When I started this series of 3 articles I had no idea that before they were finished we would be seeing a wave of populism in our politics that hasn’t been there for a very long time.
The Sudden Popularity of Populism
Britain, reeling from a couple of Islamic terror attacks carried out by Muslim men, inspired by the Qu’uran and egged on by crazed ISIL propagandists was fast approaching a General Election. We weren’t to know at the time but this election would see UKIP implode. Leave voters would revert to their tribal ways and vote Tory or Labour. Both factions doing so, I imagine, in a frantic bid to keep the other out of power. Over 80% of those who voted did so for one of these two main parties. I write this to provide some context for this article.
We were already seeing, in the early stages of campaigning, a lack lustre complacent performance from a somewhat shy and inept incumbent Prime Minister. This was in stark contrast to a challenger who “came out of his shell” so to speak. The Tories were, theoretically at least, guaranteed a landslide but in the background a certain John McDonnell kept telling anyone who would listen; “Just wait, when Jeremy gets to the hustings and starts speaking to people you’ll see what he’s really like. He’s honest and genuine and people will vote for him. We will win this election”.
Oh how we chortled. Apart from a raggedy band of like minded “left wing loonies” Jeremy Corbyn was virtually persona non grata within his own party. So far as any ordinary person could make out, if Labour carried more than 200 seats the election would have been a great success for them. Labour grandees emerged from their coffins, dachas, town houses and yachts to bemoan their own parties’ leader. In reality they were hoping for a disaster which would enable a return to more “centrist” policies, the kind that made Labour MP’s rich. The ABBC in its wisdom, before the light got turned on, went after Jeremy Corbyn with the same vigour with which they lauded Tony Blair but the race was only in the warm up stages and things were about to take a very dramatic turn.
So we have to ask then, what changed? I’ve already alluded to the ineptitude of Mrs May with her “Strong and Stable” mantra, but other forces were at play. The MSM insisted on debates which Mrs May refused to attend, costing her a % point or five. I think then that the ABBC, maybe having a finger in the wind, saw what might be happening and changed tack where Mr Corbyn was concerned. Another couple of % points were lost by the Tories on the back of the ABBC volte face but still no one “in the know” showed any real concern. A healthy Tory majority was in the bag, “Brexit” would be happening on schedule and Labour would not be anywhere near a sniff of power for at least a generation.
On the 3rd of June there was another major Islamic terrorist attack in the UK. The London Bridge/Borough Market area was targeted by determined Jihadi’s armed with a hired van and ceramic knives taped to their wrists, these guys really meant business. In a very short space of time they had killed 8 people, severely injured over 45 others and had achieved their goal of martyrdom. This in itself has nothing to do with the election campaign directly, but subliminally it was detrimental to the Tories. Two of the Jihadi’s were known to the authorities and, at this point in the campaign cycle perception was everything. Another couple of % points changed hands and we were in single figures with 5 days to go. The Tories, bound by a pathetic single strategy campaign (Strong & Stable) had also misread the mood of the people. Keeping to their austerity programme and at the same time trying to attract the “youth” vote they targeted their own core support in a negative way. Their plans weren’t bad per se but their announcement of them was badly timed and their explanations and woolly back tracking didn’t help them.
At this point I’d like to make it clear that “populism” (until now anyway) had been seen as the preserve of what the MSM and the “liberal politicians” called “fringe parties”. In particular UKIP had been identified as having a “populist” agenda by pandering to what the MSM dubbed the fears of “thick and wilfully ignorant racists and xenophobes”. Populism was bad, people that used sensationalism and made wild promises they couldn’t or wouldn’t keep were base liars and in it only for themselves and their divisive agendas. They were in fact hell bent on “polarising” the nation.
Up until this point the Labour Manifesto hadn’t had too much of an airing but the Labour propaganda machine now went into full swing and the main stream media, led by its cheerleader the ABBC, was happy to provide the platform for it. This manifesto put free owls and the EdStone completely in the shade, there would be no half measures. Along with an end to austerity and a massive public borrowing programme Labour would reverse the “dementia tax” (something that didn’t really exist). Labour would retain the triple lock on the state pension (great news for those that rely on it as their major source of income) and they would not be means testing the winter fuel allowance (great news for the so called JAMS). They reacted to the increased terror threat by promising more police on the streets. They courted the young with free University education (backdated) and the promise of a £10 an hour minimum wage. They bolstered the “working” element of their core support (the public sector) by promising to get rid of pay restraint and pour billions into education and “their” NHS and they bolstered the rest by vowing to overturn Tory benefit “cuts”. As a final fillip they promised to spend even more billions on renationalising transport, energy and the mail.
I suppose by now some people would have been starting to worry but then along came Diane, Emily, the Gardiner chap and several others (the Blairites were all by now in hiding, expecting the inevitable) to make complete and utter fools of themselves on radio and television, time and time again. Great, most people with a brain thought. If this is the public face of Labour they still don’t have a chance, who in their right mind would vote for a party that proposed Diane Abbott as Home Secretary or Barry Gardiner as Minister for International Trade. Even more scary who could possibly see Angela Rayner as Education Secretary and, as for Keir Starmer as chief “Brexit” negotiator, well let’s just say it didn’t seem remotely plausible to many people.
Still though, in the background puppet and puppet master (Corbyn & McDonnell) were putting themselves and their wild impossible promises in front of the people at rallies and managed gatherings. Groups like Momentum and Hope not Hate were infesting the interweb while all the time either complacency or downright shambolic incompetence gripped the Tory camp. As for UKIP and their bumbling ineffectual leader, they decided that being “popular” and winning 4 million votes, thereby creating a platform to build on wasn’t right. They started to court a demographic that would never vote for them in a million years. We all now know the result of that startlingly ridiculous decision.
So we come to the end game, 8th June 2017 with the Tories hoping for a mandate to take Brexit forward and Labour hoping not to get too soundly beaten. The day before the election some polls had the two main parties almost neck and neck but I, for one, couldn’t bring myself to believe it. I had reconciled myself to the fact that the party I was voting for would take a hit but I didn’t think it would be as big as it was. On the other hand I honestly and firmly believed that the British people would not fall for Labours unaffordable and frankly financially catastrophic spending programme. I certainly didn’t think they accept that the people who would be in government, should Labour win, couldn’t tell one end of a knitting needle from the other. I had gone with a 38 overall majority in the pub sweep and felt I was in with a better than even chance of pocketing the cash.
What happened? Labour got 266 seats and for them it must have felt like a massive win. The Tories managed to turn a small overall majority into a precarious situation where their own government and the prospect of grown up talks over leaving the EU were in considerable jeopardy. How did it happen? Irony of all ironies, it happened because Labour, that bastion of leftwing ideological integrity reverted to its own version of 1997 style out and out populism. We now have the prospect of a so called “progressive alliance” of left wing parties thwarting us at every turn, not just on “Brexit” but on so many other things. The wetter Tories will be breathing a sigh of relief, Islam will be emboldened and Jeremy and John will harbour more than a hope that they can force a vote of no confidence and ride into numbers 10 and 11 on a tide of rank, unachievable “populist” promises. If it wasn’t altogether so worrying I think I’d laugh myself sick.
Following more death and mayhem, Jeremy continues to grow in popularity. He is a consummate if somewhat hammy actor and he knows how to work a crowd. Diane is back in the fold after a short “illness” and back on the ABBC, her second home (School fees aren’t cheap and the extra cash comes in handy). Jeremy will next be appearing at Glastonbury. Some wag said he would be playing the ukulele and leading the hipsters in a rousing chorus of “The Red Flag”. I couldn’t possibly comment but it must be nice to be “popular”.