Category Archives: Boris Johnson

Why 2016 was the year of the establishment

When Nigel Farage and Donald Trump describe the events of 2016 as a ‘political revolution’, they do so not to paint an informed picture, but to massage their own egos. For them, the idea of revolution cements their place in history. It validates their importance to the political arena, even in the face of adversity and massive public criticism.

Various alt-Right claims concerning the magnitude of last year’s political changes are at best dubious and at worst insulting lies. 2016 was not the year of political revolution. It was a year in which swamps were drained with swampland and a year in which the public relations industry worked its magic in ways never seen before to create the false perception that we now, more than at any other time, live in a post-truth political environment.

Yes, it is true that startling alliances were exposed that sent powerful signals to government, and that the public mood seemed to defy even reputable polling, but one only has to take a look at the manoeuvring of the chess pieces currently on the board to examine that the effects of 2016’s groundbreaking votes haven’t been as profound as commonly thought.

Take, for instance, the new cabinet of president-elect Donald Trump. After promising to ‘drain the swamp’ at the White House for many months, Trump’s new cabinet picks are more than a little eyebrow-raising. The combined wealth of Trump’s cabinet, excluding the president-elect’s $3.7bn fortune, is a staggering $4.5bn[1], and not all positions have been decided upon.

It can be a little easy to forget that the establishment often branches out far wider than politics itself. What we call the establishment is in reality an intricate web of political figures, banks and multinational corporations, media, owners atop strategic industries and international institutions. Many of Trump’s cabinet selections, like ExxonMobil chief Rex Tillerson or Wilbur Ross, who made millions dealing with subprime mortgage’s during the 2007-08 crash, reek of establishmentarianism.

They are deeply engrained within an economic elite, and despite Trump’s plan to draft in figures that will revolutionise America’s negotiating skill and allow it to do business his way, the establishment stench will linger so poignantly that even many of his voters will be able to smell it. If by ‘swamp’, Trump was referring to establishment figures, then swampland has undoubtedly been replaced with swampland. It is, too, worth noting that the ‘anti-establishment’ candidate received more than 2 million less votes than the firmly established Hillary Clinton in last year’s presidential contest.

I am always suspicious when a political figure claims to be waging a war with the establishment. It tends to be a war cry, designed to rally a specific kind of voter; whoever the disillusioned and marginalised voter of the day would appear to be. It makes sense, as the thirty year period of neoliberal capitalism has, for all its successes, brought about a deep-rooted marginalisation of the working man. Anger is understandable. The question therefore should be: “How do we deal with this frustration constructively?”

Similar trends were noticed during Britain’s EU referendum. As the arguments intensified, established politicians like Boris Johnson and Theresa May played their cards close to their chest, one choosing to use the campaign to fight a proxy war with David Cameron, the other choosing to campaign mildly in order to take advantage of a fallen Prime Minister. The script read like a west end play.

After Cameron’s resignation and an underwhelming Tory leadership contest, Remain-backing Theresa May took the helm and entered Number 10 as Prime Minister. The government she formed featured campaigners on both sides of the referendum, and once again the Conservatives found themselves strapped with the task of carrying out Brexit. Thanks once again to some clever manoeuvring, the party that for years had supported Britain’s membership of the European Union was in charge of withdrawal.

The same politicians, with a few exceptions, are calling the shots, and Britain seems both reluctant to reveal its negotiating cards and content to stretch the process out for as long as possible. The very same pattern has emerged on both sides of the Atlantic: the anti-establishment types, camouflaged as defenders of the working man in a bid to attract widespread support, were so zealous and deceiving in their pursuit of power that they forgot almost entirely how to deal with it when it came.

In 2016, the establishment launched a coup unto itself, disguised as its sworn enemy. It managed to harness the anger of forgotten communities and mould it into a brand new mandate; with which it will trot confidently into what is deemed to be the new political era. And what’s worse? Even our populists, who ceaselessly present themselves as anti-establishment, are starting to look every bit as careerist and every bit as bubbled as those they claim to oppose.

 

[1] Peterson-Withorn, C. (2016). Here’s What Each Member Of Trump’s $4.5 Billion Cabinet Is Worth. Available: http://www.forbes.com/sites/chasewithorn/2016/12/22/heres-how-much-trumps-cabinet-is-really-worth/#e7a9676f0219. Last accessed 2nd Jan 2017.


Let’s talk about Britain’s constitutional crisis

For the time being, I’m uncertain as to who I shall support for leadership of the Conservative party. As a newcomer, I may find myself unable to vote in any upcoming contest, but I shall be following events and campaigning avidly nonetheless. I plan on spending a few weeks assessing candidates and will make my decision shortly afterwards. I’m extremely pleased, though, at the range and quality of Prime Ministerial candidates to date, and I suspect that watching the race unfold could well be as fascinating as it will be close.

