To make oneself politically homeless may be regarded as a misfortune. To do it a second time looks like recklessness on steroids.
In the Eighties and Nineties, I broke with my former comrades on the left. On a variety of issues arising from their repudiation of the western nation and its values, I challenged the orthodoxy and found myself condemned as having gone over to the dark side, otherwise known as “the right”.
I concluded that the left consisted of people who denied evidence and reason in the furtherance of a dogma that twisted reality to fit in with its prior world view.
Yet some of those who have been in the trenches with me against all this have themselves been displaying a similar trait. Starting from their belief that the real danger to individuals comes not from Covid-19 but from shuttering the economy, they cherrypick evidence to deny that social restrictions are the only effective way to stave off the virus’s ill effects.
On a number of issues, some people in Britain and America who thought I was in their camp have now decided that I’m on the other side. One such example was the tragic case in 2017 of Charlie Gard. He was a terminally ill baby whose parents went to court to challenge Great Ormond Street hospital’s decision to stop treating him. They lost after the hospital successfully argued that further treatment was hopeless and therefore cruel. I agreed. But American conservatives protested that the child (who died in a hospice after care was withdrawn) was being murdered by the NHS.
Over the years, I have repeatedly fought self-styled progressives who want to enable euthanasia, or who support the withdrawal of assisted nutrition and hydration from patients in persistent vegetative state. Yet now I found myself simultaneously accused of cruelly wanting to prolong suffering through an irrational desire to prolong life and supporting a sick baby’s murder by the state.
Then there’s US president Donald Trump. To the left, anyone who supports anything he does is a fellow-traveller of the devil incarnate. I have criticised Trump for psychological flaws including his volatility, his lapses into an alternative reality and his poor leadership over the pandemic. Yet I also believe that, if the increasingly radicalised Democrats return to power, America will be lost.
Trump supporters, who won’t hear a word against him, assume anyone who criticises him must be an enemy. So I find myself simultaneously accused of helping to keep in power the worst president in the history of America and aiding those trying to bring him down.
Back in the Nineties, I wrote about the symmetry between the hyper-individualism of the left, in the social and cultural sphere, and the hyper-individualism of their opponents, expressed through economics. My protestations that I hadn’t become right wing generally provoked much hilarity. But I was merely against the left, which is not the same as being right wing or any kind of wing.
As I see it, the great divide is between narcissistic fantasists who want to remake the world in their image and realists who want to uphold and defend the nation, society and civilisation they share with others.
Now, however, I spot fantasists among the left’s opponents. Both groups are unable to cope with complexity. Both assume that anyone who questions the dogma must be on the other side. And both accuse the majority of people of being too stupid to grasp the truths that only true believers understand.
So once again, I find myself politically homeless.
Or to be more accurate, I find myself among the millions of realists in the general public who have found themselves disenfranchised by the political mainstream from left to right, and now wait despairingly for sanity to return to the public square.
To read my whole Times column (£), please click here.