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Defending The First Paragraph of Red Tory

Phillip Blond continues his debate with Sunder Katwala of the Fabian Society first started on the Next Left blog and answered here

Now that the election is over – I have some time to return to my old pastime of exchanging analysis and debate with the good people at Next Left. Red Tory has evoked some amusing and hysterical reactions from the libertarian right and left – but Sunder and I have had an engaged and engaging discussion over the past months. So to kick this all off once more – Sunder was challenging much of my description of contemporary Britain in the opening paragraph of Red Tory. Well here is a response - Sunder's counterclaims are listed at the top of each section and some of the reasons why I argued the opposite are given below. I am grateful to Jonathan West of ResPublica for the research below.

Next Left Claim: “Britain is a high trust society”

Well I think Britain has real reservoirs of trust but the evidence both comparative and domestic suggest that we are rapidly draining these resources and are becoming a low trust culture. For instance fewer than half of Britons trust the people in their own neighbourhoods. Only 30% agree that “most people can be trusted” – down from 60% in the 1950s and moving in the opposite direction from Sweden (68%) and Norway (74%).[1] Sharing common characteristics with other people doesn't seem to mitigate our lack of trust, Edelman's 2010 Trust Index states that just 35% of Britons agree that they'd trust a “person like me,” a 16 point drop over two years.[2]

This lack of trust extends beyond our own communities and encompasses virtually all of the social and economic institutions on which we rely. Trust in the UK media has fallen from a peak of 38% in 2007 to 27% in 2010. Trust globally in the media for 2010 was 44%.[3] Similarly, trust in the UK government has fallen 6 points from the beginning of 2009 to 35%.[4] Consequently, national trust in the British government is on a par with Russia, with only the Italian government polling worse amongst the world's top ten countries by GDP.[5] Less than half the UK population (49%, in 2010) trust businesses generally.[6] Banks are the least trusted industry in Britain polling only 21% down from 41% in 2007.[7] This is well below the global aggregate for 2010, of 48%,[8] and worse even than the 29% US banks managed, despite their being the epicentre of the recent global economic crisis.[9]

New Left Claim: “Violent crime has fallen over the past 15 years”

My point in the book was long term rises in crime I do not dispute the levelling off of crime statistics over the past 10 – 15 years but this remark points back to the post war increase where crime started rising in the late 1940's steepened again in the 1960's and accelerated away in the 1970's. While crime rates have declined to levels similar to the British Crime Survey's baseline year of 1981, they remain extremely high from a wider historical perspective. Between 1940 and 1981, recorded crime increased by nearly 600%.[10] In fact, even after recent declines, “the average citizen (who, in Britain, is aged 39) has lived through a fourfold increase in overall crime during the course of his or her lifetime.”[11] This is what I am trying to capture and I think the perception of a high crime rate is actually related to this long term generational rise in crime – in account of current fears people tend not to relate back to the immediate experience of past years but to much earlier perceptions often narrated by their parents or grandparent and in this as evidenced above in discerning high levels of crime – they are not wrong.

Britain has become a “walk on by” society, where people tolerate and ignore crime. According to survey findings, only one-in-four Britons would intervene to stop teenagers from vandalising a bus shelter (the lowest rate of any OECD society).[12] According to another survey, 35% of people would not even call the police after witnessing a group of teenagers writing graffiti on a school wall. [13]

Claim: “Racism in Britain has declined significantly in my lifetime”

My sense is that racism is returning- which is exactly what I said in Red Tory – particularly amongst the indigenous white working class groups who were marginalised and ignored for so long. The anecdotal evidence about concern at immigrations levels that all MP's report from election canvassing is but one soft indication of this, (though of course concern at immigration levels is not racist) the hard indication or outflow of this is though the continuing rise of the BNP. Contrary to much post election analysis – the BNP are continuing to experience a rise in support even if their pursuit of political office has been checked by the diluting effects of higher turnout. The rise of the British National Party is totemic of a rise in racial tension in Britain. In local elections, the BNP vote has increased from 3,022 votes in 2000 to 238,000 in 2006, their highest overall vote in local elections to date.[14] In the general election, the BNP vote has increased from a recent low of 553 in 1987, to 7,631 in 1992, to 192,746 in 2005, and 562,000 this May. The BNP's electoral gains are indicated by the increase in saved deposits at general elections. The BNP saved 3 deposits in 1992, 34 in 2005[15] and 72 this year[16]. Votes per candidate have also been slowly, but steadily increasing from 1,428 in 2001 to 1,621 in 2005 to 1,670 for 2010.[17]

Claim: “Working hours have in fact been falling”

The rise in working hours that I talked about in Red Tory clearly refers to household hours and the collapse of familial time. And what I am trying to capture here is the widespread sense that people have less and less time to spend with their families – especially if the children are young and both parents work. And I think again as shown below that there is clear evidence for this.

