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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europe, society, UK Politics, World Politics

The EU referendum has highlighted not only the European Union’s faults

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The pollsters had, for several days, proclaimed an easy win for Remain, and even UKIP’s Nigel Farage, known for his strong-willed politics, suspended his Brexit celebrations yesterday at 10pm. As much of the UK population downed tools last night, Prime Minister David Cameron and his team believed that a victory for the Remain camp was in the bag, and that their futures were secure.

But after a passionate yet emotive speech from David Cameron this morning, it is clear that a defeat for the Europhiles was in fact the reality, and that it would cause an almighty stir. Conceding Remain’s defeat after a tumultuous EU referendum campaign, it was his nemesis Boris Johnson’s turn to breathe the sigh of relief. Hailing a win for his Vote Leave campaign wasn’t the only feature of his unusually civilised speech, however.

Shortly after Cameron’s unexpected news, Johnson paid tribute to “one of the most extraordinary politicians of our age”, Cameron soon to set out on a departure of his own. After watching our politicians spearhead a somewhat childish referendum campaign, featuring many old playground tactics, we must question the credibility of our leaders and their Establishment.

Today’s marginally winning, but evidently considerable, support for an end to the UK’s relationship with the European Union tells us many things. Leaving the EU will have a monumental impact on our nation’s operation, and may well tear the threads which tie the United Kingdom together – now with all the more fragility – apart.

Whilst the wealth of support for the campaign to leave the EU has shown that the continental community is problematic, it also provides us with alarming truths of our own society. The European Establishment is obviously at fault, but in the same way, that of the United Kingdom is, too. Citizens throughout England, Wales, and parts of Northern Ireland, primarily, are evidently finding the current political regime tiresome.

It is nothing short of devastating that so many have been compelled to reject a co-operative European administration which keeps its member states in line, and that a huge proportion of our nation’s trade and investment opportunities have become suddenly fractured. In addition, the air of common culture that only the European Union was able to promote and diversify has become smoggy. Our borders will soon be barred, and our ability to co-operate easily on the largest of international issues has been shattered.

The overwhelming gains made by Johnson, Gove and Farage have shown that the entire political Establishment has failed many a British citizen, and that the status quo is not working. Such numerous working class Leave votes throughout the Midlands, the North of England and Wales were surely fuelled by the failings of past years’ budgets to revolutionise living and working standards for the most deprived. As London and Scotland voted overwhelmingly for a seat at the European table, it is clear to see the divide between these culturally diverse epicentres and communities which feel hard done by with current government.

With blatant lies and scaremongering, the campaign agenda of Vote Leave in many cases revolved around playing to the fears of the electorate. A debate which featured not a conversation on the nature of free movement, but instead xenophobia, failed to focus on the positives of a vote to leave the European Union. A campaign which has revolved around the demonisation of minorities, and the confusion of many voters who have become caught up in a bog of sly statistics has generated fear and instability throughout endless scores of communities.

Doesn’t this form of campaign strategy in itself paint a vivid picture of our decaying Establishment? Our nation’s political integrity has hit a very low point. Whilst the EU referendum has now been won, no one can dismiss the tricky tactics deployed by those advocating for a vote to leave Europe. The degrading tone of many of our politicians over the past ten weeks has shown that the UK must fast restore its social respect. For the obsession with blame and fear that has dominated the EU debate has only boosted the tense culture which flows throughout many British communities.

Let us not forget one of the most important aspects of this year’s referendum. Hasty to combat the imminent threat that UKIP posed to British politics, and keen to restore Tory party unity, it was Prime Minister David Cameron who dug his own grave by risking the referendum.

Cameron is responsible for a campaign of scaremongering himself, but his intent on using a matter of great public interest in order to heal the Tory party has come back to kick him. Perhaps one of the greatest mistakes of the Establishment this time was its focus on careerism, and its desperation for political advantage, adamant that the discussion would effortlessly stamp out UKIP. Many would argue that Boris Johnson secretly hoped that a win for Vote Leave would help to cement his future as a Prime Ministerial candidate. Instead, the Tory party has cost itself valuable allies and its credibility. The Prime Minister’s running away from Downing Street today speaks loud enough volumes. His ‘master plan’ to redeem the Conservative party of populist threat has markedly backfired.

Scotland’s mammoth 62-38 vote in favour of staying within the European Union has shown the intense social divide between our two nations all the more. The UK Establishment has been unable to smoothen out the arduous terrain of the new political landscape, already reshaped by pro-Scottish independence sentiment. Of course, the Scottish remain vote was nothing at all of a protest, unlike the possible intentions of those across England and Wales. But the robust links of Scotland with the EU have shown Scotland’s distinct mindset, and has only made Westminster’s relationship with Holyrood more prickly.

