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Gender: Female
Hometown: Oxford
Home country: England
Member since: Thu Jun 24, 2004, 07:32 AM
Number of posts: 37,918

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I don't know about a 'new right-wing populism'

We have always had it with us. I'm just old enough to remember the later stages of Enoch Powell's career. And later on, John Major's 'bastard' opponents; and Michael Howard's dog whistle 'Are you thinking what we're thinking?'; and on a more blatantly extreme level, the National Front, and the BNP, and the latter's gains in 2009. And practically everything that went in the Sun, ever. For many years, the stereotypical appeal to the RW Tory base has been satirized - with not much exaggeration of the reality - as 'Hang 'em all, flog 'em all, send 'em all back where they came from!'

The problem is now that the attitude has been given full power to determine policy, and this has several bitter roots:

(1) Something that I do think represents failings on the left: accepting the separation, that has been increasingly common over the last 20 years or so, between social and economic progressivism. I have been saying for years that this is a problem. Economic and social progressivism cannot be truly separated if we are to have progressivism for all. Social progressivism without economic progressivism is only social progressivism for those above a certain income - the threat of destitution is as much of a threat as that of legal punishment or social ostracism. And economic progressivism without social progressivism leads to a right-wing populism which at best excludes those outside the favoured groups from progress, and at worst threatens them with violence. And Blairism and its offshoots did too often represent social without economic progressivism (though in Blair's favour, he did introduce the minimum wage); and this may have increased the attraction of right-wing 'populism' to some. Which of course turns out not to be economically progressive either - the 350 million for the NHS, most notably, turned out a complete lie. One moral of the whole mess may be that if you separate economic and social progressivism too much, you will probably end up with neither.

(2) But much of what is happening is failings on the right rather than the left. The leaders on the right have used the entire future of the UK as a pawn in a power-game. The whole EU debate was really a power battle between the Cameron types and the Tory Right, with UKIP collaborating with the latter. They had no plans beyond that. Unbelievable. I'd always thought our leaders often had bad plans, but not that they had no plans except winning the current power battle. And as regards voters: I think a lot of emphasis has been put on the more 'marginalized' groups who voted Leave, because these are groups that normally vote in the progressive direction, but didn't this time. Which tipped the balance, no doubt. But the core Leavers are IMO the so-called Middle England people, with their nostalgia and their tabloid-fuelled self-righteousness. With all the emphasis on Leavers in the North, let's note that in the South East, though the cities tended to vote Remain, there are an awful lot of very xenophobic, very anti-EU, very anti-immigrant people in the smaller communities. Of my 10 South East Region MEPs, 4 are UKIP or related and 1 is Daniel Hannan. 50% of my MEPs are pretty close to being fascist. Not great.

(3) Having a referendum at all increases the role of right-wing 'populism' and voting one's prejudices. In Switzerland, the referendum led to women not getting the vote till the 1970s. In fairly liberal California, it led to Proposition 8. Having a referendum on complicated economic and constitutional issues without providing adequate information is particularly (indeed breathtakingly) stupid and only happened because of the stuff mentioned under (2).

(4) I suppose the Leavers are correct in a way about something. The country is indeed ruled by unelected irresponsible money-grabbing power-maniacs, who mostly don't live in the UK. But it's not the EU. It's the media. The press barons have done us untold harm by their LIES. In many countries, democracy suffers from government-run media; here it suffers from media-run government.

(5) We really need a written constitution!

(6) Best not to put through constitutional amendments, if you don't have a written constitution. Note that in most countries that do, you cannot put through a constitutional amendment without a majority - and often a supermajority - of constituent states. 2 out of 4 would never be accepted as sufficient. I suppose most countries don't really fancy breaking up, and have provided for it?


That would be/is the worst in terms of division and electorally suicidal tendencies

The worst in the past in terms of dangerous policies might perhaps be Tories 1983 vs Labour 2005.

Anyway, both parties are at the moment hopelessly divided and uncontrollable, or at least uncontrolled, by their leaders. Until recently, I used to say that the First Law of British Politics was that any party would sooner or later be dragged hopelessly to the right by its leader (Thatcher/Blair/Clegg). Nowadays, both parties are led by people on the left of their party (slightly so in the case of Cameron, very much so in the case of Corbyn), except that 'led' is a bit of a misnomer in both cases, and the parties are imploding through infighting over policies, and even more through the personal ambitions of the individuals hoping to be the next leader.

Part of it is that IMO neither Party Leader really likes being a political leader. Cameron likes strutting around and looking important but the actual WORK of a leader is something else, and indeed he's already indicated that he will be quitting. His constant tendency to leave the actual work to other people is now exploding in his face as they have turned to fighting each other. Corbyn almost certainly never expected to be leader, but simply to show that the Left still exists and to promote some key Left policies. His lack of interest in power makes him more likeable as a person - but not effective as a leader of a party which tends to be divided and fractious at its best.

