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NC: That's an interesting point. But it's easy to be despairing about free societies at the moment because it is a corrupted Communist dictatorship that is the world's booming economy. It is Putin's Russia which is doing quite nicely, thank you. India and Brazil are democracies but remarkably corrupt democracies. It's quite hard to resist the temptation to say, "Oh well, we're all in terminal decline. I don't know what we're expected to do about this." George seems to want the right to be very, very rude about people at the top of society, which is absolutely fine by me. I wish more people were. I wish people like Greg Dyke or Peter Bazalgette were stock figures of fun.

GW: Very powerful people.

NC: But beyond that, what do you want to do? 

DJ: Yes, George, is there anything practical we can do? 

GW: Well obviously there are things in education. I'm not as pessimistic as you suggest. A lot of people of my generation have no reason to complain about anything. Why? Partly because we had far more opportunities to advance financially, culturally, career-wise, than are going to be open today. I am not very optimistic for the next generation, which is why I wrote a book entitled Time to Emigrate? a few years ago, predicting — dare  I say it — everything that has happened since. I am a bit pessimistic, to put it mildly, about a 25-year-old couple living in London on average wages, whether it's trying to find somewhere for their children to go to school, or for that matter finding somewhere to live. For them, I am pessimistic. But again, the people closer to the top of society with a certain amount of money will find a way through for their children. 

For the rest I don't see the future. Obviously I agree there are good people in universities and so on. I was higher education minister, I've met them. But they're not the problem so I'm not talking about them. Some optimism might come from immigration, which I think brings huge problems lower down in society, but higher up there are various opportunities. 

One of the things that may happen is that just as in the Thirties, when we got refugees from Hitler, we may acquire similar people. In all aspects of English life, it's fascinating to look back at immigrants who made a significant contribution. I don't think a book has been written on it, perhaps it has. There were Gombrich and Pevsner, on whom a wonderful book has just come out, Arnold Weinstock in industry and in publishing George Weidenfeld. They and many others of course provided a much-needed revitalising kick up the backside. Now, it seems to me self-evident that Asians, predominantly Indians because of their numbers, but also other groups, such as Iraqi Jews who seem to be curiously prominent in Britain, as well as other innately aspiring people, will just get on with it. I think in ten or 20 years, half of Oxbridge will be full of them and they won't have these ghastly demotivating complexes because we are very complexed as a nation in terms of class and society. And maybe the best and brightest of this huge influx (many more of course than the Hitler victims in the 1930s) will help us shake off our cultural miasma. Some of the free schools with a large immigrant input might produce good people. But for the locals now in their twenties or their early thirties it doesn't look good.

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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?

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