Many explanations have been offered for the humiliating defeat of the Labour Party in the UK general election but perhaps the simplest answer is also the most historically accurate: that the politics of the United Kingdom, or rather the dominant English component of it, are inherently conservative and that those periods of more explicit left-wing government in London have been the exception rather than the rule. Even the prolonged tenure of Tony Blair and New Labour can be explained away by his administration’s deliberate wooing of the urban and aspirational middle-classes and the promotion of business-friendly neo-liberal policies. For all the cultural and social progressivism of the period, what really drove “Cool Britannia” was low taxation and low spending, initiating a disenfranchisement of traditional Labour-supporting communities that ultimately contributed towards the collapse of the so-called “Red Wall” in the north of England as working- and lower middle-class voters went Tory or to a lesser extent Brexit Party – or just didn’t vote at all.
Of course the vilification of Jeremy Corbyn by his opponents and the misrepresentation of Labour’s policies didn’t help. Policies that were relatively conventional by centre-left European standards. But then again, the UK prides itself on being outside the European norm, and the economic conservatism of the British media, even the most liberal titles or representatives, played up Corbyn’s supposed ideological extremism for all that it was worth. In end the general election in Britain was a pretty squalid affair, driven by a rising tide of toxic English nationalism, fuelled by imaginary notions of victimhood and persecution, an understandable level of dissatisfaction or resentment at a political establishment that proved incapable or unwilling to implement the outcome of a flawed but still democratic referendum, and a press that proved too partisan, too self-interested or too ineffective to interrogate or expose those individuals and groups with the greatest flaws in their political and personal pedigrees.
So bye-bye the United Kingdom of Great Britain and that bit of Ireland that England holds onto like a comfort blanket of empire, pretending it doesn’t exist when in adult company but in reality using it to sooth away childish insecurities that only a tattered old rag of an overseas territory can provide. It was not so nice knowing you. And hello Brexlandia the Great, where the sun will never set. Mainly because you won’t able to see it for all the pollution from the Chinese- and American-owned factories once the deregulation of environmental laws is enacted by the leaders of the new Conservative Party.
I’m not sure the politics of the UK/England as manifest in national government are an accurate representation of the politics of the UK/English electorate. Not when we know, what we know, about UK state agencies and private institutions actions against Labour and the Left since WWII.
Maybe. But the English or Anglo-British electorate leans to the right or centre-right. At least in terms of imperfectly configured constituencies in England where the Tories have always been in the majority bar a few exceptional elections. England is a small “c” conservative country and the northern “Red Wall” was crumbling from the inside long before last week. It was just that no one expected the sudden collapse. Labour’s infighting and hesitancy/indecisiveness over a Brexit was just one part of an electorial perfect storm. Albeit the major part.
But then I counter with Noam Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent and George Lakoff’s The Political Mind.
I personally believe that there is something wrong in much (Maybe most) of the world that can’t be fully explained by the usual explanations. If the English were “inherently conservative” it would be hard to imagine either the left wing period from WWII until the Thatcher era lasting as long as it did, or the English placing anywhere near the value on the NHS as they do. (A very left system compared to the universal systems of Germany and France!!)
Some people have tried to classify the “global epidemic of crazy” in terms of “nihilistic glee” or “chaos madness”. There are theories on what is causing it to go around-there could very well be multiple factors. Same with why some countries seem to be showing more resistance while others only get worse.
What may be Unique to Britain is that exiting the EU was the “target”, rather than electing a Trump, Putin, Bolsonaro, Berlusconi, or Zuma-since they are a Constitutional Monarchy that doesn’t elect even a half-ceremonial/half-referee executive.
That said, I believe that there’s a good chance of this going really horribly for Britain. Rather than clinging to the Empire, they may be reverting in some ways to pre-Imperial England much like Post-Soviet Russia has shown some depressing resemblances to Tsarist Russia. The noted parallels between Henry VIII and Brexit conbined with Royal scandals plus the fact Prince Charles is an ass-clown who many think won’t honor the neutrality of a Constitutional Monarch, would be the most disturbing symptoms so far.
Of course, when a country loses an Empire there always was that risk. The fact Brexit somewhat propped up Britain and the nihilistic glee or chaos madness might have pushed it forward.
But the NHS is tied into the British sense of “otherness” and English exceptionalism. They value it in small part because they see it as superior to the health services of other nations and a sign of the country’s inherent superiority. It’s like imperial grandstanding by health service proxy. The BBC and British public service broadcasting once held the same position. Except all are now threatened by Tory and Brexiteer representatives of the English working-classes who oddly enough all speak with upper middle-class posh boy and posh girl accents!
Presuming that pride in the NHS is partly about English “exceptionalism” (that label has a more convoluted history than many people using it realize), pride in things like a Health System or other public infrastructure or another is not unique to England or even nations with a reputation for nationalism. Canadians, despite their reputation as a rather modest country, invest a great deal of national pride in their health system even if crowing about it from the highest rooftops largely isn’t their way. (It’s essentially a nationalized health insurance system.) The French take pride in their school lunches. Peruvians in having more breeds of potato than anywhere else in the world (I know that one introduces a big elephant into the room around here. Recognizing the dangers of low biodiversity isn’t exclusive with assigning Britain plenty blame for that one.). Americans can be as sentimental about Amtrak as the English about The NHS, although nobody who has been to Europe or India thinks it’s the best train system on the planet. Most countries do something along those lines.
Also even if love of the NHS is pure sheer English chauvanism and nothing else, I’d expect they’d have picked something else if they were that deeply conservative. It’s not like they have nothing a conservative could love in England!!!! (Talking to a Liverpudlian, I get a strong sense that some of this love of the NHS comes down to a people who have simply gotten used to not having to pay for most medical stuff at POS.)
More generally it does seem to me that something IS wrong with a lot of people in many countries around the world. It’s not unique to rich and/or Western countries as India (Modi), Brazil (Bolsonaro) and South Africa(Zuma) have been affected. I do worry if people try to explain this away by depending too much on conventional overdetermined, ultra-prosaic sorts of explanations, they might miss the fact something is very wrong.
Also if England does continue down the road implied by the Henry VIII parallel theory it could become an extremely unpredictable and unstable country…possible a real wild card globally, although I doubt they’ll be able to afford to any major invasions.
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It was either the 1970’s with Corbyn spend and bust or the 1930s with Boris and the dream of a new “Empire ” and England as a top dog all rubbish of course but sold better .
But Corbyn’s enthusiasms were far more restrained than previously expressed, and the sensible heads seemed to have a good hold of the future economic policies. Like, they were relatively conventional mainstream leftish by Continental standards. Just not by British ones.
But the demonization of Corbyn and the Labour civil war and Blairite shenanigans killed any hope of a victory for just politics.
The UK has bought the Brexiteer lies hook line and sinker.
I’m hoping at this point England doesn’t end up with a literal, full-blown, national Civil War, over all this!!!
I’m not saying any of these things out of Schadenfreude or arguing that “the chickens are coming home to roost” for The British Empire-I hope you realize. The dangers to Ireland and the EU in any such scenario would be very real, and due to England’s strange history and role in international finance the global outcomes could be unpredictable. At the proximal level, I mostly blame poor decision making.’
Reblogged this on seachranaidhe1.