Actually there is nothing intrinsically wrong with within-party division; it is better than everyone being robots or cloned sheep. If 'wets' in the Thatcher era, or anti-war Labourites in the Blair era, had been able to have more influence, it would have been a very good thing! The problem is that our system is not really set up to manage such divisions. In some Europaean countries, virtually all governments consist of multi-party coalitions, and with some exceptions, they find ways of handling and negotiating the divisions. In the USA pre-Reagan, and to some extent beyond, it was automatically accepted that there would be liberals and right-wingers in both parties, though the proportions differed between the parties. This is still to some extent true of the Democrats (though contrary to some DU myths, there were FAR more truly right-wing Democrats 40 years ago than now). In our system, there is very little room for MPs voting independently on most issues, and thus there seems to be nothing much in between a strong leader 'sitting' on the party and pushing their own agenda and stifling dissent, and a weak leader watching helplessly as the party imitates the Cats of Kilkenny ('...so they fought and they fit and they scratched and they bit , till instead of two cats there weren't any!')

Same here...

I do know who Sanders is, but apart from my interest in American politics generally, his brother and nephew are rather good local politicians in Oxfordshire (yes, really!) so there is a connection here.

I would prefer him as president to any of the other possibilities; indeed I would prefer him as PM of the UK to any of the existing possibilities here, so if American voters don't want him, can we have him?

But yes, most people here would only know about Hillary and Trump - and possibly some would have been aware of Jeb Bush - with regard to this election; and we would all ardently choose Hillary, or indeed anyone including a literal donkey, rather than Trump! Trump seems an absolute idiot, bigot and near-fascist, all at the same time, and as I've said, if he gets elected president, I'll believe there's no intelligent life on Earth, let alone anywhere else.

Almost all English people aware of American politics would oppose Trump, whatever their other political views. Even Nigel Farage criticized him for his extremism, and if you're too right-wing for Nigel Farage, you are seriously too right-wing.

One more view from a foreigner, which you can take or leave: We leftish Brits know quite a lot about having an unacceptably right-wing leader for our natural party, and many of us voted for smaller parties when Blair was leader, or fled into Clegg's arms only to be similarly disillusioned by him. Many of us just plain refused to vote for Blair. But would we have voted for Blair if the alternative was fascism? - YES, most of us would. As many of our neighbours in France were prepared to vote for moderate Conservatives to defeat LePen. I would vote - with a clothes-peg on my nose - for Blair against Trump or Cruz. I would vote for a dead rat against Trump or Cruz. This is coming from an anti-partisan-loyalty type who wouldn't vote Labour for 10 years because of Blair, yet places opposition to fascism above almost anything else. As I say, I can't tell others how to vote, even in my own country, let alone anywhere else, and you can take it or leave it: but in my opinion defeating the Republicans on this occasion trumps (no pun intended!) everything.

A weak campaign by Labour, and an extremely strong campaign by the RW media

Most of the newspaper media in the UK have always been virulently anti-Labour (Sun headline after the narrow Tory victory of 1992: 'It was the Sun wot won it!). But their campaign went on steroids this time, because they were afraid that a Labour government would restrict some of their powers post-Leveson. Also because some of them HATE the Scots (see below).

In addition, the Scottish Nationalists grew stronger, with a new, strong leader; and with the support both of the disappointed pro-Independence people (a far-from-insignificant 45% voted Yes in the Referendum) and of some people who do not necessarily want independence but are fed up with austerity inflicted by Tories they didn't vote for, and disillusioned by the collaborations with right-wing policies by New Labour and LibDems. It started to appear that Labour and SNP might end up in a position where they could make a deal, and the RW media went to town on how Nicola Sturgeon the SNP leader was 'THE MOST DANGEROUS WOMAN IN BRITAIN' and how her party would manipulate 'Red Ed' to tax the English in favour of the Scots, etc. (It is sometimes underestimated how much some southern English right-wingers have a bigotry against Northerners and Scots, quite as strong as some better-known bigotries.) Ed Miliband ran scared of the RW media, and ruled out any deal with the SNP in advance, which probably hardened the Scottish vote against Labour, while failing to reassure the English people influenced by RW media.

In general, Labour failed to do much campaigning until rather late, and seemed to rely too much on just not being the Tories.

But it is still a bit of a mystery how the polls got it so wrong, and how and why it changed so much at the last minute.

Ugh just ugh.

ETA: The Daily Mail front page just after the election result was headed; 'THIS WAS YOUR VICTORY: HOW MIDDLE ENGLAND ROSE UP TO HUMILIATE THE POLLSTERS AND KEEP OUT RED ED'.