Whilst I was not referring to individualised working hours – at the bottom and top of society many individuals work very long hours indeed – at the bottom single parents trying to survive without benefits and on low wage labour tend to work as many hours as possible – at the top the pressures of success are equally time intensive albeit far more rewarded. The decline in individual working hours is mainly due to women entering the work place and the rise of knowledge based industries. So in the 1970s, the average work week fell to approximately 35 hours per week down from a 50 hour average work week a century earlier, on the back of increasing productivity and increased take up of part-time work, especially by women entering work. However, between the 1980s and 1990s this trend reversed as average working hours increased.[18] While working hours stabilised and declined slightly from the mid 1990s, today 20% of people in employment now work more than 45 hours a week. This may not be as high as some international comparators, such as the US, Japan or Australia, but it is well above EU standards.[19]

In terms of overall household hours worked (which was my point) again this seems fairly definitive. Research by Rosemary Crompton and Clare Lyonette has led them to conclude that despite a decrease in hours worked by men “the total hours worked by families [has] gone up” as a consequence of an increase in women's working hours. This trend in the working hours of family units has been mirrored by a rise in the levels of people reporting stress: 40% of full-time working individuals now claim they are ‘always' or ‘often' stressed at work up from a third in 1989; and 82% of men and 84% of women in full-time employment would prefer more family time.[20]

In turn the decline of family time may well be responsible for UNICEF rating Britain as the lowest amongst 21 OECD countries measured for children's well-being.[21] UNICEF's 2007 report concluded that across its six ‘dimensions of child well-being,' Britain's aggregate score was the poorest. Britain was ranked at the bottom for both the ‘family and peer relationships' and ‘behaviours and risks' dimensions.

In short I stand by all my sentences in the opening of Red Tory and I believe they are and remain the case – which is not to say that we cannot reverse these trends, of course we can and that is what politics is all about – happy to continue on to debating the next paragraph. Sunder we could do a line by line defence/attack on the Red Tory text as the year goes on – I am especially looking forward to offering my view that social conservatism is the new progressivism.

Claim: “There is much less evidence of an entrenched and immobile underclass (contrasted to the US)”

Recent research by Jo Blanden, Paul Gregg and Stephen Machin has shown comparisons of mobility between the US and UK are of the “same order of magnitude” and that despite rising inequality in both countries the trend of declining mobility in Britain “is not replicated in the United States.”[22]

In the UK real incomes (after housing costs) have been declining for the poorest over the past decade.[23] In 2007/08, there were 13.5 million people living in households earning less than 60% of median income, the threshold for poverty, which amounts to less than £115 per week for a single adult with no dependents. This is over one fifth (22%) of the entire population and an increase of 1.5 million compared with just three years earlier. One fifth of people with below-poverty earnings are immobile, remaining in this category persistently. And while many others fall in and out of this category, this means one third of the entire population have been below the poverty line in the past four years.[24]

This situation has serious implications for child poverty. Blanden, Gregg and Machin have shown that, for those born in the poorest 20%, less than 2 in 3 will escape poverty.[25] Consider then that in 2007/08 there were 2.9 million children living on household incomes of less than 60% of Britain's median income before housing costs are taken into account. A figure that increases to 4 million after housing costs are taken into account.[26] This means that one third of the 12million children in the UK live beneath the poverty line.[27]

Conclusion : an ongoing line by line debate?

In short I stand by all my sentences in the opening of Red Tory and I believe they are and remain the case – which is not to say that we cannot reverse these trends, of course we can and that is what politics is all about – happy to continue on to debating the next paragraph. Sunder we could do a line by line defence/attack on the Red Tory text as the year goes on – I am especially looking forward to offering my view that social conservatism is the new progressivism.

