On this week’s episode, we look at conservatism’s apparent decline, how society has responded to the Grenfell Tower tragedy, and whether young people have had their critical faculties vanquished by a certain boy wizard.
First up: This time last year many were wondering whether the left, in Britain and abroad, was in terminal decline. The Brexit vote and Trump’s shock victory seemed only to compound that, and yet, just a few months later, the Spectator now has a cover piece, by Fraser Nelson, declaring that conservatism needs saving. How did we get here? And can anything be done about it? To discuss this, Fraser joined the podcast along with Michael Heseltine.
As Fraser writes in his piece:
“The Conservatives recognise their capacity for self-destruction. Theresa May has survived because they’ve applied the lessons of last summer, or perhaps of the Iraq war: toppling a leader is easy but the ensuing tribal warfare is the killer. The Tories are divided on Brexit, on the deficit, on where they went wrong in the election and what they should stand for now. Such disagreements were suppressed until 8 June because they agreed to fight a vacuous campaign on a managerialist platform promising ‘strong and stable’ government. Its failure has left them facing awkward questions: not so much who should lead us, but who are we? What do we stand for? What is the point of us?”
Next, after the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower last week, the local community has been galvanised in support of victims, residents and all the families affected. This, argues Danny Kruger in the magazine this week, is a demonstration that when the middle classes rally round a cause, they can be more effective than any government. Danny joins the podcast, along with the Guardian’s Dawn Foster.
As Danny writes:
“In the week after the disaster we saw the power of sharp-elbowed types who don’t take nonsense from council officers and know how to get what they need from dim-witted service providers. They are not all upper middle class: a place like North Kensington has its share of canny people of all backgrounds. But there is a reason free schools are mostly in affluent areas. Privileged people have that much-mocked ‘entitlement’ to which we really are all entitled in a free country: the right to try and get things done oneself.”
And finally, it was 20 years ago this summer that children – and parents – around the world were first captivated by the magic of the wizarding world. Kids who were raised on an unrefined diet of Harry Potter are now leading a moralistic revolution, claims Lara Prendergast in the magazine, because they cannot help but see the world as a battle between good and evil. Lara joins me now along with the Spectator’s Nick Hilton.
Lara writes that:
“Corbyn may not be Dumbledore, the benevolent headmaster of Hogwarts, but I suspect the majority of Potter fans prefer him to May. The Prime Minister said during the campaign that she was a fan of the books — all politicians have to do so now — yet she refused to compare herself to any of the characters. This was not a good enough answer, so the Potterverse decided for her: May was Dolores Umbridge, a sinister bureaucrat who tortures Harry.”