A few weeks ago my wife and I flew from Cork to London. The plane took off on time, the flight was without incident, the advanced electronics of the airliner brushed aside a gale at Stansted allowing it to land smoothly. A bendy bus was immediately at the aircraft steps and in half an hour we were on a fast train to London. At the underground station I took out my mobile phone, dialled an Indian restaurant near our home and reading the menu that sprang up on my screen ordered a three-course curry. We then took the underground, a train every one hundred seconds, crossing from north to south London in twenty minutes. Within a few moments of leaving our last station we were seated in a well appointed restaurant eating an excellent meal. It was 11.30 at night.
Most readers, if they live in the capital, will recognise this experience. If you live in the country, similar enjoyments are at your elbow. You can, thanks to agricultural science, walk into your well-stocked garden, or go inside to watch or listen to the latest theatre, music or film. For the scholarly, thanks to the Internet, limitless scholarship are a couple of mouse clicks away. If you fancy some fruit out of season, peaches are available in the local Waitrose, indeed any type of food from anywhere at any time. Nor will you be cold this winter. Thanks to nuclear power, renewable energy and natural gas every house is warm. Most of all, more and more of us now experience the surprise and delight of finding that in our seventies we are as fit and healthy as we were at fifty.
But turn on a radio, open a newspaper, or get into a political discussion and you would be forgiven for thinking we are living in the closing years of civilisation. The Visigoths at the gate, the public finances in ruins, our army on the run, the Emperor and his court given over to every type of vice and corruption, our sick dying on the floors of our hospitals, the transport system in ruins, our streets alive with acid throwers and muggers.
‘Oh for the good old times!’ cry conservatives.
Those of us old enough to remember the fifties and sixties will remember their sheer awfulness. The snobbery, the food shortages, the hell of travel, the deliberately bad, barely edible, ill served food, (how we sneered at foreign ‘muck’) the rudeness of shopkeepers, the shivering unheated houses, terrifying killer fogs, doctors who prescribed according to your accent, ‘dead language’ snobbery in our major universities and the subtle persecution of the self-educated – ‘too clever by half’. Democracy? Remember Lord Home, with an upper lip so stiff it looked as if he was continually at the dentist, ‘emerging’ as Prime Minister following his secret coronation by the 1922 committee. Remember the union bosses, taking orders from Moscow?
Conservatives so often praise this world we should not be surprised the young have consigned us to it. They do not realise that good food, cheap travel, a long life, good housing, instant communications, easily available contraception, and education are products of advanced capitalism and technology, which we would not be enjoying if Conservative politicians such as Thatcher and Reagan hadn’t realised the only way to deliver them was via the free market. Instead they see the defects of capitalism, which unlike socialism are often self-correcting. Slowly but surely African countries are emerging from the polluting nightmare of post-colonial socialism, while China has leapt from a peasant economy to an advanced industrial power and is now embarked on a huge nuclear power building programme to curb its carbon emissions. Here at home investment in the countryside as an amenity has preserved green space, slums have given way to investment housing, while cheaper medical technology has brought falling death rates, (under capitalism every UK male adult gains 13.5 weeks life expectancy a year, a woman 9.8 weeks). While third world immigration has been an unmitigated disaster, Corbyn wants unlimited amounts of it; Eastern European migration, fuelled by cheap air travel, it’s only two and a half hours from Warsaw to London, has been a boon to our economy. Socialism on the other hand invariably leads to pollution and stagnation, witness the decaying and now fatal legacy of Labour’s tower blocks symbolised by Grenfell.
Who makes the case against Corbyn? The parliamentary Tory party is too stupid and too preoccupied with itself to even notice the peril we are in. The conservative faithful talk about Jacob Rees Mogg as a leader, but Labour’s high regard for him is worrying. On the other hand the left’s frenetic desire to show Boris Johnson at every opportunity in the worst possible light and the EU’s loathing of him means he is the only potential PM who could snatch victory from Corbyn. He speaks with optimism, eloquence and wit on behalf of capitalism, but his inexplicable gaff over Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, imprisoned by the Iranian mullas, has knocked him out of the race for now. Unless the ‘gaff’ is a trap laid by a fanatically pro-Europe Foreign Office leaving it a free hand to negotiate our re-entry, offering to sign us up for the Euro, and direct rule by Europe’s unelected commissioners.
The editorial in the December Edition of the Salisbury Review