reset cached version 10/03/2018 17:51:04 en The Glorious Referendum on the EU – Why it doesn’t represent the will of the people <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>With millions from Remain voting demographics excluded from the vote, and the result narrow, there's no reason for the government to see the Brexit result as final.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// million.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// million.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="325" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Vote Leave's notorious £350 million lie.</span></span></span></p><p>Both the main political parties in the UK seem to have accepted the result of the BREXIT referendum held in June and repeat continuously that ‘<em>the will of the people’</em> must be observed. This despite the fact that the UK was more or less split down the middle – of those voting 51.9% were in favour of leaving and 48.1% wanted to remain in the EU. The majority was 1,269,501 votes. While the turnout was high by the standard of recent general elections it was still only 72.2% of those registered to vote (the electorate was 46,500,000). So more than a quarter of those on the electoral register did not vote – some 13 million people. </p> <p>It needs also to be recalled that the Electoral Commission estimates that some 2 million people have disappeared from the register and that those not now included are mainly ethnic minorities and the poor. Changes in registration processes for students introduced by the Cameron government must have reduced the numbers on the register and thus affected the remain vote (in the age group 18-24 the remain % was 64). One of the other factors reducing numbers on the register has been the growth of those on short term tenancies where constant changes in residence have affected the propensity to register. Evidence suggests that this group (of renters aged 25-39) were also heavily in favour of remain (some 65%). Furthermore the Bill establishing the referendum deliberately excluded some 2 million British citizens resident overseas – most of whom would almost certainly have voted to remain. The Bill also excluded those aged 16/17 who numbered 1.6million – those who would be most affected in the long term by BREXIT.</p> <p>As a result of constitutional changes introduced by Blair the UK now has various devolved governments. It is worth reporting the differences in voting patterns so as to have a different perspective on what the ‘<em>will of the people’</em> means. England voted to leave (53.2% to 46.8%) as also did Wales (51.7% to 48.3%), while Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain (62% to 38%) as also did Northern Ireland (55.7% to 44.3%). Both the Scottish and Northern Ireland governments have made it clear that they want to remain in the EU and the Scots have indicated that they will call a second referendum on independence from the UK if necessary. Any hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland would also fall foul of the security arrangements between the 2 countries negotiated under the Good Friday Agreement and a so called hard BREXIT will be deeply resisted.</p> <p>It is also worth reviewing some disaggregated data to understand the scale of the differences between the remain and leave camps. Thus London voted strongly to remain with 59.9% against 40.1% and within the city there were large majorities in many of the boroughs [Lambeth at 78.6%, Hackney at 78.5% and Harringey at 75.6%]. At the same time there were significant votes for the leave campaign – mainly in more rural and Eastern parts of the UK [Boston with 75.6% and Great Yarmouth with 71.5%]. </p> <p>What the data suggests is that the UK is deeply divided and it seems a huge simplification to think that the overall small majority to leave in any real sense represents the so-called will of the people. Indeed the data confirms how divided the country is with those voting to leave being less educated, on lower incomes and coming from towns and regions that have gained least from the neo-liberal economic and social policies of recent governments. An interesting study of the referendum by the Rowntree Trust (<strong>BREXIT vote explained; poverty, low skills and lack of opportunities</strong>, August 2016) concluded as follows:</p> <p><em>After controlling for other factors support for leaving the EU was consistently higher, and significantly so, among those people with only a GCSE-level of education, or below. These differences by educational attainment were far more striking than differences by income level. …where people live also played a significant role. The left behind groups, those who were the most likely to support Brexit, face a ‘double whammy’. While they are being marginalised because of their lack of skills and educational qualifications this disadvantage is then being entrenched by a lack of opportunities within their local areas to get ahead and overcome their own disadvantage.</em><em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p>The Rowntree Trust also found that those voting to leave were overwhelmingly characterised by illiberal attitudes on social, gender ,law and order issues and immigration. Thus they concluded that:</p> <p><em>Part of the reason why education and age matters is because of the distinctive world views of people with high and low education; and old and young people. People with high levels of education and young people tend to be more socially liberal and more open to immigration than people with lower levels of education and older people. Similarly, part of the reason why there are such sharp differences in support for leave across different areas of the country are to do with the distinctive values of people who live in low- and high-skilled areas</em><em>.”</em></p> <p>The evidence relating to regional disparities in income and wealth is clear with significant and growing inequality between London and the South East and the rest of the country. For most people outside London and the South East real incomes are still below their 2008 level so that the regional gap in wages and wealth has significantly widened over the past decade. It is unsurprising that worsening living standards in conjunction with poor educational and skill levels should have led many voters to deliver a rebuke to political elites by choosing the Leave option. </p> <p>The referendum campaign was characterized by biases and downright lies on the part of those supporting leave. Such that the Electoral Commission concluded in September that 37% of voters did not think that the referendum was covered in a ‘fair and balanced way in the media and broadcasting’. This is a polite way of saying that voters were misinformed about the EU and more particularly about what were the options that might be available if the UK was to leave, and what would be their impact on the economy and on society. The effects on the economy are likely to be severe and rates of inflation have already risen as a result of the sharp decline in the sterling exchange rate caused by the referendum. With the uncertainty created by the referendum the economic situation will inevitably worsen with higher rates of inflation and with a deepening constitutional crisis.</p> <p>&nbsp;It is evident also that what had been broadly harmonious relations between immigrants and the host population have been worsened in large part as a result of claims made by the leading proponents of Brexit. Statements were made by proponents of Brexit which had no foundation in fact and were straightforward lies and were subsequently dumped immediately after the vote. Such as the claim that £350 million would be available every week for the NHS after Brexit – a claim that was shown to be false by the ONS during the campaign but was nevertheless repeated over and over again. It is unsurprising that many of the claims made by proponents of Brexit should have had traction with many voters given their relatively poor education and the years of anti EU propaganda put out by the main print media. Polls have subsequently reported that many of those who voted for Brexit have now regretted having done so.</p> <p>What is one to make of the foregoing?</p> <p>That the referendum was held at all is a reflection of a schism within the Tory party which was persistent and unresolved ever since the UK joined the EU in 1973. A schism that involved a small and vocal minority of the Tory party supported by the print media and especially the Mail and Sun newspapers. Within the parliamentary party a significant majority continue to be in favour of remaining in the EU.</p> <p>That the claim by the present government that they have no option but to implement the will of the people and exit the EU has little or no foundation given the degree to which in the aggregate the vote failed to mirror the preferences of the electorate 13 million of whom did not bother to vote and those made ineligible by the Bill establishing the referendum..</p> <p>That from polls conducted subsequent to the referendum it is clear that most people had no idea what they were voting for and only a vague idea of what they were voting against. What many of the leave votes expressed were general opposition to the government of Cameron and Osborne, who were characterized by Nadine Dorries (Tory MP) as ‘posh boys who don’t know the price of a pint of milk’.</p> <p>That experience of recent immigration seems to have been a factor in leading many voters to select the leave option. In part this must have reflected the decision by the Cameron government to remove the special funding set up by Gordon Brown that was intended to provide additional resources to finance extra services in areas of high immigration. As a consequence communities were left to deal as best they could with pressure on schools, housing and health services and many vented their feelings by voting against the EU despite the fact that it was in no way responsible. Pressure on services derived from the austerity programme imposed by the Chancellor George Osborne.