So, it's snap election time in Britain. We have an unelected leader asking for a mandate to force through a ‘Hard Brexit’ whatever that means. We have an opposition leader who is so blind as to believe that he can win the election in spite of public opinion and the recent boundary changes and has therefore allowed the election to take place and a leader of the ‘third way’ whose personal views on homosexuality are still unclear. What a mess.
The polls predict a crushing victory for the Conservative Party built on the twin pillars of Brexit and public apathy toward the Opposition. The ensuing shift in the House of Commons is predicted to result in a Eurosceptic majority leaving the 48% who voted to Remain in the European Union with no adequate representation.
It would be easy for me to launch into a long winded polemic about the state of the political climate in the UK, speaking as I do from a Left wing perspective. Jeremy Corbyn speaks an enormous amount of sense from his Socialist perspective and his policies could garner significant public support, however, he falls down consistently on the fundamental qualities of leadership. He has allowed himself to be portrayed in the national media as a pacifist; a morally indefensible position particularly given the current global geopolitical climate. Unfortunately the world is not a Utopia, there are times when it is morally right to take up arms and fight for what is right. Corbyn himself has constantly equivocated on this view though his other positions on nuclear weapons and the importance of tackling poisonous ideologies through debate and reason rather than by immediate military intervention are in fact sound from political, moral and humanistic viewpoints. The issue is that until he confirms that if elected Prime Minister that he would be prepared to use military force to stop actions such as genocide and forceful dictatorial oppression of minorities he will consistently be portrayed as both naïve and ultimately dangerous to the nation.
The world has changed beyond recognition since the last election in 2015. The idea that truth can be personal has seeped odiously into the mainstream consciousness. Vacuous statements that lies are just ‘alternative facts’ and that the world is ‘post-truth’ have been repeated to such a degree that those whose views would have been classed as certifiably insane have been given not just a platform but power. When we think of this issue we are immediately drawn to the example of Donald Trump but this kind of rhetoric has been around within the political classes for decades. We must not forget the Blair ‘sexing up’ of Weapons of Mass Destruction evidence, the Nick Clegg lies on tuition fees, the Leave Campaign’s instantly withdrawn ‘£350 million a week for the NHS’ pledge and Theresa May’s repeated statements that there would be no snap election. All of these instances and countless others have eroded public confidence in the political system and unfortunately the by-product of this can be seen worldwide. When you can’t trust the people you’re electing who can you trust? The answer many people seem to have reached is simply ‘outsiders’.
Trump is a businessman not a politician known as much for his ludicrous hair as his hard-line views, Nigel Farage was portrayed as a figure of ridicule and leader of a Blackshirt pensioner division, Boris Johnson was nothing more than a joke, a punchline, a convenient distraction when things got tough for the Tories. Nobody is laughing anymore. This is not just a Western phenomenon; Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines gained notoriety for his policy of encouraging the murder of drug dealers by members of the public, the continued toleration of the barbarism seen in Zimbabwe, Saudi Arabia and countless others, the disgraceful shift in Turkey under the presidency of Erdoğan; a man who believes that he can demand the conviction of a citizen of another sovereign nation for satirising him and who has recently begun a purge of journalists and the Turkish legal system, and of course the spectre casting it’s cowled shadow further out into the world with each passing moment; Russia.
What has the Left done in response to this rise of the Right? Practically nothing. It pains me to say it but the Left has failed fundamentally to defend itself and it’s demographic on a global scale. They have allowed the continued erosion of civil liberties in the name of security, they have allowed an acceptable response to a contrary opinion to become de-platforming speakers rather than rational discussion, they have allowed the Right to continually increase jingoistic propaganda with little to no basis in reality without appropriate challenge and, worst of all, they have allowed the Far-Right, the Alt-Right and the Fascists to seize upon ordinary people’s fears concerning employment, housing and security and forge a non-link to immigration. This is the reason why policies such as Brexit and Trump’s Wall have gained so much traction. Now we are in a situation whereby immigration is the big issue, Nationalism has risen drastically and the world teeters on the edge of a dangerous precipice.
I make no secret of the fact that I voted to Remain in the European Union. I didn’t do this because I believe in belittling the sovereignty of the British Parliament, I didn’t do this because I enjoy red tape and overly officious administrators, I didn’t even do it to remain part of Common Security Defence Policy. I voted to Remain in the European Union because we are European. We share common language (English being made up of combinations of French, German, Norse, Celtic and Gallic), we share a common history, a common philosophy. We are all nations and children of the Renaissance and of the Enlightenment and it is this that is key given the world as it is now. As vast swathes of the world descend into a pit of poisoned ideology, violence on a scale not seen in decades and a perpetual state of war it is vital to remain a part of a block whose politics, philosophy and thought is one of rationalism, compassion and civility. It is with Europe that the British have the greater unity and the greater bond. Take a look at the societies in Europe. They are centrist in the main, socially liberal and with freedom and justice for all. Even the states that recently joined from the old Soviet Union are working hard and bringing themselves in line with the European ideals. That is what Britain is too. Britain is not another United States and that is something we should most certainly be proud of.
The encroachment of the Right onto traditional Left wing views is what has made this picture cloudier. Even the Eurosceptic position was one borne of the Labour Party as the Conservatives took us into the EEC in 1973. Yet instead of focussing on what binds us together, the public has been trained to see only what is different; as though difference is something to be feared. They have been shown images of refugees trying desperately to make their way across the Channel as though this should be viewed through a lens of terror rather than sympathy. They have been told that the reason they can’t find work is because ‘foreigners’ have taken all the jobs for which they are qualified. One would think that this would lead to some form of introspection, self-improvement, a general rise in the calibre of people going into work but no the simple answer is to put an end to foreigners coming into the country.
It’s this that has become the key; simple answers to complex questions. Of course they won’t work, of course they may be impossible to enact, but they create an image in the minds of people. It is this image that they hold on to and becomes the thing they are voting for, often in spite of the person or party espousing them. Never mind the fact that Donald Trump has seemingly never heard of tunnelling as a method to circumvent a wall, never mind the fact that it is not possible to be part of the European single market without having free movement of people, never mind that if the UK pursues a Norway style deal with the EU they will be subject to any and all whims of the EU member states without having a say in the decision, never mind all of that, at least we now have control.
At the beginning of this I said it would be easy for me to launch into a polemic about the state of the political climate in the UK, but this isn’t about the UK. Even our election is not really about the UK. All of these events have worldwide consequences and will be pivotal in the coming years in a time period I am sure future historians will look back on with disgust and disdain. It is neither possible nor desirable to reverse globalisation. We are all so connected to one another across the world on all levels from the economic and political to the personal. The genie cannot be put back into the bottle.
With regard to the UK election I can only say this; if you know what a Hard Brexit is and still desire it vote Conservative, if you want to try to mitigate this or even reverse it, vote tactically. If in your area it is more likely that a Liberal or Green will win than the Labour Party, vote for them regardless of your party affiliation. The young need to get out and vote en masse otherwise the opinions of the elderly will once again be disproportionately powerful. We now find ourselves on a ship with a drunken Captain locked in the cabin. Most of us wouldn’t have wanted them there but we have no choice but to hope that we are steered on a safe course. This snap election is the only chance we have to try to ensure that the Brexit deal we are left with is one that at least in part represents the views of the British people and not just those of the lunatic fringe and those who will not have to live and work with the consequences.BLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS