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(41,169 posts)
3. I don't know about a 'new right-wing populism'
Thu Sep 1, 2016, 06:36 AM
Sep 2016

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?


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