11th July 2021
Politics is often cyclical.
One goes through a period of illiberalism – and the temptation is to project that into a dismal future of ever-increasing illiberalism.
And then: just as things seem to be inevitably getting worse, there is a swing back to liberalism.
There is a vice versa, of course: periods of self-congratulation and liberal complacency collapse into illiberalism.
Every 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony is not long followed by a Brexit vote.
The difficult – if not impossible – thing is to know the difference.
Are things getting better, or are they going to get worse?
The inclusive solidarity as signified by the current England football team, as complemented by the defeat of the governing party in recent by-elections, could mean that the illiberal tide has stopped advancing.
Ot it could be a cause for false hopes.
One day, historians will posit that whatever does happen next as having been inevitable all along – even though those of us here at the time can only see a range of possibilities.
But as the government keeps pushing forward with illiberal bills – policing, immigration, whatever – and infantile ministers play with the fires of culture war, there are still hopeful signs that the nastiness has not yet fully prevailed.
And, although politics may be cyclical, a great deal is still down to human agency.
The illiberals can be defeated again – and whether they are defeated or not may come down to political actions by liberals now.
There is a tendency sometimes for people to wrongly think things are all over, when there are still goals to be scored.
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