In a recent article in The Observer, Andrew Rawnsley turned his attention to the three people who are at this moment taking the UK wherever it is going (or, quite possibly, wherever its constituent nations are independently going). He wrote:
One of the shared convictions between the top trio is that the destiny of nations is governed by a small and select number of supernatural individuals who have a grasp of the true path that eludes others. Mr Johnson is a fervent believer in the Great Man theory of history, with himself cast, at least in his own head, as the Great Man of this period. After a lifetime wanting to be Winston Churchill, a more recent aspiration is to be compared with Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Ludicrous that may be, but it does reflect how his mind works. Michael Gove is a believer in the power of tightly knit groups of driven men to effect revolutionary change. He used to keep a picture of Lenin, a Great Man if not a great man, on his office wall. Mr Cummings is the same, only more so. He recently issued a reading list to ministerial special advisers. One of his recommended titles is High Output Management, written by Andy Grove, who was a transformative boss of Intel. His most celebrated quotes are macho ones: “If you’re wrong, you will die” and “only the paranoid survive”.
With one bound, we enter the world of Ayn Rand. Sajid Javid may read his favourite chapter of ‘The Fountainhead’ at least once a year, but in the end it may not have been too much help to him in the real world. The fictional Howard Roark found success by sticking to his principles, but for Javid that route took him from an impressively rapid ascent to not just one but two of the great UK offices of state into an even more precipitate decline to the backbenches. It is Gove, Johnson and Cummings who are living the Randian dream and, just as John Galt, Francisco d’Anconia and Ragnar Danneskjold brought chaos, death and destruction to the United States in order to remake it in a newer and cleaner image, so the UK’s Gang of Three are dedicating themselves to remaking the United Kingdom. And if that means removing the ‘United’ from its title, then so be it. If Northern Ireland, finding itself with a customs border with the island of Great Britain, decides that life would be simpler if it pursued the logic of that border and united the island of Ireland, then so be it. And if Scotland were to find that it can stand the English no longer and goes its own way (and perhaps even finds a door back into the EU by forming a Celtic union with the Irish), then that would be OK too. Even poor old Wales might look for a way out, and then I would have to cross a serious border four times during the ten minute drive to visit my daughter. None of these departures would matter to the terrible trio, and might even help in the great project of re-modelling England in their image.
Just one problem. Ayn Rand’s heroes were at least competent. John Galt could build a machine that could run on nothing but the global store of static electricity. Ragnar Danneskjold was pretty effective in his chosen profession, which was piracy on the high seas. And even if Atlas Shrugged offers scant evidence that Francis d’Anconia could actually run copper mines, he was at least good at destroying them when he decided to do so.
And our masters? What are they good for? Two journalists, a species despised by Rand, and a back-stairs manipulator who cannot even make up a convincing story. Can we imagine Galt in the Downing Street rose garden, coming up with all those mealy-mouthed and implausible excuses for The Flight to Durham? Can we imagine him even attempting to justify his actions, except with the great Galtian cry ’I will not live for any other man, or expect another man to live for me’. It is in people such as these that we see where Rand’s philosophy takes us, as it took her. People who are adept at ‘not living for any other man’, but only too adept at expecting the rest of us to live for them.