Monday, 14 November 2016

Populism is not on the rise in Britain


I voted for nobody in 2010. I voted for nobody. I wasn't about to vote for spivvy shitehawk like David Cameron and since by then Ukip had become a clan of inbred mouthbreathers there wasn't much point in voting. But by that same token I can't really blame others who think as I do about the EU for voting UKIP.

Cameron decided that the core right wing vote was expendable. He was wrong. It cost him an outright win in 2010. Were it not for the promise of a referendum he would once again be teaming up with the Lib Dems in 2015. Even then the Tories got lucky.

While there was a lot of white noise coming from the left about Ukip being essentially the new BNP - which by that time wasn't really that far off the truth, there was sufficient momentum behind Ukip to make major gains if they played their cards right. That was a big if though. They had neither the organisational competence nor the intellectual foundation. They were thin on policy and incredibly gaffe prone. They robbed themselves of a number of seats.

At the height of Ukip the party was a personality cult with a very weak foundation. That is why it has imploded so fast. All it took was a few of the right noises from Mrs May while they were in disarray and the drift back to the Tories began. Since then every local poll shows major decline for Ukip while local branches fold.

Consequently these is only really a rump of Ukip left. The UKs own variant of the alt-right which is mainly an internet constituency which Arron Banks hopes to turn into some kind of movement. There is no reason to believe it will go anywhere. Arron Banks is to political competence what I am to tact. He thinks the referendum was won by grunting about foreigners and that without Leave.EU we would have lost the referendum.

Logically there is no truth to this. At the general election when Ukip did nothing but grunt about foreigners they scored 14%. They might have scraped another four or five percent had there not been the offer of a referendum on the table - but the basic fact is that all the immigration obsessives were already planning on voting to leave and were already voting Ukip. Anyone trying to put a rational and measured case for Brexit to win over normal people who aren't seething with rage found Leave.EU more of a liability than a help.

The truth is that populism in the classic sense is not actually that popular. It gains support as a protest vote but that's only when there is no alternative. Well now there is. We have a church and shires PM who for the moment has my full support. I really like Theresa May. For sure, she is a bit on the authoritarian side but if you are of the view that we have let things slide a bit she is a timely dose of medicine. Of all the people in the commons I trust to deliver a sane and measured Brexit it is she, and keeps her extremists at both ends on a tight leash. I can vote conservative without hesitation now.

The short of it is there is no reason for a populist movement to exist. The right are getting much of what they want. Out of the EU,  immigration control and a few less wind turbines. They actually very easily pleased. It's only the die-hards who won't rest until we have bricked up the channel tunnel who will remain in the political fringes - assuming they show the same devotion to Banks as they did Farage. At best there's a couple of million of them but most will still be asking "who the hell is Arron Banks?".

Worse still, as much as Cameron kept the Ukip flame burning, the other major culprit is the EU. Without the money rolling in from having MEPs and a paid staff, Ukip is totally screwed. The only man who can bankroll it is Arron Banks and the British public are usual suspicious of political movements bankrolled by millionaires. For all Jimmy Goldsmith's cash the Referendum Party didn't score a single win. And it wasn't for a lack of campaigning.

There is the suggestion that the UK no longer needs a Ukip because the Tories have become Ukip but that's a pretty shallow analysis. We saw some robust rhetoric at the Tory conference, but that's really all it is. What hasn't already been quietly dropped will be savaged by Sir Humphrey and the rest will be beaten up in the house of commons.

The Three Brexiteers are placemen only. None of them have any real power and it would appear that Andrea Loathsome has been prevented from making any radical moves. Under the veneer we pretty much have a continuity government whose only real commonality with Ukip is that they are both committed to leaving the EU. Albeit reluctantly for the Tories.

Only after Brexit will we really see how strong the "far right" is in the UK. Chance are Mrs May won't be able to make drastic cuts to freedom of movement and that will outrage many but my bet is that most leavers really won't care. Out is out, and so long as out really is out then all this insurgency nonsense will lose its momentum. I think it already has. The boil has been lanced.

There are still those who believe that Mrs May is hell bent on hard Brexit even though there is zero tangible evidence to suggest we are heading for any such thing. Too much depends on trade continuity and if you filter out the noisemakers, all the signals are there that the first day of Brexit will differ little from today. The hyper-ventilators are going to look ridiculous.

I take the view that the 2015 general election was really the window of opportunity for any insurgent movement and Ukip blew it. Anything now associated with Ukip will be tarred with the brush of failure. Anything attempting to rise from the ashes will likely struggle shake off the ghost of Ukip past.

Some have it that Farage's connections to Trump make him newly influential. I'm not buying it for a moment. Trump for the moment is still only the president elect. He has yet to be fed into the White House machine and introduced to all the systems and advisers and protocols. Trump being a man of little intellect and short attention span will delegate. His inner circle will be similarly buffoonish but similarly dependent on the competence of their underlings; all of whom will be taking advice from White House staffers.

Soon enough Farage, a man with no actual power base, no mandate, no support from the UK government, will rapidly find he doesn't have a hotline to the president. The main channel is via Breitbart and I'm sceptical as to how long that obviously grubby relationship will last being under such intense scrutiny. The notion that Breitbart is running the White House is comical.

Ultimately positions of power are only as good as your understanding of power. That's what made Clinton the scarier candidate in my view. Mrs Clinton knows the ropes. She knows every nook and cranny of the establishment and she knows how to get things done. Trump will be played like a fool.

There is quote from House of Cards that rather chimes with me. "He chose money over power - in this town, a mistake nearly everyone makes. Money is the McMansion in Sarasota that starts falling apart after 10 years. Power is the old stone building that stands for centuries. I cannot respect someone who does not see the difference".

Trump doesn't know the difference. Clinton does. And this is why I scoff at the suggestion that Trump or Arron Banks are "the establishment" by way of having money. The truth is that Neither Trump nor Banks are rich by way of having any particular skill. You only have to look at Banks's performance in select committee to know that this is a man who knows dick. For every Arron Banks who accidentally makes a fortune there are a million others who don't. It's a giant casino and every now and then a moron gets lucky.

In this game you can have money which may buy you loyalty and may even buy you influence but it doesn't buy you power and even when you occupy a powerful office, unless you know what power is and how to wield it, it's largely pearls before swine. Trump isn't establishment anymore than Farage is for having been a commodities broker. They will never be invited into the power gang - and since they will never really understand the anatomy of the establishment they will never topple it.

Ultimately the establishment is the consensus orthodoxy of the institutions of government. You can purge a few judges and officials and even chuck out the politicians - but in the end the system has outlasted demagogues before. It's designed to do exactly that.

The truth is, if you want to beat the system you have to do it with with ideas. And Banks, Trump and Farage couldn't summon an idea between them. In five years time we will wonder what all the fuss was about. If anyone could change the world right now, it's Marine Le Pen and the French people. Whether the EU lives or dies is on their say so. If you're looking for revolution, I would be looking over the Channel, not the Atlantic.

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