On trains, futile reminders to ‘keep your belongings with you at all times’ and totalitarianism-lite security announcements are repeated at a nonsensical, intolerable frequency. In supermarkets, the faux friendliness of self-checkouts compounds the irritation of forgetting once again that the bagging area is on the left. Being misinformed that ‘your call is important to us’ is increasingly superseded by the even more infuriating chatbots.
In the thirty years since Francis Fukuyama declared that history had ‘ended’ with the decisive victory of Western liberal democracy over all other ideologies, his thesis has been mocked as facile, triumphalist or just plain wrong; but it has never quite gone away. This year it could even be said to be having a moment.
From coffee spoons to dog food, many of the items claimed for were small enough for it to seem as if we were paying for MPs’ weekly shop. Mark Oaten was pilloried for claiming £5 for oven gloves. Other claims – for duck houses and moat cleaning, chandeliers and swimming pools – exposed a gulf between them and us.
I’m an opinionated Jew with a PhD in the history of antisemitism, but I find it daunting to weigh in on the debate about antisemitism in the Labour Party. To describe the accusations as disproportionate is to risk being branded an antisemite. But while genuine instances of antisemitism should be tackled, there is no more of it in Labour than in other parties. The sustained offensive by the Labour right and by Conservatives is not only unfairly damaging the party and the left in general, it also unthinkingly reinforces antisemitic motifs.