</p> <p>That it was fully understood by government when it passed the legislation for a referendum that it was advisory and did not commit the nation to any specific policies by way of implementation.</p> <p>That it follows that any decisions relating to implementing the referendum reside with parliament which is sovereign and not with government. As has been determined by the High Court in a recent decision.</p> <p>That there is certainly nothing to prevent a second referendum once the terms of any Brexit strategy have been determined by government and after a parliamentary process to determine next steps. Indeed this would be an appropriate time to really measure the will of the people.</p> <p>That any subsequent referendum should ensure that the electorate is appropriately defined by any legislation so as to be as inclusive as possible. It should also determine the processes whereby information is disseminated to the electorate. These changes are essential for avoiding the clear deficiencies of the Bill establishing the recent referendum, and to ensure that the electorate is provided with the information needed for an informed decision.</p> <p>I have used the adjective ‘glorious’ to describe the June referendum in the same ironic way it is used in relation to the revolution of 1688 or racing at Goodwood. Perhaps if there is another referendum on the EU and one where the electorate is broad based and well informed then perhaps the term will be justified. It is clear that the June referendum excluded too many persons who should have been able to vote; far too many voters did not understand the issues and were often misled by politicians and others, and millions could not even be bothered to vote despite the fact that leaving the EU threatened their livelihoods and that of their children. </p> <p>If the UK is to make decisions based on referenda then the least the government should do is to ensure that these as far as possible do represent the <em>‘will of the people’.</em>.Not least by requiring a super majority (such as 75% of those voting) as a basic condition of referenda relating to major issues such as our relationship with Europe. A precedent for a super majority is the requirement of a 75% majority of MPs to vote for a general election before the 5 year fixed-term ends introduced by the coalition government.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/gilbert-ramsay/those-who-dont-like-referendum-result-should-demand-more-democracy-not-less">Those who don&#039;t like the referendum result should demand more democracy, not less</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk reset Desmond Cohen Sat, 10 Dec 2016 08:30:00 +0000 Desmond Cohen 107534 at Seven things Momentum should do now <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As Momentum celebrates its first birthday, it can boast of significant victories. But to win the country, it needs an ambitious plan for what next...</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="295" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image: Momentum.</span></span></span></p><p>Momentum, the organisation now synonymous with the rise of Jeremy Corbyn, turned one year old on Saturday. Its list of achievements after only twelve months is already impressive, from forming the backbone of the Jeremy for Labour Campaign this year, providing infrastructure and activists to oversee a truly world class operation, to helping a slate of six grassroots activists be elected to the party’s NEC. In addition, it’s organised blocs at numerous demonstrations as well as overseeing ‘The World Transformed’, a four-day event that ran concurrently with last month’s party conference.&nbsp;</p><p>Momentum is one of the most exciting political developments of my lifetime. It currently has over 150 groups across the UK with 20,000 full members – a staggering number given it only became a membership organisation this Spring. As well as that it currently has 170,000 supporters – a number which belies the possibilities the organisation now faces. It’s not impossible that Momentum could have more members than party rivals to Labour in the not-too-distant future.</p> <p>While, to a large extent, the fate of Momentum is tied with that of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader, its aspirations go beyond any single politician. Any potential success will be judged not only by the growth of the left within Labour, but also whether the party can be modernised for the Twenty-First Century. However unlikely it might seem to the naysayers, Momentum will play a key role in that respect. A party machine which has not won a general election since 2005 will be modernised by its left, if it is to be modernised at all. You only need to look at the shambolic Owen Smith campaign this summer to know as much.</p> <p>During this summer’s leadership election I wrote ‘<a href="" target="_blank">Eight Ideas for Labour’s New Media Strategy</a>’. Those proposals had an expanded understanding of new media – not only in relation to circumventing broadcast and print, but also in mobilising activists and generating money for grassroots initiatives. It’s in the same spirit that I’ve compiled seven proposals for Momentum and how it can continue to grow, meeting its objectives. This list is by no means exhaustive. What’s more it is done with gratitude and humility to those around both it and this summer’s leadership campaign. The aim here, at the organisation’s one-year mark, is to begin a debate around where it goes next. How it transforms not only the politics of the left, but of Britain. While there is something of a binary debate about whether Momentum can transform the Labour party or build a broader national movement, I believe it can do both. And all ahead of 2020. That takes resources, but also a plan. So let’s create one.</p><p>1) <strong>Launch a Network of Regional Organisers. </strong>This needs to be happening before anything else, with these regional organisers – all of which would be full-time – integrating an increasingly coherent central effort with extant and under-networked local ones. In essence these organisers would be the channels between local groups as much as between London and the regions. Furthermore, they would be the interface between local campaigns beyond both Labour and Momentum – around food poverty, racism, low pay and more besides – and local groups. While connective action allows for large groups of strangers to come together, that needs cement: that’s where regional organisers fit in, bringing together branches, CLPs, regions and external activism. They would also be charged with increasing not only Momentum’s membership, but Labour’s – especially among working class communities and minorities. </p><p>2) <strong>Launch a Campaigns Team</strong>. One of the main ways to bring people into Labour – not only as voters and supporters, but as members – is through campaigns. Initially these would focus on anti-racism, living wage and low pay activism, women’s rights and disability activism. That is not to say that such efforts would seek to overpower already excellent organising, such as that of DPAC, Sisters Uncut, the IWGB and Black Lives Matter UK, but rather reinforce them, with each Momentum campaign looking to be part of a broader coalition around each issue. In the long term, this is fundamental to Labour becoming a campaigning organisation. For now, however, Momentum is the perfect place to start. The campaigns team, which like the regional organisers would be full time, would look to do the following: roll out national campaigns among Momentum locals as well as CLPs and branches; run national ‘days of action’, highlighting issues and facilitating protest across communities; and providing locally specific events, offering skills or legal advice in response to things like planned fracking sites or racist attacks.</p> <p>3) <strong>Launch MomentLab</strong>. This would be similar to the <a href="" target="_blank">previously proposed LabourLab</a>, itself modelled on the Republican Party’s Para Bellum Labs. What specifically would this incubator do? It would take data and figure out how to harness it in order to change outcomes in elections; work on tools that empower local party democracy; upgrade the digital infrastructure of Momentum; and create processes and technologies by which Momentum activists could communicate better among themselves, with other civil society actors and the electorate. It would help create many of the tools and processes necessary to any disruption to British politics, and would be the technological underpinning for Momentum’s campaigning efforts as well as voter registration drives and electoral activism.&nbsp;</p> <p>One of the first things MomentLab would work on would be <em>BeRed, </em>a disintermediated platform for financing activism. As I have written previously:</p> <blockquote><p>“While rules around party spending are different this side of the Atlantic, crowdfunding has already played a significant role in internal party elections (Jeremy Corbyn in 2015 and 2016,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">as well as Tom Watson last year</a>&nbsp;and recent NEC elections);&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">paying the costs for a recent legal challenge</a>&nbsp;by five new party members who chose to contest the NEC decision to exclude them – and 126,000 others – from this month’s leadership election; and by Momentum, most recently in paying towards some of the costs for their&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">‘The World Transformed’ event at Labour party conference</a>. Elsewhere the recent Deliveroo Strike in London&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">saw its strike fund entirely crowdfunded</a>. </p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Just as the Democratic party has ActBlue, Labour now needs BeRed: a crowdfunding and donation platform for Labour party candidates, projects and various efforts undertaken by allied organisations and actors in the party’s orbit. Each party member – in addition to enjoying a membership number – would also automatically get a BeRed number and identity as well as be added to its mailing list. Were the party membership to reach one million before the next general election this would be a huge, instant community for crowdfunding and fundraising. Not only would it pay for various electoral efforts at local, regional and national levels, but it would also help resource the kinds of projects which are now fundamental to Labour becoming a genuine social movement at the local level: food banks, literacy classes and breakfast clubs.” </p></blockquote><p>As with many urgently necessary projects at the moment, Labour HQ – for now mired in organisational inertia and opposition to Corbyn’s leadership – remains unlikely to opt in. That’s why Momentum, specifically MomentLab, needs to do it instead. This project would have potentially massive returns, funding a currently under-resourced organisational architecture as well as the future campaigns team and regional organisers. In an ecology that focuses on locals, and how they engage with CLPs and other activist efforts, BeRed, would be vital. It is the single most important thing Momentum can now pursue in the medium-term. Funding much of what is proposed here, will depend on it.