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

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

Meet the Brexiteers and their real revolution

To understand Brexit must involve appreciating the powerful Brexiteer faction that has such a strong grip on the Conservative Party. A bit like Momentum with Labour and Corbyn, the Brexiteers seem now able to dictate to May’s government what her approach to Brexit should be, and are in effect now the driving force behind the slow-motion revolution that is Brexit. But who are they and what do they want? The power of the Brexiteer faction in the Conservative Party was dramatically illustrated this week with May’s volte face on the Trade and Customs bills. The amendments tabled by the European Research Group (ERG) of MP’s forced May to contradict her recent and hard-fought White Paper on trade negotiations with the EU, and make it far less likely to secure EU agreement and thus more likely that there will be a … Read more

The strange death of the post-war British political order

When major change happens it can be hard to see what’s really happening. All is flux and uncertainty. In the British 2015 general election fundamental change is happening before our eyes and yet we can’t see what it is. We persist in thinking in terms of the old model of the political order when it has already gone and things have shifted beyond what we can conceive. It will take time for the new dispensation to make itself clear. What has happened is that the traditional post-war model of the nationwide two-party system elected by the “First Past the Post” (FPTP) electoral system in a unicameral, centralised state has finally hit the buffers and no longer works. Yet politicians and to an extent voters still think in those traditional terms when actually a fundamental re-alignment of the political order is … Read more

The great Scottish Nationalist wipe-out is a paradigm shift

The massive poll leads for the Scottish National Party (SNP) reported recently offers to change everything politically north of the border post the 2015 general election. It will be the great Scottish Nationalist wipe-out of their opponents which has been predicted since the 1970’s and now possible due to the dynamics of the 2014 independence referendum and the consequences of the 2008 financial crash. The SNP probably rightly senses that there’s a great opportunity, possibly a once-in-a-lifetime one, where it can control the balance of power at Westminster very much as the Irish Home Rulers did in the late 19th century and thus bring about a major shift towards home rule for Scots. Replacing Labour as the Scottish left-of-centre force They have been able to capitalise brilliantly on the massive explosion of enthusiasm for independence, particularly amongst the young, exposing … Read more

Are our MP’s too open to powerful vested interests?

Catching MPs with their hands in the till might be becoming a bit of a pastime for circulation-hungry newspaper editors, except that in exposing Jack Straw and Malcolm Rifkind for discussing consultancy work with a fictitious Chinese company in a sting operation, perhaps what’s really happened is that the Daily Telegraph have again drawn attention to something most MPs do to supplement their income. It has however become a sore point with the public at large: 60% of people disapprove, according to a YouGov poll. The issue also however raises the question of how MPs make a living, to the ways business and other interests gain access and influence, and indeed to how we as a democracy pay for representative government. On the face of it, the matter makes some headlines, and yet there are much deeper questions behind the … Read more

Is there excessive influence by the wealthy and powerful?

We’ve had a week of negative reports about tax avoidance by wealthy individuals through Swiss HSBC accounts and large donations to the Tories by City of London and Mayfair people, particularly the latter in hedge funds. It raises several issues for the student of politics. Setting aside the question of the rules governing taxation and how they are enforced, we can look here at the funding of political parties and of politics more generally, the links between special interests and political parties, and that fine line between legitimate influence and corrupt influence through money. Do the wealthy and powerful have too much influence? Arguments by left and right So, the left argue, you donate to the Tories who build the ground on which you can grow your wealth and you can avoid being taxed on it through creative accounting. Meanwhile … Read more

Insurgency politics is all the rage

Both in the UK and across Europe the angry reaction to the years of austerity has produced new political forces both on the right and left, insurgency politics in the form of populist movements that threaten the old cosy status quo of established political parties. As such they are disturbing the traditional ways of doing things and threatening to upset the electoral applecart in several countries in 2015. In Britain, there is the rise of UKIP (United Kingdom Independence Party) which now has 2 MP’s as a result of defections from the Conservative Party, and it currently is showing around 15% support in the polls. UKIP campaigns on a ticket of leaving the EU and restricting immigration. It topped the poll in the last Euro-elections in 2014, a particularly bad year for the two main parties. It has been performing … Read more

Political parties in the UK now operate on a narrow political base and are vulnerable to challenge

A very important underlying trend in UK, European and US politics has been the increasing isolation of a “political class” or elite from the mass of voters. It shows itself in a wide variety of features, but from the perspective of our main political parties it is a potentially dangerous trend in times of upheaval or change such as the current Great Recession, as it opens up the ground for challenges from populist and more extreme parties with widespread support. The risk this trend runs is of a mass political vacuum which others might fill. Mass-based parties Arguably the model of 20th Century democratic politics was the mass-based party, agreed on a set of ideological principles or enough to form a coalition of interests and beliefs. In the UK, we had a Conservative party that had emerged out of its … Read more

%d bloggers like this: