Monday, 3 January 2022

Dismissing the True and Fair Party

Twitter is littered with pranksters, and this from the notorious troll account Dr Robert 'Rob' Zands PhD had all the hallmarks. Posing as a leading figure of a new centrist party led by Remain celebrity, Gina Miller, the joke was turned on its head when I learned that the appointment wasn't true, the project was. Announced on the last day of last year, the True and Fair Party will have its official launch at some unspecified point in 2022. And, responding to the Zands tweets, Miller copied our old friend Chuka Umunna into the conversation. Please let him be involved in an official capacity.

The launch of T&F will be covered in-depth when the time comes, though it does pose a considerable analytical problem. If the old SDP was tragedy, and the founding of the Independent Group/Change UK/Independent Group for Change was farce, what comes after? We'll find out in due course, but there's an insurmountable difficulty facing this new, relatively high profile and media-connected centrist outfit. And that is who is the party supposed to appeal to? And the answer is (drum roll) ... everyone! With Boris Johnson and the Tories in the dock for corruption and egregious double standards, surely his disassembling and lies are enough to unite everyone against him! That's undoubtedly the aspiration, but political science and political sociology knows that different formations appeal to different classes, class fractions and, in more recent years, class cohorts. It should be uncontroversial by now to note the wealthier someone is, the greater their propensity to support the Conservatives. Likewise, if someone is of working age, they're more likely to support Labour. The old, buttressed by asset ownership, disproportionately support the party of privilege. And those without property, overwhelmingly younger age cohorts, do not. And there are the forms of consciousness associated with work in the 21st century that has political consequences too.

Where does his leave the other parties? The SNP have succeeded because Scottish Labour not only handed over its core constituency, they don't seem overly bothered about trying to win them back. That's if the worst ever results at last year's Holyrood elections are anything to go by. The Greens have long attracted a middle class and small business constituency, but there are now opportunities opening up for them to start cleaving into Labour's vote because, again, Keir Starmer appears to be of the belief that his party's core constituency has nowhere else to go. And then we have the Liberal Democrats.

Feeling satisfied after finishing last year with two new MPs in the bag, during the New Labour years they attracted a significant proportion of what would become a key propr of Corbynism with vaguely leftish platitudes, anti-war positioning, and a socially liberal up yours to the two main parties. This support along with 86% of their honourable members were traded in for ministerial portfolios and an opportunity to carve up the legacy remnants of the post-war settlement. Having lost their voterst, and with Labour subsequently divided by the second referendum campaign after 2017, the LibDems thought they could get rich quick and short circuit the slow rebuild process by firstly going all in on the campaign, and then punt the idea of scrapping Brexit altogether. This worked in the 2019 EU elections partly because a significant chunk, perhaps the majority, of Labour's new base variously identified with the vague liberal internationalism the EU presented because they were aware continued membership was in their class interests. Then in the following election, the LibDems made a net loss of one seat but managed to keep 1.3 million of these voters - indicating the rising class of socialised/immaterial workers are not sticky when it comes to political labels. Interests and how these are refracted through their values conditions their voting behaviour.

Where does this leave the True and Fair Party and its prospects for success? Nowhere, if you think that the SNP, Labour, the Greens, and the LibDems have its target vote sewn up between them. For Gina Miller and friends, it appears a different set of considerations are in play. As argued previously, liberalism and centrism are diffuse elite movements rather than bodies of ideas, and while not identical to one another they do have a similar historic base: a subordinate section of capital, and particularly the professions - something the Labour Party front bench exemplifies, perfectly. Since the implosion of the old Liberal Party, these elites found a home, depending on their inclinations, in the two main parties and have variously dominated them intellectually and politically since. As recently as 2005-2015 this was the case, with the third party claiming the liberal mantle enjoying a level of prominence and governmental influence not seen in a century. But then, the cataclysm. The Brexit gambit brought the Tories back under the sway of the illiberal right, and rule changes overseen by Ed Miliband ushered in Corbynism, while the LibDems were shoved back to their historically minuscule levels of support. For the first time in a long time, liberalism was evacuated from its formal positions of political influence.

