A strange disease has taken hold of British politics

By BAGEHOT | MANCHESTER

BRITAIN is suffering from a very un-British affliction at the moment: millenarianism. A country that has always prided itself on its support for common sense and gradual change is being hijacked by people who believe that the end is nigh and the kingdom of God is upon us.

I was reminded of the Labour Party’s millenarian streak when, on arriving in Manchester for the Conservative Party conference, I got into a debate with a bearded gentleman selling Socialist Worker, a leftie newspaper. The bearded gentleman informed me that “the Russian Revolution was the greatest event in the history of the world”. I asked him if he had ever been to Russia. He said that he hadn’t—an odd admission in an age of cheap travel for somebody who thought that it was the greatest thing ever. Yet he was singularly unimpressed by my claim that, having been there several times, including in the 1980s, the country didn’t look like the product of the greatest event ever. He told me in no uncertain terms that I was incapable of seeing what was really going on because I was a lackey of the capitalist class. The conversation went downhill from there.


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