Some thoughts on the UK’s “Culture Wars”

By Neil Lock

This is a review of a study entitled “The four sides in the UK’s ‘culture wars.’” The study was done by researchers from King’s College, London, and published in June 2021; you can find it via the link at [[1]]. It classified a sample of 2,834 respondents to an Ipsos MORI survey of the views of people in the UK on what they call “the country’s culture war debate” into four groups. The researchers dub these groups “Traditionalists,” “Moderates,” “the Disengaged” and “Progressives.”

The response data came from a panel Ipsos call the “UK Knowledge Panel.” There is a description of this panel here: [[2]]. I don’t know exactly how they pick people to ensure that the panel is, in their words, “fully representative of the UK population.” In fact, I would consider that to be a very tall order indeed. In any case, the panel is described as a “random probability” panel, and membership seems to be by invitation.

The researchers used a statistical technique called “latent class analysis” to seek the best possible grouping scheme for their classification. Latent class analysis is not a new technique, having been first mooted more than 70 years ago. But it is only relatively recently that it has become commonly used, and the ways in which the method is used still seem to be evolving. The technically inclined might want to see [[3]] for a recent overview of the method.

It’s worth noting that the actual division of individual responses into classes, given a particular set of researcher decisions, is done using a statistical tool. But the latent class analysis process is heavily driven by decisions made by the researchers, such as how many classes the responses should be divided into, and at what point you stop the process.

I wonder whether, if the researchers had made different decisions – for example, dividing the population into three or five groups, rather than four – the results might have been very different? If a three-group structure had amalgamated the Moderates and the Disengaged, for example, the “take home message” should have been of a disaffected, apolitical majority stuck, through no choice of their own, in between two roughly equal groups, both of them politicized and neither of them friendly. In Benjamin Franklin’s phrase, “two wolves and a sheep voting on what’s for dinner.” A sad (and, in my opinion, correct) interpretation of the state of “democracy” in the UK today.

Perhaps, at the bottom of my mind, I am not fully convinced that latent class analysis is actually a good technique to use on a question such as this.

The four groups

In their introduction, the researchers say: “Traditionalists and Progressives inevitably have very divergent views on key issues, such as the British empire and the Black Lives Matter movement, and make very different value judgements about society and culture in the UK. But they make up just one half of the population; the two groups that make up the other half have more variable or less strong views on relevant issues. Many in the Disengaged group often don’t take a position on them at all.”

Of Moderates, they say: “Despite being the largest group identified in this study, as well as having the most diverse views and political beliefs, the Moderate position tends to lose out to the Traditionalist and Progressive when it comes to media and political attention, reflecting how the debate in the UK is often focused at the more extreme ends of the spectrum.”

Traditionalists

Traditionalists form 26% of the sample. In summary: “Oldest and most heavily male group. Most nostalgic for country’s past and proud of British empire. 97% think political correctness has gone too far, and most likely to feel UK has done enough on equal rights for historically marginalized groups.”

Key demographics: “61% male. 56% aged 55 or older. 59% Conservative. 78% Leavers. 5% ethnic minorities (versus 11% in sample as a whole).” “Highest share of members who are homeowners.”

Progressives

Progressives form 23% of the sample. In summary: “Youngest group, with highest education level. Most likely to think women’s rights, ethnic minority rights and trans rights not gone far enough. Most likely to be ashamed of British empire, and most in favour of political correctness.”

Key demographics: “45% aged 34 or younger. 55% female. Labour (46%) and third party (41%) supporters. 94% Remain. 16% ethnic minorities (versus 11% in sample as a whole).” “Almost 50% have university degrees – the highest share of all the groups.”

Moderates

Moderates form 32% of the sample. In summary: “Support greater rights for women and ethnic minorities – but less strongly than Progressives. Agree political correctness gone too far, yet not nostalgic for past nor proud of empire.”

Key demographics: “33% aged 35-54 and 38% aged 55+. 53% female. Politically diverse: 28% Conservative, 33% Labour, 26% other party. 63% Remain. 12% ethnic minorities (versus 11% in sample as a whole).” “This group is the second most highly educated, with 31% having a degree.”

The Disengaged

The Disengaged form 18% of the sample. In summary: “Stand out for neutrality on politics and Brexit. Least likely to take a position on equal rights for ethnic minorities, and least likely to take stance on culture war issues.”

Key demographics: “40% aged 35-54. 58% female. 44% don’t support any political party. Diverse Brexit identities: 29% Leave, 34% Remain, 37% neither. 12% ethnic minorities (versus 11% in sample as a whole).” “Joint lowest share of degree holders (14%).” “Lowest rate of home ownership (63%) and highest rate of social housing (17%).”

Which group would I have ended up in?

Myself? I’m a 68-year-old male, with a pink skin and a degree in pure mathematics from Cambridge. I am a hard-core libertarian, self-identify as a minarchist (one who supports only a minimum of government), and consider myself neither right-wing nor left-wing. I was, and still am, an ardent Brexiteer; because, for me, the imposition of the EU on people in the UK was done fraudulently.

