backgrounds, while failing to mention their white counterparts.

Reference? Anyway, if they did this “initially”, that suggests they have now corrected their mistake. How common are such mistakes and what do they really tell us?

Another symbol is how the New Elite has shovelled money into expanding the universities while failing, for much of the past 30 years, to invest seriously in further education and technical colleges. Once again, if you belong to the wrong group you are simply not taken seriously, not shown respect.

I agree! We should invest far more in further education and technical colleges. Britain has always awarded far too little status to people with manual skills. But if you really want to belong to “the wrong group” (in the Matt G sense of “wrong”) I guess you need to be a brown, gay, middle-class, graduate, modernist, refugee … or something?

People are not idiots. Up and down the country, many of them can now keenly sense that their values, their voice and their sense of virtue are being undermined, if not ignored.

I’m afraid that some people are idiots, but I’m to polite to say whom I’m thinking of.

This is why, over the past decade, so many have been rebelling.

You should see the French!

And unless the New Elite does a better job of listening to the forgotten millions — by ensuring their values are represented in the national conversation, by giving them a voice in the institutions, and by showing them as much respect as they show to the elite and minorities — then the cry of rebellion will be deafening. And the chance of successfully governing this country will disappear altogether.

So, in summary, “the elites” have to start being even more beastly towards foreigners and minorities or the forgotten millions will form a huge pitch-fork mob and overthrow the democracy that gave us the Rwanda policy?


As we have seen, not everything Matt Goodwin writes is complete nonsense. Poor people and less well-educated people in Britain really are often looked down upon. The question is whether such people looking down even harder on people in an even worse plight than theirs will help them in any way. And whether the rest of us should join in.

But most of what Matt Goodwin writes is complete nonsense.

People in the UK vary: by wealth and income, by education levels, by ethnicity, by age, by the social milieu they grew up in, by the amount of political power they wield, by social attitudes and values, and so on. But none of these parameters correlate in a simple fashion and if we delve into one of them – such as social attitudes and values – we discover a plethora of new criss-crossing dimensions. There are left-wing Brexiters and right-wing trans-rights supporters and supporters of every possible permutation of views imaginable. Matt G’s notion that we all cluster into “the elite” and “the people” is simply risible (as his attempts to characterize these "groups" reveal).

And this division between “the elite” and “the people” used in the service of a propaganda campaign to otherize another group of people really is redolent of the language of the 1930s.

[i] I suppose he means redefining the word “woman”.