Polling snapshot. How Johnson reinvented the Conservatives after they had recently formed governments three times

12 Jul

Source: Politico

Begin by looking at the Politico poll of polls graph above, which we like to use on ConservativeHome from time and time, and which today we present in its two year-version.

The Conservative Party begins two summers ago on the 40 per cent or so that represents its floor, following the EU referendum of 2016 and Theresa May’s election as the Tory leader.  Even the disaster of the 2017 general election does nothing to push support below this total.

The slide in the Tory rating from it begins on March 2 last year, shortly before Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement is defeated for a second time, and as the prospect of a Brexit extension begins to loom.

Down, down, down it falls through the Withdrawal Agreement’s third defeat and a second Brexit extension, reaching a low of 20 per cent on May 30, after the European elections on May 24, which saw the Conservatives reduced to nine per cent of the vote, coming fifth behind the Green Party, and returning only four MEPs.

Now look at that blue line rise up, up, up as the Tory leadership contest gathers pace, Boris Johnson wins it, and survives defeats in the Supreme Court, resignations, and more defeats in Commons before winning last year’s election.

It begins to drop, with Coronavirus fatigue, economic hardship, Keir Starmer’s election and Government errors doubtless the main reasons, hitting 43 per cent on June 2.  Since then, it has held steady, rising on June 9 to 44 per cent.  YouGov on Friday found it at 46 per cent.

Last time round, we wrote that the Black Lives Matter fracas may have played well for Labour’s core constituency in the belt of seats that runs south from Enfield to the Thames, but badly in England’s provinces and the Red Wall.

We stick to that view.  Johnson may also have been helped by the impact of Government error over the virus petering out; by Rishi Sunak’s activity; and by policies likely to go down well outside that Labour London base, such as the amalgamation of the Foreign Office and Dfid (insofar as they have cut through).

We expect Labour to take the poll lead at some point within the next year.  And next year’s local elections look to be very messy, assuming they happen.

But it’s worth chewing over the Prime Minister’s achievement in first putting the Conservative pro-Brexit electoral coalition together again, and then presenting it to voters last December as a new force – after no fewer than three elections since 2010 in which the Tories had led the government, winning one of them outright.  It endures still.

Black Lives Matter UK: Who are its organisers?

30 Jun

Yesterday, Keir Starmer made an important distinction during an interview with BBC BreakfastWhile he acknowledged that the Black Lives Movement had been about “reflecting” on the dreadful events in America, he regretted that it had become “tangled up… with the organisation Black Lives Matter”, a statement that he received equal doses of praise and backlash for.

What Starmer highlighted is that there’s a crucial difference between the statement “black lives matter” – which surely any decent human being agrees with – to “Black Lives Matter”, an organisation that has clear goals.

But here it gets slightly more complicated, as the movement is largely “non-hierarchical”, making it harder for Starmer, and other leaders, to engage with its UK representatives.

What British groups do have in common is their inspiration: the American BLM movement, which was prompted by the acquittal of George Zimmerman after he fatally shot Trayvon Martin, an African American teenager walking to a family member’s house, in February 2012.

This shocking event prompted Twitter users to form the hashtag – #BlackLivesMatter – to highlight racial inequalities in the judicial and policing system – and it increasingly gained traction with the help of three activists, Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi, who encouraged the growth of networks and calls to action.

Despite the fact that the organisation is decentralised with no formal hierarchy, everyone knows who these founders are. They regularly give interviews, with their biographies listed on the Black Lives Matter website, and people know their political views.

Cullors once described her and Garza as “trained Marxists” and said she would not sit at the table with President Trump who is “literally the epitome of evil, all the evils of this country”, singling out “capitalism” as one of them.

Given this level of political openness, people in the UK might want to hear from BLM leaders about their aims for this country, but it’s tricky as the movement is divided into many groups, such as Tribe Named Athari, Black Lives Matter Leeds, All Black Lives UK, and Black Lives Matter UK, the latter of which Tribe Named Athari has said it has no direct affiliation with.

Black Lives Matter UK, set up in 2016, is arguably the most famous branch here, with 72.1k followers on Twitter (at the time of writing). In recent days, it gained prominence for criticising Israel on social media, and posting “FREE PALESTINE”, as well as attacking Starmer for his comments on defunding the police (a goal of BLM US).

