|Political Scientists announcing the shocking discovery that most ordinary folk are conservative|
Picture the scene. A modest chain hotel somewhere in the south is hosting an academic conference - "Politics and Social Class in the 21st Century" or something along those lines. And it's filled with the sort of people who go to these sorts of events - sociologists, political scientists, social policy researchers. At the end of a long day listening to bias-affirming presentations and virtue-signalling slide shows from fellow left-wing academics, a few settle down for a nice glass of wine and a chat in one of the hotel's comfortable bars. On the table - flotsam from the previous week's 'Winning Sales and Marketing Strategies' event - is a copy of The Daily Mail. In the interests of science our brave academics plunge into the newspaper.
"If we're to research political attitudes, we have to see what right-wing people are thinking even if it means holding our noses" giggles one of our professors.
A chorus of affirmative chortles from the assembled lecturers leads to a rambling discussion about right-wing views.
"They don't like immigrants, do they?"
"What was that Thatcher thing - 'roll back the state'"
"Lots of stuff about soldiers - our brave heroes and all that nonsense"
"Human rights - they don't like human rights."
"They're always on about free markets."
"And the EU - they're opposed to the EU too."
"Bunch of neanderthals reading the Daily Mail - research has shown that right-wing people are more stupid".
From this confused analysis fuelled by cheap wine and prejudice, our academics hatch a plan - they'll write down a list of 'authoritarian views' (by which they mean 'things that right-wing people think that we don't'), get hold of some opinion polling data and look at how many there are of the sort of people who read the Daily Mail or Daily Telegraph.
So it is done:
As much as half the adult population may share a political world view researchers describe as "authoritarian populist".
They favour rolling back the state and are negative about immigration, human rights and the EU, a study claims.
It concludes these views are set to have a "huge effect" on decisions voters make at the EU referendum.
Many more people share this outlook than the four million voters who backed UKIP at the election, the work says.
Academics at the Universities of Essex and Exeter say theirs is the first attempt to analyse what they call "authoritarian populist" views in the Britain.
Shocking! Half the population think free markets are a good idea, that we might be better off with a smaller state and that perhaps cuts to our military capacity have gone too far. What's even more shocking is that these academics - supposed experts in politics - had never noticed. And the real corker is that they consider free markets and smaller government to be "authoritarian".
I've been a politician for twenty years, elected by people a long way from the 'metropolitan elite' these professors say they represent, and these views - often confused and contradictory - are commonplace. They're the views of people who quite like things as they are right now (or sometimes as they were a few years ago when 'things were better'), people who really don't want trendy folk from somewhere else telling them what they should or shouldn't think or say.
And these people are 'authoritarian' is as much as they think criminals should be punished, that the people who volunteer to serve in the forces deserve our admiration and that the idea of human rights is exploited by lawyers to stop us deporting rapists and murderers back to where they came from. When they say they want smaller government, it's because they look at their wage slip every month to see nearly half of it disappearing in taxes. It's because they see endless parades of clipboard wielding public officials getting in the way of ordinary people living their lives in peace. And it's because they see enormous waste in government - everything from politicians feathering their own nests through to thousands of pointless non-jobs created to satisfy either the EU or the politically correct (or both).
What these people don't want is sneering academics peering down their noses at them while suggesting that they're semi-intelligent numpties who are waiting on their chance to elect an English Donald Trump to supreme power. These views aren't "authoritarian populist" or any other sort of lefty made-up description, there's a well-known and commonly used word that describes this political position, one that's hundreds of years old - conservative. And in that description there's a multitude of different views - from 'Blue Labour' working-class patriots with sons in the army to the vast array of ordinary middle-class folk who do a job, have a mortgage, take an annual holiday and want the government to leave off nannying, fussing and, to pay for that nannying and fussing, taking all their money.