I have a strong ethical sense, and a strong desire for justice and for maximum freedom for everyone, consistent with living in a civilized community. I am by nature independent and individualistic. I regard myself as a progressive, in the true sense of the word; one who wants unbridled human progress, freedom, individual justice, and prosperity for all who earn it.

As far as party politics goes, I was brought up in a Tory household. I voted Tory in 1983 and 1987, because I disliked Labour for what they did in the 1960s and 70s. Since then, my dislike of Labour has deepened into hatred, because in 1999 they killed off my career as a one-man software consultant with a bad law called IR35, and as a result I am now facing poverty in my old age. But I have come to feel contempt and hatred for the Tories too; I regard them as a lying, arrogant bunch of psychopaths, with no concern at all for the people they are supposed to “represent.” A plague on both their houses, I now say.

I have come to detest the Liberal Democrats also, because of what they did when in power in my local area around 2004. (They were the ones that brought in the speed bumps and the creeping speed limits.) And the Greens I see as extremists that want to trash our economy and our freedoms. For I have studied the facts in the man-made “climate change” debate, and I am contemptuous of the alarmist narrative and all the politics that goes with it. I consider the Greens, and all those that promote or support the green agenda, as traitors to human civilization; they deserve to be kicked out of our civilization, and denied all its benefits.

Thus, I feel contempt for all four mainstream parties in the UK, for the UK political system as a whole, and for most of those that take an active part in it. As a result, I have not voted in a general election since 1987. (I was planning to vote for the Brexit party in 2019, but the candidate in my constituency was stood down, and decided not to stand as an Independent).

I am currently a member of the Reform UK party, but I am becoming more and more concerned that they are failing to distinguish and distance themselves sufficiently from the mainstream parties to be able to break out of the current, failed, mould of UK politics.

So, if I had been a participant in the MORI poll, in which group might I have ended up? Demographically, I could have been a Traditionalist; but I’m no conservative. Despite labelling myself as progressive, many of my views are strongly opposed to those of the Progressive group. I’m certainly disengaged from the political system, but I have strong views on most of the culture war issues; so, I can’t really be Disengaged according to the researchers’ characterization. That leaves Moderate as the least bad fit. Even though I am hardly a moderate, even by my own reckoning! Maybe this “culture war” stuff is more complicated than even those who research it think?

In the remainder of this missive, I thought it worth my while to document my own responses to the MORI questionnaire, whose data the researchers analyzed. The questions are numbered according to the page of the PDF on which the results are presented.

The groups’ identifying characteristics

The four sides are distinguished by their attitudes towards historically marginalized groups

Q10.1: In the UK, transgender rights have… Not gone far enough? Gone as far as they should go? Don’t know? Gone too far?

A10.1: Gone as far as they should go. This could put me in any of the Moderate, Traditionalist and/or Disengaged camps on the issue.

Comment: This is quite a complex issue. I appreciate that some people have different sexualities from others, and I don’t personally find that a problem. And I don’t object to people wanting to change their own gender identity, if it doesn’t harm anyone else. But I do object strongly to those that want to force or browbeat people into change they don’t want. I also object to being expected, as a taxpayer, to pay for schemes like “changing places” toilets.

Q10.2: “When it comes to giving Black, Asian and minority ethnic people equal rights with white people, things have gone far enough in the UK.” Agree? Neither agree nor disagree (or don’t know?) Disagree?

A10.2: Neither agree nor disagree. I’m firmly in the Disengaged camp on this one.

Comment: I take the view that people should be judged and treated, not by who they are, but only according to how they behave. Thus, I myself seek to avoid discriminating on grounds of race. And I consider racism, and most of all institutional racism, to be ethically wrong. But on the other hand, I object to all forms of “affirmative action,” racial quotas and the like, because they depart from the principle that each individual deserves to be treated according to how he or she behaves. I also note, with amusement, that the question as worded contains a subtle anti-white bias, since “Black” and “Asian” are capitalized while “white” is not!

Q10.3: “When it comes to giving women equal rights with men, things have gone far enough in the UK.” Agree? Neither agree nor disagree (or don’t know?) Disagree?

A10.3: Agree. I side with the Traditionalists here.

Comment: I take the view that you earn your rights by respecting the equal rights of others. Thus, I do not object to women in general expecting the same rights as men. And as in the case of race, as an individual I try not to discriminate against women because they are women. However, I do object to the aggressive way in which feminists have behaved in putting forward their case. I object very strongly to radical feminism, and its socialist or Marxist aspects. And I object to those that want to force me to use gender-neutral language.

Most traditionalists are proud of the British Empire and would like their country to return to a past state – in stark contrast to Progressives

Q11.1: The British empire is something… To be proud of? Neither/don’t know? To be ashamed of?

A11.1: Neither. That makes me Disengaged, or perhaps Moderate.