Though the group doesn’t have a website, Black Lives Matter UK has a Go Fund Me page, where it has raised £1 million. Organisers state their aims are “to dismantle imperialism, capitalism, white-supremacy, patriarchy and the state structures that disproportionately and systematically harm Black people in Britain and around the world.”

Although the group says it is endorsed by Patrisse Cullors, it refuses to name anyone else, posting: “Amongst calls for transparency and demands to reveal the leadership behind BLM UK, we are currently dealing with emergency legal matters following last week’s protests in addition to the hostility of far-right groups. This is a genuine threat to our safety”. So this appears to be the rationale for hidden identities.

Then there’s the website blacklivesmatter.uk (BLMUK on Twitter – where it has 1,500 followers). On its front page, it tells visitors that it is not connected to “the activist coalition using: Twitter @ukblm” (the branch mentioned above) or the Instagram account @blmuk, even going so far as to point out “The UKBLM coalition do not have an official website”.

Furthermore, in its “About us” section, it writes: “There are many independent activist groups across the UK who do and will not publicly identify themselves, nor having leadership or declare leadership, no office base or website to go to, preferring a small or for some a huge interest and following from profile statuses on social media platforms and some raise funds via gofundme, crowdfunding pages and alike.”

Another website is called the Black Lives Matter Movement, which explicitly states that it’s “not connected to BLMUK” (above). It is founded by Gary McFarlane, an author on its site, who is a prominent member of the Socialist Workers Party.

On Russia Today, he said “In all revolutionary situations statues are toppled and that’s a good sign for the future because we do need a revolution in this country and many others.” The SWP has been accused before of trying to infiltrate Extinction Rebellion (XR) and the Labour Party, and some BLM representatives released a statement distancing itself from it.

Clearly there is a socialist undercurrent to some of these movements; indeed, Natalie Jeffers, founder of BLMUK, was quoted saying that we must fight “capitalism with socialism” and “dedicate ourselves to revolutionary politic power”. But it’s hard to know the extent of this sentiment, due to how spread out the movement is.

Although all of these groups are fighting for the same broad cause – to end racism, but the decentralised system could cause confusion around what policies they are proposing.

Whereas XR also favours a dencentralised system, which led to protesters doing their own thing – such as jumping on tube carriages, it arguably has more practical demands for the Government (citizens’ assemblies), compared to BLM’s (US) desire to “disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure”.

XR has also fielded representatives onto television, such as Skeena Rathor, the “co-leader”, as well as Zion Lights, a spokesperson. The Hong Kong protests, too, though “decentralised”, have had Joshua Wong as their figurehead. As far as ConservativeHome is aware, there has not been an equivalent spokesperson for BLM UK in this way. 

Perhaps the closest is Imarn Ayton, an activist, who has demanded a meeting with Boris Johnson and called for the statue of Winston Churchill to be removed on Radio 4. Whether she is accepted as overall leader of the movement is less known, though.

Either way, with the movement growing in power in recent weeks, politicians – and TV producers – will increasingly want to know what’s being proposed for the UK. Perhaps Andrew Neil is already gearing up for an interview. But with no clear BLM UK leader, different funding levels for each group, and separate manifestos, it’s not obvious who will answer questions.

Anand Menon: Our latest research finds that the Conservatives are divided on economics, but united on culture.

30 Jun

Anand Menon is Director of the UK in a Changing Europe.

Dominic Cummings must be rubbing his hands with glee. As more and more questions are raised about what some are calling the ‘lethal amaterurism’ that has characterised the Government’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis, the country spent most of June distracted by furious arguments about race and statues.

This has moved the debate on from Boris Johnson’s chief advisor’s unique approach to optical health. More importantly, a debate about values rather than health outcomes suits the Government down to the ground.

The referendum of 2016 polarized the country along values lines (between social liberals and social conservatives) rather than along the left-right cleavage that traditionally structured political competition.

Source: British Election Study

Nor was this a one-off phenomenon. The values division laid bare by the referendum went on to shape the nature of subsequent electoral competition. Think back to last year’s election.

The fact that the Conservatives won seats like Wakefield, Bishop Auckland and Workington, or that they won by 21 per cent among working class voters is testimony to the realignment that had taken place in our politics.

So too is the fact that in seats where over 60 per cent backed leave, the Tories increased their support by an average of six per cent, whereas in those seats where more than 60 per cent voted Remain, the party’s vote actually fell by three points.

The argument over statues that has been such a central part of the Black Lives Matter protests in this country has mobilized that same division. And it is terrain on which the Conservatives are relatively well equipped to fight.

