20170420 : May's risk outside the Westminster Bubble
Since 1997 with the election of the Blair/Brown double act, the UK has increasingly become subjected to presidential-style politics, centralisation of message and a centralised campaign and control that would make Lenin jealous.
Leading that has been the Labour party which has mobilised so-called social media with actual people doing the work that was so effectively performed by e.g. twitterbots in the recent US campaign.
And the Blair/Brown tactic of surrounding themselves with those who would not dissent, and the ruthless disenfranchisement of those who did, means that candidates have developed a focus on the leader and have a serious lack of independence.
Although the Cameron years did not see quite such extremism in the Conservative party, it did fall into a presidential style. Enter Theresa May: like Angela Merkel, their personal qualities are at odds with their physical representation. It is irrelevant that they are women, it's that they both look like social workers not Presidents. And they both have voices that sound like junior school teachers having a bad afternoon after the canteen gave all the pupils doughnuts filled with a tartrazine laden filling. The problem for both of them is that they have power but no image of authority.
The emasculation of candidates is continuing apace in the Conservative Party and the Lib Dems, who face almost total obliteration in the election on 8 June if early polls are to be believed, are even worse: in Tim Farron, they have a man who flip-flops on his religious views (which should be a private matter but he doesn't have the balls to tell those badgering him to discuss his beliefs to bugger off, although, using the language of political courtesy he has come close) and who appears to have only one campaign strategy: to try to convince the electorate, with a national message, that the election can be used as kind of "Brexit 2.0" in which the LibDems would be in a position to prevent a hard "Brexit." I'm not overly concerned with his delusions: I am concerned that he, like the Conservatives, think this election will be fought and won on a national platform.
Here's why Labour stands to be far more successful than the polls that place them barely above the LibDems are wrong.
Jeremy Corbyn is about as far away from presidential politics as Mickey Mouse. He's a nice guy, he's a bit bright, and his delusions are those of the old Left. Yes, he would like centralised control of the country and yes he would like centralised control of the party: his Marxist-Leninist preferences tell him that's how a country should be run. But, and it's a huge but, he is absolutely not in control of his party and his weakness is, ironically, his party's strength and its best hope of success.
Around him are the bright-eyed kids that have afflicted Labour since the mid-1970s. In another life, they would be turning up on doorsteps, wearing smart suits and with beaming smiles and American accents asking "does Jesus live here?" They are the political evangelists that, added to attitudes that insist on unquestioning adoption of their ethos and ideology, drove the Labour Party to where it is. It also tried to drive the agenda for the UK's EU referendum last year and, having failed, was utterly frustrated and some were, literally, crying because they could not understand how they failed.
That will continue.
The Labour Party's other primary weakness is that, communist-party style, it appoints its candidates not for their talent but for their compliant nature.
But all of that has fallen away in the past 18 months. The whole party is in disarray: the leader has no authority, there are no clear policies, the evangelists who don't care about policy but only about ethos means that candidates and the electorate don't know what the Party stands for. Nebulous comments such as "we are for a fairer NHS" and "we are the party of the working class" really have no substance.
All the parties and their organisers and centralised supporters failed to understand exactly why so many people voted to leave the EU. Ignoring Scotland, which follows a discrete agenda under which it will attach itself to anyone that will fund its expenses, the vote to leave the EU did not follow lines of political affiliation. Urban areas where there is a higher proportion of the young were more likely to vote to remain where areas of more experienced voters almost universally voted to leave.
It was sold, by those in the Westminster bubble, as a knee-jerk reaction to immigration but in truth those that voted to leave did so because they have become fed up with increasing centralisation and control, both from the EU and, even, from successive UK governments. An increasing number of back benchers from the regions are recognising this: there are even attempts to roll-back some existing measures relating to terrorism because ordinary people are telling their MPs they want to be safe but they don't want to live in a state where people are required to denounce others: that, they see, as the thin end of the wedge towards both Communist tolitarianism à la Pol Pot and the far right akin to the Nazi Youth Movement and, somewhere between, the radical republicanism of the French Revolution.
That might sound like a ridiculous statement but the compulsion towards central control smacks of extremism and the British are united by one thing more than anything else: a distaste of extremism in all its forms.
And so here is where Labour's apparent weakness will be its biggest strength. On the knocker, candidates will be able to go off-message because a) there is barely a message and b) the evangelists, in the role of enforcers, have no leader to direct them.
The very fact that Labour candidates will be able to present themselves as individuals not as cogs in a centralised machine, able to properly represent their constituencies, will appeal to millions. They will be able to say "for the first time for decades, the Labour Party is a party of the people, not a party of the few."
Of course, they will be proved wrong, after an election Corbyn will be ousted, the evangelistas will install a leader that follows the Blair/Brown line towards republicanism and a merciless but hidden push to the Left, demonstrating the dishonesty that exactly mirrors the honesty of Corbyn who is clear about his aims. Labour probably won't win but it is certain that they will not be routed as some are predicting. Will May increase her majority so that she has sufficient to overcome small back-bench rebellions? Probably - but not by anywhere as much as she thinks.
And that's because Westminster's bubble is going to burst for the simple reason that, as the Referendum vote showed, the people want in, the people want a say and if they are offered a say, they will take it.
This election may, on the face of it, be about all kinds of things but the true, underlying story will be about something more: how Britain is continuing to take back democracy from the politicians.
© 2017 Jefferson Galt
All rights reserved