'Bagehot' (pronounced like, Badge it
) at The Economist, pays a visit to the Labour Museum in Manchester (where the dark satanic mills of capitalism have given way to malls) and finds bad news for Jeremy Corbyn and Old Labour
SQUINT, and the People’s History Museum in Manchester could be a
church. Vast trade-union banners rich with symbols—masonic eyes,
spanners, linked hands—hang like ecclesiastical tapestries from the
walls and ceilings. Bibelots nestle in their showcases like saints’
bones in their reliquaries: a handkerchief commemorating the Peterloo
massacre, an Edwardian membership certificate for the old dyers’ union
(motto: “We dye to live”), a docker’s hook belonging to a protagonist of
the London port strike of 1972. The galleries echo to sermons by
tribunes of the left: Nye Bevan hailing universal health care, Earnest
Jones urging the crowds in Manchester to reject the “gospel of the
rich”. The light is low—the better to preserve the treasures of this,
Britain’s only museum to the struggles of the common folk.
That's not the only thing it has in common with churches; it's usually empty of people. They are out and about, drinking in the pubs, shopping in furniture showrooms and elsewhere.
According to Geert Hofstede, a Dutch psychologist who has devised a
means of quantifying such things, Britain is the most individualistic
country in Europe; a place of “rampant consumerism” where “the route to
happiness is through personal fulfilment” rather than collective
endeavour. Polling by Ipsos MORI supports his claim, showing that each
successive generation is more sceptical of organised religion, the
welfare state and government in general.
With the notable exceptions of their sports, pets and royals, Britons
tend to spurn great displays of sincerity, too: from politics to
popular television, Britain’s public life is striking for its
sardonicism. This is not to say that it is a reactionary country. But
recent decades suggest that the Conservatives are mostly best at
harnessing this aversion, one eyebrow near-permanently raised, to
pharaonic political visions.
And Labour's leadership election is about to select a good ol' boy of museum piece quality. Jeremy Corbyn.
[The Labour Party] is careening towards a leader who, more than any in its recent history,
misreads (or worse, does not like) modern Britain and its instincts. The
result, unless Labour’s moderates can reclaim the party, will be
electoral oblivion. Shown footage of Mr Corbyn by Ipsos MORI last month,
swing voters in Croydon and Nuneaton seemed bemused: “He’s got all the
policies straight out of the Sixties,” said one, adding: “He’s a bit of a
And a bit like his American counterpart, Bernie Sanders.
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