Recent work carried out by the UK in a Changing Europe compares the attitudes of MPs, party members and voters, by asking each group a series of questions about fundamental ideological attitudes. The findings are revealing.

When it comes to social values, the Conservative clan looks relatively united. Even more importantly, on values they are far closer to those crucial voters who switched from Labour in 2017 to the Conservatives in 2019 than to Keir Starmer’s party.

But when it comes to the politics of left versus right – questions like whether ‘there is one rule for the rich and one for the poor’, and the idea that ‘ordinary working people do not get their fair share of the nation’s wealth’ – the picture could hardly be more different.

Conservative MPs are to the right of both their own party members and Conservative voters, and significantly to the right of those 2019 Labour-to-Conservative switchers. Labour, on the other hand, is not just far less internally divided but considerably closer to those lost voters.

Looking forward, then, the Conservatives have an interest in maintaining a focus on values. Think of it this way. On the (feigned) threat to Churchill’s statue in Parliament Square, the Conservative Party spoke with one voice and rallied behind Boris Johnson. When it comes to the economic response to Covid-19, the party’s backbenches are increasingly restless.

The easing of lockdown will focus attention firmly on economic recovery. How these issues are framed then takes on crucial importance. We face another decade in which political life will be shaped by the impact of an economic crisis.

The Conservative narrative may well seek to major not on the details of the economic response – on how great the role of the state should be, or how we pay for ballooning deficits – but on arguably more ‘ephemeral’ concerns.

Conservative commentators are already queuing up to point out that it is surely no longer a priority to publish gender pay gaps, or to ‘suffer a little for the sake of the planet.’ Others argue that fads like the war on plastic have been made redundant by the virus.

It seems Number 10 is, in the short term, planning a number of ways of triggering values divisions. The Sunday Times reported that the Government is planning to scrap plans to allow people to change their legal gender.

Other reports suggest that some in Downing Street are encouraging the Prime Minister to launch a ‘war on woke’. The hope is clearly to profit from profound values divisions within Labour’s electoral coalition and detatch voters who might, if it really were all about the economy, stupid, support the centre-left rather than the centre-right.

For Labour, then, the key will be to find a way to nullify this strategy. Paul Mason has rightly argued that the party must focus on coming up with a more convincing narrative about reshaping the role of the state in the economy, as a means of uniting a coalition that has fractured over the last decade over values questions.

The party now has a leader that the public, including Leave voters, find broadly convincing – and one who is going to be less easy to label as an unpatriotic ultra-liberal.

A narrative about economic fairness unites Labour and has the potential to tap into the ideological attitudes of the median voter.

The Government’s current plans to emerge from lockdown will create millions of economic losers, and the Conservatives look set to incur significant governing costs.

A laser like-focus on the economy and on the steps needed both to recover from the post-lockdown slowdown in such a way as to tackle the numerous inequalities that the pandemic has highlighted could command broad support, not least among those voters that fled the party last year.

As the recent Labour Together review of the 2019 election concluded, Labour could win by building support for a ‘big change economic agenda’ that neutralises cultural and social tensions.

Whatever happens, the relative impact of the two cleavages – left vs right and social liberal vs social conservative will be crucial. The relative success of each side in imposing its own agenda on the political debate will help determine who ultimately triumphs.

This article is a cross-post from the UK in a Changing Europe’s website.

Read the Mind the values gap report here.

Neil O’Brien: The New Puritans want to tear down our liberal settlement. Here’s who they are, what they think – and why they must be resisted.

29 Jun

Neil O’Brien is MP for Harborough.

Consider recent news.

JK Rowling criticised the expression “people who menstruate,” leading to accusations of “transphobia”, numerous authors quitting her literary agency, and staff at her publisher refusing to work on her new book.

Various controversies have followed the Black Lives Matter protests. Liverpool University will rename a building named after Gladstone.  UKTV deleted an episode of Fawlty Towers making fun of a racist character. The RFU is reviewing the singing of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”.

These stories illuminate a new division in our politics. It’s not left vs. right, but is uniting conservatives and liberals against something new, which we need to give a name to.

“Woke” is the most common term, and laughing at its excesses is part of the cure. But we also need to take it seriously. Paul Staines calls it “Neo-puritanism”, which captures the absolutist, quasi-religious nature of it – the urge to “police” others behaviour.

Like puritanism, it’s strongest in America, but powerful here.