&nbsp; </p><p>4) <strong>Launch a National Program of Political Education</strong>. Changing how political education works in the Labour party is a <a href="" target="_blank">major challenge for the medium-term</a>. As James McAsh writes, “Labour needs a programme of political education to&nbsp;empower members to better persuade those around them and to participate more confidently in internal debates on&nbsp;Labour’s&nbsp;policy&nbsp;and direction. It can also contribute towards building more participative&nbsp;and less fractious&nbsp;local parties, where members better understand one another’s perspective.”</p> <p>Right now every CLP can appoint a ‘political education and training officer’ as additional functional officers. Momentum should provide a national – and free – training program for anyone who holds that position or would like to, regardless of whether or not they are Momentum members. Trainings would not just include teaching around ideology, economics and policy, but also pedagogy – and how political education officers can learn to pass on the skills they have acquired in training. What is key here is not just educating people around the facts and how to persuade members of the public, but how they can teach others to do it as well. Such skills are of particular importance in so much as they comprise meta-learning as well as acquisition of knowledge.&nbsp; </p><p>5) <strong>Hold Regular Events Which Bring Together Members, Activists and the Media. Nationally and Locally. </strong>The idea here would be to approximate ‘NetRoots’ as it exists in the US. Given the networked politics of Momentum, along with the fantastic success of ‘The World Transformed’, regular events like this should be simple enough. The point? To turn the ‘weak ties’ of online interaction into the stronger ones of offline association. Responsibility for these events would primarily fall across the regional organisers and the campaign team.</p> <p>6) <strong>Build Networks Beyond England and Wales</strong>. <span>While it is impossible for more formal actors to do this, given the dynamics of Scottish Labour</span>, Momentum must establish ongoing channels of communication with the Scottish left, particularly around the Radical Independence Campaign, with a joint event planned for Autumn 2017. In addition, Momentum must immediately set up a working group to examine what can be learned from the 2014 referendum campaign, the aim being to apply any findings to the next general election. The basis of the surprisingly close vote in Scotland two years ago was the record-breaking turnout of 84.5%. Ultimately this handed victory to ‘No’, with turnout highest among those who favoured remaining in the UK (in some places it hit 90%). Nevertheless, while turnout was lower in places which voted Yes, like Dundee and Glasgow – large, working-class cities – it still exceeded what anyone expected and was completely at odds with data for recent general elections. According to Ipsos MORI, 65% of those living in one of the 20% most deprived neighbourhoods in Scotland voted Yes, compared with just 36% of those in the one-fifth most affluent. While they didn’t turn out like the middle classes did, such a turnout among Scotland’s poorest voters was genuinely remarkable. For Corbyn to stand a chance in 2020 – or before – something similar would have to transpire in England and Wales.</p> <p>I’ve spoken before of how the difference between Gore losing the 2000 presidential race and Barack Obama sweeping to victory eight years later, was a seven percent increase in turnout. Something similar would have to happen at the next general election for Labour to stand a chance, particularly as it looks to build an Obama-esque coalition of the young, the relatively poor, women and BME voters (three of those tend to have below average turnout). But rather than looking stateside, Labour and Momentum strategists need to be talking to those involved in the Radical Independence Campaign and the likes of Common Weal. What specific strategies were used to mobilise poorer voters who don’t usually turn out? What key frames or messaging were deployed on the doorstep? How did it interact with social and the mainstream media? And, most importantly, what would you change and improve looking back? If Labour wants to get the vote out among poorer voters in England and Wales, it would do much worse than to model its campaign along the lines of left elements within ‘Yes’ two years ago.&nbsp; </p><p>7) <strong>Help Establish a think tank. Or three. </strong>Staying with the Scottish vibe, campaigning during the referendum saw an outpouring of not only new media&nbsp;– Bella Caledonia, Wings Over Scotland and others – but also new sources for strategic policy interventions, particularly the Jimmy Reid Foundation and, more recently, Common Weal. The latter started as a high profile project within the former, only becoming independent in October 2014. The ambition of Common Weal since then mirrors the scope of the challenges an independent Scotland would face on achieving independence. Its proposals are remarkably strategic, and often capable of implementation ahead of, or after, independence. Some are tailor made to deal with the shortcomings of the defeat of 2014, such as the demand for a national investment bank which could become a protean central bank ahead of any second referendum on independence (a nice fit with Labour policy here). Another one, my personal favourite, is the call for policy academies which would be “centres of excellence of new thinking in key areas of public policy, both to improve national debate and to act as a substantial resource to the civil service and others”. This is a very smart idea and foresees the inevitable: Whitehall trying to make independence as undesirable, slow and intractable as possible. As with an investment bank, it is clear that the thinker behind it – Robin McAlpine – also views it as the embryo of a Scottish civil service when the time comes. Just like that, questions of currency and new bureaucratic institutions&nbsp;– which so plagued independence campaigners last time – would have credible solutions at the doorstep.</p> <p>There is clearly a pressing need for something similar in relation to Labour under Corbyn, specifically around policy – both in generation and later implementation. One observer at Labour party conference told me how the worst case scenario for the Labour left would be Corbyn winning a general election in the near term with Whitehall and elements of the PLP jointly undermining any radical agenda. Let’s not kid ourselves, as unlikely as any snap election is – and I think it is – that would be inevitable.&nbsp;</p> <p>So what can we do in anticipation of that? Well, ahead of time we need a new think tank. Preferably several. These would operate in a number of policy areas. Firstly, the economy, tax justice and financial regulation; secondly, social innovation and public service provision; and finally foreign policy. Their task? To generate concrete, radical policy for the next Labour government, successfully selling it to the electorate and disseminating it within the mainstream media. Equally as important, however, these think tanks would create a cadre of individuals capable of offering significant resources to Labour both in opposition and government. There would be regular secondments from them to not only the leader’s office but across the parliamentary party. These people would not only furnish Labour with serious policy nous but would also, in the event of Labour forming a government, be able to guide it through the inevitably difficult opening skirmishes with Whitehall. For some of Corbyn and McDonnell’s more radical polices – like a National Investment Bank – the mandarinate would in effect go on an industrial go-slow. The wonks from these particular think tanks would be able to help respond to that intransigence. Consequently, these institutions – and the people they will train and employ – will prove crucial in not only advancing and persuading the public of a radical agenda, but, more importantly, implementing it. Liaison with Common Weal about how to get such a process started isn’t just desirable, its entirely necessary. Again, a decent prototype is relatively close to home for Momentum. If they aren’t able to start three organisations of the requisite size, which is unlikely, they should look to incubate them in collaboration with partner organisations in policy and new media, with them later developing externally.