ANALYSIS: how Brexit “news” distraction is hiding the dysfunction of British Party politics
Our two main political Parties are monsters sewn together using the body parts of cadavers. Dr Frankenstein himself is absent, and thus there is no sign of life. They are unfit for purpose and kept in power by a mixture of ancient voting rules and electoral apathy. We desperately need a Gilets Jaunes movement to give our system a massive electric shock.
For me, the double dividend that has emerged from this tiresome and ersatz Brexit pavane is as follows. First, more Brits right across the spectrum have become aware of just how controlling, patronising, duplicitous, ill-mannered, dismissive, arrogant, disorganised and cynical the Brussels Mob are. And second – far more important – they have also started at last to grasp how self-seeking, gutless, and divided the main UK political Parties are.
As always, “events” serve to disguise such disturbingly awkward facts. The Daily Express (having been editorially pushed towards the May approach in recent weeks) yesterday headlined ‘WHY DO WE BOTHER?’ in relation to the European Commission’s default stonewalling mode in general, and Juncker’s normal yobbish behaviour in particular. The Mail (having been comprehensively proved wrong in its changed editorial stance) abstained by pointing out that Christmas retail is turning into a disaster. The Telegraph said May had returned angry and empty handed, the Times that her Deal is dead (something of a tardy diagnosis), and its stablemate the Sun – adding insult to injury – claimed the Commission clowns now plan a €6 surcharge on every Brit who goes to the EU after a No Deal Brexit.
But none of this nonsense really explains why the United Kingdom now finds itself in the most God-awful procedural mess.
We are halfway across a mined field of quicksand today, not because of EU intransigence alone, but because our politicians are weak in the face of such intransigence.
And the weakness stems from both major Parties lacking any ecumenical glue. As a result, they spend their entire media lives being economical with the truth.
The dearth of genuinely binding Party loyalties, however, is the direct result of neither Party being representative of a homogeneous social group of significant size.
Instead, both are uneasy alliances of differing (but equally irrelevant) ideologies depended upon the corrupt influence of tiny minorities.
Two hundred years of social change have occurred in Britain. But for a century now, Tory v Labour has been the only game in town. Both our dominant Parties have maintained their duopoly via an injudicious mixture of gerrymandering, centralised control of local candidature, media arse-licking, and a flat refusal to accept that our voting system is utterly unfit for purpose.
It is therefore hardly surprising that they don’t represent anything beyond their own ruthless desire to carry on existing. (Exactly the same analysis, by the way, applies to the US Republican v Democrat stalemate in the United States).
Let’s examine the cacophony of opinion in each “main” Party.
The Labour Party
How often in my life I have heard the phrase “This great and broad church of ours” in relation to the British Parliamentary Left’s movement. And indeed, from the late 1930s onwards – after its disastrous involvement in the National Government – that is precisely what it was. What it became less and less precise about over the years was exactly who and what it stood for. The solidly working class Party that mesmerised my grandfather after 1890 had become, by 1959, a Party of intellectual mavericks and middle class social capitalists working uneasily alongside trade union and co-op sponsored candidates that almost tore itself apart over the proto-communist Clause IV (nationalisation) in its manifesto-cum-catechism.
During this period, the best of its intellectuals Anthony Crosland wrote The future of Socialism, in which the author proffered a thinly-disguised argument for losing the cloth-cap image in the light of a Britain full of aspirant Second World War fighting men and young teenagers with unfeasibly high disposable incomes.
Harold Wilson (who had deviously supported Clause IV in a bid to build his own leadership profile) was privately convinced that Crosland was right, and devoted the next three years to devising a positioning that would stress Labour’s role as being the only likely moderniser of Britain against hordes of wah-wahing upper class twits who spent their lives on Grouse moors surrounded by loyal pointers. The latter numbered very few Tories in reality, but to an envious working class now getting to University on merit, it resonated perfectly with the Space Age in particular, and the general belief in applied science.
Hugely impressed by Kennedy’s media-led victory in the 1959 US election, Wilson hired image-makers to come up with the slogan Let’s Go with Labour. Labour’s left wing held its nose and went along with the “white heat of technology” line. From then until 1979 (with minor interruptions) Labour became the Party of Government, supported and organised on the ground by an increasingly truculent TUC.
