Anywheres and Somewheres – the New Divide?

How to make sense of the big political shocks of the past year: the election of Trump, UK’s Brexit, Scottish devolution, and the rise of anti-immigration parties across Europe and the USA?

David Goodhart, former editor of Prospect Magazine has an answer.

He’s just published a book which I must admit I have found fascinating.

In The Road to Somewhere: The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics he argues that the old political division of left and right no longer makes any sense.

There’s a new political divide that will dominate everything from now on: the Anywheres and the Somewheres.

Anywheres are what we would call global citizens. They are mobile, educated, often urban, footloose and adaptable in their worldview. Somewheres are more rooted, generally less educated, poorer, and prioritise group attachment and security. They are alarmed by rapid social change, for example, immigration or gentrification. Hillary Clinton called them deplorables, which may have had something to do with her losing the election.

Goodhart reckons that about a quarter of the population of countries like the UK are Anywheres and about half are Somewheres (he calls the rest Inbetweeners.)

Now, you can very quickly see where he’s taking this. His argument is that Anywheres used to be a tiny elite, but they have grown. This group has grown so much that now it dominates politics, business, culture and big cities. And there is a degree of self-reinforcement; because Anywheres prioritise education they have expanded university access.

The Anywheres have dominated political parties on the right and left for a generation. For example, at the last UK election the middle-class vote (4.4 million) overtook the working-class vote (4.2 million) for the first time.

However, Trump, Brexit and Scottish nationalism are all examples of the emergence of the Somewheres as a political force to be reckoned with.

Goodhart himself has been on an interesting journey. His father was a Conservative Party Member of Parliament and he was educated at Eton (Britain’s super elite boys’ school). He became a successful left-wing journalist, editing Prospect before earning the wrath of the left by suggesting in a famous essay that too much immigration may not be such a good thing.

He’s now an advocate for the Somewhere world view and for this he deserves credit. Whether you identify yourself as an Anywhere or Somewhere (and I suspect most people reading this will be the former), you cannot ignore the existence of the latter.

My view has always been that as global citizens we have a particular set of responsibilities. Of course, I am proud to be able to help those less fortunate, for example, refugee children through our Amal project. But it goes way beyond that. We have a duty to appreciate and understand those who may not, by accident of birth, be able to behave like Anywheres.

And business and political leaders should do that too.

Will the populist juggernaut roll on inexorably in Europe, America and around the world? Will political leaders find a way to bridge the divide, governing for both groups and balancing conflicting issues?

Goodhart puts it like this: “The holy grail of politics for the next generation must be the quest for a new, more stable settlement between Anywheres and Somewheres — reconciling the two halves of humanity’s political soul.”

I totally agree.