</p> <p>In the last twelve months Momentum has done remarkable work, overseeing what would have seemed impossible before last Summer. Nevertheless, the challenges ahead of it remain monumental. And yet it has to meet them, the renewal not only of the left – but of the Labour party – depends on it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/aaron-bastani/labour-can-only-win-with-jeremy-corbyn">Labour can only win with Jeremy Corbyn</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk reset Aaron Bastani Tue, 11 Oct 2016 10:49:06 +0000 Aaron Bastani 105884 at Why Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party should reach out to non-voters <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Non-voters aren't apathetic, but alienated. Corbyn needs to mobilise them to win.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// Shot 2016-10-07 at 14.09.43.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// Shot 2016-10-07 at 14.09.43.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="339" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jeremy Corbyn, by David Holt.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">“We’ve got to win in Cardiff North. We’ve got to win in Nuneaton. We’ve got to win in Milton Keynes”, <a href="">asserted</a> Owen Smith in the recent leadership campaign. “We’ve got to get Tories and Greens and Liberals to vote Labour.” &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">In the mainstream commentary surrounding Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour party, one thing is clear – he must claim the centre ground of politics and reach out to Tory voters. The BBC’s political coverage is often based on this assumption, with the corporation deciding to hold its 2015 televised Labour leadership debate in the well-known marginal seat of Nuneaton.</p><p dir="ltr">This has been the dominant, so-called pragmatic, way of doing parliamentary politics for my lifetime – what Professor Jeremy Gilbert from the University of East London <a href="">calls</a> “politics as marketing”. In this conception of politics, “there is only ever a very narrow range of opinions which can really be considered sensible, because they are predicated on an understanding of how the world really works.” Voters are rational, self-interested actors with fixed preferences. The politician is sold to the voters as likable and competent, much like a salesperson selling the party brand to customers. “The target market is almost exclusively floating voters in marginal constituencies”. </p><p dir="ltr">Writer Tariq Ali argues this endless battle for the mythical, ‘sensible’ centre ground has led to the creation of an “extreme centre” in British politics, with Tory-Labour bipartisanship leading to destructive wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, the financial crisis, privatisation, rising inequality and nasty and dangerous narratives being pushed on welfare and immigration. </p><p dir="ltr">As well as being <a href="">tone deaf</a> to radical social movements, this focus on a tiny number of voters in marginal seats ignores what has been called the largest party in British politics – the <a href="">15.7 million</a> who didn’t vote in the 2015 General Election. </p><p dir="ltr">Corbyn himself has repeatedly <a href="">said</a> he wants to reach out to those who don’t vote, especially young people. Noting that turnout went down from 84 percent in 1950 to 66 percent in 2015, Professor Danny Dorling from the University of Oxford agrees, <a href="">arguing</a> “the best strategy for Labour to increase its share of the vote is to target people who vote for minor parties and the much larger groups [who] have given up voting or even registering to vote.”</p><p dir="ltr">So, who doesn’t vote and why don’t they bother? Tim Bale, professor of politics at Queen Mary university, <a href="">notes</a> the people who don’t vote tend to be “the poor, the poorly educated, the young, the transient, the newly arrived, and the less politically knowledgeable and interested.” Speaking to voters in Manchester before the last general election, the BBC’s Emma Ailes <a href="">reported</a> that “it seems anger not apathy is turning people off voting” – an observation <a href="">highlighted</a> by polling. <a href="">According</a> to a 2013 poll by Survation the top reasons given by people for not voting were a belief that their vote will not make a difference; that the parties and candidates are all the same; a lack of interest in politics; not enough information or knowledge to choose; and that their beliefs are not represented by the parties and candidates.</p><p dir="ltr">This deeply concerning reality is neither natural nor inevitable. As I note above, in the 1950s, general election turnout was around 20 percent higher than it is now. The <a href="">Nordic countries</a> have very high levels of voter turnout. Indeed there have been British votes recently with very high turnouts – the Scottish referendum (85 percent – the highest turnout in any British election since universal suffrage) and the EU referendum (72 percent). Arguably, in contrast to most of the elections of the past 35 years, these two votes actually meant something – there was actually a real choice for voters to make.</p><p dir="ltr">This gets to the heart of the issue. Citing British Social Attitudes survey data, in 2010 Alison Park, the Research Director of the National Centre for Social Research, <a href="">noted</a> one reason for the low turnout in recent elections “is that New Labour’s move to the political centre in the 1990s has led to voters thinking there is relatively little difference between the two main parties.” Professor Bale <a href="">explains</a> turnout goes down when “the connection between who makes it into office and the policies they pursue is vague”. </p><p dir="ltr">To counter these common criticisms of modern politicians, Corbyn needs to position the Labour party as a clear and easily understandable alternative to the Conservatives and make sure the party follows through on any promises it makes. In addition, Labour needs more working-class MPs, a problem Corbyn’s 2015 <a href="">proposal</a> to provide grants to less affluent parliamentary candidates would help alleviate.</p><p dir="ltr">To mobilse non-voters commentator Owen Jones has <a href="">suggested</a> Labour carry out the biggest registration drive in history. And with Labour membership standing at over 600,000 and Corbyn attracting crowds of thousands of people, journalist Paul Mason <a href="">believes</a> Labour supporters can play a key role by being ambassadors in their communities, engaging with the wider electorate. Trade unions, which have traditionally encouraged the working-classes to vote, also have an important role to play.</p><p dir="ltr">However, it is important to note the first past the post system means significantly expanding the electorate will not, on its own, win the election for Corbyn. This is <a href="">because</a> the people who don’t vote tend to live in Labour dominated seats, meaning a higher turnout in most constituencies would simply mean a bigger win for the Labour MP. However, it would still lead to some gains, with a Fabian Society analysis <a href="">showing</a> a 7.3 percent boost in turnout in marginal seats would lead to Labour winning 52 seats if each new voter backed Labour.</p><p dir="ltr">Corbyn, then, will almost certainly need to attract significant numbers of people who had voted Conservative. This isn’t as unbelievable as the mainstream media would have you believe. Polling suggests many of Corbyn’s political positions – on the NHS, on railways, on housing and foreign policy – have the <a href="">support</a> of large sections of the British public, sometimes the majority of Tory voters.</p><p dir="ltr">Beyond the narrow electoral math, there are a number of reasons why Corbyn’s Labour Party (and other political parties) should work hard to engage with non-voters – for their party’s own benefit and for the nation as a whole.</p><p dir="ltr">First, though it may not translate into immediate electoral gains, getting the support of non-voters would increase the popular vote for Labour, one source of legitimacy in political debates. In addition, it would increase the number of the poorer people who are interested and involved in Labour politics, and politics more generally. This process would hopefully mean Labour increasingly becomes more responsive to working-class concerns (such as <a href="">income inequality</a> and <a href="">social housing</a>) and begin once again to seriously represent the working-class communities who have been effectively <a href=",-not-Corbyn,-is-to-blame-for-Brexit#.V-_XiKUVDIU">ignored</a> by New Labour and the Tories for decades. </p><p dir="ltr">More broadly, this could be the starting gun for a mass re-engagement with the political system, with previously disheartened and unrepresented sections of society becoming invested in parliamentary politics and the outcome of elections. The importance of this should not be underestimated. It is clear the Brexit vote was <a href="">decades in the making</a>, the product, in large part, of the politics of the ‘extreme centre’ that the UK has endured since New Labour was established. For example, a recent Oxfam report <a href="">noted</a> the UK’s extreme level of inequality was a likely contributing factor in the vote to leave the European Union. Similarly, focus groups run by Britain Thinks <a href="">found</a> “Britain is divided – a nation of people who describe themselves as ‘haves’ and ‘have nots'”. The research found the ‘have nots’ – who were much more likely to vote Brexit – described “a powerful sense of injustice about their situation in life” and “the feeling that systems are in place which work in favour of elites and against their best interests”.</p><p dir="ltr">In a similar vein the 2011 riots that swept England were informed by social and economic issues coming out of ‘the extreme centre’. In addition to difficult relations with the police, an extensive LSE-Guardian study <a href="">noted</a> rioters identified a number of motivating grievances, “from the increase in tuition fees, to the closure of youth services and the scrapping of the education maintenance allowance.” The report continues: “Many complained about perceived social and economic injustices.” </p><p>If the UK is to move forward and build the progressive, more equal, tolerant, just society that Corbyn supporters and many others want, then the political system has to sincerely engage with, and listen to, all of society – not just swing voters in Nuneaton.