Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Grandstanding in Bad Faith

Thank you Theresa May for confirming my argument. When she took to her favourite podium this afternoon and denounced the European Union for interfering in the General Election, the cynicism scale on my sideboard broke. Just like her predecessor, who frequently put the short-term electoral interests of the Conservative Party above all else, the Prime Minister's (contrived) paranoia is putting the Brexit negotiations in jeopardy just so she can grub a few ballots from the four or five per cent of voters stubbornly sticking with UKIP. If that isn't Conservative Party decadence in its purest elemental state, I don't know what is.

The sad fact is May will probably get away with it. She and Crosby know full well the character of the anti-politics vote that underpinned last year's Leave vote. For many leave voters, it was a protest against an intangible sense of 'them'. And 'them' could be coded any which way. Politicians (of all parties, especially the LibLabCon), bankers, Eurocrats, cultural Marxists, brown people, immigrants. It was a protest against globalisation, but in exactly the same way Marine Le Pen articulates such a sentiment. When the labour movement is down and not articulating a positive alternative to the status quo, other sentiments and ideas rush into the vacuum. Across the Middle East, religion is the basis of opposition to corrupt and dictatorial establishments in too many Arab countries. In the countries of Europe, a yearning for community in a fragmenting and rapidly changing world finds crumbs of comfort in the flag. After all, things ain't what they used to be but we're still bloody British, dammit.

May is trying to ride that wave to a thumping majority, setting herself up as a mother-of-the-nation figure that Thatcher, because of her divisiveness, never accomplished. You might not like the Tories, which is why their name is banished from so much campaign literature, but you can trust May to stand up to Johnny Foreigner. Pompous, stupid, pathetic, but again, she's trying to create a sense that Britain is under siege, that Britain's Brexit decision is in danger, and only by getting behind Theresa May can we ensure that 'they' don't succeed in thwarting The Will of The People.

The irony of this posturing is, of course, that the EU would much prefer to have Theresa May at the head of the British government than the alternative. With Brexit, all May is seeking is a withdrawal, albeit in the hope that some privileged access to markets can remain in situ. A Jeremy Corbyn Brexit, however, would be framed in terms of workers rights, state intervention in the economy, and other Labour left nostrums. Not helpful for a Europe led by the centre right for whom the radical and populist left are a loud and sometimes viable vehicle for discontent. They look at the polls and believe Labour's chances of winning are remote, which is just as well because that prospect terrifies them as much as it does London-based tabloid editors.

As we have seen, May thinks she's got it in the bag. Which is why we have no promises around tax, VAT, and National Insurance rises. Why the Tories have gone all vague over the pensions' triple lock. Why she hides from the public and makes like a Dalek with her soundbites. And why she can engage in the most cynical stirring of nationalism seen in British politics for decades. The more she keeps piling up the absurdities, the greater the chance of getting found out and falling short of her electoral objectives. In that case, perhaps we on the left should be encouraging her to do more grandstanding in bad faith.

8 comments:

Speedy said...

Post-Brexit I felt like I imagine an ordinary left-leaning German must have felt like in 1934. That feeling continues.

Mark Livingston said...

I bet a Blairite will pop up on the broadcast media some time today promising that Labour would adopt a slightly less absurd and jingoistic posture but maintain it over a slightly longer timeline. My money's on Emma Reynolds.

Robert said...

There are many people to blame for the UK's current woes but I wonder when the useful idiots on the left who collaborated with the Right over Brexit will acknowledge what some of us predicted years ago that the process of leaving the EU would inevitably be carried out by and for the Right?

Anonymous said...

I believe the banishment of the Tory brand identity from the paraphernalia that follows T May around has been copied from Ruth Davidson's recent Scottish parliament election campaign (best not remind the Scots she's a Tory).

T.B.F. the brand identity is still there, it's just very small and you kind have to look quite hard to see it.

Ben Philliskirk said...

Maybe someone needs to point out that the only way the British public can find out what 'our' government is doing and planning is for the EU to leak it to us.

MJW said...

May will get away with it, but for reasons you've pretty much chosen to overlook. The EU elite (I apologise to Tusk as he may be an exception) IS approaching the Brexit process in bad faith. Maybe we all take it for granted that Juncker is a sleazy eurotrash politician and we apply some level of moral relativism to his grandstanding, but the 'hard cock' shtick coming out of Brussels isn't going to help anyone in the long run.

Yes, the EU elite wants to put on a front and paper over the cracks, to once again put off reforms that only perpetuate the underlying problems, and the UK election timing makes sniping too tempting an opportunity for career politicos. But the cracks are still there and May cannot be seen to be cowed by the risible EU 'hard cock' routine, standing up to the playground bully plays well with those inclined to vote for her, it may be decried by those who oppose her domestically, but they won't be voting for her anyway and they forget that flinching at the eurotrash only reinforces their weakness in the eyes of the public.

Behind the scenes realpolitik is at work. Brexit will almost certainly be bad for the UK, and we do need them more than they need us. But that doesn't mean there isn't some very real disunity, instability and fear in the EU that can be exploited IF, and only IF, the pantomime characters in the EU elite cannot control themselves.

Phil said...

You are right, MJW. Staying in the EU would obviously be preferable, but that doesn't make its bureaucracy and its politics a friend of socialist politics.

Blissex said...

«May is trying to ride that wave to a thumping majority, setting herself up as a mother-of-the-nation figure [ ... ] Tories, which is why their name is banished [ ... ] she's trying to create a sense that Britain is under siege, that Britain's Brexit decision is in danger,»

My impression is quite different: that is not Britain but England that she is campaigning to. Obviously she is not campaigning to win scottish or northern irish votes with a sense that hey are “under siege” from the EU or of that their “Brexit decision is in danger”. She is campaigning strictly only to english voters.

The reason why tory branding is being downplayed is that she is not campaigning as leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party, that is just the weak and defeated past.
She is campaigning as leader of the English Nationalist Party wing of the right. She and the majority of her party have given up on both EU and UK federalism, at least during this campaign.
It is a very big political revolution: she is in effect campaigning as the leader of the opposition to the defeated and spent Conservative and Unionist party.
The English Nationalist Party wing of the right, from Johnson to Redwood, have probably noticed the huge success that the Scottish Nationalist Party have achieved in Scotland and want to replicate that success in England.