You are here:   Dialogue > The Anti-Elitist Elite Versus the Underclass

GW: Having lived much of my life abroad, one thing that increasingly strikes me about Britain is that there is less and less moral restraint. We talk about the Church of England as if it is a serious church. But there aren't any churchgoers. I think it's down to about seven per cent now. The only time the Archbishop is mentioned is when he talks about homosexuality or women priests or makes yet another galumphing and in my view immoral attack on the government — immoral because he can't even get his own organisation in order so who is he to preach to other people? 

So I don't think there's any religious authority in this country. France is educationally secular but socially more Catholic. Then of course there's religion in Germany, not to mention America. In China there is clearly not only the weight of tradition, which should not be forgotten, but also the weight of the government to keep things in order. Here you have a working-class culture which has largely gone for numerous reasons, along with its industries, which was conservative in many ways. You only have to go to the north-east of England to see this. The Church has gone, the Labour Party doesn't stand for anything in cultural and educational terms, and there are few constraints at school or in the family.

I remember Chris Smith saying culture is not just for the cognoscenti. Well, cognoscenti as I understand it means people who know what they're talking about and I wouldn't mock them. So if the culture is dominated by people who don't know what they're talking about, you have the trahison des clercs, except in this case the clercs probably haven't read the Bible. And so I don't see where any restraining force comes from any longer in Britain, particularly at a time, dare one mention it, when not only are we trying to cope with our own cultural malaise but we are importing large numbers of people who are not necessarily from saintly backgrounds or with functioning cultures of their own. 

DJ: What do you think about this, Nick? Do you think the elite have let the country down? Both the liberal elite and the new Tory elite. 

NC: Let's take that from the top. From a left-wing point of view, however much you and George might have objected to a Labour government, however much you thought what these guys were going to do was to put up your taxes, get a lot of money, and waste a lot of it, be bossy, be Fabian, and think the man from Whitehall knows best, the one thing you'd have thought they'd be able to do was regulate the banks. Even if you had spent your whole life campaigning against the Labour Party, you'd think at least we won't have a banking crash. I've checked the history books and never before had a centre-Left government presided over a banking crash. Admittedly Ramsay MacDonald's 1929 government was in power when the Wall Street crash happened but it only came to power in May and the crash happened in the autumn and in America. Throughout the 1920s and '30s not a single bank in Britain or the British Empire went bankrupt — not one. You have to go back to 1866 to find something like that happen. 

View Full Article
March 28th, 2013
4:03 PM
There certainly are examples of playing down to the lowest cultural levels - and very embarrassing they are, to choose just one relatively harmless effect of this. I am not sure Cameron adopting something by Tracy Emin is an example of that though. Isn't she typical rather, of the taste the cultural elite than of the underclass - most of whom would probably see it for the rubbish it is better than the elite would?

March 11th, 2013
8:03 AM
'we have the worst underclass in Europe and we've seen their powers of destruction.' No you haven't. And you probably never will. No group of people would tolerate the kind of unpleasantness that is being dished out to them by the likes of the rather strange looking fellows in the illustration accompanying this article and willingly sacrifice themselves as cannon fodder again. 'Most squaddies come from council estates' David Starkey, CBE, FSA But not for much longer.

Bob Hunt
March 2nd, 2013
1:03 AM
Dear Sir, I am very interested in the fact that no British bank went under in the twenties or thirties. How was this possible?

RHJ King
October 29th, 2012
2:10 AM
I'll grant that there were a few interesting points made over these ten pages, but am quite surprised how the conversation fizzled into the ether with an unchallenged bit of silliness. Regardless of how much Nick Cohen would like to think that the "model has fallen apart", there is no avoiding the fact that for decades one 'elite' or another has had a wrench in the gears of the free market system. The western social democratic model in all its guises throughout the world is floundering and has neither the skills nor the belief system to support a stable economy, let alone one that is faltering. The notion that trade unions and bureaucrats aren't to blame can also be questioned. If the recent riots are not a direct cultural descendent of the labour unrest of the 70's, what is it? And, please, just look at the size and cost of the modern bureaucracy and the debt they insist on accruing. What we require is the impossible: among other things- less government (particularly left of center so called conservatives), a revamped educational system that will teach self reliance, and some old fashioned hard work. What we will get is more of the same 'ghastly demotivating' statism.

December 29th, 2011
4:12 PM
"It is impossible for serious people to believe in God any more, or at least the God of the Bible, the God of the Koran, the God of the Torah. You just can't do it." Nick this is the silliest comment you have made in this interview. It is obvious that serious people do believe in God and precisely in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Who could be more serious than Benedict XVI, John Paul II, Jonathon Sacks, Jacques Delors, Angela Merket, etc., etc. I would say that not believing in God is extremely frivolous and adolescent. Most public atheists, if they were once had faith, lost it in their teens. But this means that they are locked into an adolescent syndrome with regard to what is the most serious question that can be asked: does God exist? They fail to grow spiritually even if they become brilliant scientists, writers, mathematicians, etc.

December 24th, 2011
9:12 PM
Iv been checking for a few weeks now and I can't believe no-one has bothered commenting on this! George Walden's, New Elites, is a philosophical classic and once read, you will see the sh'it were in in an entirely different, and even original, way. New Elites peels away the lazy cobwebs we operate in and opens a new angle to explore. A bit like Orwell and Huxley, but for today. So it's a damn shame that I am the only person bothering to comment. Now that's intelligence for you! Now what time is The X Factor playing?

Post your comment

This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.