So what is Neo-puritanism?

First, Neo-puritans want to change the balance between free speech and censoring offensive speech.

The embodiment of liberalism is the slogan: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

Neo-puritans feel a duty to “call people out”, often pressing for people to be sacked or shunned.

Don’t debate JK Rowling – “cancel” her. They see debate not as a chance to test and exchange ideas, but as unwelcome, wearying, maybe impossible.

Neo-puritanism has tightened the boundaries of free speech. Like Amber Rudd being “no platformed” by Oxford students. The NUS trying to block Peter Tatchell from speaking. A school dropping plans to name a house after JK Rowling. A DJ sacked (now reinstated) for denying he has “white privilege.” An Oxford professor given security guards after threats from transgender activists. Sheffield University paying students to police “micro-aggressions”. Hundreds of Guardian employees attacking Suzanne Moore’s “transphobia” for writing: “Female is a biological classification.”

Second, Neo-puritans believe in “hard” quotas and targets.

Conservatives and liberals often support increasing numbers of women or ethnic minorities in certain roles. They favour outreach programmes, mentoring, open days, etc.

Neo-puritans want quotas and sex/racially defined scholarships which other groups can’t enter. For example, Reni Eddo-Lodge argues that “when there are no hard targets for programmes of positive discrimination, they will always run the risk of looking like they’re doing something without achieving much at all.”

Examples include Cambridge University’s scholarship scheme (worth £18,000 a year) solely for black British students and Oxford’s  Arlan Hamilton scholarships for Black undergraduates. UCL has scholarships for BME postgraduate students. The Bank of England has scholarships for African Caribbean students.

Third, Neo-puritans (i) think people are defined by their group, (ii) say people have “false consciousness” about our society and (iii) attack the liberal idea that people can be neutral.

A wave of bestselling books by Neo-puritan authors ramp up the importance of group differences Whether we’re talking about “White supremacy”, “White privilege”, or “White Fragility”, it’s not that some people are racist, but society.

For Neo-puritans, not only are people defined by their race, but race is defined by behaviour in an almost mystical way. The founder of “decolonise the curriculum,” Pran Patel, said: “Priti Patel is the perfect example of whiteness inhabiting a different coloured vessel”.

Dr Priyamvada Gopal, a Cambridge academic, tweeted: “White lives don’t matter. As white lives” and “Abolish whiteness.” This isn’t just divisive and unhelpful. The concept of “whiteness” – that there are certain ways of behaving that are “white” – is intrinsically racist.

This explains why Neo-puritans think it’s OK to attack Conservative MPs from ethnic minorities as “coconuts” or “bounty bars” Robin DiAngelo argues there is deep false consciousness in our society: “Our racial socializatition sets us up to repeat racist behaviour regardless of our intentions.”

Neo-puritans see the “colour-blind” ideals of liberals as part of this false consciousness.

Reni Eddo-Lodge argues: “Colour-blindness is used to silence talk about structural racism while we continue to fool ourselves with the lie of meritocracy.”

A headteacher in Sheffield agrees, writing to parents: “Our society is built upon white supremacy… the world’s systems and structures are built on this bias, and this therefore creates White Privilege.”

Finally, Neo-puritans have a particular take on history, with the emphasis on criticism.

The self-styled “leader” of the BLM protests says Churchill’s statue is offensive and should be taken down.  A university lecturer argues: “Churchill must fall”, because he was an “imperialist racist,” “hated” by the working class. Maya Goodfellow argues: “The way Churchill is remembered in the UK has always been tied up with ideas of white superiority.”

Nor is it just Churchill.

Take the student union leader who vowed to paint over a First World War memorial: “Mark my words – we’re taking down the mural of white men in the uni Senate room, even if I have to paint over it myself.”

Or the Oxford lecturer who hopes Oxford researchers don’t invent a coronavirus vaccine first because: “it will be used as it has been in the past, to fulfil its political, patriotic function as proof of British excellence.”

So what’s the problem with Neo-puritanism?

First, I worry hard quotas lead to resentment; undermine those who succeed (am I only here because of my race or gender?); and lead to unfair, arbitrary decisions: can a scholarship for black students be awarded to a mixed-race person?

Second, there’s an abuse of language here. Apartheid South Africa and the Confederacy were states with an ideology of “White Supremacy”. Britain isn’t.

