`What we should do`, says my drinking partner, `is set up garrisons on the border. Then just shoot the buggers when they come in.`
I make squeaking noises about international law, but he will not be stopped.
`Pfff! I once believed in all that flim-flam. But times change`.
He slams his beer glass down, flushing.
`These days I am pretty much a fascist!`
My best mate forms a part of a new social demographic – the Trendy Neo-Rightie (T.N.R). Back in the day, how we laughed at the `Right ons`. Those he or shes who stuck Save the Whale stickers on his or her methane driven cars and gave non –gender specific dolls to their `young adults`. These have long been superseded by Grumpy Old ideologues who, in their forties and fifties have decided that the main problem facing the world is `liberal shibboleths`.
These people do not represent the forgotten white working-class that we have been hearing so much about. On the contrary, well educated and with reasonable jobs they dwell in the leafier areas of cities and, if my own friends are anything to go by, many are expats.
Twenty years ago, they could be heard cocking a snook against emerging Political Correctness – and often with validity-, such as the identity politics with its man/white/Brit bashing corollary, and the no-platforming of opponents.
This remit, however, has since burgeoned into an embittered anti-globalism in which nationalism is disguised as healthy patriotism. Like the Chief Inspector in The Thin Blue Line they `have no time for fannying about` with due process, compromise, realism or any kind of cultural relativism. They have thrown away their rose tinted spectacles. Not that they are Blimps you understand! No, they are `outside of the left-right continuum` or are former lefties who have stayed put as the world has gone further left around them. And their springboard is popular cultural journalism.
The Republican court jester P.J. O’Rourke set the template. One of his essay collections is called Give War A Chance (1993). Do you see what he did there? It’s a topsy-turvy world, right?
Since then the likes of Jeremy Clarkson have made themselves rich by Saying What You Are Not Allowed To Say again and again in popular newspapers.
Rod Liddle is the corporate professional in this industry. His diatribes follow the formula: take an acknowledged world problem, focus instead on the sillier responses to it, then throw in an easy dig at `Guardian readers called Sebastian who knit their own yoghurt`. Then serve it up in a facetious tone to indicate that this need not be taken at face value – and voila! -another T.N.R product hot off the production line!
Against this undercurrent of flippancy, the very strengths of liberalism – the distrust of gut instincts and willingness to consider the other side – can be lampooned as flakiness. A fair few of us have hardly a pot to piss in, but we are the `Establishment` and there are now no Bernard Shaws in our corner with the wit to say otherwise.
Times change though. Many of these hardy protestors have hitched a ride with the runaway juggernaut that is the Trump administration whilst others have been cheerleaders of the messy break-up that is Brexit. It remains to be seen where these experiments will take us: for sure, though, the T.N.Rs will be called upon to accept responsibility for the outcome.
Rewind to the Eighties. There was a TV advert for Babycham in which a posh retro looking young debutante enters a bar populated by trendies and hipsters.
`I’d love a Babycham`, she coos. There follows a stunned silence, which is broken by a Mr T/Grandmaster Flash look-alike clicking his fingers and saying: `Hey, I’d love a Babycham`. The room then erupts into a mass of orders for the same drink. Then comes the kicker: `Babycham: It’s so out, it’s in`.
Could liberalism be on the point of becoming the Babycham of culture? It’s a topsy-turvy world, right?
* Edward Crabtree is a Lib Dem member who lives and works in Russia.