The confluence of coincidence
“Events dear boy, events” was how Harold Macmillan replied to an interviewer who asked him what most drove politics. On the dimension popularised by Harold Wilson – “A week is a long time in politics” – he was of course right. But as a political historian by training, I’ve always been fascinated by the degree to which sometimes random events combine as catalysts for longer-term change.
At the very moment when one of Britain’s most blindly europhile editors – Alan Rusbridger at The Guardian – chose to retire, Eurogrope bullying of Greece went out of control….and newly freed-up journalists piled in to ask why Britain’s Establishment seemed so committed to a European ideal that had become an authoritarian ideology.
Not long after that moment, Labour’s largely self-inflicted electoral defeat brought forth Jeremy Corbyn as the rank outsider stalking horse in the Labour Leadership contest. Since that moment, all liberal and left-leaning British media (and there aren’t many left) have been inundated with columns asserting why Jeremy is Not a Joke…and now he is the favourite to win. Indeed, so persuasive is his candidacy in Labour Party circles, the terminally wind-blown, boring Andy Burnham has said his first act as Leader would be to give Corbychev a Shadow Cabinet post. What cynical, presumptuous and vicarious tosh that represents.
But strangely, as this leadership contest unfolds, it chimes coincidentally with the growing reality of a world slump, the malign nature of Shadow Banking, and the muddled mendacity of austerity as an instrument of neoliberal fantasy. Above all, awareness of the need to challenge not just governments but politico-media driven assumptions is persuading more and more people to look beyond traditional Party solutions.
We are now, at last, at the start of the turning point which – seven years ago – was for most people nothing but another bust. It is the end of the beginning rather than the beginning of the end, but for me the decision by China to come out fighting against received wisdom is what marks the point where the turn occurred. There is a confluence of coincidence in play at the moment, and its effect will be the better for all of us, not the élites.