We know now that Boris Johnson will play no part. Like most, I was shocked to see his official withdrawal earlier this morning, but as I spent time thinking about it over a full English breakfast, I realised that it made more sense than many will realise. I think for Boris to have become Tory leader in the current climate would have been a huge mistake. It would have had a hugely devaluing effect on the EU referendum; painting the entire campaign as a proxy for a Boris coup and a new Tory leader. By standing and (inevitably) winning, his legacy may have been permanently tarnished. It would have looked too opportunistic, too easy and too personal.

We also know that, contrary to previous repeated claims that he would not run for leader, Michael Gove has also decided to throw his name into the hat. For those interested, I would recommend you give his interview with Laura Kuenssberg a watch after reading (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-36677028). As I write, I feel no pressure in saying that I am a huge fan of Michael Gove, and could well decide to back him for leader. Both he and Andrea Leadsom impressed me hugely during the course of the referendum, and I am also glad that Liam Fox has expressed interest too. This could well be the most talent-filled and tightest leadership contest in some time.

Though it has been suggested more than once, I do not believe it would be right for the next leader to call a general election. A Conservative government was elected in 2015 for a five-year term, and it would seem counter-productive to put what remains of the country’s constitutional stability at risk. Another general election in the autumn would merely add to the unease and uncertainty that many of us are feeling. I do not say this as somebody who has recently become a member of the Tory party, I say this as someone eager to see Britain exit the European Union as quickly as possible.

Britain’s constitutional crisis does not end here, though. The Labour party continues to fight and wriggle its way out of a deep, ideological conflict. The combatants consist of Jeremy Corbyn, a ring of trade unions and an overwhelming mandate from traditional Labour voters pitted against a circus of hostile, Blairite MPs. It’s a war that has been brewing for quite some time. The election of Jeremy Corbyn back in September hinted at something that Britain’s referendum definitively exposed: that there is a huge disconnect between the beliefs and concerns of the Labour party membership and those squatting in Westminster village.

So while the Labour party attempts to put out a raging fire, another party in our system is presented with a golden opportunity. Tim Farron’s fierce critique of Britain’s referendum result last week, as well as his impassioned pledge to keep Britain in the European Union if elected, could see support for the Liberal Democrats soar. The referendum result was certainly close, and so naturally, support for re-entry would be very strong. Other than the Lib Dems, no major party has taken such a stubbornly pro-EU stance since defeat. The SNP have sung their usual babbling choruses about Scotland being dragged out of the union by England against their will, but this whinging must not be taken seriously.

It is worth noting that the future success of the Lib Dems is currently very much contingent upon how effectively Labour re-unite. As things stand, reunification doesn’t appear likely any time soon, but the situation could be win-win for Farron’s party. If Jeremy Corbyn hangs onto power, backed by his membership and the trade unions, and fights back against rebellious members of parliament, the Labour party will continue to appear sharply divided. This could well mean that swing voters, or more Blairite party supporters, look elsewhere for their political fix. Labour voters who do desert the party are likely to be seeking a centre ground; ground which the Liberal Democrats proudly occupy. If, on the other hand, Mr Corbyn is banished from the party (a prospect which is looking dangerously likely), or is pressured into resigning, the overwhelming number of party members who supported him are likely to be angered and feel further disillusioned.

It is perfectly reasonable to suggest that many will jump ship through sheer protest, or cut ties with the party permanently – again, a result likely to benefit the Lib Dems more so than any other party. The Liberal Democrats currently hold eight seats in the House of Commons, and though it may seem implausible to suggest that they retrieve many of those seats that they lost at the last general election, stranger things have happened in politics. My own view is that Labour turmoil could potentially result in the Liberal Democrats becoming a major part of the opposition to the next elected government. Perhaps I am wrong, but after the week we’ve had, I think it unwise to rule anything out just yet.

If Britain’s domestic integrity has been crushed in the last week, its international standing wasn’t aided too well by a speech made in the European parliament yesterday by a certain Nigel Farage. Yes, he has much to be happy about, but his performance was pathetic. His parliamentary colleagues in Brussels haven’t taken too much of a shining to him over the last 17 years, but that was no excuse for the diplomatic petulance he displayed in his first appearance in the chamber since the UK voted to leave the European Union last week.

This is a time for unity, not division; a time for peace, not conflict, and a time for maintaining strong bridges built over decades with European partners. Mr Farage did the country (that he claims to love) no favours when he decided to resort to petty insults early yesterday morning, and a moment of reflection on his part I’m sure wouldn’t go a miss. Those engaged will have taken particular note at the reaction of the parliament when Farage boasted that a tariff-free trade agreement between both parties would be mutually beneficial and something to be negotiated as quickly as possible. I therefore suggest that calls for Nigel Farage to play a part in the exit negotiations be swept under the carpet. The next few months and years look set to be turbulent, and as such, Britain needs its politicians to show leadership and great diplomatic skill now more than over.

But at least British politics is interesting again. That much is certain.


A few reflections on an historic referendum result

Joyous tears, sleepless nights and a fair few units of alcohol later, the result of Britain’s EU referendum has finally sunk in. In truth, I feel pretty numb. I played a part (however modest the role) in changing the course of British and European history, in salvaging our plundered democracy and in setting a powerful precedent for the future of national and international politics. It’s a day I will never forget, and one for which I will be eternally proud.

