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FT: Populism is failing, but it is too soon to cheer: tame it and regain control!

The Financial Times’ Philip Stephens focusses on what he calls ‘populism’. He deplores the ‘electoral insurgency’ of the past few years leading to far-left and far-right parties winning significant vote shares across Europe.

After highlighting the failures and inconsistencies of the Trump government and the Brexit negotiations he warns the ‘hardliners’ in Mrs May’s cabinet that their choice is between:

  • swallowing a softer version of Brexit
  • or breaking with the prime minister
  • so risking a general election and a victory for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party.

Adding “It is just possible that Brexit may prove too difficult to actually happen”

Last year Business Insider reported that the former head of the British civil service, Gus O’Donnell, told an LSE event that politicians need to focus on voters’ feelings of wellbeing to counter the rise of populism and win elections.

Linked to

His Times colleague, Gideon Rachman adds:The belief that the economic system is unjust has stoked the rise of rightwing and leftwing populism across the west”.

He continued by saying that until the shocks of 2008, centrist politicians in the west were able to offer a morally coherent view of the economy: a free-market economy would reward effort and spread opportunity. The creation of the global market system was reducing inequality and poverty across the world.

After the financial crisis, however, the “globalists” (to use a Trumpian term) began to lose the moral arguments and – Rachman continued – the fact that banks were bailed out as living standards stagnated, offended many voters’ idea of natural justice.

Stephens’ advice: centrist parties will win back support only when they separate populist leaders from their supporters — when they recognise that those voting for extremists are not by and large the “deplorables” described by Hillary Clinton and – belatedly – he admits those voters have real grievances — economic, social and cultural and offers a strategy to win back their lost support:

“Map an alternative route for society’s left-behinds”, not to do them justice, but because it is expedient:

Long-discarded notions should be disinterred:

  • progressive taxation,
  • active competition policy
  • and social equity

He ended lamely by asking: “And what, after all, was actually wrong with the social market economy?”





Sanders and Corbyn: sounds familiar. Next?


In Canada, Britain, Greece, Italy and Spain, ‘a sense of revulsion at the political elite’ is leading a popular vote for those seen as trustworthy candidates, who care for the 99%.

In the New Hampshire Democratic presidential primary, Senator Bernie Sanders has gained 60% of the vote, compared with Hillary Clinton’s 38%. As noted earlier on this site, Sanders has a Corbyn-like appeal for younger voters and is attracting far larger audiences than expected. He has assembled an online fundraising operation and ‘electrified’ the youth vote with promises of a “political revolution” that would bring Scandinavian-type policies to the US.

bernie 2 sandersThe Times reports that, in a speech to his supporters after the contest, Mr Sanders said the result marked a new era, adding: “What the people here have said is that given the enormous crises facing our country, it is just too late for the same old, same old establishment politics and establishment economics”. 

“A message that will echo from Wall Street to Washington”

Sanders’ message that that the government of our great country belongs to all of the people and not just a handful of wealthy campaign contributors and their Super PACs [political action committees] and that the economy is rigged in favour of a “billionaire class” struck a chord among New Hampshire voters who did not trust Mrs Clinton and her ties to Wall Street, reference being made to the “1%”.

According to exit polls, income inequality and jobs – two central themes of the Sanders campaign – were the top issues for Democrat voters. More than half said they were dissatisfied with the current state of politics.  Just as people in Britian cared more about a candidate’s trustworthiness than about experience or electability, the same ranking of priorities has favoured Bernie Sanders.

Corbyn and Sanders offer the hope of peace and justice to a divided people, currently exploited by the wealthy 1%.

