The Road to Somewhere: The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics by David Goodhart - review

Melanie Mcdonagh
Go, Anywheres: protesters in London on the women's march in January this year: Rex Features

There was a funny episode in the Standard’s office after Theresa May’s “citizens of nowhere” speech — you know, when she said: “If you believe you’re a citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere.” One bright young woman observed wonderingly that she’d asked her boyfriend who were the liberal elite everyone was talking about and he’d told her: “It’s us!”

Indeed, London is pretty well the capital of what David Goodhart calls the “Anywheres”. You know them: they’re the ones who voted Remain and regard the 52 per cent who didn’t as what Hillary Clinton rashly called “the deplorables”. They went on the women’s march against Trump and after Hillary lost went around asking each other how they were. They have signs on their desks saying “Refugees Welcome” and not only don’t go to church, they don’t know anyone who does. The word immigration is, for them, bound to the adjectives “vibrant” and “diverse”.

They have, says Goodhart, “achieved identies” rather than inherited ones; they belong to what King’s College London professor Vernon Bogdanor calls “the exam-passing classes”; they place a greater premium on individualism and autonomy than “loyalty, authority and the sacred”. Why, you may be one of these people yourself.

In that case Goodhart’s book The Road to Somewhere won’t be easy reading. In fact, you’re unlikely to read it unless you’re an Anywhere reviewing it for The Guardian, the Anywheres’ house journal, along with the FT and The Economist.

He has divided the world into Anywheres, that is, citizens of the world, and “Somewheres”, people less beautiful (actually, he doesn’t say that) and less clever (well, less likely to go to university) than the elite and more likely to live no more than 15 minutes away from their mother. They are more socially conservative, more likely to feel that women should bring up their own children when they’re young and, overall, are the losers from large-scale immigration.

Their attitude to gay marriage is a pretty good indicator of a Somewhere — they’re more sceptical about it and way more unsound about transgender issues. Their spiritual house journal is the Daily Mail. They are Somewheres because they are defined by “group belonging and particular places”.

It’s always amusing to divide humanity into “them” and “us”. Goodhart is a recovering Anywhere — he’s the former editor of Prospect magazine — but his scepticism about immigration has moved him to the opposite end of the ideological spectrum from the people he meets at dinner parties.

Indeed, one telling episode he recounts was being seated between Gus O’Donnell, the former top civil servant, and the then director-general of the BBC, Mark Thompson. They cheerfully admitted that they placed a greater premium on global welfare than national welfare if the two should conflict. I’d love to see him next to Shami Chakrabarti.

It’s not the first attempt to identify what G K Chesterton described: “We are the people of England and we have not spoken yet”. Mick Hume has done it in a book called Revolting! How the Establishment are Undermining Democracy and What They’re Afraid Of. But undeniably, Brexit and the Trump election plus the rise of anti-immigration parties in Europe have meant that the Somewheres are now impinging disagreeably on the consciousness of the Anywheres, who run the institutions that matter.

Perhaps the liberal elite should read this book as a field guide to the other lot, the Revolting.

£12.99, Amazon, Buy it now

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