A profound political gap underlies the Brexit storm and the right-wing shift

For some time there has been a profound political gap between the excitement of the UK politically engaged and the indifference or rejection “out there” beyond the Westminster bubble. For those willing to take a closer look, the attitude of the latter towards the Brexit crisis, and its origins, goes a long way to explain why the crisis is evolving as it is now. This detachment from, and in some parts of the country an outright rejection of, liberal democracy, can help explain Johnson’s current belligerent and almost anti-democratic tactics. Johnson is firing up his base To many in the Westminster bubble and the politically active sections of society, there is a massive struggle going on over Brexit, in which Johnson has recently prorogued Parliament to, it is assumed, limit debate and reduce the chances of Parliament obstructing his strategy … Read more

The Vote Leave Brextremist faction takes power but can they pull it off?

The formation of the Vote Leave Johnson government was stunning in its audacity. Suddenly the politics of stalemate have been replaced by that of a terrifying, focused action. This was a hard right wing No Deal government preparing the decks for action, clear and determined on their goal, a No Deal Brexit. Whatever doubts one may have of Johnson’s leadership capabilities, his competence in government and his ability to manage Brexit seem swept on one side by the daring ruthlessness of a machine being readied for war. After the dust settles a bit, one has to ask cold, hard questions about whether this almost revolutionary cabal can pull it off. Vote Leave faction takes power To be clear, this Johnson government is a Vote Leave regime, so far unelected and trying to assert the constitutionally dubious legitimacy of the 2016 … Read more

Boris Johnson in power at last prepares for No Deal Brexit

Battle has been joined. The Boris Johnson war cabinet has been assembled and the “Do or die” government is announcing its policy. The new Prime Minister has sacked most opponents and brought in a cabinet of hard Brexiters. He made a policy pitch for One Nation Toryism from No 10 yesterday but like Theresa May, that may or may not happen. The focus looks likely to be to achieve Brexit by 31 October. We will no doubt see some shadow boxing, ostensibly with the EU, who have already made their position clear, and BJ’s opponents will probably hold off a bit while that very unconvincing bid plays itself out. Meanwhile preparations for a No Deal Brexit will resume, equally unconvincingly. Quite clearly Boris Johnson has opted for the hard Brexit faction, who have taken control of the Tory party, neoliberals … Read more

The Labour Party is split when unity is needed against an aggressive Right

There are plenty of signs in the wind that we may have a General Election not far off and yet the Labour Party seem to be in a mess, riven by accusations of anti-semitism and bunker-mentality denials by its leadership clique. It seems stuck in intra-party conflict at the very point when one might imagine unity is needed against a very militant right wing that poses a major threat, on Brexit, the neo-liberal changes that are being promised on the back of Brexit and to Labour themselves. A hard right-wing victory at the polls could clear the way for the removal of the last of the post-war collectivist and social-solidarity reforms. Is Labour being its own worst enemy? There is a promising mix of ideas and aspirations for change within Labour, and yet obscuring such promise there are forces that … Read more

Boris Johnson and the economics of Leave: the whiff of an election

Preoccupied as many people are with the approaching crunch point over Brexit, they may not be so aware of the powerful whiff of an approaching general election and the potential voting-winning economic and tax-and-spend policies of the hard right behind Boris Johnson. While stuffed full of curious contradictions, and amidst masses of scepticism from soon-to-be-ex Chancellor Hammond, there is an interesting sense in BJ’s Borisomics of a mix of tax cuts for the rich and the promised final dismantling of the Post-war welfare state and the “bonfire of regulations” on the one hand with an austerity-busting splurge of infrastructure spending for the disadvantaged Labour leave-voting areas. Farage is doing similar things. This looks to be more than a touch of a neo-liberal bid for the Labour Leave vote. Interesting too that such people rate the economy, austerity and welfare cuts … Read more

Remain need to form an Anti-Brexit alliance to fight the election

While the Tories are busy being inwardly-focused and dreaming of the easily-won Brexit paradise as promised by Boris Johnson, the Remain side need to be thinking of the likely next General Election. The million dollar question must be whether they can form an Anti-Brexit alliance. The lesson of the last few years should be that the old two party voting pattern has broken down, or is at least on its last legs, to be replaced by a multi-party system, and that winning a majority has become very difficult. Thus a coalition will be needed and Remain need it to be their one. As Ian Dunt argues here, there are only two pro-Brexit parties and there are signs that they could ally. Given the multiplicity of Remain parties, the facing-both-ways ambiguity of Labour, and lack of a political home for the … Read more

The Tories are choosing an election winner to leave the EU

To clear the decks was a term in naval warfare, when objects were removed or tied down before battle. It looks like the Tories are clearing the decks for electoral warfare to fix Brexit through a General Election. There is probably now no other way forward and the crunch point for a final decision is fast arriving. There is an eerie unease, like we’re all waiting as the Tory leadership contest reaches its climax when the membership must make their choice, and it looks like they want an election winner. It might seem like something from another less democratic era that the choice of the next Prime Minister is being left to 120,000 mainly older, male, white and predominantly South-East England voters, but from another perspective the nation is being presented with one alternative choice for its future, on which … Read more

Political disinformation has become dangerous and unacceptable

Further evidence has been emerging in the last few days of an undermining of democratic processes in the UK and elsewhere as the UK Select Committee , the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, reported on political disinformation and “fake news”. This report underlines previous posts in this blog on what can be described as potentially illegal or at best ethically questionable activities to influence voting. The charge sheet keeps growing The charge sheet that is being drawn up includes: A small group of individuals and businesses are influencing elections across multiple jurisdictions, not just the UK. One wealthy person, Arron Banks, who funded one of the pro-Brexit campaigns in 2016, has not been able to fully and satisfactorily account for his activities both in the UK and overseas including Russia. There is a lack of clarity as to the … Read more

Electoral law is being undermined and this is a risk for democracy

An important sign that a democracy is less than healthy must surely be when people cease to follow the rules which sustain it. Today has revealed yet more evidence that the Leave campaigns in the 2016 UK referendum broke electoral law. It is crucial to democratic elections that they observe the law, that there is no undue influence exerted at any stage, and that money is correctly spent. The risk in today’s febrile climate is that if the law has been broken, especially as in this case where the result was so narrow, people will start to question the legitimacy of the result. Thus faith in the system can be undermined and in a very severe crisis resort be made to further illicit activity. In the case of the UK referendum, the evidence is that spending limits were breached by … Read more

Data manipulation and the murky world of political advertising

Recent investigative journalism has shone a bright light on the murky world of digital data mining and political advertising. A US-UK company, Cambridge Analytica, with an off-shoot the Canadian firm Aggregate IQ, have been found to have mined huge quantities of personal profiles on Facebook and turned the data into a means for highly personal and psychologically targeted political advertising that some consider could have helped swing elections in marginal constituencies such as the Trump Presidential in 2016. Such is the concern over data manipulation that questions are being asked about the adequacy of the law in the digital age and whether further strengthening of regulators and a catch-up in electoral law are needed on both sides of the Atlantic. Why should political observers be concerned? The recent rapid growth of social media The context is the rapid shift towards … Read more

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