The Friday Fizz is Not Enough Champagne's review of the week's news. You can read previous instalments here.
Here are the festive stories you might have missed whilst eating chocoates, drinking wine and avoiding family conversations about Brexit. Taken altogether, they suggest that fighting a new culture war will be the business of a large section of Tory MPs in 2018.
Two government policies were announced just before and after Christmas: the return of Blue Passports and universities potentially being fined for not allowing freedom of speech. The discussion about Blue Passports showed how difficult it is to speak logically and with evidence about anything Brexit-related, let alone something as trivial as changing passport colour. It was pointed out that EU countries already had blue passports so Britain didn't need to leave the EU to change the colour of its passports. Also, it was the League of Nations that forced blue passports on Britain in the first place. There's also the not completely insigificant point that crashing the economy and destroying Britain's world standing is a high price for getting rid of a muave passport. None of this made any difference, and indeed in a totally unpredictable move the Daily Mail talked of elites "sneering". It also saw a political tribe falling for a fake statistic: thousands of Remainers shared the news that passports would cost an extra £500million, which isn't quite true as that's essentially the current cost of passports.
The No Platform Policy is daft, and I've spoken at student union debates opposing it. That doesn't mean that the government's plans have merit. Jonathan Healey has an interesting thread on it here. It's student unions who no-platform speakers, not universities. You can't fine a university for something a union does, as they are different bodies. Jo Johnson must know this, or not care, and neither of those alternatives is particularly hopeful. However, add in Chris Heaton-Harris's poundshop McCarthyism a few months ago and you have the Conservative Party taking on a section of society which is generally Remain leaning because students and university lecturers are better-educated (note: this is not the same as being more intelligent). As Johnson is countering a problem that does not exist outside a couple of Spiked and Spectator columns, it's hard not to see this decision as the next stage in a culture war against people who disagree with the government most of the time.
The third prong (these things always come in threes) of the fork prodding the fires of the culture war was Nadine Dorries's tweet about "snowflakes" destroying pantomines and other cultural missives, which doesn't seem to be a meltdown as some commentators have been saying, but instead seems an example of Lynton Crosby's dead cat strategy. Again, saying that left-wingers have been destroying panto is ridiculous (a Twitter thread here explains why the Thatcherite cuts of the 1980s may be more to blame).
It surely cannot be a coincidence that these wedge issues have been brought up less than a month after Steve Bannon met Jacob Rees-Mogg to discuss how conservative movements can win in Britain. Attacking "snowflake" students, liberals in British culture and "politically correct" academics is straight out of the Breitbart and Republican playbooks. This will carry on into 2018. You have been warned.
Old, New, Borrowed and Blue:
Old: You can listen to our podcast with Brigid Jones a few months ago on whether the UK is going through a new culture war here:
New: Our podcast on the international events we did not talk about in 2017 can be listened to below:
Borrowed: This Politico story on the transformation of Fox News's website is also a taste of things to come on the populist right.
Blue: Conservative MP Nick Boles has a new book out called Square Deal. You can read a chapter on Jobs here. There's plenty I disagree with and some bits I agree with, but it's an interesting, breezy read.
Pop Culture Recommendation
It's end of year review time. So, here are five books I enjoyed reading in 2017:
1. Cato the Younger's "Guilty Men: Brexit Edition", a breezy account of how we got into this mess.
2. Judith Herrin's "Byzantium", a fascinating survey of the Byzantine Empire.
3. Robert Harris's "Munich": the only author who can write a novel based on facts you already know and still produce a gripping story.
4. Jan-Werner Muller's "What is Populism?", a book that I know will inform my thinking on populism, how to counter it and how to talk about it in future podcasts.
5. David Gilmour's "The Pursuit of Italy", a history of Italy that is unputdownable.
We have our final episode of 2017 out on New Year's Eve. Have a great new year!