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/alex-goodman/hijack-or-mutiny-labour-leadership-and-left">A hijack or a mutiny? Labour, leadership and the left</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk reset Ian Sinclair Fri, 07 Oct 2016 13:14:43 +0000 Ian Sinclair 105822 at Why we protested at Heathrow <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Aviation expansion must be stopped.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="460" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Reclaim the Power leaflet</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Hundreds of activists took part in a day of mass action on October 1st at Heathrow and its surrounds to protest against aviation expansion and to tax frequent flyers to encourage other means of transport that is more environmentally friendly.</p><p dir="ltr">The mass day of action against airport expansion was organised by Reclaim the Power [RTP] – a grassroots direct action group for social and environmental justice. The background to the action takes place within the context in which the proposal for airport expansion at Heathrow now has <a href="">support of a majority of MPs</a> in the House of Commons. Moreover the International Civil Aviation Organisation [ICAO] were meeting in Canada to discuss a plan to provide carbon offsetting for international flights as proposed by the UN climate agreement. This means that the carbon released into the atmosphere by the long-haul flights will be ‘offset’ by money going into ecological projects that, they say, would restore the balance in the atmosphere.</p><p dir="ltr">There are grave problems with the plan and NGO’s have expressed their concern over the loopholes in the proposed deal. For instance the plan indicates that the carbon offset could happen by planting as many trees as it would take to restore the balance in the atmosphere caused by airline emissions in a given amount of time. The trees however would take many years to grow and restore the balance in the atmosphere making this an impractical solution as the non-reversible environmental damage has already taken place.</p><p dir="ltr">The proposals by the Aviation Environmental Federation [AEF] to modify the plans only ask that the voluntary commitment to the plan is non-negotiable once committed and that the environmental situation must not be made worse. The plan also emphasises that reduction in emissions is on par with sustainable development to counteract the release of carbon emissions into the atmosphere. This is wrong. The idea of sustainable development is a long term process and an unattainable ideal. What is needed is sustainable development as well as a reduction in carbon emissions to safeguard the environment. Moreover the offsetting plan does not come close to the aims of the Paris agreement formulated earlier this year. It could be said that the plans for green washing are an excuse for aviation expansion.</p><p dir="ltr">RTP’s mass day of action consisted in a flash mob where 100+ protesters were involved in a “die in”. Wearing gas masks they symbolised the deaths caused by air pollution from the aviation industry. Simultaneously there was a bike block where over a hundred protesters on bikes in red boiler suits circled the airport. The flash mob started with testimonies read out from the Pacific islands and the horn of Africa from communities that had been affected by climate change. Then wealthy frequent flyers responsible for most flights walked over the “die in” to pass a red tape symbolising the red line crossed by the aviation industry in their effort for airport expansion to the check-in desk where the flyers were handed flutes of champagne and revelled in their prosperity and privilege. The action came to a close with some facts about pollution being read out and a choir spoofing popular songs highlighting the plight caused by climate change.</p><p dir="ltr">The bike block circled the airport and visited Harmondworth detention centre to emphasise the close connection between climate change and damaging phenomena such as drought causing mass migration problems. The bike block also visited a local village that would be affected by the expansion as another runaway would mean more traffic causing noise and air pollution. Finally all participants congregated at Grow Heathrow with reports from the day of action as well as affiliate groups such as The London-Mexican Solidarity Network and the ZAD.</p><p dir="ltr">Climate change is happening everywhere. The Earth’s temperature is rapidly increasing because of human activity. The government’s plans for intervention are simply inadequate, putting the ecosystem and humanity under threat. It is up to us to take action to make the government see that drastic measures need to be taken now! Flying is becoming the fastest human driver of climate change. The growth is incompatible with UK targets as set by the Climate Change Act 2008.</p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk reset Uzma Malik Fri, 07 Oct 2016 11:00:04 +0000 Uzma Malik 105820 at Theresa May, the end of Empire State Britain and the death of Unionism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The old British state is crumbling.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// Shot 2016-10-07 at 11.00.24.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// Shot 2016-10-07 at 11.00.24.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="391" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>By James Gillray, 1793 - Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">The Tory conference tried to sail on as if the sea wasn’t turbulent and choppy, with the ship heading for the rocks.</p><p dir="ltr">Tory statecraft, élan, even class confidence, have all contributed to this – along with the vindication of the long held faith and religious zeal of those of a Brexit disposition. Many have come late to the latter, while Theresa May has embraced this dogma with the passion of the new found convert.</p><p dir="ltr">You don’t have to look very far from the Tory bubble to find a very different mood and Britain. The pound at a 31 year old low, economic and financial jitters, Renault-Nissan warning about future investment in North East England, and wider business decisions being mothballed. </p><p dir="ltr">Tory chutzpah won’t be enough this time for the Theresa May land grab on UKIP and Labour territory. There is a new populism in town, alert to the concerns which produced the Brexit vote, but one which attempts to promise certainty, stability and security in a world of uncertainty – part of which was created by the Brexit vote. </p><p dir="ltr">Traditional Tory unionism – as articulated by Disraeli, Churchill and Macmillan – had an innate understanding of the patchwork nature of the United Kingdom. It had its blind spots (Ireland obviously) along with its elitism, patrician qualities, and limited democracy, but it told a story of working class incorporation into citizenship and institutions that had a popular resonance. </p><p dir="ltr">That Tory story of Britain was a nationalism – a quiet, self-confident, self-assured nationalism of an elite which knew its place, power and importance – that has withered now to a faint echo. Its age is really that of a Britain of the past – pre-Heath, pre-Thatcher – irrespective of the continual, but empty, referencing of it by every Tory leader before and since. </p><p dir="ltr">Theresa May is trying to invoke this tradition but it is threadbare, lacking a popular touch, and ill-equipped for modern Britain. Unionism is a form of British state nationalism, and a nationalism without the sure touch of a union vision is even more obviously nationalist. The discovery that Tories are British nationalists, unambiguous in rhetoric like ‘British jobs for British workers’, came as a shock to The Spectator’s Alex Massie, who <a href="">finally woke up</a> and realised that he was living under an apologetic ‘new nationalist government’. He always has been. </p><p dir="ltr">Something profound has shifted in this nationalism. It has become an expression of a defiant, out and proud ‘little Britain’ which can now be seen in every walk of life – from politics, to media, and public life. This is explicitly no longer in most respects a British nationalism, but an English nationalism. And the future of British politics will turn out to be determined by the different expressions, forces and dynamics within that nationalism.</p><p dir="ltr">There is a forgetful English nationalism – which has a collective amnesia about the nations and regions of the UK and which is driven by the insider class and elites. The other is a populist, vengeful English nationalism which utilizes feelings of hurt, loss, anger and betrayal – and which could turn into something much more poisonous and nasty than we have seen so far. </p><p dir="ltr">The first sits at ease within the mainstream of the Tory coalition and establishment, and taps into the absent mindedness and forgetfulness which always characterises power and elites in Britain. This has showcased its ad-hoc nature and pragmatism, and was evident in how the UK gained and then lost an Empire. But the second is inarguably the much more potent, powerful force – evident in the Brexit vote, UKIP’s near four million votes in 2015, and the Corbyn revolution. And in a different context, such dismay and discontent gave force to the powerful coalition which nearly won the 2014 Scottish indyref.</p><p dir="ltr">In an age of disruption and anger, Scotland’s ascendant SNP might seem an anomaly. So far they have managed to ride the twin horses of incumbents and insurgents, first, under the populist Alex Salmond, and now under the popular Nicola Sturgeon. The SNP government are playing a canny, waiting game waiting for the UK government to play its cards on Brexit before it decides to act and make a decision at some point on the possibilities for indyref2.