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The Road to Somewhere by David Goodhart

The Road to Somewhere by David Goodhart
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David Goodhart doesn’t get it,” said Robbie Millen in The Times. Those writing about Brexit are supposed to adopt one of two registers: “angry scorn or smug condescension”. Goodhart has ignored these rules. The basic argument of his new book, The Road to Somewhere, is that Britain has become dangerously split between “two tribes”, the “Anywheres” and the “Somewheres”. While the former (about a quarter of the population) believe in social mobility and meritocracy and are pro-immigration, the latter (about half) are “more rooted in their neighbourhoods, less well educated”, and find rapid social change alarming. (The rest are the “Inbetweeners”.) According to Goodhart, Anywheres – who dominate most influential positions – have consistently ignored the “interests and voices” of Somewheres. The result was Brexit, the latter’s “revenge”. While there is “much to quibble about” in this argument – and it is sure to anger liberals – this is a “powerful”, “well argued” and “dangerously moderate” book.

In his controversial 2004 essay titled Too Diverse?, Goodhart argued that mass immigration undermines social cohesion, said Jonathan Freedland in The Guardian. At the time, this view was considered unacceptable by many on the liberal Left, and Goodhart became “persona non grata”. Today, though, his prescience is hard to deny: immigration was the “beating heart” of the Leave campaign. So he deserves at least some credit for “confronting this issue early”. Yet in his return to this “vexed terrain”, he gets many things wrong. His sympathy for the Somewheres leads him to “caricature” the Anywheres as an “upmarket version of the hated ‘metropolitan liberal elite’”. And he overstates the extent to which the Somewheres have been “overlooked”. He claims that their views are marginalised; in fact, “the Mail, Sun, Express, Telegraph and the rest air little else”.

Goodhart’s central contention, at least, is spot on, said Max Hastings in The Sunday Times: Europe’s political elites have “failed their societies”. It is “Jean-Claude Juncker and his kin”, and not the Somewheres, who bear responsibility for the rise of European populism. Nor, as Goodhart rightly observes, are the Somewheres going anywhere; those “low on the educational and pay scales” are not about to “join elite enthusiasts for the global village”. The challenge isn’t to “scorn” the new mood, but to “work out which parts of the populist agenda deserve respect”. The Road to Somewhere is a “compelling” start.

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