Comment: The British empire was a thing of its time; but its time is long gone. The British were by no means the worst of the colonialists, and they did do some good in some places. But the colonial system in general was not a just one.

Q11.2: “I would like my country to be the way it used to be.” Strongly agree? Tend to agree? Neither agree nor disagree (or don’t know?) Tend to disagree? Strongly disagree?

A11.2: Strongly disagree. This time, I’m in the Progressive camp.

Comment: History moves on, and human needs change and evolve. To demand that everyone return to some mythical past, which probably never existed anyway, is idiocy.

Traditionalists and Progressives’ divergent views on the UK’s history are reflected in their pride in the country

Q12.1: “I am proud of my country.” Strongly agree? Tend to agree? Neither agree nor disagree (or don’t know?) Tend to disagree? Strongly disagree?

A12.1: Strongly disagree. That puts me on the extreme wing of the Progressives!

Comment: The UK’s political system, along with the political systems in place in the rest of the world today, is kaput. And democracy, far from solving the problems, seems almost to make things worse. I consider parliament and the government in general to be dishonest, untrustworthy and totally out of touch with ordinary people; and I personally am even further estranged from them than most.

Moreover, the idea that a silly old woman, who lives in a castle and has never done a decent day’s productive work in her life, has a right to rule over me as a “sovereign,” I find insulting. And her son and heir is a shill for a globalist political and economic élite, that are hostile to freedom and earned prosperity for ordinary people. He’s a hypocrite, to boot.

Q12.2: “Too many people in the UK run our country down.” Strongly agree? Tend to agree? Neither agree nor disagree (or don’t know?) Tend to disagree? Strongly disagree?

A12.2: Tend to disagree. On this one, I’m Progressive, or possibly Moderate.

Comment: If it’s broke (and it is), it’s time to get fixing it. And you can’t fix anything properly without first explicating the problems, and bringing them out into the open.

Progressives strongly favour being politically correct, while Traditionalists think all viewpoints should be aired, even if offensive

Q13.1: “Some people think that the way people talk needs to be more sensitive to people from different backgrounds. Others think that many people are just too easily offended.” Where would you place yourself on this scale? (0 to 7: 0 = People are too easily offended, 7 = Need to change the way people talk.)

A13.1: 0. That puts me at the furthest extreme of the Traditionalists!

Comment: Those that think the way people talk “needs to” be changed, have it totally bass-ackwards. It’s how you listen that matters when you are dealing with people from different backgrounds. Those, that seek to force other people to change their behaviours, are the ones that ought to change their behaviours. Oh, and the phrase “needs to” is often a sign of someone that wants to use government force to change others’ behaviour.

Q13.2: If you had to choose, is it more important for universities… To expose students to all points of view, even if they are offensive or biased? To prohibit offensive speech on campus that is biased against certain groups? Neither/Don’t Know?

A13.2: To expose students to all points of view, even if they are offensive or biased. That puts me in the Traditionalist and Moderate camps.

Comment: If students are not exposed to all points of view – including offensive ones, biased ones, unpopular ones, and ones that are just plain wrong – how are they ever going to acquire the skills of critically analyzing those views, to see whether they hold up or not?

More broadly, the desire of many Progressives to censor others’ views, combined with the Progressives being by far the most university educated group, reflects the corruption that has taken place in universities over the last half century or so. And I take the view that those that wish to censor opposing ideas are tacitly admitting that they are unable to respond to those ideas with any good arguments; as happened with the Catholic church over Galileo.

Nearly all Traditionalists think political correctness has gone too far – and majorities of the Moderates and the Disengaged feel the same

Q14.1: “Political correctness has gone too far.” Agree? Neither agree nor disagree (or don’t know?) Disagree?

A14.1: Agree. Here, I’m with the majority, and against the Progressives.

Comment: See what I said above about censorship, and corruption in universities.

The four groups have distinct political allegiances

Q15.1: Do you support/are you closer to any political party? Conservative? Labour? Other party? No party?

A15.1: Other party/No party.

Comment: In general, I detest politics. Until 2019, I had never even contemplated having anything to do with a political party. But Brexit was, for me, an absolutely vital necessity – a sine qua non, without which people in the UK could have no hope of escaping the current, decaying world political system. Thus, in 2019 I joined the Brexit party; and when the Reform UK party was born, I followed the natural path into it.

Now, the Reform party has some decent people. But I am becoming increasingly concerned that it is aligning itself too close to the mainstream. For me, it needs to be far more radical if it is to become successful. In particular, it must come out, not just against the Tories’ botched plans for “net zero,” but against the nonsense that any curbs on carbon dioxide emissions this century would bring any nett benefit to humanity at all.

Q15.2: Thinking about the UK’s relationship with the European Union, do you think of yourself as a “Remainer,” a “Leaver,” or do you not think of yourself in that way? Remain? Leave? Neither/don’t know?