The exact same process took place after Margaret Thatcher dominated the politics of Britain in the 1980s. Another Wilson in the shape of Tony Blair emerged during the next decade, and his adviser Philip Gould (as impressed by Bill Clinton as Wilson had been by JFK) repositioned “New Labour” as a centrist Party offering flexible continuity of socio-economic policy and a “safe pair of hands” to attract more middle class voters. The Labour Left once again held its nose….but revelled in Blair’s 1997 landslide victory.
If the tectonic tensions in the Party created by 1964 and 1997 weren’t enough, there were also LibLeft thinkers throughout the post 1970 period who felt that – social mobility having created a different intelligentsia-based Establishment – Labour should be looking to represent the new downtrodden of Britain – immigrants, women, the disabled, nurses, hospital doctors, welfare no-hopers, the mentally ill, farmed animals and sexuality minorities – for whom Gould/Mandelson Labour had done nothing.
This was a perfectly natural development. But by the time the hapless Ed Miliband took over the Labour leadership in 2010, the right-on cadres of feminists, LGBTs, hardline Momentum activists, multiculturalists, extreme Greens and blindly pro-EU ideologues vastly outnumbered the Tony Benns, Dennis Skinners and Kate Hoeys who still recognised that the main event for any radical Party had to be The People vs The Ruling Class….whatever its nationality.
Labour’s history since 1970, in fact, has been repeating like a Winchester Model 1866 rifle specifically designed for shooting the owner’s feet. In the early 1980s, leftwinger Michael Foot was elected leader as the antidote to Mrs Thatcher – the result was the SDP breakaway. In the teen years of the 21st century, Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader as the antidote to David Cameron. The result will be, shortly, a Blairite breakaway to make Labour’s election to government impossible.
The Labour Party emerged as the result of an industrial revolution that created a resentful urban working class living unhealthy lives in jerry-built terraces and dangerous workplaces. When it represented those citizens, it was a great Party that produced the finest roll of sympathetic and enlightened legislation from 1946 until 1951.
Today, it tries to represent every minority, but ends up standing for nothing beyond not being the neoliberal Conservative Party.
If a Party gets to the stage of being electable solely by pretending to be something other than what it is, then it is no longer a real, organically derived player in national or local politics.
It is a mere confection, and should have its life-support system turned off in order to give it a dignified end after a long and often glorious history.
The Conservative Party
If you thought the preceding description to be evidence of rabid right wing bias, then prepare to be shocked once more by what follows.
In its long and largely non-ideological history, the Tory Party has survived entirely by sniffing the wind speed and direction before bending carefully before it. Aside from a latterly adopted pretence to admire the laissez-faire free trade ideas of 18th century thinkers (most of whom were liberals), it has in turn based its appeal on defending the shires from the towns, not being the Radical Party, not being Gladstonian liberal, representing One Nation, steadfast support for Ulster, not being the Labour Party, being a lite version of the Labour Party, One Nation (again), the Party of those who want to better themselves, protecting the taxpayer, rolling back the State, and the Big Society.
All in all, it has presented a moving target devoid of ideology, until 1979 when Mrs Thatcher purged the “wets” in her Party, and then left John Major to deal with the Bastards. The ideology she chose has since become generally known as neoliberalism, aka selfish greed and a steady drift towards corporate dictatorship that finally found its personification in Theresa May.
There are thus, within its current ranks, globalist free-traders, Little Englanders, Oxbridge and public school educated nobs, self-made shits, green deniers, green supporters, virulently anti-EU folks, ruthless Remainers, pro-hunting, anti-hunting, No Turning Back Thatcherites, Thatcher dumpers, anti-immigrationists, pro-immigrationists, NHS fans, NHS haters, libertarians and Control freaks, Isamophiles and phobes, and last but not least, nationalists and corporatists.
In short, any one of eleven political hot potatoes would split the Conservative Party. And yes, I realise that hot potatoes get split not the other way round, but you get the drift I’m sure.
