Will Hutton wrote about the Daily Mail and democracy in the Observer yesterday, saying:
Democracy is a system of government — but it is made to work by a culture. It cannot function without adherence to protocols of debate and exchange. The presumption is that it is via the free exchange of ideas, propositions and hypotheses about the world that our representatives will deliberate, legislate and govern. The more exchange and deliberation, the better the decision.
That in turn presumes a readiness to hear what others say, to accept evidence and logic, and to modify a position if it becomes clear it is untenable. Democracy thus depends on a degree of mutual respect; a willingness to argue as hard as possible but to accept that although there will be ruthless cut and thrust your opposing interlocutors also want the best — for the economy, society and country. Sometimes they may even be right. When this democratic culture collapses, as it has in the US, the result is deaf debate and deadlocked government.
Hutton's right of course, but only in so far as he goes, and that is far enough. What he is refusing to countenance, and far too few refuse to consider, is what happens when the deafness is endemic and the deadlock in government is paralysing - as it is literally becoming in the USA. Hutton's article goes nowhere near that consequence of the culture failure. Nor does he realise that if a culture has failed there is not a void as a result, but another culture that might have taken its place.
He does say:
Over the last 25 years the bias has been compounded by the right's view that because every dimension of Thatcherism was obviously correct, non-rightwing views are self-evidently worthless, justifying an uncompromising brutality towards those who dare to disagree.
But he does not say that this intolerance is the route to totalitarianism. It's as if he cannot contemplate the fact that those right wingers he knows - and he must know them - would deliver something so evil.
But they would. And they are. Many may be doing so without thinking they're doing any more than 'the right thing'. But they're as guilty of blindness as Hutton is. Others are not so unaware of the consequences of their action. They know the path they are following is not just intolerant of debate; it is intolerant. It's time the middle and left of politics - whatever their party allegiance - woke up and realised this because it's playing out in front of their eyes in the US and could be soon anywhere. The Daily Mail is simply signposting the way down which powerful forces wish to travel.