A15.2: Leave. That puts me with Traditionalists, and a minority of Moderates and Disengaged.

Comment: The EU is even more remote and less accountable than the UK élites – and they are far worse than bad enough!

Q15.3: “The government should promote… in our society.” More progressive values? No particular set of values? More traditional values?

A15.3: No particular set of values. That puts me with majorities of Moderates and Disengaged.

Comment: The response percentages to this question are very interesting. Both Progressives and Traditionalists are politicized; they both want to see government support their side in the values debate. Whereas I do not see it as a valid function of government to impose any particular set of values on anyone. I see government as like a referee in a football match – it is not any part of his function to change the rules of the game, or the shape of the ball!

As to my own values, to a first cut they are the values of humanity, of reason, honesty and individual justice, of the Renaissance, of the Enlightenment, and of honest business and industry. As opposed to the negative “values” of the state and politics, of hierarchy and religious intolerance, of Machiavellian dishonesty and psychopathic behaviour, of collectivism, and of suppression of truth, human rights, justice, freedom and prosperity.

Black Lives Matter divides the four groups, but there is more unanimity over lockdown restrictions

Q16.1: From what you’ve read and heard, how do you feel about the Black Lives Matter movement? Support? Neither support nor oppose? Oppose?

A16.1: Support, but with certain reservations. That puts me solidly among the Moderates.

Comment: When BLM stick to their main focus, of getting rid of police brutality – against black people, or against anyone else – I’m with them all the way. But when they rant about “social justice” or “climate justice,” or mount disruptive protests like blocking airport runways, I’m against them.

Q16.2: “Do you see yourself as a supporter or an opponent of [coronavirus] restrictions, or do you not think of yourself in that way? Supporter? Do not think of self that way (or don’t know?) Opponent?

A16.2: Opponent. That puts me in a minority, even among Traditionalists and Moderates.

Comment: I caught COVID before it was even officially in the UK, and had recovered from it six weeks before the first lockdown. I have followed world COVID statistics in detail for two years now, and am well aware that neither lockdowns nor mask mandates have been proved to have had nearly as significant an effect on transmission of the virus as many seem to think. And though vaccines do seem to reduce mortality per case, they don’t seem to do much if anything to reduce transmission. Moreover, I am a conscientious objector to taking COVID vaccinations, not so much because of concern about the vaccinations themselves, but because I am opposed to any kind of compulsion in health matters. I can understand that sometimes there may be a case that people ought to take certain protective steps; but I will always want to evaluate that case, in objective and quantitative detail, before deciding to act.

I also found the fine and prosecution of Piers Corbyn over his COVID demonstrations to be a serious case of government over-reach. (Even more so, because of the “Partygate” scandal, that saw politicians and government officials in 2020 holding Christmas parties in clear violation of “laws” they themselves were involved in making!) Whatever you may think of some of Piers Corbyn’s fellow travellers in that cause, his right to organize non-disruptive public protests should have been honoured. And I felt that the lockdown of spring 2021, in particular, went on many weeks longer than it needed to. But that said, the UK government’s handling of COVID did improve greatly once Sajid Javid took over as health secretary.

Different views on culture war issues reflect different underlying values

Progressives and Traditionalists make fundamentally different value judgements about society and culture in the UK

Q18.1: “Young people today don’t have enough respect for traditional values.” Strongly agree? Tend to agree? Neither agree nor disagree? Tend to disagree? Strongly disagree?

A18.1: Tend to agree. That puts me in the mainstream of all the groups except Progressives.

Comment: The idea of “traditional values” seems to me to be rather ill-defined. If it means Enlightenment values like reason, the rule of law and government for the benefit of the governed, then I support those values. If, on the other hand, it means conservative “values” like political nationalism, or adherence to a particular set of religious mores, then I do not support those values. But what I see today is that few young people are being taught the values that I care about. The problem does not lie with the young people themselves, but with the education system. And, in particular, universities are seeking to instil into young people bad non-values like political correctness, collectivism and deep green environmentalism.

Q18.2: “People in the UK should be more tolerant of those who lead unconventional lives.” Strongly agree? Tend to agree? Neither agree nor disagree? Tend to disagree? Strongly disagree?

A18.2: Strongly agree. That puts me towards the Progressive side on this one.

Comment: Everyone is an individual. We are all different, and have different needs and desires. I take the view that, if what you want to do doesn’t harm anyone else, and isn’t intended to harm anyone else, then it should be OK for you to do it.

Q18.3: “The culture in the UK is changing too fast.” Strongly agree? Tend to agree? Neither agree nor disagree? Tend to disagree? Strongly disagree?

A18.3: Neither agree nor disagree. That makes me Disengaged, or possibly Moderate.

Comment: I don’t feel this question really addresses the issue. That issue, I think, is not so much the speed of change, but its direction. A far better statement to which to respond would have been: “The culture in the UK is changing in a good direction.” To which, my response would have been: Tend to disagree.

