The lockdown will gradually recede, the empty pavements will refill and the task of rebuilding will begin. National crises, while painful, often herald a cultural shift. And so it could be here.
For years our leaders have been indifferent to things that matter. Now these things are impossible to ignore.
Like naked bathers exposed when the tide ebbs, the Covid-19 crisis has brutally unmasked a series of liberal ideas whose time has passed. As the British Government scours the globe for medical kit we might ponder the West’s hollowed-out industrial base – unable to produce the goods in an hour of need.
Indifference is the word which describes much of what we’ve been fed. Its effects – like viral droplets spreading through the air – are everywhere.
Industrially, we got here by our leaders listening to hyper-globalists who told us it doesn’t matter where anything is made. These people mocked anyone who cared about national resilience or indeed about national anything. But it takes a particular kind of progressive to completely detach vile, totalitarian regimes from the cheap products we buy from them. We shouldn’t.
Likewise, the inequality caused by our form of capitalism is said to be tolerated ‘because it works’, but that’s only convincing if it actually… works. A system which feeds off unsustainable household debt – eventually causing the beggary of its people – is clearly failing.
This passive indifference has spread far and wide. Our leaders don’t care who runs our railways (German, French and Dutch state railways…) or where the trains and rolling stock are made. ‘It doesn’t matter’ they’ll say, although families in Crewe and Birmingham now working the ‘gig economy’ might disagree.
Neither, apparently, do we need to train our own doctors and nurses because we can import these economic units (a.k.a. people) – an approach which betrays a callousness to impoverished nations losing their very best.
Nor, with a continent full of energetic and diligent workers, do we need to bother with vocational training for our young. The fact that Marek and Svetlana are so often a credit to their employers doesn’t help untrained kids sitting at home in Ashington.
Socially, the pattern is the same. Tolerance is the word progressives use to mask their indifference but it’s a type of indifference all the same. It’s dishonest to disconnect widespread crime, unhappiness and other social ills from their root cause in family breakdown. To hear this never mentioned on the BBC tells a lot about the decline of that once-great national institution.
In this liberal world of ours, we’re invited to step over people begging in the street while passively inhaling wafts of skunk in our town centres without noticing something important… that it didn’t used to be like this. Must we be indifferent to this?
It’s not British people but, rather, their cultural masters who don’t care. They mistake their indifference for ours.
So, what next? While the evidently liberal Tories will no doubt tilt just as much as opinion polls tell them is necessary, the identity-obsessed and race-baiting Labour Party has nothing to offer. An NHS applauded and a lockdown honoured without complaint proves that people deeply value national solidarity and, as 2016 referendum showed, are prepared to work for it.
Liberal indifference appears to be on the wane. But it needs a push. Perhaps it can be helped on its way by a political party which almost died young, recovered and is blooming once again: the revived SDP?
People want a future which is softer and more communitarian; more secure but less individualistic; more domestic and less globalist; fairer and less unequal.
Fortunately, there’s a blueprint for that called the ‘Social Market’. It’s where the public and private sectors are not opponents, where free markets are regulated in the national interest and where taxes owed are collected to build a better society.