Much intellectual effort is going on in trying to understand what exactly is happening within the world of Brexit, Trump, Marine Le Pen, and populism across Europe and beyond. This morning while eating my porridge and washing up I heard David Goodhart describe his theory of people from somewhere and anywhere. Goodhart, I discovered afterwards, “is the founding editor of Prospect magazine and currently head of the Demography, Immigration and Integration Unit at the think tank Policy Exchange.” A wonk, in other words.
People from anywhere are those who left home to go to a university somewhere else, learnt and adopted liberal values, and have moved from place to place. They are highly educated and are comfortable with change. People from somewhere identify with a particular place, grew up there, are sceptical of change, and place a high value on traditional values.
(Goodhart didn’t talk of people from nowhere, although he did talk of “global villagers”; Janan Ganesh of the Financial Times describes himself as citizen of nowhere in response to Teresa May’s sneering reference to “citizens of nowhere” as if they have no values and loyalties.)
Goodhart’s divisions map neatly onto immigration. The 50% of the population who are people from somewhere think that immigration is too high, whereas the 25% who are people from anywhere think it’s about right. The 25% who are “inbetweeners” also think it’s too high, helping to explain the Brexit vote and why there is such political pressure to reduce immigration. (The tiny fraction of global villagers think it too low.)
The people from anywhere are the people who have been running the country, and they simply haven’t paid enough attention to the people from somewhere. Many of the people from somewhere stopped voting, but once given a chance in the Brexit vote to voice their displeasure they did so.
The crucial debate now is how the people from anywhere, who are still running the government, respond. Do they acknowledge their mistakes and try to respond to some degree to the values of people from somewhere or do they try and “put them back in their box”? Teresa May is clearly trying to do the former, and, as the people from somewhere make up half the population that’s politically sensible. Labour needs to do the same.
Oliver Letwin, a leading strategist in David Cameron’s government who described himself as “one of the guilty men,” accepted a lot of Goodhart’s analysis but though that the economic crash of 2008, the effects of which are continuing, is an important cause of Brexit and other populism.
He made the interesting aside that the success of the Tory party has not been in resisting change but in judging correctly the speed at which it can be made.
I am, of course, a person of anywhere (although rooted firmly in Clapham) hovering on the edge of being a person from nowhere.