[1] Home Office Citizenship 2003 (2004) Home Office Research Studies. p144.
[2] ‘Trust in the UK Press Release.' Edelman Trustbarometer 26 January 2010 p.2
[3] Edelman, Richard. ‘2010 Edelman Trust Barometer.' Edelman Trustbarometer 26 January 2010 p.8
[4] Phillips, Robert. ‘Trust in the UK.' Edelman Trustbarometer 26 January 2010 p.3
[5] Edelman, Richard. ‘2010 Edelman Trust Barometer.' Edelman Trustbarometer 26 January 2010 p.5
[6] Ibid. p.4
[7] Ibid. p.9
[8] Ibid. p.8
[9] Ibid. p.9
[10] Home Office, A Summary of Recorded Crime Data 1898 to 2001/2 (London: Home Office, 2008)
[12] Police Reform Working Group, “A Force To Be Reckoned With” (London: Centre for Social Justice, 2009).
[13] IPPR Freedom's Orphans: Raising Youth in a Changing World. 2006.
[19] Crompton, R. and Lyonette, C. Gender, attitudes to work, and work-life ‘balance' in Britain. 2005
[21]UNICEF ‘Child poverty in perspective: An overview of child well-being in rich countries' Innocenti [22]Report Cards 2007
[23]Social Mobility in Britain: Low and Falling p.1
[24]Poverty Site facts.shtml#work
[25}]Blanden, J. Gregg, P. and Machin, S. Intergenerational Mobility in Europe and North America 2005 p.4
[26]Department for Work and Pensions.
[27]Office for National Statistics.