</p><p dir="ltr">Yet, pressures and constraints are evident in the SNP – in office for what will be coming up for ten years in 2017 – a political timescale that normally exhausts sitting governments – and by which point Thatcher and Blair were heading out their respective doors. The SNP is not immune to the laws of political dynamics and is fast becoming a new class and establishment vehicle, while Sturgeon’s many qualities may play well on Brexit, but now seem less well-suited for a substantive domestic policy agenda. That may seem too harsh, but as she comes up for two years as Scotland’s first minister her domestic legislative and policy record and programme seems thin. And at some point in the future that lack of substance will eventually matter. Politics is always about more than symbols.</p><p dir="ltr">In bygone days, at least in the mythological version of British constitutionalism, the multiple crises of government and what passes for democracy would be met by a whirlwind of establishment initiatives, many, if not all of which, would be holding operations or mere window dressing. This would then be presented as enlightened elite rule and as good old-fashioned British compromise. Now the crises are so deep, and the rot in the system so profound, that such time honoured ways no longer suffice.</p><p dir="ltr">It is also that the mythology is just that: the mumbo-jumbo and superstitions that have been invented and forged to keep the British state show going. Thus, prime exhibit number one here has been the fetishizing of parliamentary sovereignty – something invented to give the whole project meaning and coherence, and yet without any real legal meaning, and shorn of any even passing semblance of relevance since the UK entered the then EEC in 1973 (and subsequently limited further by Labour’s half-complete constitutional reforms from devolution to the Supreme Court). </p><p dir="ltr">Absolute sovereignty as a mantra has played a significant part in two of the most brutal humiliations of Britain’s establishment in its history – the loss of the American colonies and Ireland. The debacle of Brexit and the near-loss of Scotland – the last of which has now been put back into play – can be seen as equally historic and disastrous to the prestige and power of the UK and for similar reasons; hoist on the wreckage of the shibboleth of sovereignty.</p><p dir="ltr">Several powerful forces are heading for an almighty collusion. A Tory Brexit is emboldening a Tory party which thinks it can win absolute power with 24% of the electorate and then jettison large parts of the Cameron-Osborne agenda and head off in the opposite direction. The May moment is truly making a drama out of a crisis and ruthlessly using it to fashion a new politics claimed as ‘the centre ground’ – but which is equal parts Thatcherite, Blairite, Farage and Daily Mail with a dash of Ed Miliband’s concerns about predatory capitalism for good measure. That’s a remarkably Big Tent in aspiration and rhetoric, but it disguises how thin and narrow Tory England really is.</p><p dir="ltr">Faultlines abound. British politics for one no longer exist as a national entity, campaign and set of debates. This was evident in the 2015 UK election, but it carries huge consequences when Westminster still claims its supreme place and power in national life, and the Tories swagger, walk and talk and claim their unrepresentative tribe as the one true national party and voice. Scotland has already left the building that is Britain, and Northern Ireland has placed itself in some kind of limbo. </p><p dir="ltr">Unionism as we used to know it is dead. It was of its age: benign, supposedly wise, but deeply problematic, championed by anti-democratic forces who we were meant to trust and respect and leave to get on with the big decisions. A naked British or English nationalism, or indeed, more benign Scottish, Welsh or Irish minority nationalisms, do not provide any kind of adequate road maps for Britain or their respective countries. For all the plaudits the leader of the Scottish Tories Ruth Davidson gets there is very little behind her and very little strategy, and it is even beyond her to single-handedly reinvent a political tradition in terminal decline; providing a tactical, populist opposition to the SNP may prove to be a different thing.</p><p dir="ltr">Equally, the Tory and Labour tribal accounts of Britain, whether in their traditional garbs or more recent modernisation versions, or the Corbyn revival show, have shown themselves to be inadequate for the times and crises we live in. What then comes after Thatcherism, New Labour and the battering of social democracy? What set of common values and over-arching political values and philosophies can we find to reassert some humanity, decency and public good across these isles after three decades of vandalism and asset-stripping?</p><p dir="ltr">Even to ask the question is to illustrate the scale of the task, but the multiple crises we face: economic, social, cultural, democratic and geo-political, to name the most obvious, mean that the establishment order of Britain, old and new, has been revealed transparently as rotten, deformed and inadequate. All of Britain’s political elites have been tainted and tarnished by it, and somehow, Brexit and the reconfiguration of the relations of the peoples’ and nations of these isles, has to involve finding new collective voices and vessels. </p><p dir="ltr">The Empire State Britain – which ran this country for so long and gave us the welfare state, Thatcherism and New Labour via its lack of democracy and ‘we know bestism’ – while clinging on to the illusions of Great British Powerism, is slowly but brutally coming to an end. Politics from now on will be much more bumpy, unpredictable and messy, and while there will be many difficulties to come, there is a profound opening and opportunity for ultimately, a much better politics and society. The road ahead will undoubtedly be filled with hazards, but at least there will be no false illusion that the British state can be reformed or used to bring about enlightened progress. </p><p>The end of Empire State Britain isn’t just the end of that version of Britain, but the UK as we have known it, and potentially the UK as a state. Huge questions face us about whether an emasculated, discredited political class can navigate its way out of this mess of their own making to a new constitutional and political settlement – which in all likelihood will be a post-British one.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/anthony-barnett/it-s-england-s-brexit">It’s England’s Brexit</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/adam-ramsay/forever-blowing-bubbles-why-corbyn-won-labour-and-how-he-can-change-britain">Forever blowing bubbles: why Corbyn won Labour and how he can change Britain</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk reset Gerry Hassan Fri, 07 Oct 2016 10:06:01 +0000 Gerry Hassan 105819 at Forward Wales: five ways Welsh progressives need to take back control <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="Standard">The fallout from Brexit is an existential crisis for the future of devolution and Wales’ so-called ‘progressive’ identity.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Standard"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'> The Welsh Assembly, by eNil, Wikimedia Commons.</span></span></span></p> <p class="Standard">On the morning of the 24th June 2016 the wound inflicted on Welsh progressives was doubly sore.</p> <p class="Standard">Despite a legacy of industrial decline, in the post-devolution era Wales had sought to forge a new path, eschewing the public sector reforms of the New Labour period and managing to curtail the worst excesses of Tory cuts. The struggle to access EU funding was the defining issue in the early days of the Welsh Assembly and the eventual funds were used to pour money into much needed social programmes and infrastructure projects.&nbsp; </p><p class="Standard">Although we were always to some extent eclipsed by our more rebellious (and self-assured) Scottish neighbours, we made much of our apparently outward looking civic nationalism, a patriotism based not on race but on comradeship, community and belonging. Whilst there has always been some truth to such claims, this was always based on a romanticised, often rose-tinted view of our industrial past. To those familiar with the devastating impact of industrial decline in the parts of Wales most eulogised by the defenders of civic nationalism, the unprecedented breakthrough of UKIP in the 2016 Assembly elections came as no surprise.&nbsp; </p><p class="Standard">Suffice to say, the news that the majority of the Welsh electorate had voted to the leave the EU, sent shock waves through the hearts of anybody who considered themselves a 'progressive' or any such deviation of the term – 'socialist', 'leftist' or 'social democrat'. For many the EU – despite its many faults – became symbolic of the internationalist cause, a rallying cry for a working-class culture that had sadly eroded long before the construction of the Senedd.&nbsp; </p> <p class="Standard">How could Wales – a net beneficiary of the EU – vote so overwhelming for its overthrow? As Richard Wyn Jones wrote a few days later “Turkeys it seems do vote for Christmas – at least if they are Welsh”.</p> <p class="Standard">In the wake of Brexit and with the possible secession of Scotland, the very existence of the UK as we know it is deeply uncertain<strong>. </strong>For Wales there are two distinct futures. One possibility is that we grow ever closer to England, become a sort of super-metro region with devolved powers, but effectively still in the political and culture sphere of influence of Westminster and London. The other option is that we seek to build a progressive society in which we implement in practice the ideals we have become so good at giving lip service to.