The groups think in different and sometimes contradictory ways about various aspects of free speech and the right to offend

Q19.1: “Censorship of films and magazines is necessary to uphold moral standards.” Strongly agree? Tend to agree? Neither agree nor disagree? Tend to disagree? Strongly disagree?

A19.1: Strongly disagree. That puts me among the ultra-Progressives, again!

Comment: As I said earlier, a desire to censor a point of view usually means that the wannabe censors cannot provide good arguments against it. Also, it is the listener, viewer or reader that ought to bear the burden of adjusting perceptions, not the speaker. Thus, censoring ideas that do not incite violence or disruptive behaviour is always wrong among adults who voluntarily consent to receive those ideas. As to children, it is up to the parents to guide what they may see, read or hear.

Q19.2: “‘No-platforming’ is the right response to speakers with controversial views.” Strongly agree? Tend to agree? Neither agree nor disagree? Tend to disagree? Strongly disagree?

(The researchers describe “no-platforming” as “students trying to prevent invited speakers, whose views the students believe to be unacceptable, from speaking, or disrupting the events they are speaking at.”)

A19.2: Strongly disagree. This time, I’m with the ultra-Traditionalists!

The researchers observe as follows: “From these questions it is possible to see some level of contradiction between some of the groups’ positions on censorship. For example, Progressives, who in other areas are the most willing to limit freedom of speech, are the least supportive of censorship to protect moral standards. Similarly, Traditionalists, who are otherwise absolutist about free speech regardless of the potential for offense, have a majority agreeing that censorship is necessary to uphold moral standards.”

Comment: I think that the reason why my answers to these two questions are the same, whereas Traditionalists and Progressives both tend to flip to opposite extremes, is that my views are based on ethics, whereas theirs are based on their preferred politics. Both of them want to be free to put their views, yet at the same time want to censor views opposed to their own. This tallies with what I said earlier, that Progressives and Traditionalists are politicized, and both want to see government support their side in the values debate. It may also help to explain why, in the researchers’ words, “the Moderate position tends to lose out to the Traditionalist and Progressive when it comes to media and political attention.”

Progressives tend towards more liberal positions on law and order, while Traditionalists have more authoritarian views

Q20.1: “For some crimes the death penalty is the most appropriate sentence.” Strongly agree? Tend to agree? Neither agree nor disagree? Tend to disagree? Strongly disagree?

A20.1: Tend to disagree. This places me in the Moderate camp more than any other.

Comment: For common crimes, for example murder, I am opposed to the death penalty. The rationale being, that if a miscarriage of justice occurs in a capital case, the execution cannot be undone. However, I make an exception for political crimes that kill innocent people. And, in particular, for warlike aggression against innocent people. This on the grounds that there can never be any justification for evading responsibility for the effects of such an action. Vladimir Putin, for example, deserves capital punishment (once caught) for his invasion of Ukraine. As does Tony Blair for his actions and words leading to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Q20.2: “People who break the law should be given stiffer sentences.” Strongly agree? Tend to agree? Neither agree nor disagree? Tend to disagree? Strongly disagree?

A20.2: Strongly disagree. On this matter, I’m in the extreme Progressive camp.

Comment: First, I do not recognize any unconditional validity in what people call “the law.” Laws made by politicians are not necessarily good and just; some, indeed, actively create injustice. As Edmund Burke put it, “Bad laws are the worst sort of tyranny.” I agree with John Locke’s view that many of the “municipal laws of countries” are no more than “the fancies and intricate contrivances of men, following contrary and hidden interests put into words.” And such laws are “only so far right as they are founded on the law of Nature.”

With regard to sentencing, some sentences for crimes are too harsh, some are too lenient, and others are about right. In the best of all possible worlds, judges would have discretion to make the severity of the sentence match as closely as possible the severity of the crime. So, I consider the point of view that “people who break the law should be given stiffer sentences” as promoting political interference with what ought to be an objective justice process.

Q20.3: “People should be allowed to organize public meetings to protest against the government.” Strongly agree? Tend to agree? Neither agree nor disagree? Tend to disagree? Strongly disagree?

A20.3: Agree, with certain reservations. That puts me on this issue either with the Moderates, or with the more moderate Progressives.

Comment: I do not sanction protests which cause, or are intended to cause, damage to property, or harm or disruption to innocent third parties. Such as, for example, Extinction Rebellion digging up a lawn at Trinity College, Cambridge (my alma mater), or Black Lives Matter blocking an airport runway. But protests, which do not do or intend to do these things, must always be permissible; including Piers Corbyn’s protests against COVID restrictions.

All groups believe there are inequalities in wealth and that there is unfairness between rich and poor

Q21.1: “Ordinary working people get their fair share of the nation’s wealth.” Strongly agree? Tend to agree? Neither agree nor disagree? Tend to disagree? Strongly disagree?

A21.1: Strongly disagree. That puts me in the majorities in all four camps.