The Conservative & Unionist (or not – see DUP et al) Party has become a port of convenience up there with Port Royal Jamaica in the 17th century – “a most popular port of calle for thieves, prostitutes and pirates of everie stripe”…..and, to be fair here, for some who genuinely believe Labour couldn’t run an orgy in a Viagra factory.
But in this respect, as we have seen, it is no different to the Labour Party.
The answer is there for those who wish to see it: it is nearly 150 years since a Party was formed to establish a socialist State in the UK designed to better the conditions of the Poor. It is over 300 years since another Party was formed to protect the interests of a privileged Shires class.
Neither Party today is based on the solid support and money of those who founded them. They do not represent any sizeable group in the population, and neither are reflective of any growing trend in the last century, let alone this one.
The Labour Party represents hip metropolitan trendy minority causes, the activism of Momentum and others of equally unattractive views, and the people pauperised by neoliberal policy who, by and large, are politically apathetic.
The Conservative Party answers solely to geopolitical and globalist interests, keeping its southern-biased, middle class voters loyal by not being a Labour Party that has, for the second time in thirty years, gone mad. That regional class is, in turn, politically apathetic but comfortably habitual.
The only UK Parties that have grown organically around dissatisfaction and concern are the Faragists, the Greens and the SNP. Significantly, the influence of the first two in the legislature is effectively zero. The SNP has a declining block of Commons seats based on comparatively small constituencies: its rise to prominence in Westminster still adds up to a molehill of beans in terms of UK mass support.
There is one excellent starting point on the road to ending the duopoly, and that is the adoption of a voting system that makes every vote count. We had a half-hearted referendum four years ago about this, in which one flawed option was cynically presented to the electorate, and for which the turnout was a less than startling 42%. The ‘No Change’ victory was decisive at 67%, but the continuing public apathy in relation to such complex matters is obvious.
Nevertheless, the People had their chance, and they blew it. Unlike the Remaindeer herd, I accept democratic decisions – however meaningless they might at times seem.
In France, however, a solid grassroots movement is emerging. It is made up of all classes and it centres round the essentially apolitical observation that their ‘representatives’ represent only themselves….and a pernicious combination of big business and feather-bedded bureaucracy.
Les Gilets Jaunes
I spent much of yesterday driving around my département here in France, interviewing both leaders and the rank and file involved this protest movement. Four things are very clear:
- Left and Right are standing together in the Gilets Jaunes. Ordinary people of all classes have – for the time being – left their tribal stockades to protest at how ‘Le Roi Macron’ and technocrats around him are taking the country away from its traditional social model of devolved communitarianism, to increasingly serve the dubious interests of neoliberal blocists and globalists.
- There is zero evidence of any ‘hidden hand” behind the GJs.
- The French Establishment media are going out of their way to suggest that there is a hidden agenda, and that violent elements are involved. The GJs themselves describe their motive as social and pacifist: they believe their demos are being infiltrated by a combination of Alt State and extreme Left/Right groups.
- The sympathy for and solidarity with the GJs is unprecedented in my own half century of visiting and living in France
The strength of this growing group is based on exactly what large political brands are not – that is, one community aim, commonality of ethical belief, and a genuine organic birth from within The People.
It is without question what Britain needs to avoid spiralling into anarchic chaos. We must learn to emerge from our stockades and – should the much needed General Election come to pass – vote tactically against all elements of our corrupt Establishment.
Every week, I read on social media how there will be “blood on the streets”, “serious unrest”, “marches on Parliament” and all the rest of it unless the Brexit betrayal is reversed.
I don’t think there will be. There are too many armchair rabble-rousers in Britain. It seems clear to me that, in leading us via a circuitous route into the near-inevitable Second Referendum, they are no longer fit for purpose.
Before too long, there must be serious and far-reaching reform of Britain’s political structures, with every sacred cow being put under the spotlight inn the drive to be a nation where the only thing that counts in the long run is the greatest fulfilment of the greatest number.
Thanks for persevering. Enjoy your Sunday.
PS The new WordPress editing system is truly, madly, deeply awful.