Brexit Bulletin: Why did Turkeys Vote for Christmas?
‘Worn like a mask of self-hate
Confronts and then dies
Don’t walk away’ 1
As a follow-up to the final ‘We don’t need this Fascist groove thing’ column, this article attempts to explain why traditional Labour supporters deserted the party in droves and did the supposedly unthinkable, voting Tory.
The conclusion arrived at by this column highlights several key points:
- We are fooling ourselves if we believe we live in a democracy
- The result was a redrawing of the political map in the UK, and should, perhaps, reshape how we view the political spectrum
- Victory was achieved by a Tory party new in all but name
- The result follows that of other European countries and is the final nail in the coffin of the social democrats that have dominated politics over the past 30-years
At this point it is important to highlight that we do not view this as temporary shift with these votes being on ‘loan’ from Labour to Tory, but more a paradigm shift in people’s views on nationalism / immigration, globalisation, and progressive policies.
There are two key elements to the election, the result itself, and the size of the Tory victory.
Taking the latter first, it can be proven empirically that this country’s undemocratic electoral system distorts the result, making the victory and, therefore the popularity of Johnson seem greater than it really is. For example:
- Johnson attained 43.6% of the vote which was only 1.2%, or 304,000 votes, greater than that achieved by May in 2017,
- This additional 304,000 votes transformed a minority government into one with an 80-seat majority
- Dozens of his MPs were elected with less than 50% of the vote.
- Most of these – such as Kensington, Keighley, Bridgend and Chingford – were seats that Labour would have won had there been no Lib Dem presence.
- The Lib Dem vote soared by 1.3m or 4.1 percentage points which wasn’t reflected in any gains.
As the data highlights a party polling ‘only’ 43% of the vote has an 80-seat majority, effectively giving it a mandate to rule however it wants.
Except for nationalist parties in the relevant countries, the presence of a third-party simply splits the vote and exacerbates an already undemocratic system, therefore, until the electoral system is reformed the best service the Lib Dems could do the country is to disband and join Labour
‘Fight you like a mighty storm
I’ve got the rage in me’ 2
Editorial comment: our system of democracy is yet another example of the delusions of grandeur we suffer; one person one vote with only a minority of votes counting is a very convenient version of democracy!
Moving on, it is interesting to see what voters considered as their priorities. Usually trust would be paramount, however Lord Ashcroft’s 13th December poll on how the country voted and why showed that only 29% of Tory voters prioritised this.
Tory voters prioritised three issues:
- the party leader would make a better prime minister (58%),
- the party would run the economy better (64%), and
- the party would get their preferred Brexit outcome (68%).
And, it is the last point that is the crux of the matter, this was the Brexit election. However, to properly understand the present and the future we must first understand the past.
The 2008 financial crisis defined the decade. A long wave of deregulation eventually gave rise to a financial tsunami, which put the system on the verge of collapse.
In a few weeks during the autumn of 2008, money flows froze, paralysing trade and investment internationally, which trickled down to erode workers’ wages and employment conditions.
The solution was in monetary policy, with central banks pumping unheard amounts of liquidity into the system and keeping interest rates at historically low levels. Remarkably unemployment fell and aided by the zero-hour contract the economy reached what is known as ‘full-employment’.
Areas such as London / SE experienced labour shortages which were filled by an influx of workers from Eastern Europe, immigration increased further due to humanitarian disasters in Syria etc. The net result was a decline in the real value of people’s wages.
‘This fuelled not only anti-immigration feelings but animosity towards the ‘establishment, the elite’’
This fuelled not only anti-immigration feelings but animosity towards the ‘establishment, the elite’, the beneficiaries of the asset bubble caused by monetary policy, leading to exponential increases in their wealth, and an ever-widening wealth gap.
Commensurate with this the government’s continuation of austerity ensured that the poor got poorer.
I will later draw a parallel with the politics of the 1930’s, however there is point that should be considered at this juncture. The Wall St Crash of 1929 led to hyper-inflation in Germany wiping out peoples’ savings, it was this that partly fuelled the rise in popularity of the Nazi party and their use of Jewish financers as scapegoats.
Whilst hyper-inflation didn’t happen post-2008, low-interest rates diminished the value of peoples’ savings in terms of the income they generated providing the same net effect.
The last 10-years have, for most of the population, been a steady and stealthy recession, evidenced by the lack of wage growth for much of the population, and an ever-widening wealth gap. For more information, see the article entitled ‘Hunting for Income in the Recession That Supposedly Never Happened’, published in July 2018.
Austerity and immigration then became the drivers, and the bedfellows of what had been previously been the disease suffered by hard-right Tories; Euroscepticism.
2015-16 saw a rise of popularity of UKIP, led by a barroom rabble rouser, Nigel Farage, whose popularity so frightened the then Tory PM, David Cameron, that he offered up a referendum on EU membership.
‘It is the same people who voted ‘leave’ in 2016, that voted for Johnson some 3-weeks ago’
It is the same people who voted ‘leave’ in 2016, that voted for Johnson some 3-weeks ago, enabling him to win many previously staunchly Labour seats, the most famous being Workington and ‘Workington man’; white, male, non-university educated, pro-leave, living in the north and Midlands. 77% of ‘Workington men’ voted Tory compared to 42% in 2015.
In looking more closely at the demographics and ethnic splits in these ‘Workington man’ constituencies and comparing them with an inner-city area, there were no great surprises, ‘Workington man’ is 50+ and white, with a below average education, whereas the inner-London borough is dominated under 50s and is ethnically cosmopolitan.
For the full empirical data see Appendix 1
‘‘Workington man’ is 50+ and white, with a below average education’
What we are witnessing with this result only follows what has already happened in other European countries. It is the final nail in the coffin of the social democrats that dominated politics over the past 30-years and the final ascent of populism.
Most, if not all of us, including the Labour leadership, viewed events such as the rise of Scottish nationalism, the right-wing populist surge, Brexit, as UK issues, whereas they were symptomatic of what other parts of the world were experiencing.
When Corbyn’s Labour party won 40% of the vote in June 2017 it was the last hurrah of the social democrats in Europe:
- Germany; Martin Schulz became leader of Germany’s Social Democrats in March 2017, 6-months later he took the SPD to its worst post-war showing of 20.5%, and its polling has since declined further.
- France; The Socialist party took both presidency and legislature in 2012; it won less than 6.4% and 7.5% in each respective vote five years later.
- Italy; Democrats achieved less than a quarter of the vote in 2018 and has only retained power by entering coalition with the populist Five Star Movement.
- Austria; The Social Democrats topped the poll in nearly two-thirds of the country’s post-war elections, amassing more than half the vote 40 years ago. This year, they collapsed to barely over a fifth of the vote.
- Holland; 8-yrs ago Dutch Labour party were runners-up with nearly a quarter of the vote, in the last election, they came seventh with 5.7%.
- Greece; Social democratic Pasok went from 43.9% of the vote in 2009 to 4.7% five years ago and has never recovered.
Before considering populism more fully, we need to understand the Tory narrative at the election.
Firstly, this is a new Tory party, one purged of ‘left’-leaning non-believers, one designed to cater for its new audience.
At this point we welcome into the article the puppet master, Dominic Cummings, the brains behind this, delivering, short-sharp slogans and scapegoats so beloved by their new audience. If politics can be described as the manipulation of the masses by the few, then Cummings is the master.
‘If politics can be described as the manipulation of the masses by the few, then Cummings is the master’
He took a party that introduced the austerity measures that exacerbated the wealth gap his new audience hated, and spun it round, blaming the ‘establishment, the elite’ instead.
The Leave referendum was the dress rehearsal; it delivered the first slogan, ‘taking back control’, and the first lie, £350m extra each week to spend on the NHS’.
The ‘establishment, the elite’ spent the next 2-years disputing the lie but no one was listening, instead the puppet-master was able to further discredit them as ‘frustrating the will of the people’ by delaying Brexit.
Every puppet master needs a puppet and Johnson was an ideal figurehead, jolly, scatter-brained, foot-in-mouth, sort of ‘Tim, nice but dim’ hooray, but with a desperate desire to be leader, a total lack of morals, a passing acquaintance with the truth, and not wedded to any political dogma
‘Johnson was an ideal figurehead, jolly, scatter-brained, foot-in-mouth, sort of ‘Tim, nice but dim’ hooray, but with a desperate desire to be leader’
Lo and behold we had the necessary ingredients for populism. Cas Mudde, author of Populism: A Very Short Introduction, defines populism as the idea that society is separated into two groups at odds with one another – ‘the pure people’ and ‘the corrupt elite’.
The true populist leader claims to represent the unified ‘will of the people’, standing in opposition to an enemy, often embodied by the current system, aiming to tackle the ‘liberal elite’.
Whilst there have been left-wing populists such as Chavez in Venezuela, ‘most successful populists today are on the right, particularly the radical right,’ said Prof Mudde. ‘Because populism covers both left and right, we should redraw how the political spectrum is viewed, replacing the traditional left-right straight-line with a circle where extreme left-right meet.
I have read several commentators who believe that these votes are ‘on loan’ to Johnson, but I don’t believe that to be the case. These voters are, by nature, innately conservative, they dislike the liberal elite discussing politics in their drawing rooms (the Bloomsbury Set) or Granita restaurant (Blair and Brown), they distrust immigration, and progressive reforms such as same-sex marriage.
Furthermore, Johnson has been able to blame the ‘elite’ for austerity and for nor delivering Brexit, which was ‘the will of the people’.
‘several commentators who believe that these votes are ‘on loan’ to Johnson, but I don’t believe that to be the case’
As his reign continues he will need to find new targets; as Prof Nadia Urbinati from Columbia University wrote, ‘A populist leader who gets into power is ‘forced’ to be in a permanent campaign to convince his people that he is not establishment – and never will be’.
She argues that populist content is ‘made of negatives’ – whether it is anti-politics, anti-intellectualism, or anti-elite. Here lies one of the populism’s strengths – it is versatile, being able to adapt to all situations’.
Another common thread among populist leaders is they tend to dislike the ‘complicated democratic systems’ of modern government – preferring direct democracy like referendums instead, according to Prof Bull. This ties into its links to authoritarianism, a lack of trust in the established system gives rise to ‘strongman’ leaders.
Populism effectively pits the proletariat against the bourgeoisie, this is especially true of London. Cummings, as the column wrote some months ago, realised that to win, Johnson had to forsake the traditional Tory voter, the bourgeoisie and woo the disaffected proletariat.
‘Johnson had to forsake the traditional Tory voter, the bourgeoisie and woo the disaffected proletariat’
To do this they played on their disenchantment with, what the electorate perceived, the ‘elite’ who frustrated their democratic desires.
In this he was helped by much of the press, who acted as cheerleaders for the Tories, who appeared to see no wrong in their comments and behaviour, as evidenced by how, during the election, the alleged assault of two Labour canvassers in their 70s was largely ignored, while the supposed punching of a Tory adviser by a Labour activist, which never happened, attracted widespread publicity.
I mentioned previously the 1930s, and I have expressed several times in this column the fear that we are returning to those dark days. In 2008 we had the financial crisis in 1929 the Wall St crash.
The 1930s saw a rise to prominence of leaders such as Mussolini and Hitler, both, at least at outset, were little different to todays populist politicians.
Lest we forget, we even our own aspiring Fascist party let by Oswald Mosley, who himself was admired by the British press; In January 1934, Viscount Rothermere (Harold Harmsworth) owner of the Mail and the Mirror wrote – under his own byline – articles that appeared in both the Mail and the Mirror. The former was headlined ‘Hurrah for the Blackshirts’. The latter was headlined ‘Give the Blackshirts a helping hand.’
In fairness to Rothermere, within a year, he had removed his support for Mosley’s party, though he remained an admirer of both Hitler and Mussolini, meeting and corresponding with the former, and congratulating him on his annexation of Czechoslovakia.
Editorial comment: How Hitler was more acceptable than Mosley is a mystery to me!
The Mirror’s sister paper, then known as the Sunday Pictorial, even ran pictures of uniformed blackshirts playing table tennis and enjoying a sing-song around a piano.
More distressingly, both titles also planned a beauty contest aimed at finding Britain’s prettiest woman fascist. More of this later….
