UK Politics

Is this election the end of the catch-all party?

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As the climax of this general election approaches, it is clear that Westminster is the epicentre of the Eurosceptic earthquake which has caused seismic shifts in the British political landscape.

One year on, the aftershocks of last year’s Brexit referendum can still be felt. Whilst the political x-axis has long been the right-left barometer, the y-axis which may well control British politics for years to come is now based on whether voters be internationalists or nationalists. The ideological foundations of the UK’s parties continue to quiver with the mounting gravity of the Brexit question, and the populist pendulum has swung from the right towards the left. Fractures within the Labour and Conservative parties, too, over the nature of the UK’s unilateralist turn, have made the nation’s key political structures increasingly brittle.

When Theresa May declared her intentions to seek a mandate in April, she must have thought that victory would slip easily into her hands, with Jeremy Corbyn only just clinging onto the political scene amidst internal Labour party strife and backlash from the electorate over recent months.

But now it is obvious that the gap has narrowed. Either Jeremy Corbyn or Theresa May will set foot in Number 10 tomorrow, navigating the treacherous ridge of the British political peak which has a sheer drop at either side.

Today’s snap vote, which many believed would erode the foundations of the Labour Party for several years to come, has instead had the opposite effect. A victory for Theresa May still seems the most likely result, but this election has brought to light new corners of political opinion within the two biggest parties, fragmenting the once clear-cut right and left wings. Can the leaders of the UK’s two biggest parties really speak for the entirety of each of their movements?

The Labour Party isn’t, and hasn’t been since Blair’s 1997 landslide, categorised simply by one strong shade of scarlet. Neither can the Conservative Party be characterised by one tone of light blue. The Labour tapestry now includes a multiplicity of pinks, crimsons and Burnt Siennas, and a look through the Tory lens reveals a kaleidoscope of turquoise, aquamarine, royal blue and teal. The left is split between Jeremy Corbyn’s more traditional socialism, Tony Blair’s third way, and a great deal of pro-Brexit lefties. The right, in turn, exists as a patchwork of more centrist free-market liberals, pro-Europeans, and May-supporting Brexit stoic.

Over the campaign, both main parties have tried to pick up as big a portion of the electorate as possible, reelinh in voters regardless of class and background, having realised that party affiliation isn’t as simple as it once was some decades ago. With May’s focus on strength and stability, and Corbyn’s impetus on governing for the greater good, both campaigns have sought to operate beyond class divisions, out to capture the human sentiments of holding either national or European identity, and playing to the hopes and ambitions of the general public for the future of their British nation.

In this election, Theresa May has attempted to prove that Brexit is a transformation which can benefit all – the disenchanted working class, and those who look to abandon the red tape of the European Union. Similarly, the Labour Party, with its campaign based around ideas of an all-encompassing society, with a more internationalist approach, has tried to attract both voters on average incomes, and even the most high-end of champagne socialists. But the reality is, however, that leaders now have to piece together smaller, more specific factions of opinion within one diverse party construct. Support is no longer simply a question of where you work, how much money you earn, and what food you put on the table.

Arguably, as parties have sought to capture all voters, within a society which has become more culturally, socially and economically diverse, the parties themselves have had to fit into new moulds and broaden their appeal. It is now increasingly hard for governments to please everyone and for parties to appeal to all. Perhaps, therefore, large parties which once had simply formulated political motives which spoke to the masses can no longer speak to all types of individuals found within a more varied society.

Many would, of course, argue that it is impossible to please all and that this is just a fact of the democratic and, more specifically, majoritarian, system. In this election, both parties’ manifestos have aimed to appeal to all, but in reality, the leaders and their governmental gameplans only represent one part of the party’s multifaceted opinion base.

The Labour and Conservative parties arguably have chosen to run with just one form of their respective left and right opinion this election, in the form of Jeremy Corbyn’s traditional socialism, mixed with a streak of revolutionary populism, and Theresa May’ anti-EU strategy which champions ideas of UK national feeling and emphasises a need for uncompromised national sovereignty. Corbyn does not come across well to the Blairites, politicians who are sure to flex their muscles in the next parliament. Similarly, May, who was, until the departure of David Cameron, a remainer, fails to win over more centrist and European Tories.

But perhaps the UK revolves around a majoritarian system which, in fact, does not work for the majority. With two large parties aiming to please all at campaign level, whilst truly only being able to adopt one type of left-wing and right-wing thought within a party which contains many more specific pools of opinion, surely not all can feel satisfied with politics.

If this be the case, surely much of the British population remains perplexed. How, therefore, can big parties manage to speak for all? Perhaps the big social class-driven aggregate party structure is now dead, and can be rendered impractical. Arguably, the two big parties have attempted to please all in campaigns but this is ineffective for many, as they adopt just one small portion of their own left and right wing party’s thought.

There are several possible solutions. The first is that the catch-all, all-encompassing party becomes successful in pleasing all. This has, however, proven to be a rather utopian idea, based on this campaign and the politics of previous years.

Another option is that the UK political landscape would break down, heralding a wider range of political parties which each reflect more specific divisions of political opinion, welcoming a new proportional system of voting.

Furthermore, if Theresa May pushes on with her Brexit agenda, and the Labour Party continues to run with its staunchly traditionalist, left-of-centre socialism, British politics could become increasingly polarised, generating a gap in the market for a new centrist movement. Perhaps a more balanced force like French President Emmanuel Macron’s La République en Marche will soon come to the fore.

No matter who wins this election, both Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn now have the tricky task of healing the divides within their large parties, as they veer towards more specific directions. If the parties fail to unite their supporters, great constitutional change for the UK could be next on the to-do list. Perhaps the clear-cut, class-driven party structures which have for so long defined the UK’s political landscape are breaking down, no longer able to speak for all.

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UK Politics, World Politics

Panama Papers: Britain has the power to halt underhand tax havens

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It may be the biggest journalistic jackpot of the decade, but the discovery of the Panama Papers should provoke changes to our societies spanning even longer timescales. Over 11.5m files leaked to German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists amongst myriad other media stations have clarified stark truths of our split societies. Britain, Iceland, Russia and China, alongside more neighbouring countries have had their tycoons, politicians and oligarchs exposed in relation to such unjust tax evasion.

The tax malpractice revelations of Panamanian legal firm Mossack Fonseca and its clients reveals a deep hypocrisy at the top of our society. The setting up of false companies in order to evade income tax is sanctimonious, and the frequent investment of millions in illegal markets is perilous to the international community. This cycle of shady financing has only aided those with links to some of the most hazardous operations in the world, including the funding of organisations linked to North Korea’s questionable nuclear programme.

If anything, the Panama Papers prove that our society is far from just. David Cameron has commanded many of Britain’s poorest to suffer the effects of devastating austerity whilst the most wealthy have continued to inappropriately satisfy their greedy financial appetites. It is unscrupulous that the Prime Minister has advocated for such widespread working class cuts, whilst his relations, Tory party donors, and numerous high earners continue to dodge income levies. In a modern society, the existence of one rule for the rich and another for the ordinary citizen is shameful.

Not only these ravenous Brits who must be flagged up for their blatant wrongdoing. Colleagues of international figures including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and members of the formidable Chinese politburo have, in past days, had their dignity laid before them. Even Iceland’s Prime Minister Davíð Gunnlaugsson is now facing popular calls for his resignation after exposure of he and his wife’s offshore earnings. The intriguing Scandinavian nation boasts one of the best equality ratings in the world, but it is clear that some public officials must still be rebuked. Whilst not all of the aforementioned politicians have themselves taken part in tax dodging, knowledge of such underhand tactics is nothing short of negligence.

It seems that the global leaders who are launching crackdowns on corruption within their home nations just cannot help themselves. Such a gap between the people and their leaders should not exist in the 21st century. The modern class divide goes beyond occupational status or a mere tax band rating. Our elites should not be torn in such an abominable conflict of interests regarding their scheming and shady financial agenda. A select few international politicians evidently seek to strengthen the pockets of only those amongst their own social class, and not the pockets of majority. So who can citizens trust, watching on as their leaders are embroiled in such unforgiveable hypocrisy? Perhaps the most worrying aspect of these revelations is that our rule of law continues to be diminished. The lawmakers are heavy-handedly exploiting the system and continue to prevent the tying of profound excise loopholes. Our politicians are no longer standing up for the hardworking people, small businesses and social justice they once appeared to.

Such striking kleptocracy is alive and well within our global society. It is now time for the true leaders to put an end to this unfair exploitation. In fact, Britain could very possibly stand the moral high ground. With myriad shell companies having been set up in British colonies, the UK has a bright light to shed on operations within such tax havens. Soon, the Cayman Islands, Panama and the British Virgin Islands could become subject to hard-line reprimands. Only with strong support from Britain may principles of income equality and fairness be reinstated with regard to tax contributions worldwide.

There is one answer to this very real issue. Britain has the chance to assume a leading role in the condemnation of exploitative individuals and the abolishment of such unfair loopholes. Without this support, political corruption and large scale deprivation amongst humanity will prevail. Let’s see our politicians advocate for real social justice and the prevention of big business and the most affluent taking such astonishing advantages. Cameron’s blaming of the widespread use of these schemes on HMRC laxity is a puny scapegoat.

Perhaps I am just a pessimist, but Sunday’s landmark leakage has shown us the disgraceful deceit and dishonesty which is abundant throughout society. It has once again reiterated the evils which continue to prevent our global community from progressing towards equality, justice and prosperity.

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