UKIP call themselves Eurosceptic but are really Europaranoid.

Not that this stops them from wanting to become members of the Europaean Parliament and ride the gravy train.

They are also nutty with regard to domestic politics; basically British teabaggers. Their supporters and candidates include far-right ex-Tories who think the party is down the drain since Maggie lost the leadership; racists who would vote BNP, if the BNP were slightly more respectable-seeming and not currently imploding into vicious leadership battles; and plain loonies. Many of the candidates are poorly chosen and have an amazing capacity for jaw-dropping and career-damaging outbursts about race, gender, sexuality (e.g. last year's floods were God's punishment to the UK for allowing same-sex marriage); etc. I believe that the American term for the phenomenon is 'Macaca moments'. Very common in UKIP!

Not to mention my former MEP who got six months for fairly major benefit fraud, and continued shamelessly to draw his MEP salary while 'inside'.

I think the real issue is...

that many right-wingers spread the view that civil libertarianism and economic libertarianism go together. As one of their sayings goes, 'the freer the markets, the freer the people'.

In the UK in the past, the two were not equated, and indeed different terms were used. 'Libertarianism' generally meant 'civil libertarianism' and economic libertarianism was called 'laissez faire economics'. But with increasing collaboration between British and American right-wingers, the term libertarian is now used in the same way here.

The danger of that is that right-wingers can use it as propaganda to persuade people that 'free market' right-wing economic policies are essential for people's freedom. And this can have negative effects at all levels. Centrists and even centre-leftists may be persuaded that it is possible and desirable to be 'socially liberal but economically conservative' - in fact, this is not even IMO truly possible, let alone desirable, as the threat of destitution is just as coercive as the threat of legal punishment. Anti-establishment leftists may be persuaded that collaboration with anti-establishment right-libertarians is acceptable. Etc. More generally speaking, even people who are not highly political can be affected by the discourse. In the UK, surveys suggest that younger adults are more socially liberal than their elders, but are more right-wing and anti-welfare-state economically - the propaganda seems to have had some effect.

In my view, social and economic progressivism; civil liberties and the social safety net; are really indivisible, and the attempts on the right to divide them have been very pernicious.

In the UK, a lot of the obsession with 'official secrets' and anti-civil-libertarian policies such as the 'sus laws' actually began or worsened under the free-marketeering Thatcher government.

Civil libertarianism is great and has been undermined too much. Economic libertarianism is not and has been promoted too much.

And the real danger of Republicans and other right-wingers calling themselves 'libertarians' is that it's a way of persuading some people that economic right-wing policies are necessary for our freedom.

ETA: Being an economic libertarian or even a Republican or Thatcherite is very regrettable, but is not a criminal offence or an aggravating circumstance in criminal law. The fact that a whistleblower is a libertarian or Paul supporter is a good reason for voting against them if they stand for political office, but does not justify putting them in prison. And I have been arguing vehemently on this board since at least 2007 against right-libertarianism and any political collaboration of lefties with right-libertarians!

I think it goes even beyond the attractiveness of Labour or any particular party...

Part of the problem is that a large number of policymakers, politicians, journalists, and sadly, as a result of all this, members of the public, have swallowed the idea that the public sector is inferior to the private sector at best, totally unnecessary at worst. There has always been a bit of this, especially perhaps as regards education where Private is often automatically seen as Better, but it's become much worse in recent years.

What is needed is people prepared to support the public sector robustly; to take the attitude that the provision of public services is a Good Thing, and that if there are problem with public services, they should be corrected and improved, not de-funded or privatized.

Even in the Labour Party, at least the New part of it, there is a tendency to be somewhat ashamed of the public sector, and to treat it as a weakness, rather than one of our country's great strengths. (And of course such an attitude inevitably means that the public sector will not work as well, thus leading to a self-fulfilling prophecy). New Labour too often act as though the public sector is a necessary evil, while the Tories act as though it were an unnecessary evil.

Personally, even if I had no ideological leanings in that direction, my experiences have convinced me that private organizations, e.g. banks and businesses, are often more confused, inefficient, and generally of worse value than even indifferent public services. I am the proud denizen of one of the worst county councils in the country IMO; nevertheless, the well-reputed firms that I've dealt with have generally been no better than county services, and the average ones have generally been worse.

Which leads back into another of the current problems. There is a popular attitude, both in the public and the private sectors, that the problem with most organizations is 'overmanning'; that there are loads of people being paid just to sit on their bums and drink tea; and that reducing staff as much as possible will make services more 'efficient'. Maybe overmanning was a problem in some areas in the past; I don't know. But nowadays it's just the opposite. Most organizations are understaffed, which may cut immediate costs, but makes them much LESS efficient for the consumer- and no, computers can never quite compensate


She may be dead, but her policies are sadly very much alive.

