Time for a bit of ideology in UK politics

Sajid Javid’s appreciation of Ayn Rand is good news for UK politics. He is taken by the struggle between individualism and collectivism, and supports the morally superior side. One day, he'd make a great Tory leader

Sajid Javid
Andrew Gibson
On 20 January 2015 08:58

There is good news concerning the British Cabinet. One despairs that British politics so often revolves around who manages the NHS, say, or the Aid budget, the most efficiently.

Surely politics should also be about “ideology”, or what used to be called “coherent principles”. Politicians should be valued more highly, not less, when we know where they personally will stand when a new issue arises.

It is a pity, therefore, that Sajid Javid’s choice of movie for a new film society screening has not caused more of a positive stir. Javid chose King Vidor's 1949 adaptation of Ayn Rand's “The Fountainhead”; the book and the film are both prominent in the libertarian pantheon.

Javid, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, was asked to choose a film to be shown at the Crossbench Film Society’s inaugural screening earlier this month. The society is an initiative of Peter Hoskins and generously hosted at the rooms of Policy Exchange.

The Society is, as the name suggests, a non-partisan body that plays films chosen by politicos from across the party spectrum. The politicians will surely know that their choice will be analysed for meaning or message.

Javid’s choice is radical. As is well known, Rand was something of a greedy carnivore when it comes to devouring (and rejecting) collectivist ideas. I have always found Rand’s work a mixed bag. There is little nuance, she is all or nothing, and her “driving” manner does not inspire total confidence in her judgement.

But, still, there is something compelling about Rand. She is especially good at extolling the value of liberty and of entrepreneurial creativity. Though “Atlas Shrugged” is the better of her two greatest books, the courtroom scene speech in “The Fountainhead”, in which the protagonist lauds individualism and damns collectivism, is a must read for lovers of liberty.

So I trotted along to the Policy Exchange with keen interest. Would Javid hide behind his “love of the cinematography” or would he back Rand? And which Rand might he back: the full caboodle, atheism and all; or the patches of fertile common sense found amid reams of arid anger and prolixity.

Javid got straight to the point. He had seen the film on TV when he was a schoolboy, tuning in just as the film reached its climax. He heard the courtroom scene speech and was transfixed by it. “This” is what he believed.

Thereafter, he kept an eye on the Radio Times in order that he might see the film again. He watches it still, now and then, to refresh his ideological petrol tanks. It is not his favourite film, he said, but it the most important to him.

The film, like the book, is occasionally didactic: art deco meets Northanger Abbey. But it has plot and action and it serves well as a vehicle to promote individual liberty and to laud the fruits of that freedom.

That Javid, a Cabinet member, is taken by the struggle between individualism and collectivism, and supports the morally superior side, is encouragement enough. Better still, he answered a couple of questions with good humour and brevity.

Javid is a working class lad who has done well and is something of an intellectual. In contrast, the likes of Miliband Jnr and Umunna pose as near to the working class and think of themselves as somewhat intellectual, but in fact are neither.

Javid versus Umunna would be a “courtroom scene” worth watching. Javid would win. But first, the Conservatives would have to choose Javid as their leader.

Andrew Gibson is an occasional contributor to The Commentator

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