Michael Meacher: Tony Blair fails to understand the Corbyn earthquake

Michael Meacher was Minister of State for the Environment for six years, though for some reason Tony Blair did not appoint him to the Cabinet. Meacher gained a fine reputation, well-respected as a skilled negotiator and a minister with full command of his complex brief. He helped John Prescott to clinch the Kyoto agreement to limit carbon emissions in 1997 and was one of the first in Government to come to grips with the issue of global warming.

michael meacher

Meacher notes in his recent Global Research article , that after hi-jacking the party down a route utterly alien to its founders, in order to ingratiate himself with corporate and financial leaders on their terms . . . Tony Blair appears not to understand why the Corbyn earthquake is happening or  the passionate resentment which he and New Labour created:

  • by laying the foundations for the financial crash of 2008-9 and making the squeezed middle and brutally punished poor pay for it,
  • by aligning New Labour alongside the Tories in pursuit of austerity from 2010 onwards, though Osborne’s policy (to shrink the State) has been unsuccessful in reducing the deficit,
  • by taking Britain without any constitutional approval into an illegal was with Iraq,
  • by introducing into politics the hated regime of spin and manipulation,
  • by indulging now his squalid lust for money-making
  • and by clearly having no more overriding desire than to strut the world with Bush.

He then asked three searching questions about Blair’s conduct:

Why did he urge the Blairites to support the government’s welfare bill which opposed every tenet of the real Labour Party?

Why did he push for privatisation of the NHS and other public services?

Why did his ally Mandelson say “New Labour is “relaxed at people becoming filthy rich”, and proved it by letting inequality balloon to even higher heights than under Thatcher?

And concluded: “He has a lot to learn . . .”

Read the whole article here:


British government: note the re-election of one who fosters social inclusion, not inequality

One article in the FT today reports that FTSE100 directors’ pay soared 21% in the past year while average wages in the UK have failed to keep up with inflation and the widening gulf between what executives and their employees earn is highlighted. Another shows a different regime.

evo morales boliviaAndres Schipani reports that Evo Morales won a third term as Bolivian president by a landslide on Sunday, according to exit polls, which registered roughly 60% support, after about 6m Bolivians went to the polls.

Opposition’s doubt and fears

This success is distressing for those pierced by Mr Morales’ ‘cries against imperialism’ and ‘distaste for capitalism’. Many corporate investors were adversely affected by his decision to take a number of the country’s utilities and commodities companies into state hands during his first two terms.

In the face of his undoubted social and economic achievements, they voice doubts about his administration’s ability to industrialise if it does not take a more pragmatic approach towards foreign investors.

They also express fears that the latest success in the polls could embolden his party, assisting ‘a tilt towards autocracy’ and an attempt to change the constitution to allow for additional presidential terms.

Schipani notes that the impoverished country has enjoyed growing influence since Morales took office, due to prudent economic policy and exports of natural gas to Brazil and Argentina, minerals to Asia. Higher wages have increased domestic demand and Bolivia’s GDP has nearly tripled to about $30bn since 2006. Morales intends to add value to Bolivia’s exports, one plan being to build long-life, rechargeable batteries using the country’s vast lithium deposits.

bolivian market

He won his first presidential election with 54%  of the vote on promises to reverse centuries of subservience and inequality in one of Latin America’s poorest countries. Using ‘redistributive policies’, he strengthened his mandate in 2009 with 63% approval after changing the constitution, enabling one consecutive re-election for a sitting president.

These policies include higher wages – a minimum wage of 1200 bolivianos per month and an obligatory Christmas bonus equal to one month’s pay, pro-rated for the amount of time the worker has worked in their present position. Another is the Juancito Pinto cash transfer program – grants to students from low-income families, to offset the costs of transport, books and uniforms – which has had a positive impact on the levels of school enrolment and income distribution and some impact on poverty levels.

Morales’ supporters see him as a symbol of social inclusion, who brought improved living standards and stability to a long-suffering and volatile landlocked country. “He is like a father. He protects the poor, gives us money. We can see there is progress, something that never happened before”, said Inés Pacheco, an elderly peasant woman in El Alto.


David Cameron, please note.

A 99% message


Found on file today: 

Manchester Friends (Quakers) displayed a large poster about economic inequality outside their Meeting House – easily visible to delegates attending the Conservative Party conference during the first week of October. 

The Friend, 14th October