Surely after such a game-changing campaign and result, the Establishment will not be able to rest comfortably for many nights to come. Today’s vote result was undoubtedly a loud SOS from many who feel largely discontented with the European Union’s present operation. But the surprise victory of Vote Leave has served to pose new challenges for the British Establishment. Its fear-centric campaign has shown that the UK must find a new source of political integrity, and today’s unforeseen victory has highlighted that many feel failed by politics within the EU, and the UK.

The Establishment in itself has wrecked Britain, and has killed its own chances of success. But it didn’t have to be this way. Populism is the fault of governments around the world. Euroscepticism and right-wing populism has the failings of our global Establishments right at the heart of its rapid spread.

It is now only the Establishment which must restore public confidence and diminish its own detriment. It is only the Establishment which can start to once again champion the hardworking people of British society, and support the deprived. And it is only the Establishment which can pop the dreams of future right-wing populists such as Donald Trump by treading the moral high ground.

If the EU referendum has proven anything, it has proven that our leaders have made a great mistake in trying to combine political advantage with serious questions of the position of Britain in the world. The British Establishment’s fearful campaign tactics have displayed the lack of political dignity that surrounds our nation’s decision-making process. Surely our leaders wish to avoid further calamity. But to do so, they must first restore themselves and their own structures.

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American Politics, World Politics

Trump is showing up the US ‘grand old’ Establishment

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An experienced and frank businessman, it seems that Donald Trump’s adeptness as a multinational tycoon is translating into success as a possible US president. Whilst high-profile Republicans have for weeks dismissed the prospects Trump has for winning November’s US election, the iconic blondie has continued to sweep up success in the nation’s primaries, becoming the party’s likely candidate. His politics may be significantly controversial, but the Republican party must come to terms with his achievements. Otherwise, the GOP faces destroying its own collective success in future presidential elections.

The chances of Trump colonising the West Wing next January are growing day-by-day. As divisive as Donald Trump may be, he has revolutionised American politics in ways that even he would claim to be accidental. His surprise success has resulted in the mass mobilisation of hundreds of thousands of voters. Turnout is sure to reach great heights at the tense November election, amongst both defensive Democrats and rabid Republicans. Trump’s surging popularity has resulted in huge chances of Republican presidential power in 2017, but only if the party wakes up to its current transformation.

Politics all over the world divides communities and creates passionate oppositions. The headlines of past months have accentuated this defining characteristic of the Trump campaign very boldly. Donald Trump’s policies of a Muslim shutdown, controversial views on equality, and ideas for low tax rates have been at the eye of a raging political storm. His newfound political success is unarguable. An outspoken right-wing populist, his anti-immigration, patriotic, and truly different politics have shaken up the historic Grand Old Party in more ways than just policy.

From a neutral standpoint, the successes of right-wing populists from around the world have united large proportions of voters. Trump would definitely be no exception to this statement. Regardless of views, political engagement has no doubt seen a boost all over the States within the past year – something of a global political renaissance. Trump’s success in connecting with ordinary Republican voters has resulted in the creation of a sturdy public mandate. The Washington Post last month estimated that Trump will win more Republican primary votes than ever before, purely because of increased engagement. In ways that fellow competitors Cruz and Kasich – as well as former candidates – have failed to, Trump has attached himself to the median GOP voter extremely well. Donald Trump is a new face picking up new votes, and most importantly, has a new mandate with immense foundations. But the political divide reaches further than between only American citizens.

Myriad Republicans have proudly supported or vehemently condemned Donald Trump’s campaign since his rivals’ surrenders. With the door handle of the Oval Office becoming more tangible for Trump than ever before, his opinions are certainly creating two very different camps within the party. Paul Ryan, George W Bush, and Lindsey Graham are just a few of the most prominent Republicans deciding not to support Trump in this election.

Their rejection of his politics is, however, more dangerous for the future of the GOP than they seem to think. As expected, with the controversy of Trump’s politics, many are keen to distance themselves from him. But Trump is showing up the pre-existing Republican Establishment. His success as a populist has united swarms of American voters, and has highlighted the pitfalls of his rivals and previous candidates in doing the same.  Their ineptness in attracting substantial votes and engaging voters until now only shows that the GOP is out-dated.

The reaction to Donald Trump in this election is unprecedented in comparison to those of previous years. The fiery candidate has created a strong, new movement, and is finally leading the GOP in the direction it has failed to travel in before. The American right-wing has proven that, with the puny enthusiasm for Cruz or Kasich, and without an anti-establishment figure like Trump, the GOP would only have been annihilated by the Clinton’s crusade. Donald Trump’s revolutionary populism is the only thing that may win this election, and what has prevented previous candidates from doing so.

The politics like those of Romney and his failed revolution in 2012 surely won’t return any time soon with this frenzy. Trump’s effortless mandate has shown that the driving force of the Republicans are not the politicians, but instead the people. It seems that in some ways, right-wing populists like Trump are in fact reinforcing the need for a people-driven democratic electoral process, which has long been dominated by personality politics and strategic media coverage.

The vocal protest of the anti-Trump Republicans will do nothing to restore the GOP. As Trump highlighted a few weeks ago, he doesn’t need the unity of the GOP in order to win the election. It is truly in the hands of the people. Trump may be divisive, but he is rejuvenating the Republican party and its voters in ways never seen before. This populist revolution is a global pandemic, and America is not safe. Trump and similar politicians in other nations are showing up Establishments all over the world, governing with strong public mandates, passionate protest votes and outspoken but honest policy. Even if such impassioned politics is short-lived, it is sure to revolutionise the ethos of the Republican Establishment for a long time.

So why won’t the GOP just support him? It seems that they really are ‘fearties.’ If anything, they are holding their party back. The GOP must wake up to the realities of Trump’s irreversible success, and his opponents must realise the possibilities for real changes in their party’s politics. In many ways, our global democracy is becoming eroded. But the fact that so many American citizens themselves have favoured Trump as the Republican nominee speaks loud volumes. Trump will win based solely on the support of citizens. Republicans all over the USA must understand, however, that he reflects the average supporter, showing up their problematic Establishment – even if they don’t agree with him.

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American Politics, Analysis, World Politics

Don’t shrug off Trump as just another short-term right-winger

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Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump speaks at his South Carolina campaign kickoff rally in Bluffton, S.C., Tuesday, July 21, 2015. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

With his forthright politics, Donald Trump has recently captivated not only citizens across the United States, but spectators the world over. As one of world’s most successful businessmen and an opinionated conservative, this is hardly surprising. His policies of closing United States borders towards Muslims, the restarting of controversial torture methods and extensive military rejuvenation have, as predicted, whetted Republican appetites. But haven’t we seen similar radical movements in other nations, and don’t they just fade away with time?

It doesn’t seem this way. Trump has become a huge threat to left-wing politics. As the gap in opinion polls narrows between himself and leading Democrat Hilary Clinton – and now this election’s wild card, Bernie Sanders, too – Donald Trump’s chances of striding into the Oval Office next January seem better than ever. Many of his policies, whilst sparking outrage on social media platforms, have suited the blend of patriotism, independence and superpower from which the Republican ethos feeds. However, this new Republican faction does indeed echo political feeling of other nations – most notably the EU’s recently emerged body of Euroscepticism.

Across several nations across the pond, right-wing populist parties have nothing but triumphed. America has, of course, had a long history of such impassioned right-of-centre politics which has fostered under strong patriotism and resulted in the creation of an unrivalled political force. But the US right-wing is running its campaigns this year on issues which are increasingly similar to those targeted in European right-wing bids. Not only low taxes, gun freedoms and lower immigration are on the cards for Republicans, but also military attacks on militant groups in Africa and the Middle East, strong border responses to surges in immigration and the implementation of controversial punishment methods.

In Europe, right-wing populist groups standing for policy similar to Trump’s have swelled in terms of their overall vote share, but their successes have come in only small doses at first-order elections. There is a broad trend showing that these groups seem less likely to lead their nations’ governments and are only ad-hoc, issue-based entities. But America seems different. Donald Trump is running a highly successful campaign, with recent polls showing that there is only 4% between he and Clinton, who was at one point said to be the only one likely to win in November.

So, why is Trump working in the States? It is clear that external issues must be coming into play. After increased attacks from various groups on the American people and in other states, it has become easy for Trump to argue in favour of increased security measures, including the development of extremely controversial policy to restrain various individuals from movement into the country.

It is clear that one of Trump’s most successful tactics is proclaiming controversial policy in order to get the electorate talking. When Trump announced his proposed shutdown of America towards Muslim immigrants, Facebook and Twitter were captivated and became nuclei of debate. Whilst many agree with Trump, the views of those in opposition have furthered conversation of his campaign. This tactic of being frank and ‘straight talking’ is a ploy seen in campaigns by the likes of the United Kindom Independence Party’s (UKIP) Nigel Farage. UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn rose to fame in the same way, presenting controversial left-wing policy and adopting a more outspoken stance than his predecessors did.

Like the strategy of the above two British campaigns, Trump has been successful in saying what the average citizen is scared to. And this similar straight-talking is something Americans are buying into in the same way that European parties, many of whom small in size, have fast appealed to mass numbers of voters. But in America, the political system does give a larger platform to such views. November’s election is not a parliamentary election, but a presidential election. In parliamentary elections, more controversial parties have been pushed to the side. But as a Presidential candidate, and representing such a large proportion of American voters, Trump possesses astonishingly wide scope of influence.

So, isn’t this just going to be another short lived campaign? No, America is different. This populist right-wing surge is being taken on by hordes of impassioned voters who are keen to protect their beloved nation. The cult of Donald Trump is working. Over the past couple of months, Trump has emerged as a very serious contender, and a serious threat to the Democrat Party’s liberal politics. Possibly, some opponents would be reluctant to use the term ‘politician,’ but the business tycoon who is now set to dominate decision making may well in fact storm the White House in a year’s time.

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