Comment: Far too much wealth is taken away by government from those who earn it, and used in ways which do not benefit those people. The public sector is notorious for how much money it wastes. “Fat cat” public sector bosses and powerful, unaccountable “civil servants” and “advisors” get huge salaries they don’t earn. Government funded universities have become corrupt, and often work against the interests of those who are forced to subsidize them. Lucrative government contracts are given out to friends and cronies, and many of them are done badly. And those that organized these things get favours back through the “revolving door” system.

Moreover, government favours big businesses over small. And independent people like me are victimized by bad laws that exclude us from the market. Bankers and other financial whizz-kids are allowed to gamble with other people’s money, and then bailed out at the expense of taxpayers if they lose that money. And don’t even ask about inflation, or government control over interest rates… The UK economic and financial system, like the political system, is dishonest, unjust and unsustainable. It is all but kaput.

At a wider level, the perception that inequalities in wealth are a big problem is not quite the full story. Inequalities in wealth are not wrong per se. It is injustice in the allocation of wealth that is the real problem. When people who are able and willing to deliver economic values – goods, services and skills – to others receive less than they are worth, and those that do nothing useful to anyone but the establishment and its political class get rewards out of all proportion to what they put in, that is very serious injustice.

Worse, the whole idea of taxing incomes tends to entrench the economic status quo. It favours the already rich, who can live off capital and don’t need much income, so don’t pay much tax. And it hits hardest of all those who can earn well, but have little or no capital, so preventing them from building up any real wealth.

I take the view that what individuals pay for government ought to be in direct proportion to the benefit they get from it. And if government does only what it should do – which I see as delivering peace, tranquillity and justice, and very little more – then what individuals pay for it, I think, ought to be in direct proportion to their total wealth. John Locke’s words seem apt: “it is fit everyone who enjoys his share of the protection should pay out of his estate his proportion for the maintenance of it.”

Q21.2: “There is one law for the rich and one law for the poor.” Strongly agree? Tend to agree? Neither agree nor disagree? Tend to disagree? Strongly disagree?

A21.2: Strongly agree, with one small reservation. The statement would be better phrased as: “There is one law for the politically rich and one law for the politically poor!” That puts me in the majorities in all four groups, and a super-majority among the Progressives.

Unity and division

Majority of all groups see the UK as divided, while also believing the media exaggerates the country’s divisions

Q23.1: How united or divided does the UK feel to you these days? Very united? Somewhat united? Neither united nor divided? Somewhat divided? Very divided?

A23.1: Somewhat divided. This puts me comfortably with the majorities in all four groups.

Comment: “United” (applied to anything bigger than a football club) and “unity” are words that give me conniptions. To me, “unity” is something that can only be achieved in a top-down, centralized, command-and-control order; such as the EU, with its motto “Unity in diversity.” But my desire is for a social organization that is bottom-up, de-centralized and networked, and allows maximum freedom for every individual. I want freedom and harmony, not unity!

As to the magnitude of the divisions, they aren’t as big as in 1642 or 1685 – yet.

Q23.2: In my lifetime… We have been through more divided times before? We have been through divided times like this before? This is the most divided we have been?

A23.2: This is the most divided we have been. That puts me in the majority or near-majority in all four groups.

Comment: The most divided time I can remember in the UK before the present was the late 1970s. But I was living in Holland at the time, so didn’t feel the worst of it.

I think, though, that the biggest divisions are not so much between Traditionalists and Progressives, but between the ordinary people on the one side, and the political establishment and their cronies and hangers-on (including both the Traditionalists and Progressives among them) on the other.

Q23.3: “The media often makes our country feel more divided than it really is.” Strongly agree? Tend to agree? Neither agree nor disagree? Tend to disagree? Strongly disagree?

A23.3: Tend to agree. For the fifth time in a row, I am comfortably in the mainstream. Very unlike me!

Comment: The media are, of course, prone to over-sensationalizing everything. But from what I see, I would say that they tend to emphasize the divisions between different factions, and to obfuscate, gloss over or miss altogether the divisions between the people and the establishment. This may be partly because the media today are mostly controlled by one faction or another. It may also be that many in the media are afraid to speak out in ways that might be perceived by the establishment as unfavourable to them and their interests.

The groups all mostly think culture wars are a real and serious problem – but also that they’re stoked by politicians

Q24.1: “Culture wars are a serious problem for UK society and politics.” Strongly agree? Tend to agree? Neither agree nor disagree? Tend to disagree? Strongly disagree?

A24.1: Tend to agree. This time, I’m in the majority among everyone but the Disengaged.

Comment: The most serious single aspect of the problem is the suppression of free speech, whether in the interests of Progressive values and “political correctness,” or of Traditionalist values and “moral standards.” In contrast to many of the other differences, which are merely matters of opinion, free speech is not something you can “agree to differ” about.

Q24.2: “Politicians invent or exaggerate culture wars as a political tactic.” Strongly agree? Tend to agree? Neither agree nor disagree? Tend to disagree? Strongly disagree?