A lot has happened over the course of the last 48 hours. I managed my first uninterrupted night of sleep only last night, a Prime Minister has resigned, Hilary Benn has been sacked, and the pound is bungee-jumping its way round the international markets like never before. British politics is at least interesting again, and that must count for something.

Hysteria after such a monumental result was to be expected. Spiteful, bitter Remainers are grasping for excuses and accusations. This is not, I dare say, something likely to end any time soon, and Brexit campaigners must be prepared for this. I’ve already received three death threats over social media thus far; something I’ll be speaking to my local police force about a little later. For the next few months, expect any tragedy or instability to be associated (not always unfairly) with Brexit. Waves of attacks will be launched as a last-ditched attempt at trying to reverse the decision and overruling the British public. I urge readers and fellow campaigners to ignore such petulance and focus on their triumphant victory.

Two especially horrendous sources of this disdain have been Lib Dem leader Tim Farron and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon. Frankly, it is to their shame that two senior political figures have stooped to the anti-democratic lows of the union they seek to keep us in. Mr Farron said on Saturday evening: “The Liberal Democrats will fight the next election on a clear and unequivocal promise to restore British prosperity and role in the world, with the United Kingdom in the European Union, not out. If you agree with us, join us to make this happen.”

The comments came after his pathetic outburst on the BBC News just hours after the referendum result was announced, in which he said: “What a tragedy that other voters have chosen to damage their [young people] future.” He quite correctly notes that 75% of young people voted to remain, but he forgets to mention that youth turnout was, as was expected, very low. Pensioners and parents did not betray young people, young people let themselves down by not speaking up and voting – or at least those, unlike myself, who support EU membership.

The great irony here is that Mr Farron, leader of the Liberal *Democrats* is actively seeking to overturn the democratic desire of the British people. I am certain he and his party will lose respect and support for this. A party of democrats showing their support for the European Union is a bemusing contradiction in and of itself, but an abject refusal to accept Friday morning’s mandate leads me to believe that Tim Farron, along with Nicola Sturgeon (whom I shall come onto in a moment), is a charlatan.

But the arrogance of political leaders doesn’t stop here. In typically opportunistic fashion, Nicola Sturgeon ensured that she herself be the first senior voice to speak out after the referendum was lost. A second independence referendum (timed quite remarkably after the UK’s vote for independence) ‘must now be on the table’, she asserted. She did, I will admit, warn us prior to the vote on many occasions that a second Scottish independence referendum was inevitable, but sensible people are left wondering why such a prospect is necessary after June 24th was quite defiantly proclaimed Britain’s ‘Independence Day’. I’m starting to respect David Cameron more and more by the minute. At least he had the decency to abide by the result and stand down.

Enough negativity, though. This is a victory for me personally, after months of passionate campaigning, a victory for democracy and, perhaps most significantly, a victory for our country. What a pleasure it was in the early hours of Friday morning to witness the quiet residents of England’s rural heartland stand up and roar. An oddly appropriate coalition between the grassroots communities of the Labour and Conservative parties, each with their own largely ignored concerns about EU membership, was forged – and the UK achieved something most commentators and investors deemed impossible.

Such unity between usually divided parties was not as shocking as it may seem. There is real disconnect between the beliefs of those in Westminster village and those who are suffering in their local neighbourhoods. Many traditional Labour voters retain social and moral conservative values, just like the Tory grassroots, and this vote has exposed this brutal fact quite unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed. This referendum will go down not just as an impassioned defence of democracy, but also as a reminder that the British people remain noticeably distant from those that govern. They threw everything at us, from dire pension warnings to shocking projections from authoritative economic institutions, and they were still defeated. I couldn’t be prouder.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank everybody I’ve met along the way, everybody I stood at street stalls with, everybody I worked with at Vote Leave HQ, everybody who veered off with their own enterprises (from Students for Britain to BeLeave) and everybody who came into Westminster Tower to volunteer by phone or by leaflet – thank you all. I’ve had the honour of meeting some very genuine, bright and enthusiastic young people along this incredible journey (many of you know who you are), and I appreciate the outstanding effort that you’ve all put into to this remarkable campaign.

We all knew that if we kept our heads down, stuck to our key messages and fronted the positive, patriotic case for leaving, we would win this referendum – and the finger-pointing and accusations of xenophobia from the Remain campaign post-defeat shows how successful we were, and how disappointed they must feel. We are democrats, not xenophobes. We love this country, we believe in this country, and we refused to talk down this country, and that is why we won this EU referendum. Britain is in for a period of turbulence, no doubt, but the erection of a petition onto parliament’s website last night calling for an independent state of London was desperation personified. And they call us little-Englanders.

Anyway, that’s enough from me. My warmest congratulations go out to everybody who helped make this dream a reality, right across the political spectrum. My second full day as a member of the Tory party is a happy one, and I’m confident that, given time, we have a great future outside of the European Union. Believe in this country, believe in its people, and we can make independence work…for all.