</p> <p class="Standard">We should be under no illusion of the enormity of the task. We are not Scotland – in so many important ways our economic and civic institutions are underdeveloped and building the necessary civic infrastructure needed for change will be no mean feat. Make no mistake, this is a colossal national project and progressives of all stripes will have to put aside entrenched tribal differences or risk defeat at the hands of a resurgent populist right.</p> <p class="Standard">Across Wales, voters have become disillusioned, they desperately want to feel included in the decision making process. It's not surprising that one of the most devastatingly effective arguments made by the Leave camp, was the need to 'take back control'. Following in this frame, Welsh progressives should examine carefully the experiences of our Scottish counterparts and seek to regain the political agenda.&nbsp; </p><p class="Standard">The following is not an exhaustive list of solutions, but merely a few suggestions about some of the places we could start.</p> <h2><strong>1) Reversing the disastrous decline in Welsh local media</strong></h2> <p class="Standard">Depending on how you square it, Cardiff can make a decent claim to be the UK's biggest media centre outside of London. Despite this, bemoaning the decline of local media in Wales has become something of a national sport for politicians and the chattering classes, but so far very little has been done to address the issue.</p> <p class="Standard">At the centre of the problem is the nation's over reliance on a London-centric English media. Polling by the Wales Governance Centre at Cardiff University has shown that only 61% of respondents knew that the Welsh Government was responsible for education in Wales and even less, 48%, knew the Welsh Government was responsible for the NHS.&nbsp; </p><p class="Standard">This is not that surprising when you consider the shocking lack of coverage given to the Assembly. Declining newspaper sales has exacerbated this trend – the only organisation to have a full time correspondent in the Senedd is Golwg, a Welsh language current affairs magazine that virtually no-one outside the Cardiff Bay bubble has heard of.</p> <p class="Standard">Trinity Mirror dominates the local newspaper scene in Wales, and owns the Western Mail, the closest thing we have to a national newspaper. Its online presence WalesOnline is a fairly formidable player, however there is a notable lack of the kind of in depth coverage of the sort found in the Scotsman, Daily Record or The Herald.</p> <p class="Standard">Broadcast media has an incredibly important function in Wales. The vast majority of English speakers in Wales get most of their Welsh news from BBC Wales. This is an incredibly&nbsp; important resource but one that is constantly under-threat from extinction. Meanwhile since HTV Wales became ITV Wales in 2002, coverage of distinctly Welsh issues outside of local news bulletins have become increasingly rare and this is unlikely to change anytime soon.&nbsp; </p><p class="Standard">S4C is undoubtedly a huge national asset, the best analysis of current affairs is often done by Welsh language programmes such as CF99, unfortunately&nbsp; this is totally unaccessible to the people who most need to be engaged in the national debate.</p> <p>There are a number of things which could be done at a government level, giving the Welsh government more power over media could open up many interesting opportunities, particularly in the broadcast sector. On the other-hand the time for trying to establish new newspapers is probably over – it’s time to build a serious online alternative media along the lines Scotland's Bella Calledonia and The National. It's important to recognize that new digital content platforms can become important and influential players in a relatively short about of time.&nbsp; </p><p class="Standard">Representation is about much more than news and current affairs. The Welsh television sector has been instrumental in holding up a mirror to the nation with international hits such as Doctor Who, Torchwood, Gavin and Stacey, not to mention recent additions such as the ambitious Hinterland. We should never under-estimate the role of creatives in shaping the national debate.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <h2><strong>2) A long (ish) march through the institutions. Set up some truly independent civic institutions</strong></h2> <p>Welsh civil society has historically been pretty weak. This is perhaps a function of a century of economic centralisation and the dominance of the Labour party. Traditionally if you wanted to get on in Welsh politics then Labour was the only game in town. No matter what your views on the relative merits of Welsh Labour, most reasonable people would agree that the dominance of the party in so many parts of civic life is an unhealthy relic of its historic hegemony.</p> <p>Despite being widely mocked, think tanks serve an important function in helping governments form policy. They do this either by advocating for specific proposals or conducting research that helps ministers come at problems from a radically different perspective to those presented by their party advisers and civil servants. Wales has surprisingly few such institutions, the most influential of these is the Institute for Welsh Affairs, although important to the national debate, its reputation as <em>the </em>Welsh think tank has meant it has functioned largely as an ideas smorgasbord, reinforcing the managerial focus of Welsh politics, rather than acting as an agent of progressive change.</p> <p>Then there’s the Bevan Foundation. It’s unashamedly progressive, and the only organisation really trying to signpost the way for politicians rather than being indivisible from the Senedd corridors. Though it remains small and is again aimed at influencing politics with an insider strategy, rather than organising communities to demand change.</p> <p>Adam Ramsay has <a href="">often said that</a> whilst the English left spent the last century running around getting lost in the corridors of Westminster, the Scottish left was quietly building the civic institutions that gave the independence movement the infrastructure it needed to become a mass movement so quickly. We do not currently have anything that resembles the Jimmy Reid Foundation or Common Weal, but we desperately need it if we are to conceive of a progressive Wales that goes beyond the Labour party’s limited field of vision.<strong> <br /></strong></p> <h2><strong>3) Disentangle the cause from the Welsh language</strong></h2> <p class="Standard">The Welsh language is a massively important part of Welsh culture. Unfortunately the world of Eisteddfodau and Cymdeithas yr Iaith Cymraeg is a million miles away from the Wales that people in Merthyr Tydful identify with.</p> <p class="Standard">And this is why Plaid Cymru cannot be – certainly not in the near future – the only rallying point for the new politics we need to create. If they were to be successful in emulating the success of their sister party in Scotland, Plaid would need to grow its base substantially&nbsp; beyond their historic heartlands in Caernarfon and Pwllheli. Regardless of their intentions, Plaid has become (at least in the eyes of most of the electorate) not so much the party of Wales as the party of Welsh speakers.</p> <p class="Standard">Plaid Cymru's pro-independence line is also wildly out of sync with that of the electorate. In the wake of the Brexit vote, Welsh nationalists staged a number of small pro-independence rallies in Aberystwyth, Conwy and Cardiff. This rather puts the cart before the horse and emphases the chasm opening up between Welsh nationalists and the 53% of the Welsh electorate which voted for Brexit.</p> <p class="Standard">Defending Welsh speaking communities in the north and west of Wales is hugely important, but the movements that have sustained them are simply not capable of building the much broader identity needed to steer Wales in the direction we need.</p> <h2><strong>4) Grassroots organising to save Welsh communatarianism</strong></h2> <p class="Standard">Back in their industrial prime, areas like the South Wales Valleys were working models of a successful proletarian culture. A camaraderie forged underground in the dangerous, often deadly mining collieries gave birth to a rich culture of mass worker education and collectivist communities. The politicians that came up from these communities, were pragmatic, practical radicals who took on the establishment and won.&nbsp; </p> <p class="Standard">This strong community spirit still exists in a lot of Wales, but as society becomes more atomised and the memory of the industries that sustained it fade, we are at risk of losing something very special and crucial for delivering progressive change. There are warning signs already, such as the so far ephemeral “Welsh Resistance” anti-refugee and Islamaphobic group.</p> <p class="Standard">We need to re-mobilise our communities, not least since it’s the only way to sustain the kind of shift in politics we are discussing. Whilst we don’t yet have an independence campaign to get behind, we need to start knocking on doors, bringing people into rooms together to talk about what’s affecting their lives, communities, and how it needs to change. This won't change the macroeconomic forces shaping people’s circumstances, but it can provide a basis for action, resistance and political education. With levels of poverty as they are in some parts of Wales (some have been in permanent depression since the 1930s), we also need to look towards the Greek solidarity movement and Syriza’s crucial role in mobilizing the poorest parts of the electorate to action . It’s time to flex those solidarity synapses again.