Many will scoff at this analogy with the 1930s and Fascism, but post the election Johnson as been the recipient of support from some unsavoury quarters, e.g.:
- far-right thug Tommy Robinson reportedly celebrated the Tory electoral win by claiming he was joining the party;
- Britain First apparently urged its supporters to join to ‘make Boris Johnson’s leadership more secure’;
- Racist provocateur Katie Hopkins boasted to Sayeeda Warsi that ‘it’s OUR party now’.
Editorial comment: Will Katie enter the contest to find Britain’s prettiest woman fascist?
‘The end is surely coming
Prepare for the final plan..’ 3
Populism was the winner last month, the proletariat as represented by white people aged 50+, who aren’t very bright, swallowed the bait; ‘let’s get it done’, ‘send them back’. Can’t trust him, so what?
The reason that his comments on race (‘piccaninnies with watermelon smiles’) and gays (‘bumboys in tank tops’) didn’t offend them is that it is in-line with their own thoughts.
‘Their innate conservativism, their distrust of anything progressive led them to vote for Johnson and his acolytes’
Their innate conservativism, their distrust of anything progressive led them to vote for Johnson and his acolytes such as Iain Duncan Smith (‘IDS’), whose welfare policies led to so much suffering by their own classes
This is the same IDS who was knighted this week, although he should be better remembered for the recognition the United Nations gave when describing his welfare reforms as a systematic violation of human rights!
This is the same IDS, who, when leader of the Conservative party, imposed a three-line whip against a bill that would allow unmarried same-sex couples to adopt.
Strangely, I suspect Workington-man doesn’t know any gay people?
‘Pushed around and kicked around, always a lonely boy
You were the one that they’d talk about around town as they put you down…’ 4
As in other countries, divides have opened up between a disproportionately older demographic with capital and socially conservative views, and disproportionately younger voters with progressive social values who are blighted by economic insecurity.
Can this divide be healed, or will time provide a natural solution?
What is certain is that we will see a sustained period of populism in the UK.
Notes: 1. Tower Hamlets include the seats of Poplar and Limehouse, and Bethnal Green and Bow
Notes: 1. Tower Hamlets include the seats of Poplar and Limehouse, and Bethnal Green and Bow
Workington u/e 9.2%, UK average 4.3%
Workington %age graduates 15% UK average 27.4%
Source: Daily Mail 30/10/2019
We are absolutely delighted that Philip has offered us his thoughts in the aftermath of the election, and what an insightful and passionate perspective he delivers; let’s hope that he will occasionally deliver his pearls of wisdom as Brexit unfolds.
Those of you that have followed his commentary – all articles are available here – will see just how accurate his interpretation of events has been, and how inevitable Boris (‘The Tsar’)’s landslide became with Dominic Cummings (‘Rasputin’) pulling the strings.
As an added bonus, what he’s also come up with is the most fiendish lyric competition to date; always entirely relevant, as you wrangle with this deuced difficult challenge wonder at the workings of his mind and the size of his record collection – for that is what it is.
I’m not sure the eleven points up for grabs reflect the enormity of the task, and suffice to say that I undershot a maximum score by all eleven; those with rather more to trouble the scorer with must have their entry corroborated by Brexit-eve otherwise Finchley rules apply.
With a couple of stalwarts missing this is one to really test the grey matter; however 1 he kicks off with a favourite, and like any question, its an easy one if you know the answer – three points for Joy Division and ‘Atmosphere’.
Next up 2, three points and hats off to anyone who gets The Dicks and ‘No Nazi’s Friend’. I know, I told you; originally unleashed in 1983 this video show the lads in their plumpage in Austin, Tx in 2016.
Another hard won three points for the band Philip describes as ‘another newbie and the most unlikely hardcore punks’ asked to elaborate he explained the band are rastas; fair enough, soak up 3 Bad Brains and ‘Supertouch/Shitfit’.
Arriving at the last, reeling from the unnecessary roughness, I fear that I may have let two points slip through my fingers – largely because I don’t think we’ve had a dance track before. However, Philip makes it totally relevant by describing it as ‘song that simply describes the conservatism of the proletariat’ – 4 is Bronski Beat with ‘Smalltown Boy’ – and a perfect conclusion. Enjoy!
Philip is a great believer in meritocracy, and in the belief that if you want something enough you can make it happen. These beliefs were formed in his formative years, of the late 1970s and 80s
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