Without getting stuck into the nitty-gritty of the last five years, liberalism and centrism have restored some of their previous prominence. Its agitation around the second referendum, with Brexit having come as a profound shock that underlined their declining influence, helped connect it to millions via its rolling programme of set-piece demonstrations. And in the case of Labour, this was used successfully as a wedge to peel voters away from Corbynism while forcing on the party a Brexit position guaranteed to alienate not inconsiderable swathes of its supporters who voted Leave. Jeremy Corbyn was unpopular in the country, but adding to that a pledge to ignore the 2016 result was too much and those ballots went to the Tory elsewhere. But in the shape of Keir Starmer, after shamelessly lying to the membership about what he pledged to do as leader, they've got back what they believe is theirs by right. And there are signs liberalism/centrism is on its way back among the Tories too. Jostling among the pretenders to the Tory crown is one Rishi Sunak, who is basically George Osborne with Brexity characteristics. Liberalism is coming back. Its exile from the front rank of politics appears to have been temporary.

Which more or less begs the same question posed regarding liberalism's mass support. If this strata of capitalists and professionals have more or less pacified one of the parties of government, is seeing a modest revival in the fortunes of the party that bears their name, and there are reasons to believe liberalism can consolidate itself in the Tories post-Johnson, even as an elite project what space for the Gina Miller happy clappy party? We have to try and see matters from her perspective. Her allies in the Brexit wars are in charge of what were the pro-remain parties ... and that's the problem. Were. When the 2019 election was over, Keir Starmer dropped the second referendum even quicker than his leadership pledges. Brexit was a done deal, and to prove it Labour MPs were whipped to support Johnson's EU deal a year later. And the LibDems, the party that once pledged to scrap Brexit have kept a Trappist silence about it. Therefore, as a budding political entrepreneur Miller has espied an opportunity. The second issue is, despite the notion of a return to the EU being exiled from UK politics discourse, recent polling has found 24% of people don't just think leaving the EU was wrong, but that trying to get back in should be a political priority. Seemingly, there is a constituency for something like T&F if Return is its slogan. And lastly, as anyone active on Twitter will tell you, the persistence of remain irreconcilables, the lovable "fubpees", is a fact of online political life. Having learned nothing from the post-referendum struggle, not least the utter arrogance by which continuity remain conducted themselves, they, as per the zeitgeist, have transformed their position into a hard-edged political identity. And, as such, no party speaks for them. Not Labour, not the LibDems, not the Greens. And Miller and her friends see this every time they log on. Therefore, if one's political reality is mediated by polls and one's timeline, it appears a new, pro-EU and be-nice-to-everyone party is a real go-er.

You don't need me to tell you it won't be. Liberalism's political comeback, the lockdown of progressive support by four existing parties, and the small matter of other issues have more or less reduced Brexit and its consequences to a specialist interest few are now excited by. A space sketched out on a diagram is not the same as an actual gap in the politics market. I'm looking forward to Gina Miller's launch, and whichever gullible fools she's able to invite on board. But only to see their smug noses rubbed in abject failure.

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3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Can we just call it The Dinner Party and leave it at that?

BCFG said...

What is truly amazing and bizarre about the True and Fair Party, other than its ridiculous name, is that every major political party is centrist! So the big question is, why do some people think we need yet another one! This can’t be the old 18th Brumaire argument about competing classes, this is a phenomena of class free politics.

So what the heck is going on! I can think of 2 reasons for this:

1) Careerism – need I say more?
2) Homogeneity breeds homogeneity. Because there is now hardly any material difference between any of the parties, small differences have to be amplified into major political differences. Therefore, in the minds of the centrists, more often than not gripped by woke hysteria, a very small difference can mean the need to create a whole new party. The end result is we get homogeneity but intense competition and bitterness. When I studied economics back in the day, a main criticism of Thatcherism and the market was homogeneity and the arguments were similar, lack of real choice, small differences amplified via advertising and marketing etc.

So history is tragedy, farce and then marketing....I guess!

Dr Zoltan Jorovic said...

You lost me on "woke hysteria" which is just an empty slogan devoid of meaning but pregnant with prejudice. Say what you mean, or don't say anything.