As I posted in the UK forum, with many apologies to Alfred Hayes and the subject of his song, Joe Hill, neither of whom would have cared for Thatcher!:

I dreamt that Thatcher stood right here,
Alive as you and me.
I said, ‘I heard that you were dead!’
‘I never died’, said she.

‘As Osborne cuts the welfare state
And cuts rich people’s tax.
As Hunt sells off the NHS,
You see me with my axe!

Whenever you reward success
By punishing the poor;
When Duncan-Smith strikes at the sick,
You see me even more!

In Cyprus, Greece and Portugal,
In Europe far and wide,
Poor people groan beneath the cuts.
You see I haven’t died!

Obama once had liberal plans.
The Congress told him, ‘No!’
So old age pensions must go down!;
You see – I’ll never go!

From Blair and Bush to Cameron;
From London to D.C.;
Where governments still crush the poor,
You’ll there find Maggie T.!’

Attlee versus Thatcher: We need to pick better heroes.

'The selection of our heroes says more about us than it does the men and women of our history books. Clement Attlee was the reserved, collegiate Prime Minister who brought us the Post War consensus. Margaret Thatcher was the bullish, one woman army Prime Minister who brought us the neoliberal consensus. The latter is in the process of elevation to level of deity, the former all but forgotten....

On the death of Thatcher in April this year, Parliament was recalled and twelve hours of tributes were delivered in the House of Commons and House of Lords. Today was the day of her state funeral in all but name. The funeral received full military honours and was attended by the great and the good from around the world, with the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh playing their role in the deification.

On his death of Attlee in October 1967, parliament was not recalled. Instead a few small tributes were made in Parliament a fortnight later, with this small column in the Guardian at the time to attest to it. His family held a small funeral and his ashes were quietly interred in Westminster Abbey. A humble end for a humble man....

...We need to pick better heroes. We must not allow ourselves to fall into a state of national mourning which not only deifies the woman, but elevates her consensus above its human value. The abandonment of the Post War consensus has cost Britain dearly. We are a less equal, less compassionate, more inward looking nation for it.

(Much more at link):



this may be. However, I am somewhat sceptical. Admittedly, I am biased, because I do consider that the willingness to care for and help people who are in need is one of the most important moral virtues in the world (second only to avoiding active harm to others); and the attitude that perhaps upsets me the most is ideological harshness toward vulnerable people; the idea that people ought to be forced to 'stand on their own feet'; that there is a large number of 'undeserving poor'; and that denying them help is a moral good. Fundamentally, I do not so much disapprove of such harshness because I'm a left-winger; I am a left-winger because I disapprove of such harshness.

Of course, I am to some extent accepting the right-wing framing of the argument, by even using the term 'vulnerable people'. The world is not divided into the vulnerable and the invulnerable. Everybody is vulnerable at certain times and on certain issues. Everybody needs help at times. Some people need it more often than others, and/or have fewer resources. But the issue is not one of being charitable to some specific group of the Truly Vulnerable, but of acknowledging that everyone needs help sometimes, and that helping people is a good thing, not a bad thing. In particular, the current Right are inclined to regard the need for government benefits as some form of addiction from which people should be required to go 'cold turkey' (I;ve seen this metaphor used explicitly), rather than as a consequence of unemployment which in its turn is usually due to a reduction in the number of jobs.

Now: there are two issues here. One is whether people who are poor or disabled or ill or unemployed or in a vulnerable position (e.g. currently those affected by the storms) should be helped or whether in most cases it is a moral good to treat them harshly. The other is whether the government is the best source of help. I disagree strongly with people who think that private enterprise is usually better than government in providing help and services - even if I had no previous ideological tendencies that way, my experience has shown me that private enterprise is often very inefficient compared even with indifferent government services - and charitable organizations are great but rarely sufficient. But I do not have the same moral condemnation for people who consider government intrinsically inefficient in providing services, or even who are paranoid about government, as I do for those who think that so-called 'tough love' is good for people in a vulnerable position, and/or that they should be automatically suspected of being fraudulent or undeserving.

In my opinion, anyone who considers that the Right 'offer the most satisfying moral cuisine' either does not really know what the Right proposes; is influenced by paranoia e.g. about government wanting to herd them into death camps, etc.; or, if they really consider the Right's harsh philosophy as in line with theirs, is corrupted by true evil.

To be fair: not everyone who takes a harsh attitude to people in need of help is right-wing, and vice versa. The nastiest person whom I knew personally, who seemed actively to enjoy creating problems for people in vulnerable positions, especially those with illnesses or disabilities, was in fact generally a left-wing voter. But the two do go together more than would be expected by chance.

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