Comments on: Defending The First Paragraph of Red Tory

Gravatar Matthew Kalman 25 May 2010
One surprising – and unlikely – figure who might prove relevant to the 'Red Tory' synthesis is the pioneer of humanistic (and transpersonal) psychology, Abraham Maslow.r/>r/>Though almost everyone would probably peg him as some kind of liberal, or libertarian – given his milieu – he was actually much more intriguing than that.r/>r/>Maslow’s suggestive arguments in favour of law and order, the forceful father, and against liberals who cannot see the reality of evil would certainly would have him labelled conservative these days.r/>r/>However, despite this foundation of conservative 'realism', Maslow still believes that “philosophical anarchism and decentralization” might be our ultimate goal.r/>r/>It's just that you can't build this stateless and decentralised ideal on the basis of the kind of alienation and cynicism that eventually result from too many years of New Labour-type policies.r/>r/>Though Maslow died long ago, there are various approaches around that seek a more 'integral' approach to politics, nourishing the whole spiral of human growth, rather that retreating into narrow and partial political positions.r/>r/>These include the Integral politics of Ken Wilber (that has caught the attention of people as diverse as Al Gore, Bill Clinton, Charles Taylor and the Bishop of London), and Dr Don Beck's 'Spiral Dynamics'.r/>r/>I look forward to getting round to reading 'Red Tory' some time, to see whether it might be part of this integral wave.r/>r/>Matthew Kalmanr/>r/>
Gravatar Sunder Katwala 21 May 2010
On the "rise of racism", we can study the extent of racist attitudes directly: the BSA evidence shows that there has been a sustained, intergenerational fall in racism, though not of course its elimination. We also have positive shifts in attitudes on gender equality and gay rights.r/>r/>I can't see that anybody is going to seriously contest the claim that there is considerably less racism in Britain today than in the mid-70s. Taking the BNP vote is far too simple an indicator to try to assess the prevalence of racism in Britain. There are too many other factors involved. r/>r/>1. The BNP was founded in 1992, so the "recent low" of 1987 is just a splinter candidacy, while it was an embryonic party in 1992. The picture of rapid growth from nowhere misleads, if one does not look at the family of far right parties and the NF-BNP split. The NF polled 191,719 votes in 1979: almost precisely the total vote of the BNP in 2005, though achieved by a different strategy (of over 300 candidates). r/>r/>Few would think that the fact that the NF/BNP parties did so much worse in 1992 or 1997 than in either 1979 or 2005 can primarily be explained by the virtual disappearance of racism followed by its sharp return. That captures the methodological problem as to why the far right vote in elections can not be treated as the primary indicator of levels of racism in society. r/>r/>This pattern of decline and growth rather reflects the political condition/splits in the various far right fringe parties, in the context of competition from other anti-political appeals to some of the same voters from both fringe and major parties. While the Referendum Party in 1997 was not a racist party and had a broader appeal, it had some appeal to strongly xenophobic voters as one section of its 800,000 voters, for example. r/>r/>2. If one wanted to take the rise of the BNP vote as an indicator of growing racism, one would also have to account first for the impact of the more general phenomenon of voting fragmentation in this period. There are different motivations for voting BNP. Peter Kellner's study of the 2009 European elections suggests around half the BNP vote was strongly motivated by racism; half by more general alienation as an anti-politics, anti-system vote. r/>r/>Of course, I regard the BNP as a racist party. That is the motivation for its leaders and members, whatever they say. Yet it is a curious feature of its new approach that it feels it will appeal to alienated voters only by claiming that it is no longer racist: it feels unable to make the more directly racist arguments which the party was making in 1992 and the NF in the 1970s, and puts its growing electoral success down to this "moderation" strategy. This surely reflects even the racist party's attempts to adapt to a shifting social climate, despite its ideological commitments.r/>r/>3. So a counter hypothesis would be that there was considerably stronger racism in Britain previously, despite there being less BNP/NF voting. r/>r/>For a long time, it was perfectly possible for racist voters and even activists to feel they could find some home within the fringe of the mainstream parties, certainly up to the end of the Cold War. Take the racist by-election campaign in Smethwick (1964); the Monday Club fringe, some of the Hang Nelson Mandela antics of the youth wing. For a rather vivid description of the tolerance of racism in mainstream politics, take Alan Clark's not much disguised fascist sympathies which did not prevent him being given ministerial office. He writes in his "Into Politics" diary about telling his local Tory officials in Plymouth that the NF would never stand a candidate against him "because they know I'm the nearest thing they're likely to get to an MP'. (Chatting with two local NF activists, he muses "How good they were, and how brave is the minority, in a once great country who keep alive the tribal essence"). r/>>r/>Of course, there have always been committed anti-racists in the Tory party too, some who were strong on this issue, such as John Major and Iain MacLeod. But only in the last decade did the Tory party collectively seem to more actively take steps on an internal local culture which quite often seemed content to overlook or condone casual racism. (Take for example the Cheltenham row in 1992, and Ann Winterton MP being sacked from the frontbench for telling a racist joke about Pakistanis in a public speech at a dinner in 2002). r/>r/>There have now been quite strong efforts to be clear at all levels the Tory party does not tolerate racist attitudes. This is a good thing. Racism, having been marginalised and rejected more firmly in the mainstream, may well be voiced primarily from fringe positions. That could be consistent with both less racism and there being less tacit condoning of soft racism from those with significant power, which is important.r/>r/>Rupert's point about the long and short term on race/crime is well made. It is possible there has been an increase in racism post-2001 (esp 9/11) or post-2005 in some spheres: there are others where there is strong evidence to the contrary. It is important to be vigilant about it, but I think we would need some more evidence to know that is the case.
Gravatar Steve Longstaffe 21 May 2010
Philipr/>r/>Interesting stuff, as always. But I worry about your start and endpoints in this narrative of decline. According to the source you posted recorded crime went up more than 700% between 1920 and 1960. What's the story there? Why don't you control your stats for population increase? Also 1940 is a dangerous starting point. Judging from the massive drop in prosecutions for indecency I'd say the police were pretty busy elsewhere, and crimes of violence were significantly down (conscription, presumably). Standard freakonomics: the first fifty years of the twentieth century are atypical because at no other point in history have the potential/actual criminals (young men) been killed off in such numbers.
