The authoritarianism inherent in Brexiter populism nears the surface

It is now hard not to take the view that the ruthless pursuit of the goal of Brexit is now No. 10’s order of the day, “by all means necessary” in the words of the alleged brief given to the effective Chief of Staff Dominic Cummings by PM Johnson and the Vote Leave team now controlling the executive. That ruthlessness has an urgent domestic priority, to break the Parliamentary resistance to Brexit as formulated by No.10. If that means a No Deal Brexit, so be it. In terms of the relationship with the EU, this will not resolve the problems of a breakdown in the trading relationship with Britain’s by-far biggest market. In domestic terms it comes at a massive price in both an economic recession, a failure in Parliamentary democracy and a possible shift towards authoritarianism. It is not … Read more

The Johnson leadership bid tilts towards Trump as Brexit looms

The row over the British Ambassador to the US, coming just after a public debate between the leadership challengers to the Tory Party succession has been instructive as to the likely direction of play. Leadership elections, especially when a party is in power, can give useful clues as to the new coalition, in party-political terms, that is being assembled, the personalities and the likely policies in particular. The resignation of Darroch after the leaking of his confidential memos is not surprising. His role was compromised, we do not yet know by whom, but fingers of suspicion are being pointed to the well-oiled dirty tricks dept of the Brextremists and their overseas fellow travellers. Nothing hurts like the truth, they say, although I wonder if Trump knows the meaning of the word, so wrapped up as he is in narcissistic fantasyland. … Read more

No deal Brexit is giving Britain a political nervous breakdown

It’s interesting to hear from the ex-head of the UK intelligence service, MI6, that Britain is going through a “political nervous breakdown“. People might be forgiven for thinking “me too” over this national psychiatric diagnosis, such has been the ongoing paralysis in government and Parliament as a result of the Brexit impasse. He went on to criticise the quality of political leadership by the leaders of the main political parties and point to how the country has been left bitterly divided, the damage the crisis is doing to Britain’s global reputation and the risk being taken with the British economy. Senior government officials get to observe political leaders at close quarters and Sawyers is not alone among past senior officials in questioning the quality of judgement being shown and having anxiety about the direction in which the country is being … Read more

Now is the age of the hyperleader of reactionary populism

Today is the age of the hyperleader whose power rests on a superbase of mainly online social media supporters, which is partly eclipsing traditional politicians. To understand the power and appeal of reactionary populism, and therefore what Brexit is about, one needs to get the nature of this largely male beast and its ability to manipulate its following, and the challenge it poses to representative democracy. What are hyperleaders? Trump, the Five Star movement and also Salvini in Italy, Modi in India, and to an extent Farage in the UK, for example, are hyperleaders, according to Paolo Gerbaudo, drawing immense empathy and loyalty from their followers, often charismatic, demagogic some might say, very outspoken, often outrageous, presenting themselves as outside the political establishment, claiming to represent the “ordinary person” against the perceived remote and corrupt political elite. They present themselves … Read more

To get why Boris Johnson might be the UK’s PM one needs to get Brexit

“Cometh the hour, cometh the man” can seem very biblical but is perhaps rather apposite in the circumstances. People now faced with the possibility of Boris Johnson as the UK’s PM and national leader are asking, “How can this be?” It should be remembered that there are around 48% who favour Brexit and also Johnson still enjoys a lot of support. Equally one might ask how it was that Farage had so much support recently. Such supporters might therefore reply, “and why not?” We are in the middle of a massive crisis, and the electorate is sharply polarised. Brexit is overwhelmingly the biggest crisis in the UK’s recent history. The background is, I would suggest, deep unrest in the country, particularly due to austerity but also neo-liberalism. Brexit serves as the diversion and thus the target for much angst. Amidst … Read more

Was Mrs Thatcher a great leader or a divisive ideologue?

So was Mrs Thatcher a great leader or did she do more harm than good? Was Mrs Thatcher a great leader? The passing of great leaders tends to produce a flood of retrospective comment on the qualities of the leader, their achievements and their legacy, and those who see them as their current inspiration can move quickly to deify them. The death of Lady Thatcher yesterday is one such event, although opinion is divided as to whether she would deserve the term “great”. Thus there is no actual state funeral, as was accorded to Churchill for example. After all it is history that awards the term and it can be a fickle judge. Lady Thatcher, or as we all knew here in the UK, Mrs Thatcher or “Maggie”, inspired both love and hate, both amongst her opponents and her admirers … Read more

The politics of scarcity in a time of rapid change can be toxic

Today the politics of scarcity sees a major change in social policy The observer of political trends might be curious about the mega-whammy apparently happening from today, the changes to “welfare entitlement” being introduced in the UK. On 1 April a whole raft of changes are occuring, that will probably have a major impact on the bottom percentile of the population, while in the same week the top rate of income tax comes down from 50% to 45%. The contrast is stark, and deliberate. It might be even more curious a phenomenon when we put this into the context of the renewed focus on the troubles of the Eurozone and the continuing signs of the deep and growing recession in the South as Cyprus joins the “PIGS” countries subject to the dictates of Northern-led austerity. Both in the UK and … Read more

%d bloggers like this: