23rd June 2016: UK votes to leave the EU
9th November 2016: US elects Donald Trump as President
Nigel Farage in the UK and Donald Trump in the US both stand on incredibly similar platforms. They blame all domestic policies on immigration and all problems everywhere on “the political elite”. They portray themselves as the man on the street who tells it like it is. And they promise that if you vote for them, you will get your country back.
Why do people turn out in their millions to vote for them? Because the world is suddenly full of racist, sexist homophobes? No. There are such people amongst their voters, but it’s not the majority and I don’t think it’s the main reason people believe in Farage and Trump. By and large, it’s because they are the political equivalent of the fad diet.
They are successfully marketing a brand of quick-fix politics. There’s an initial populism, just as on the Atkins diet there’s an initial weight loss. There’s the mapping on to it of whatever you want the final goal to be. It doesn’t mean it’s good, healthy or sustainable, but in the short term it makes people feel better about themselves and it seems to work.
And the problem we now have is that the slow, steady process of decent policy-making sounds as dull an option as eating home-cooked meals and taking regular exercise. But hey, we know it works. Don’t give up. Don’t lose hope. And pass the casserole dish.
Almost two weeks on from the 52% vote for the UK to leave the European Union, it is still unclear whether Brexit will be a political reality, or if so, what form it will take. But in a fortnight of multiple high-profile news stories, there are already many lessons that we can take from the result.
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When I started this blog in 2014, it was because I was feeling apathetic about UK politics but didn’t want to disengage from it completely. Writing about politics was my way of ensuring I would continue to pay attention to news and current affairs, so that I’d at least go out to the polling station on an election day of uninspiring choices.
In May 2015, the party manifesto and national agenda that appealed to me most was that of the Liberal Democrats, but the local candidate who appealed to me most was from the Greens and my constituency was in a Labour-Conservative marginal. With one vote, it was impossible for me to express who I wanted to be Prime Minister, who I wanted to be my local MP and which party’s manifesto I would like to see become law.
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I got thinking today about why so many people – including friends, family and public figures who normally have my respect – have bought into the narrative that refugees need to be relabelled as ‘migrants’, scrutinised, suspected, categorised according to age and gender, dismissed as frauds for owning smartphones … anything, really, apart from helped.
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The Conservatives pledged in their 2015 general election manifesto that they would scrap the Human Rights Act and replace it with a British Bill of Rights. David Cameron has appointed Michael Gove as Justice secretary, and the replacement bill will fall within his remit. But what is the Human Rights Act, how would it differ from a British Bill of Rights and why do the Conservatives want to make this change?Read More »