Third, relentless emphasis on group membership plus tighter boundaries on speech will lead to a society not at ease with itself. Instead of the colour-blind world liberals hope for, we’ll end up in a world walking on eggshells, where more and more we’ll see each other primarily as members of groups.

Fourth, I worry about the counter-productive effects of this conversation. If the “core function” of the police is racism, why should anyone non-white join up?

A 13 year old boy recently pleaded guilty to kicking a police officer on the head as he lay on the ground because of protests he’d seen on TV. Ideas have consequences.

If you claim our society is built on “white supremacy”, this will be heard by some people with fragile mental health. I know of a case of a young person who feels oppressed by all around her, seeing offers of friendship and help from white people as disguised attempts to hurt her.

Compared to a world in which you tell kids – ‘you’re all just the same, you just have different coloured skin’ it makes it more difficult to have natural relationships, and friendships without hangups.

Overemphasis of group differences is disempowering. Katharine Birbalsingh, head of one of the country’s top performing state schools says it: “undermines much of the work we do at school in trying to empower our children to take personal responsibility and grab life by the horns.”

Finally, healthy countries need a balance of self-criticism and self-confidence. Self-loathing is unattractive, but might also have bad practical consequences. People are often called on to do things for the greater good of the nation, from paying tax to fighting for their country.  If Britain is basically shameful, why bother?

Neo-puritans sometimes highlight important problems. But though there is more to do, the big picture is one of progress. Sexism is down, racist attitudes are declining and ethnic minorities are steadily getting better off. Neo-puritanism won’t accelerate that, but instead risk a whole set of new divisions.

Don’t rule out a second lockdown

26 Jun

We must live with the Coronavirus either until a vaccine against it is available; or until herd immunity, treatments or a viable antibody test reduce its force; or else until or unless it simply runs out of steam.

Which means the “new normal” – complete with face coverings in crowded places, more al fresco eating and drinking, no crowds at big events (at least for the time being), and so on.

Unless we are prepared to risk the NHS collapsing, which is a very distant prospect at the moment, but a long way from being an impossibility.

However, the combination of lockdown fever, furlough, Black Lives Matter, summer and the fledgling test and trace system don’t bode well.

You may well think that polls suggesting support for the shutdown and fear of the virus sit oddly with today’s pictures of teeming beaches at Bournemouth or celebrating crowds outside Anfield.

But those surveys may be out of date; or the respondents have may been telling the pollsters how they think other people should behave, or else different groups of people may have different attitudes.

What’s certain is that long periods of repression are sometimes followed by frenzied outbreaks of celebration, like the austerities of Cromwell’s Commonwealth being followed by the salaciousness of Restoration comedy.

Feast-to-famine, famine-to-feast lurches are built into the economic cycle itself, and woe betide those who proclaim  “an end to boom and bust”.

So it may be that while the dangers of catching the virus in the open air are negligible – as last month’s shift in the lockdown rules seemed to suggest – and Ministers therefore shouldn’t fuss about crowds on beaches…

…There is nonetheless a lotus-eating mood around at present, sustained by furlough, and people driven stir-crazy by lockdown are ready to meet and party and mix in relatively confined spaces.

The potential knock-on problems haven’t been helped by the police’s initial surrender to the logic of mob protest in London and Bristol.

Most people don’t pick up much from politics, but are very sharp in reading the signs of the times.  The disturbances two nights ago in Brixton and last night in Notting Hall may be an indication that weakness has consequences.

Twenty-two police were injured in the first incident – by way of comparison, six were hurt after the recent fascist thuggery in central London (a term we prefer to the more loaded “hard right”).

The Government’s planned response to any local outbreaks of the virus is to follow the South Korean model – or, nearer to home, the German one.

Some 650,000 people in North Rhine-Westphalia are back in shutdown after an outbreak at a meat factory (the combination of close working conditions, migrant workers, and cramped accomodation is a dangerous one).

Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock are hoping that a similar model will be implemented in a similar way if necessary. But that would depend on enough testing taking place and enough tracing working well.

Those traced must also be relied upon to social distance voluntarily and effectively.  If all that doesn’t work, we find it hard to see how a second and further national lockdowns can be avoided.

The very last thing anyone wants to think about as we emerged from such a shutdown is going back into it.  And we hope that it doesn’t happen.

But the fact is that the Prime Minister may not have been right when he said in May that “we have been through the initial peak – but it is coming down the mountain that is often more dangerous”.

