To liberals, the word populist indicates these voters are vulgar, ill-informed and under-educated. It suggests a lumpen mass of people — quite different, of course, from the well-informed and well-heeled commentators and political leaders who feel something has to be done about unsavoury views of the general public.
And while Left-wing movements such as Podemos in Spain and Syriza in Greece are occasionally described as populist, the term is almost invariably used to defame the Right.
Imagine if, in June this year, a majority of the British people had voted to remain in the EU rather than leave it. Would the BBC in its wisdom have been described this as a ‘populist’ reassertion of European power?
If Hillary Clinton had been voted into the White House as President by the American public last month, would her victory have been dismissed as a ‘populist’ uprising?
Would it have been a victory for populism if the Italian public had ‘behaved’ and voted as their Prime Minister had asked them to last Sunday? No — all of these things would have been reported as sensible and appropriate responses of a sensible and well-informed voting population.