There is a touch of confusion about Theresa May’s political posturing. The apparent lurch ‘to the left’ signified by her abandonment of Osbornomics (and, of course, Osborne himself) for soft Keynesianism sits uneasily with a commitment to hard Brexit. The homage paid to official anti-racism is at odds with her immigrant bashing. And her fabled competence, her ‘no Flash, just Gordon’ schtick looks ridiculous when she puts off key decisions, slaps down cabinet divisions, and every time one recalls the three fools she’s placed in charge of Brexit. Is May riddled with contradictions? Yes, but the answer doesn’t lie in character flaws. One has to look to the nature of her political project, the class relationships underpinning it, and the economic and political crisis engulfing British capital and the British state. Continue reading →
Paul Mason and Chuka Umunna would normally be expected to come up with radically different proposals with regard to Labour’s policies, yet they are putting forward more or less the same solutions to the most pressing problem underlying Brexit, that of Free Movement of Labour (FML), Mason in an article in the New Statesman, Umunna in a speech to a conference on ‘Progressive Capitalism’.
Essentially they are both concerned that the UK remains with access to the single market, and have both indicated that a position which regulates labour movement to some degree might be negotiable and therefore consistent with and acceptable to the Brexit vote. Leanne Wood, the Plaid Cymru leader, has indicated that a Norway type EEA position might fulfil the same objective. Continue reading →
Is the new normal the same as the old normal? As previously argued, the 2012 Corby by-election called so former Tory MP Louise Mensch could spend more time trolling 17 year olds on Twitter was the last political contest in England and Wales where UKIP wasn’t a factor. For every parliamentary by-election after, they were. They had become the go-to protest regardless of who was holding the seat, and chalked up seconds in each. That remained the case in this Parliament until Thursday. Continue reading →
The Labour Party National Executive Committee (NEC) did not agree a rules “package” for conference as was previously believed, as sources from the NEC claim that no decision was taken to submit the NEC’s rule changes as a single item.
Sources claim that at the nine-hour NEC meeting before conference, a range of rule changes were agreed on from various working groups led by NEC members Alice Perry, Ann Black and Tom Watson. These included the controversial proposal to add two NEC members appointed by the Welsh and Scottish Labour leaders. Yet the idea of submitting them as a ‘package’ was supposedly never mentioned. Continue reading →
When David Davies MP (not to be confused with cabinet member David Davis MP) tweeted “Mr Carney you are an unelected bank official. Theresa May has got every right to tell you how to do your job!” he was quite wrong. Bank of England officials are civil servants and are given a mandate by Britain’s elected government. However, Bank of England officials have primary operational responsibility for fulfilling that mandate. Theresa May could, if she so wished, provide a new mandate, but she cannot tell Mark Carney how to do his job. Continue reading →
It’s been a torrid time for UKIP since the referendum in June. And not in a good way. On no less than three occasions, the cause of the purple party’s discomforts have, ostensibly, centered upon the person of Steven Woolfe. There was the farce of the leadership campaign where, readers will recall, Woolfe demonstrated his lightning fast organising skills by submitting his candidate’s application some 17 minutes late. Compounding this most rookie of errors were revelations he’d let his membership lapse. Oh, and that he’d forgotten to declare an ancient drink driving conviction while standing for the 2012 Police and Crime Commissioner elections in Greater Manchester, leaving him open to charges of electoral fraud. Then, at the start of the month, we were entertained by the fracas between Woolfe and the aptly named Mike Hookem MEP. And now, there’s this.
In quitting UKIP “with immediate effect”, Woolfe is unsparing with his criticisms. There are “huge negative camps” threatening the party with “a death spiral”, and members saying “horrific” things to each other. Standard for UKIP, I’d have thought. He also concludes that the party has next to no future without Nigel Farage as he’s the only figure capable of keeping a lid on things. True, but even then, UKIP was plagued with infighting, splits, briefing and counter briefings, and a disproportionate number of its wastrel MEPs hauled before the courts. And there’s also the suggestion the party’s on the hook for 800 grand, minus a willing sugar daddy to make the shortfall good.
This latest round in UKIP’s decline is something first forecast on this blog after the 2015 general election. Feeding off the historic anti-Labour sections of the working class, the lumpens, the petit bourgeoisie, and retirees, UKIP’s core, if it can be called that, was always highly volatile. A coalition built around europhobia and anti-immigrant bigotry can glue such a bloc together for a time. The adhesive can be strengthened by the application of a charismatic man-of-the-people type, and for a while, it worked. While it was on the up, it appeared as if these divisions didn’t matter. UKIP have shrugged off dodgy MEPs and egos as it climbed the polls, won the European elections, nicked two MPs off the Tories, netted councillors, and made the political weather. But after the general election, and post the EU referendum, the party’s tendency to historic decline has accelerated. With Theresa May cornering the let’s-be-beastly-to-foreigners market, UKIP is not about to repeat the glories. With or without Farage.
Which is why, ultimately, Woolfe has thrown the towel in. He deserves some credit for speaking candidly to the BBC about his injuries, but one thing he isn’t is stupid. Apart from his politics, Woolfe does seem personable and usually acquits himself well on the television. Yet he hasn’t got what it takes to lead UKIP’s gaggle of silly, stupid, racist geese. In his presentation and personality there is nothing setting him apart from any other smooth, media trained mainstream politician. Qualities that might endear him to a nice Conservative Association somewhere, sometime, but definitely not what a so-called people’s army demands. They need a Farage or, ugh, a Kilroy.
The departure of Woolfe epitomises the crisis, the cracking up of UKIP. The party is dying because it cannot replace itself. there just aren’t sufficient numbers of younger activists and, crucially, voters willing to give the party time of day. Small wonder it can manage a succession properly. Looking among the personages and non-personalities of the party’s leading cadre, there is not one among them capable of filling Farage’s shoes. And in the politics after the referendum, it lacks purpose beyond an occasional council by-election annoyance. Woolfe’s departure might be enough to save his career from the knackers yard of politics. It looks increasingly like the same can’t be said for his erstwhile party.
The claims that immigrants take jobs became harder to sustain as the level of the overseas migrant population reached record highs in Britain at the same time as a record high level of employment overall and a record high for employment of UK-born workers. Continue reading →
The British economy is extremely dependent on inflows of overseas capital. As a result, it is one of the last countries that should ever contemplate leaving the EU without a serious plan for reviving the economy with investment and trade. As we now know, no such plan exists, serious or otherwise. Instead the theme of the Tory party conference was not ‘Britain open for business’ or a similar claim of questionable authenticity. The message from the Tories was simply ‘foreigners go home!’.
In her party conference speech Theresa May promised to transform the Conservatives into the ‘party of the workers, the party of public servants, the party of the NHS’. She declared: ‘it’s time to remember the good that government can do’. Journalists on both right and left have been queuing up to announce a new era in British politics. Allister Heath has written in The Telegraph of May’s “repudiation of the Thatcher-Reagan economic world-view” and her apparent recognition that government is “the solution, not the problem”.
Meanwhile, John Gray in the New Statesman has claimed that May “has broken with the neoliberal model that has ruled British politics since the 1980s”. So where’s the evidence for all this? Gray finds it in May’s tax reform pledges, her plans for a national industrial strategy and her promise to reassert the role of the state as the final guarantor of social cohesion. Continue reading →