There\’s a great deal of truth in this analysis

Labour’s future in England is conservative. The country’s radical traditions are rooted in the political struggle for the liberty that Edmund Burke describes as “social freedom”. There is a powerful strain of rebellious individualism in English socialism that helped to create a politics of liberty, virtue and democracy and a vast popular movement of voluntary collectivism,

co-operatism and mutual self-improvement. English socialism shares antecedents with Toryism, but differs from it in one significant way. It was a militant defence of a common life, and of individual labour and creativity against the unaccountable power of capital and against the usurpation of the state.

Burke\’s little platoons perhaps, the Big Society even. That great flowering of the English working classes which led to the mutuals, the Providents, Building Societies, the CoOp.

Certainly, would love to see that strand of Englishness resurgent.

But if I might add, purely in a spirit of helpfulness of ourse, that there\’s another strand of Englishness which also needs to be taken into consideration?

The hatred of the petty bureaucrat? Hmm, no, not hatred, for we don\’t really do that except about the French. The mockery of, the despising of perhaps, the man with the clipboard. The \”jobsworth\” is a standard figure of fun here, in a way that the similar civil servant, local council employee, just isn\’t in a more Germanic society.

As an example, I\’m told, although I never quite believe it, that in most of Germany the local council will make rules about how often you should sweep your driveway. The very notion of such a rule in England is ridiculous: the entire population would be howling with laughter at (no, not with) any politician who suggested such. Yet, again I\’m told, such rules strike most Germans as not just reasonable but necessary. But of course such matters should be a matter of local law.

If Labour could grasp this point, that we really don\’t like a controlling army of paper shufflers telling us what to do, along with that voluntary collectivism, then they\’d do much better.

The major problem with this vision is of course that a goodly chunk of those who are the Labour Party are those very paper shufflers.

9 thoughts on “There\’s a great deal of truth in this analysis”

  1. We may not be told how often to sweep our drives, but we certainly our told how to separate our rubbish, forced to recycled food scraps, made to install low-energy lightbulbs and condensing boilers as well as a host of other petty regulations. We could teach the Germans a thing or two about squashing personal liberty.

  2. I would’ve thought it’s more a description of classical liberalism.
    The roots of the Labour party are more in the upper middle classes believing that “something must be done” for the working class. I don’t think Labour has ever been in favour of individual liberty. Certainly in the post war era, they’ve been the party of the State and its employees.

  3. “rebellious individualism in English socialism …. It was a militant defence … of individual labour and creativity”: what sentimental tosh.

    The party of the Trade Unions for individualism and creativity? Pull the other one.

  4. “in a way that the similar civil servant, local council employee, just isn’t in a more Germanic society.”

    Not sure you are right there, Tim – in Austria, somewhat less emphatic that the Germans, the official is the “Beampter”, and there IS a law which forbids “Ampts-beleidigung” – the insulting of officials ! Wonder why they need that ….

    Alan Douglas

  5. Echos of Orwell’s THE LION AND THE UNICORN: SOCIALISM AND THE ENGLISH GENIUS (1941) in this article Tim, well said!

  6. I’m not convinced by this ‘English resistance to rules’ idea. Compared to the Southern European nations, who ignore all the health and safety alcohol smoking CRB crap, we’re not that rebellious.

  7. “I’m told, although I never quite believe it, that in most of Germany the local council will make rules about how often you should sweep your driveway”

    I don’t know whether the local Council dictates frequency, but I have some friends who lived in a block of flats in Stuttgart where each flat was responsible for sweeping the driveway for a week at a time. At the end of the week, they had to hand on a reminder in the form of a wooden paddle. Failure to comply in any way would result in angry protests…. And, visiting my friends, I parked my car facing in the wrong direction. Within in minutes, a neighbour was knocking on the door to complain…Teutons can be very obsessive.

  8. My mother was stationed in Germany during her Army career. I remember as a child the open-mouthed incredulity I felt when she told me it was not merely social convention but the law that any dwelling had to have net curtains in the windows. And there’s a piece in one of Bill Bryson’s books, if memory serves, where the author (a big old fluffy Lefty) remarks on the fact that bars in Norway are forbidden, by force of statute, to serve you a drink if you have not finished your previous one. That this should require the force of legislation seems preposterous, until one considers the mountainous pile of pettifogging nonsense that has softly and stealthily been inflicted on Britons in the last fifty years. What would your thirty-years-younger self have thought of the suggestion that in order for the mother of one of your classmates to help out at school by reading to the class (as used to happen at primary school) she would have to submit to a panoply of criminal background checks? The idea would have been laughed to scorn.

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