Gravatar Jon Wilson 21 May 2010
The violence of Phillip's first paragraph, the vociferous nature of his critique, undermines the possibility of civic renewal which the rest of _Red Tory_ argues for. Phillip's point is that we need to re-establish community by restoring reverence for tradition, locality, and the continuities of the past. Yet the first section of the book calls for a radical rupture with the state of Britain now: it's critique is so vehement it calls for revolution. The book's style teaches us to distrust present day Britain, to be sceptical about the claims politicians make about how things are - but in doing so it corrodes the possibility of a politics based on tradition and continuity. Real conservatives must love the present, because it is in the present that the past lives on. Phillip by contrast is using nostalgia as a tool for radical change - and sees the state as the only agent capable of producing it.
Gravatar phillip_blond 21 May 2010
r/>Dear Rupert - thank you - one doesn't want to be alarmist but nor does one want to be too sanguine - I guess I think against a backdrop of a longterm fall in popular racism - in certain areas it is returning as evidenced by the rise of the BNP - that does not mean it is a wholesale return - but these always creep back in by degree
Gravatar Rupert Baines 20 May 2010
Philipr/>r/>Very interesting & thought provoking: I certainly admire the open & honest approach to discussion.r/>r/>I've got your book but shamefully not yet read it - I need to.r/>r/>That said, I had one thing I wanted to probe on in relation to Racism (and this relates to Alex's point above).r/>r/>In the other responses you take a fairly long term perspective - and highlight where that contracicts short-term trends. r/>r/>For example, in discussing crime you are careful to point out that the experience of last 10-15 years of falling crime needs to be viewed against 70 years where crime rose.r/>r/>Yet in a statement "Racism has fallen in my lifetime" you take the opposite approach. Rather than compare racism today with experience in the 1950s ("No Irish, No Blacks") or the 1970s (the National Front in full force on the streets) you point out that there are some worrying signs in some areas over the last few years.r/>r/>Surely we should be consistent - or at least explain why generations are an appropriate scale to say "crime is rising" but not for "racism is falling"?r/>r/>Is it too nuanced to say "Over a long view, crime is rising - but there are some encouraging recent falls. And racism is falling, albeit with some worrying recent rises" ?r/>r/>r/>r/>
Gravatar phillip_blond 20 May 2010
Hi Sunder sorry the footnotes were there originally but were lost in today's posting/editing process - they will be added first thing tomorrow tomorrow thx Phillip
Gravatar Sunder Katwala 20 May 2010
Dear Phillipr/>r/>Nice to see you on the Radio this morning!r/>r/>We will link this on Next Left. r/>r/>Could your researchers add links or sources for these. It also seems to me it would have made more sense to readers use the Red Tory first paragraph terms (which is what is being challenged/defended) more than or as well as quoting parts of the response.r/>r/>
Gravatar Alex 20 May 2010
"My sense is that racism is returning- which is exactly what I said in Red Tory – particularly amongst the indigenous white working class groups who were marginalised and ignored for so long."r/>r/>There is a perception of marginalisation amongst the white working class, to be sure. But I think it is precisely that, a perception, one that does not hook up to reality, where you appear to think it does. I don't need to tell you this, but this buys into the BNP narrative, one that is propped up by the mainstream press, who endlessly fill their papers with distortions, half-truths and downright lies about immigration and other issues of 'racial politics'. It will only increase tensions rather than remove them.r/>r/>Working class people in general in this country have been dealt a hard lot, some of the reasons for which (though I don't entirely agree with all of them) you mention in your book. So, people perceive there is a problem, fail to often recognise it is deeply systematic and, as has been often the case throughout history, search for scapegoats which tend to be outsiders or those perceived at outsiders even though they might be deeply imbedded in the culture. This can be shown in numerous concrete cases. For example, a recent New Statesman report on the rise of the BNP recently showed that people in the areas targeted by the BNP believe on the doorstop that the lack of social housing is the result of immigration, when in reality it is the result of huge underinvestment coupled with the re-drawing of municipal boundaries.r/>r/>The idea that indigenous - and what does this mean precisely without sanctioning BNP narrated absurdities taking us back to anglo-saxon times? - white people, who account for 87% of the country are somehow marginalised bears no serious scrutiny. As does the endless claims that "we cannot talk about immigration" when on every Question Time when the subject is raised, and during every leaders debate, the speakers seek to "out tough" each other on the issue. Nick Clegg was willing to throw his just and humane policy of an amnesty under the bus at every given opportunity, either during the debates and now in government, not upholding the positive case for it as he did in his speeches to a slightly different audience of the Citizens UK assembly, but rather instrumentalising its basic justice with some claim about being able to tax people. Moreover, the majority of the pro-immigration arguments floated in the mainstream - ie that they are work hard, do the jobs we wouldn't do blah blah - are basically premised on some idea that it is good to have migrants so we can exploit them as much as possible, denying them the basic rights (I know you aren't a fan of these, but lets pretend I said intrinsic dignity or another more teleological something) to fair pay, decent hours etc.r/>r/>No, a real discussion of immigration would begin by exposing how the immigration system actually works: the regularity at which asylum seekers are deported to countries where they may be tortured (lookup the case of Anselme Noumbiwa, I'm sure you would recognise stern injunctions regarding welcoming the stranger and providing sanctuary, regardless of what the former Arch-Bishop believes), the inhumanity of the arbitrary detention of migrants in privately run prisons where they are subject to all manner of dehumanising precariousness (shipped around the country on a whim, etc etc), as well as the very means of deportation itself - strapped to a seat of a plane, held down by two immigration officers, often harmed, sometimes beaten. It would then look at just how much immigrants are exploited in this country as cheap labour. Then maybe we could start talking about how to deal with the 'problem', the problem being exactly the reverse of how it is normally thought of.r/>r/>r/>

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Detailed Summary

Date Published
20 May 2010

next left
red tory

About The Authors

Phillip Blond

Phillip is an internationally recognised political thinker and social and economic commentator. He bridges the gap bet...