Liberal-left columnists have started referring to the culture wars as a “contrived” distraction from the substance of politics, says Dominic Sandbrook on the website Engelsberg Ideas. “This is nonsense.” The culture wars “cut to the heart of real, living disagreements about history, identity, nationhood and belonging”. Those who disagree say politics should be about class conflict and economic inequality, dealing in cold facts and figures. But this is a “colossal misunderstanding of what politics is”. Look at the bloody rows around Christ’s divinity in the late Roman empire, or the origins of the Republican party in the US, founded by anti-slavery northern Protestants. In Britain, the two great factions of Whigs and Tories emerged in the 1670s, when there was a “white-hot political debate” about whether the crown could pass from Charles II to the Catholic James, Duke of York. It was “a classic culture war”.
Those on the left don’t understand why anybody cares about flags or statues. They’d be delighted to strip museums of their artefacts and send schoolchildren around National Trust properties “in sackcloth and ashes”. Nor do they want a debate, because they fear they’ll lose. And lose they would, because polling shows most people like Rule, Britannia! and think Churchill was a hero. These conflicts will always be with us: they are about basic human impulses. “So don’t be afraid of the culture war. Bring it on.”
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