A24.2: Tend to agree. It looks as if I’m in the mainstream yet again!

Comment: In my view, broad cultural movements tend to begin in the intellectual class; most of whom are today to be found in universities. If the ideas of such movements suit the establishment, they will adopt them. Through control of purse-strings by the state, these ideas then permeate from the top down into government, its bureaucracies, and everything it funds.

It seems to me that the ideological corruption, which was seeded in the universities half a century and more ago with ideas like post-modernism, has spread to virtually all parts of government. This includes the technocratic “scientists,” “experts” and “advisors,” who today have considerable power – such as, for example, SAGE. It also includes the BBC. And, of course, it has spread back into the universities, and corrupted them still more.

At a certain point, the bad ideas get picked up by the nominally “independent” media, which begins to spread them to the general population. Some believe them, others don’t. This leads to a polarization of opinions. Then, the politicians get involved, thinking there are votes in it for them. Politicians, in my view, don’t actually invent the “culture wars,” but they do fan those wars for their own purposes. And individual politicians have played leading roles in this process. For example, John Selwyn Gummer with the green agenda.

Q24.3: “Culture wars only exist in the media and on social media, not in real life.” Strongly agree? Tend to agree? Neither agree nor disagree? Tend to disagree? Strongly disagree?

A24.3: Strongly disagree. That puts me in a minority, aligned with Progressives and Moderates.

Comment: Culture wars do, very much, impact real life for people who work in any area where they are being fought. For example, academics and journal editors opposed to Progressive, alarmist ideas on “climate change” have been fired, or forced to retire from their field. They can also negatively impact people who work for companies whose top brass have come down on a particular side in the culture wars, but whose views do not align with their bosses’.

Progressives are most likely to feel there is tension between various groups in society

This question is of a different nature to the previous ones. Under a number of headings corresponding to different groups, people were asked whether they thought there is a great deal, or a fair amount, of tension between these groups. The detailed results are quite difficult to decode, so I’ll simply quote a couple of the researchers’ comments, and give some brief thoughts on my own personal views.

“Around 90% of Progressives think relations are strained between Leavers and Remainers, rich and poor, the socially liberal and those with more traditional values, and people who support different political parties. By contrast, Traditionalists are most likely to think there is tension between different religions (65%), different ethnicities (77%) and between immigrants and people born in the UK (83%).”

Q25. Is there a great deal, or a fair amount, of tension between the following groups in the UK?

  • Leavers and Remainers? Yes, a great deal. This has been, and indeed still is, an all-or-nothing issue, on which neither side is willing to give any ground at all. From a Leaver point of view, the Remainer side have behaved atrociously ever since the issue was first aired.
  • Rich and poor? Not in my area.
  • Those with more socially liberal, progressive ideas and those with more traditional values? Not in those terms. For me, the major tension is between those that want to use government to force their particular values on to others, and those of us who just want to live and let live.
  • People who support different political parties? It isn’t something I often even talk about.
  • The metropolitan élite and ordinary working people? Yes, a great deal. The green agenda, in particular, is being driven and supported principally by a metropolitan élite that have no concern at all for its effects on ordinary people.
  • Different social classes? Not in my area.
  • Immigrants and people born in the UK? Not in my area.
  • Different ethnicities? Not in my area.
  • Old and young? Not that I detect.
  • Different religions? Not in my area. We have a mix of Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, agnostics and atheists. But for me, religion simply isn’t a big deal.
  • Those in cities and those outside of cities. Yes, very much so. In particular, the metropolitan élite are trying to force on to everyone transport policies that simply can’t work for ordinary people in suburbs or the countryside.
  • Men and women? Not that I detect; apart from a few radical feminists, of course.
  • Those with a university education and those without a university education? Again, not something I often talk about. I certainly don’t often brag about my education!

Information bubbles

The researchers say: “Progressives are the most likely of the groups to say that people they come into contact with share their political views. And all groups perceive greater agreement with close friends and family than with people they interact with on-line or their neighbours.”

There is one question, asked about each of five different groups of people you know. It has the general form: When it comes to political issues, do most of <group name> agree with you, is it about 50:50, or do most disagree with you? I did, however, find that this was not a wide enough range of possible answers for someone like me; so, where necessary, I have given an answer not in the list.

Q27.1: People you interact with on-line. A27.1: It’s about 50:50. That could put me in any group except Progressives.

Comment: The range of political views on Internet blogs are determined by the politics of the host(s). As a hard-core libertarian, I usually have no problem interacting at either Traditionalist or Progressive blogs, because my views mix elements of both. And I quite often go out of my way to explore the ideas of those who disagree with me on one issue or many; if only to understand the weaknesses in their case!

As to social media, I don’t do Fish-hook or Twatter.

Q27.2: Colleagues. A27.2: I don’t discuss politics with co-workers, except very occasionally in the pub afterwards. As one who has strong and unconventional political views, I don’t want to risk alienating people I need to co-operate with.

