Vested interests rule as Blairites attempt to replace their elite-free, increasingly ‘in tune’ leader
Ever since devolution and the establishment of a Scottish Parliament in the late 1990s, there has been a growing vibrancy to politics in Scotland. Energised by the 2014 independence referendum, boosted further by the election of the estimable Nicola Sturgeon as SNP Leader and First Minister, Scotland appears as a young, optimistic, politically engaged country . . .
Around two-thirds of under-25s voted Remain, the opposite of how middle aged and older people acted. The feeling that those generations which had enjoyed free education, a free health service, an abundance of affordable housing and triple lock protected pensioner benefits were limiting the life chances of the nation’s children and young adults was palpable. ‘Grandma, what have you done?’’ read one on-line headline.
Two decades and more of unforgiving, neo-liberal economics and globalization saw the export of jobs and the import of cheap labour and even cheaper raw materials; nearly a decade of austerity and the decimation of public services and the societal values which they underpinned; local pride sapped by a London-centric economy and an unprecedented and growing wealth gap. All this within a moribund political system where the First Past The Post electoral process locks in a two-party hegemony whilst awarding UKIP and the Green Party, who collectively amassed around five million votes at the 2015 General Election, a mere two parliamentary seats.
The impact of all this and more reached a crescendo in an outpouring of anger and frustration, although given the myriad warnings of the economic consequences of a Leave vote the response of electors seems as illogical as rioters attacking their own community.
The political elites voters so often complain of are not about to be replaced, our political infrastructure alone makes this a near-impossibility.
Because leaving the EU addresses none of the above grievances and if there is any taking back of control, to quote the slogan used relentlessly by the Leave campaign, then it will be done by those such as super wealthy, Eton and Oxford educated Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Iain Duncan-Smith, supported by a coterie of hard-right Europhobes rather than by the 17 million others who voted Leave.
And Labour’s Blairite wing, despite public rejection of their strong pro-EU stance, are attempting to replace their elite-free leader
Blairites – despite the fact that Jeremy Corbyn’s more conditional support for the EU and reformist agenda arguably chimed more closely with that of many Remain voters than he has been given credit for – are trying to replace him with yet another business-friendly, corporately connected, ‘Britain is open for business’ espousing candidate.
And whilst it would be pleasing to see increased calls for greater transparency and democratic accountability resulting from the UK’s EU referendum, the debate itself could have achieved this. Regrettably however, the more tangible outcome of our Leave vote is the empowerment of UKIP’s (often more extreme) nationalistic and sometimes fascistic counterparts in mainland Europe, most notably Marine Le Pen’s Front Nationale in France but also the Freedom Party in Austria, Law and Justice (Poland), Golden Dawn (Greece) and Germany’s Alternative for Deutschland, have received succour in their never pleasant, sometimes odious, desires to break up an increasingly multi-cultural EU and wallow in their insularities. Their rise means additional fear and hardship for immigrant communities.
The law of unintended consequences writ very large – sometimes people really should be more careful what they wish for.