In our pick of the past week, our favourite articles cover welfare, immigration and Cultural Marxism, the US sequestration and the rescue of a trapped sheep. Articles are listed chronologically. This was originally going to be posted yesterday, but was postponed due to the death of Lady Thatcher (who we'll no doubt cover extensively in the future).
1. Polly Toynbee - The Guardian: Benefit cuts: Monday will be the day that defines this government
This article was in fact posted on the Thursday of the week before, but very much set the tone for what was to come. Political dicussion in the UK was dominated by the changes in welfare by the coalition government.
If, like me, you're silly enough to occasionally watch the BBC, you'll know who Polly Toynbee is. She's the grande dame of left wing comment in the UK. On the one hand, she's a favourite figure of fun for those on the alleged right who can't reference her without mentioning that this champion of the poor has a villa in Tuscany, while on the other hand she's well loved by, er, the BBC.
There's a rather excellent and more detailed analysis of the woman herself here. I'll only add a recent memory of her that stands out for me: having caught her briefly on a show on the BBC News channel, she tried to justify public sector waste by saying no one ever talks about how the private sector is wasteful too. To back this up, she specified saying that no one ever talks about all the first class flights that people take in private sector. If you can see anything faulty or lacking in that argument, answers on a massive postcard.
In this article she takes the tone of a sort of Cassandra figure, wailing about the injustice of these cuts which she admits no one wll know about because no one reads The Guardian. She was quickly proven wrong though, and there was precious little else in the UK news. The other big news story of the week, a man who manslaughtered his six children in a fire, was linked to it. The relevant Secretary of State, Iain Duncan Smith, was challenged to live on £53 a week by someone who gets more than that.
The rights and wrongs of the cuts are something for a longer article. I know how I'd do things; some bits would be different, some the same. What is clear is that the system needs changing. Around a quarter of government spending is on welfare. I'm not ignorant of the fact that about 45% of this is in fact pensions and only about 4% is Jobseekers' Allowance, but the sums involved are still vast and reform should be considered across all areas, including to make sure no one's caught in a disincentive trap.
What is clear from the past week is that any suggestion of reform that involves reduced spending will be decried by the left, especially considering that the main party involved is the Tories. Toynbee's doom-laden article helpfully gives us something to measure her against though: if, a few years down the line, millions more aren't in poverty or destitution as a result of these cuts, we'll be able to assess her credibility accordingly.
2. Peter Hitchens - Mail on Sunday: How I am partly to blame for Mass Immigration
There's no point in skirting around it: Peter Hitchens is probably Headhunters Politics' pick for the greatest man on earth. Everyone who can currently call themselves a Headhunter not only admires him, but has also had the honour of meeting him. The reason and circumstances for that we'll be talking about another time, but for now let's stick to this great piece from last Sunday.
Hitchens may be unapologetically a conservative (tedious though it is to always point out, it's more necessary than ever to make note of the lower case 'c'), but he freely admits to and discusses having once been a revolutionary Marxist, and it means he can speak with clarity and accuracy about both areas of the political spectrum.
The most interesting aspect of this article isn't about immigration. Arguments about that ought to be practically intuitive, though there are still those who think any suggestion that there's a deleterious effect on either culture or the economy can only be based in prejudice.
The title of Hitchens' article may have a touch of the Spike Milligan 'Adolf Hitler - My Part in His Downfall' about it, but it's justified as it describes the mindset of a Cultural Marxist from someone who's actually been one. The idea of Cultural Marxism is surprisingly little known to many; in short, it's an attitude that seeks to undermine the established culture and institutions of a country by various means so that Marxism can move in and take over.
It doesn't declare itself, of course. It summons discord by speaking of how unjust various aspects are and shouts down those who disagree with pejorative terms ('racist' is a favourite when it comes to immigration and cultural issues, despite neither being related to race). Cultural Marxism also fits neatly with the innate attitude of youthful rebellion that characterises the young and, when it comes to politics, students. These days many are Cultural Marxists without knowing it; they just go around with their inflated sense of injustice, indignation and kneejerk impulse to call anyone who disagrees with them a racist or one of the fashionable and inaccurately named -phobias.
Of course, Marxism moving in to fill the void in an undermined and broken culture is now very unlikely. So what would fill the gaps instead? Search me...
3. Sam Stein and Amanda Terkel - Huffington Post: Sequestration Effects: Cuts Sting Communities Nationwide
And now a piece about the United States. Currently something called the sequester is going on and making the news. Readers from the UK may have heard of it but not know what it means. Readers from the US may be sick of hearing about it. Either way, I will apply my modest powers of prose to explain it in the least boring way I can.
This won't be a quick one. Let's just say, an article that claims 100 alarming results of spending cuts needs its subject covered in a bit more depth than usual for this weekly round-up, so a full post on the subject will follow here soon. Will the alarm be found to be justified? Spoiler alert: no.
4. Vince Soodin - The Sun: David Cameron performs ewe turn to save a sheep
And finally, in the immediate aftermath of Margaret Thatcher's death and the entirely predictable and tasteless reaction from people who kept going on about how they couldn't wait for her to die, here is a reminder that politicians are human even if we don't like them.
I don't like David Cameron, and could spend all day telling you why. But it's a reminder not to fall so completely in hate that we forget some politicians really are a little bit human. People do it whoever they agree and disagree with, and I'm as guilty as anyone. You try and ascribe motives of inherent badness, because how could anyone be so inhuman as to disagree with you?
Conversely of course, people often try to ignore or rationalise the bad actions of politicians they do agree with. It's human nature to see the best in those we agree with and the contrary concomitant. It makes us more secure in our worldviews.
So there's David Cameron rescuing a sheep. I still think he's very wrong about an awful lot of things, but at least he clearly has a bit of character. Barack Obama rescuing a sheep, now that would be really conflicting for me.
By Jonathan Headington