Q27.3: Neighbours. A27.3: The things I discuss with neighbours are pretty much all related to the management and maintenance of the block of flats we live in.

Q28.1: Close friends. A28.1: It’s about 50:50. That places me as Disengaged, or possibly Moderate.

Q28.2: Family. A28.2: I don’t have much of a family any more. We are few and geographically dispersed, so we meet only very rarely.

Views of the “other side” in culture war debates

The researchers say: “All groups tend to have negative views of the other side in culture war debates – although Progressives have particularly cold feelings towards their ‘opponents’ on the issues of Black Lives Matter, trans rights and Brexit. Compared with the other groups, Traditionalists are not particularly negative about the other side on most issues. While they do have the worst opinion of people who are ashamed of the British empire, their feelings are not particularly extreme. Moderates are most positive about their political opponents. All groups have similarly negative views on people who take the opposing position on COVID restrictions.”

Had I been on the MORI panel, I would probably have refused to answer this set of questions, on the grounds that I judge individuals on how they behave, not on the views they profess or who they associate with. So, I’ll give just a few brief thoughts on my views of those on the other side…

Q30.1: Politically? A30.1: Anyone who votes for any of the mainstream political parties has, to put it gently, failed to think through what they are doing and its consequences.

Q30.2: Brexit? A30.2: I do not criticize people simply because they wanted to remain in the EU. (Though I will ask them: “If you liked the EU so much, why didn’t you emigrate to it?”) Nevertheless, I do take an extremely negative view of:

  • Those that in the 1970s misled people in the UK into agreeing to join what they told us was an economic project, but they must have known would become a political one.
  • Those that, from the early 1990s when the political nature of the European project became obvious, up to 2013 when the first tentative commitments to a referendum were mooted, failed to offer people in the UK an opportunity to withdraw from the EU.
  • Those that from 2016 tried to scupper Brexit, after the people of the UK had voted for it.
  • Those that continue to proselytize and agitate for the UK to return to the EU.

Q31.1: Black Lives Matter? A31.1: This isn’t one of my hot-button issues, so I don’t much care what people think about it. As long, of course, as they don’t try to force or to shame me, or anyone else, into showing support for aspects of BLM that we don’t agree with.

Q31.2: Trans rights? A31.2: I take essentially the same position here as I do on BLM.

Q32.1: COVID restrictions? A32.1: It’s entirely up to you. If you show hatred for me, I’ll end up hating you. If you’ll live and let live, we can get on just fine.

Q32.2: The British empire? A32.2: Let’s just agree to differ, shall we?

To sum up

I thought that, rather than bother to craft a summary section, I’d just quote a few of the most salient points I have gleaned from this exercise.

  1. If a three-group structure had amalgamated the Moderates and the Disengaged, for example, the “take home message” should have been of a disaffected, apolitical majority stuck, through no choice of their own, in between two roughly equal groups, both of them politicized and neither of them friendly. In Benjamin Franklin’s phrase, “two wolves and a sheep voting on what’s for dinner.”
  2. Both Progressives and Traditionalists are politicized; they both want to see government support their side in the values debate. Whereas I do not see it as a valid function of government to impose any particular set of values on anyone.
  3. Both of them [Traditionalists and Progressives] want to be free to put their views, yet at the same time want to censor views opposed to their own. This… may also help to explain why, in the researchers’ words, “the Moderate position tends to lose out to the Traditionalist and Progressive when it comes to media and political attention.”
  4. I think, though, that the biggest divisions are not so much between Traditionalists and Progressives, but between the ordinary people on the one side, and the political establishment and their cronies and hangers-on (including both the Traditionalists and Progressives among them) on the other.
  5. The media are, of course, prone to over-sensationalizing everything. But from what I see, I would say that they tend to emphasize the divisions between different factions, and to obfuscate, gloss over or miss altogether the divisions between the people and the establishment.
  6. Free speech is not something you can “agree to differ” about.
  7. It seems to me that the ideological corruption, which was seeded in the universities half a century and more ago with ideas like post-modernism, has spread to virtually all parts of government. This includes the technocratic “scientists,” “experts” and “advisors,” who today have considerable power – such as, for example, SAGE. It also includes the BBC. And, of course, it has spread back into the universities, and corrupted them still more.
  8. For me, the major tension is between those that want to use government to force their particular values on to others, and those of us who just want to live and let live.

[1] https://www.johnsmithcentre.com/research/the-four-sides-in-the-uks-culture-wars/

[2] https://www.ipsos.com/en-uk/ipsos-mori-launches-uk-knowledgepanel-provide-total-understanding-uk-public

[3] https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0095798420930932

3 comments


  1. You spend a lot of time reading stuff that I would delete after five seconds. However, I suppose someone has to keep an eye on the enemy.


    • Even Hercules couldn’t have understood how to clean out the Augean stables, if he hadn’t investigated and found the cause of the smell, and mused about how it might be dislodged.

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