“We are living through a period of collapsing faith in liberal democracy,” says Matthew Syed in The Sunday Times. A “shocking” 61% of young people in the UK say they would prefer a dictator to a democratic leader, with surveys revealing similar figures in Europe and the US. The charge is that liberalism “lacks a value system” and is only concerned with material wealth – but this is “dangerous nonsense”. Think of all the “blessings” that Britain’s own liberal democracy has provided: universal suffrage in 1928; the Equal Pay Act of 1970; the legalisation of gay marriage in 2013.
Liberal democracy’s “pluralism in values” is not about moral agnosticism “but moral autonomy”: it gives people the right to choose how to live their lives. Contrast that to China’s genocide in Xinjiang and Iran’s mullahs battering women with clubs for removing their hijabs. “So let me say something that has become unfashionable: we live in a great nation.” Yes, the West has committed “historic crimes” and racial injustice has not disappeared. But it is ridiculous to claim, as some British Black Lives Matter protesters did last year, that racism is worse now than it was 40 years ago. As a child, some of my teachers used the “P-word”. Last week, I watched a “brown-skinned guy” like myself walk into Downing Street as prime minister. We must keep faith in the liberal West, otherwise “the virus of absolutism” will spread unchecked.