The disturbing truth is that we may only be in the foothills of the climb.  Or, to change the image. we like to think that the Coronavirus is fading in the rear view mirror.  But it may only be a trick of the light.

Daniel Hannan: The police. Not institutionally racist, but institutionally woke.

24 Jun

Daniel Hannan is a writer and columnist. He was a Conservative MEP from 1999 to 2020, and is now President of the Initiative for Free Trade.

The police have had an unusually bad lockdown. They began by being bossy and officious, ticking people off for buying luxury items or walking too slowly in parks or even (in one incident in Rotherham that was caught on camera) for being in their own garden. But when Black Lives Matter took to the streets, they promptly forgot all about the restrictions. Far from ordering protesters to disperse, they looked on as mobs carried out flagrant acts of vandalism.

In Bristol, a superintendent refused to prevent criminal damage to the Colston statue because “we know that it has been an historical figure that has caused the black community quite a lot of angst over the last couple of years.” (Perhaps so – but it was hardly his call to make, was it?)

In London, officers were pulled out of Parliament Square, allowing vandals to fall on the statues there – including that of Abraham Lincoln, commemorated for having freed America’s slaves. Last weekend, we reached a new low, as a Met officer, in effect, pleaded with people to break the law in a considerate manner.

“First and foremost we want people to be safe, and would encourage you to stay at home,” said Commander Alex Murray. “However, if you feel compelled to come and have your voice heard, we would say please remain socially distant, we don’t want people to get ill; and, more than that, please do not engage in any violence.”

Demonstrations, of course, were banned – a fact the Met clung to obsessively when protesters were complaining about the lockdown. But, when a different set of protesters started to demonstrate about the atrocity in Minneapolis, police chiefs were reduced to asking people who felt “compelled” to break the law to do so non-violently. It was hard not to think of Chief Wiggum from The Simpsons: “Can’t you people take the law into your own hands?”

The problem of the PC PC – the politically correct police constable – goes back to the Blair years, and there can be something quite funny about heavy-handed attempts by rozzers to be woke. But there is nothing funny about the consequences. In 2011, the Met refused to impede a crowd engaging in mass looting in Tottenham, because the pillage had theoretically begun as an anti-racist protest. Images of officers standing by while people smashed their way into shops flashed around the country and, the next day, there was looting across British cities.

To call the police institutionally racist, these days, is wide of the mark. Yes, there are individual racists in uniform: with more than 120,000 police officers in the UK, some bad behaviour is statistically inevitable. But, far from being institutionally racist – that is, being an institution where racism is a norm – the police, these days, are institutionally woke, in the sense that their leaders elevate race relations above what ought to be their core functions, such as protecting property, securing public order and enforcing the law impartially.

To be fair, the police are operating within a society which has taken to applying a different test when it comes to self-proclaimed anti-racism. This is most obvious in the tone of our broadcasters. When BLM thugs turned violent, the BBC produced the ludicrous headline, “27 police officers injured during largely peaceful anti-racism protests in London”. The following week, when a different set of thugs turned violent, it had the more conventional headline, “London protests: more than 100 arrests after violent clashes with police.”

Our state broadcaster is faithfully representing the double-standard of our intellectual elites. Epidemiologists who back the lockdown in all other circumstances say it’s fine to violate its terms as long as you are demonstrating for BLM. Conservationists who normally insist on protecting monuments declare that it is fine to remove statues. Academic institutions that are meant to defend intellectual rigour concede that, if someone’s feelings are hurt, accuracy no longer matters.

These are the political waters in which our coppers are swimming. The Met is answerable to the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who condemns the ludicrous statue defenders while refusing to condemn BLM violence – a failure which, in normal times, would disqualify him from office.

But these are not normal times. As sometimes happens when there is a plague (or at least the perceived threat of a plague) we are gripped by a form of end-of-days cultism, which brooks no dissent. Intimidated by the self-righteousness of campaigners, few politicians dare to step into the path of the mob. MPs from all parties feel the need to qualify their condemnations of violence with vague support for the demonstrators’ aims. Several of them literally bend the knee.

To the best of my knowledge, not a single Police and Crime Commissioner has spoken out, either against the excessively heavy-handed way in which the lockdown is enforced for everyone else, or against the refusal even to pretend to enforce it on the protesters.

Police, protesters, politicians, pundits – all are caught up in the general madness. Indeed, everyone seems to be going through a millenarian spasm. Everyone, that is, except the general population, which remains as level-headed as ever.