Sunday, 15 May 2016

The Protected vs the Unprotected: the new Reformation

Today the Mail on Sunday has it right, but only up to a point:

‘The final hard shape of the referendum battle now starts to emerge out of the mist. Two great issues dominate – the future of the economy, and the question of immigration.’

‘On the economy, it would be hard to deny that the Remain camp have struck the shrewdest blows and have assembled the most formidable collection of arguments and supporters.’

‘The Brexiteers may complain about outsiders telling us what to do – and this is a problem for the supporters of the EU.’

‘But the fact remains that when Barack Obama, Mark Carney and Christine Lagarde all advise against a UK departure, the combined weight of their counsel is huge.’

It is at this point the Mail goes wrong.

‘Rather than moan about their intervention,’ says the Mail, ‘the Exit camp need to find supporters of comparable quality, and they need to do so quickly.’

If the Mail really understood what is going on, they’d know there can be no equivalent to Obama, Carney and Lagarde on the Brexit side. It is like demanding of Martin Luther in 1517 that he come up with ‘supporters of comparable quality’ in his fight against Rome.

In other words, if you think this referendum battle is between two sides who are mirror images of each other, you don’t understand the fight.

This fight is between the protected – the leaders of which are precisely such people as Obama, Carney and Lagarde – and the unprotected.

I take that divide from what Peggy Noonan, now a Wall Street Journal columnist but more famous as President Reagan’s brilliant speech writer.

In a column last February, she identified the divide today – the divide in American politics and in the politics of the EU – as between the protected and the unprotected.

Noonan wrote: ‘I keep thinking of how Donald Trump got to be the very likely Republican nominee. There are many answers and reasons, but my thoughts keep revolving around the idea of protection. It is a theme that has been something of a preoccupation in this space over the years, but I think I am seeing it now grow into an overall political dynamic throughout the West.’

‘There are the protected and the unprotected. The protected make public policy. The unprotected live in it. The unprotected are starting to push back, powerfully.’

‘The protected are the accomplished, the secure, the successful—those who have power or access to it. They are protected from much of the roughness of the world. More to the point, they are protected from the world they have created. Again, they make public policy and have for some time.’

‘I want to call them the elite to load the rhetorical dice, but let’s stick with the protected.’

‘They are figures in government, politics and media. They live in nice neighbourhoods, safe ones. Their families function, their kids go to good schools, they’ve got some money. All of these things tend to isolate them, or provide buffers. Some of them—in Washington it is important officials in the executive branch or on the Hill; in Brussels, significant figures in the European Union—literally have their own security details.’

‘Because they are protected they feel they can do pretty much anything, impose any reality. They’re insulated from many of the effects of their own decisions.’

Keep in mind what Noonan says and then go back to that list for whom the Mail thinks the Leave campaign should find supporters of ‘comparable quality.’ They are the leaders of the global protected class.

They want the UK to say in the EU.

The ‘unprotected’ want out.

The unprotected have no elite to speak for them – that is what makes them unprotected. Such people can only speak for themselves.

Or hope a strong voice will emerge to speak for them.

The tragedy is that no such voice has emerged. The unprotected are left with little more than the buffoonish Boris Johnson.

As I say, tragedy.


  1. Excellent post.

    The protected also get to shape the arguments and more importantly their limits. If you want to talk about immigration you are a racist, if you think England can and will do better not tied to the dead corpse of the EU, you are a little Englander etc., etc. The problems are mounting for the protected as they are so often wrong and their attempts to stifle all opposite points of view are increasingly making the unprotected find routes to express their views and their anger. Their outlets when it comes to elections are increasingly parties to the further left and right. Dangerous times lie ahead.

  2. Thank you for posting a comment. I spent many nights inside the European Council building during the worst of the eurozone crisis. I used to watch Lagarde particularly, as she lectured the Greeks on the need to cut spending and pay their taxes. As she spoke, outside her Merc and driver waited. I knew she had not only a vast tax-free salary but also a tax-free allowance which was meant only to allow her to live in the style in which the head of the IMF should live. On sitting at her place at the press conference, the journalists could catch a glimpse of whichever Hermes bag she was carrying that day. The bags were all the styles which cost around £7,000 each. Her jewellery was Cartier and Bulgari, her suits were Chanel and Armani. Meanwhile, somewhere in Athens, men and women who were suffering from the poisonous policies Lagarde and the rest of the Troika powers pushed on the Greek government were digging in dust bins looking for dinner. She was protected from the effects of her own policies. The poor people were left to suffer the effects.

  3. The Protected, or the Possessed...? A very good post.
    'When great causes are on the move in the world, stirring all men's souls, drawing them from their firesides, casting aside comfort, wealth and the pursuit of happiness in response to impulses at once awestriking and irresistible, we learn that we are spirits, not animals,' said Winston Churchill in 1941.
    A similar moment is upon us, and it behoves us all to recognise the darkness of the spiritual forces at work on our souls today.

  4. What an interesting comment John M For years I have tried to work out why Islam has been promoted and last week I determined it was to crush, even eliminate Christianity. I haven't discerned what 'they' would do after achieving that goal which doesn't seem to have far to run