</p> <h2><strong>5) Wales needs a progressive outlet for anti-establishment feeling</strong></h2> <p class="Standard">One of the most interesting things about the referendum result in Wales was the additional axis that influenced how people voted. Cosmopolitan Cardiff and it’s affluent hinterland voted Remain. As did well-heeled (and ever so slightly English looking) Monmouthshire, but so did most of Plaid Cymru’s western heartland.</p> <p>Ceredigion and Gwynedd, are easily as deprived as many of the counties that voted Leave. The difference is in these areas there has existed a progressive outlet for people’s alienation from neo-liberalism in the form of Plaid Cymru. In this region the dynamic is strikingly&nbsp; similar to Scotland, where people who would have voted Leave in England voted to stay, having expressed their political control through voting SNP. </p><p class="Standard">Wales briefly had a taste of this in the first Assembly elections in 1999, where Plaid snatched several of Labour’s valleys strongholds and actually did better than the SNP that year. Turning that moment into a longer term project wasn’t to be, with Welsh Labour managing to hit the reset button in 2003.</p> <p class="Standard">Just as in England, communities across Wales have been devastated by neo-liberalism and may people feel that the Welsh Government has made little difference to their lives. This is not a story unique to Wales; politicians everywhere would do well to understand that the electorate base their vote on the overall 'temperature' of the economy. Too cold and no amount of promises to adjust the thermostat slowly, after a careful consideration of all the options will cut mustard. At sub-zero temperatures politics ceases to function. The voters at some point will scream 'turn up the damn heating' and they will be right!</p> <p class="Standard">Unfortunately UKIP is as much the vehicle for this kind of alienation as anywhere in England. Progressives may sneer at what are undoubtedly a fairly undisciplined, ragtag bunch of carpetbaggers, but this rather misses the point, people were voting to send a message.&nbsp; </p> <p class="Standard">So, Welsh progressives urgently need to start building an alternative outlet for this feeling. This doesn’t need to be a political party, it doesn’t need to push people towards independence right now, but we do need a way for people to express their anger and hurt at the tragic injustices suffered at the hands of a cruel and rigid economic dogma. We also need an added ingredient, hope. Hope for the possibility of a new Wales, based not on the enrichment of the few at the expense of the many, but in the progressive values we have always claimed to be central to our identity. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/hywel-ceri-jones/wales-and-changing-union">Wales and the changing Union</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/david-moon/same-but-different-wales-and-debate-over-eu-membership">The same, but different: Wales and the debate over EU membership</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Wales reset Paul Atkins Sam Coates Thu, 06 Oct 2016 16:45:15 +0000 Sam Coates and Paul Atkins 105811 at The Daily Mail takes power <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Where does Theresa May's ideology come from? <em>The Daily Mail</em>, says Anthony Barnett in a taster from his forthcoming book <a href="">The Lure of Greatness: England's Brexit and America's Trump</a>.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="615" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>What kind of Tory is Theresa May? She has driven her predecessor as prime minister out of politics with brutal élan, declaring a different direction. But what sort of Conservative is she? What does she stand for; what tradition, if any, does she represent in contrast to David Cameron’s?</p> <p>The mystery is how someone who is obviously superficial appears to have a well-thought out and distinct ideology. For while she likes to be projected as a new Thatcher the dissimilarity is striking. When Thatcher bid to take over her party she was the candidate of a significant network of strategists, supported by new think tanks. She carried Hayek in her handbag. She spent her years as leader of the opposition in constant meetings discussing the country’s decline and how to reverse it, generating what her official biographer calls “wonderment at the phenomenon of a party leader in search of ideas”. </p> <p>After 25 years in politics Theresa May has no obvious connections to any think tank. She shows no interest in ideas. Asked by <a href="">Conservative Home</a> in a Quick Quiz session to choose between Burke’s “Reflections on the Revolution in France” or Louise Bagshawe’s “Desire”, she replied, “I wouldn’t read either of them, sorry.” The prime minister who faces arguably the Kingdom’s deepest constitutional predicament since George III was driven from the Cabinet by the loss of the American colonies dismissed <em>out of hand </em>the idea that she might ever turn to the pages of Burke, even though as a student she had chaired a society named after him. </p> <p>As the country faces an unprecedented concatenation of economic, strategic, diplomatic and constitutional uncertainty, the woman at the helm seems devoid of intellectual resources. The one decision she has definitely taken is to give the go ahead to Hinkley Point C nuclear power station, a boondoggle incapable of justification by any criteria of integrity. The Pharaohs built their own pyramids, Theodoric built his own mausoleum. But these were designed as monuments to generate the admiration of posterity. Surely only an idiot would make their first decision the go-ahead for a colossal radioactive tombstone to her regime. </p> <p>But Theresa May should not be dismissed as an idiot. There is a striking and potentially formidable coherence to the general direction she has set for her new government, evidenced by the self-confidence of her ministers who remarkably quickly are singing from the same song-sheet. She does seem to have a clear ideology refreshingly different from her predecessors. Where has it come from?&nbsp;</p> <p>The answer is <em>The Daily Mail</em>. On Sunday in her first speech to her party as its leader, she set out her view of Brexit and announced that she intends to trigger Article 50 to start the UK’s withdrawal from the EU before March. This was a moment of upmost gravity, to recognise and measure the immense divisions that have been opened up within the country, and consider the implications for the entire continent that Britain once helped liberate from fascism. Instead, her tone, brevity and apparent practicality were drawn as if directly from a <em>Daily Mail</em> editorial.&nbsp;</p> <p>Theresa May is the living incarnation of an ideology worked out over three decades in the pages of that paper since 1980, by its now Editor-in-Chief Paul Dacre. This is her hinterland, her strength and, naturally, her weakness. May herself is not going to create a new ‘ism’ like Thatcherism or Blairism. She does not have that kind of capacity or originality. Instead, the contemporary political philosophy she has adopted and that is now carrying her – and the country – into the mouth of Brexit is <em>Dacreism</em>. It’s a novel variant of conservatism, one which proved to be brilliant at selling a mid-market tabloid newspaper. But as the Mail group <a href="">faces cost-cutting</a> under the pressure of structural changes to its revenues, will its ideology stand the test of governing the country?&nbsp;</p> <p>That a newspaper should be the source of a government’s approach to its policy priorities, public appeal and global strategy, is not a surprise in what can be called ‘Late Great Britain’. Since Margaret Thatcher broke the post-war establishment and its consensus politics, Westminster has been dominated by a narrow, grasping political-media caste. Its presiding maestro, Rupert Murdoch, was for thirty years the arbiter of its fortunes.&nbsp;</p> <p>The concept of the political class was first developed in a brilliant account by <a href=";ie=utf-8&amp;oe=utf-8&amp;client=firefox-b&amp;gfe_rd=cr&amp;ei=tozzV7DKO-vW8gfv1KSYBw">Peter Oborne</a> who included media figures in it – a notable pioneer being Alastair Campbell who moved from the Mirror to being Blair’s presentational hit-man. But the term ‘political class’ has since been misused to deride politicians alone, and it has even fed the fake populism of tabloids pillorying all politicians as a group. In fact, a relatively small number of journalists, TV and radio presenters and editors, all far better paid than MPs, are crucial participants in the governing London clique while most MPs are excluded from it. Hence my tweaking the concept to make it clear it refers not to politicians as a group (many being both honest and marginal) but to a governing caste forged out of an alloy of politicians, PR fixers, journalists, editors and media proprietors. </p> <p>Murdoch was its most important member. Newspapers have always been opinionated and conscious of their influence. But under his baleful inspiration they have become relentlessly partisan. In the referendum they functioned as self-conscious players hardly bothering to cover up their role with occasional touches of semi-objective reporting. Instead, they shaped and strategized their coverage to defeat those they opposed. A careful, quantitative analysis of 2,378 articles on the referendum by the <a href="">Reuters Institute</a> concluded that the press was skewed, highly partisan, treated the vote as a game or contest, and marginalised voices outside politics, ensuring that the undecided were uninformed. </p> <p class="mol-para-with-font">The smaller the universe, the more acute the divisions within it can become and the London Political-Media caste divided over Europe and not just Europe. A small but telling example of the interweaving of media and government is the marriage of Michael Gove and <a href="">Sarah Vine</a>. Gove was a columnist for Murdoch’s <em>Times</em> before being recruited into politics by David Cameron, for whom he added jokes and jests to his preparation for his weekly Prime Ministers Questions, while being promoted to Lord Chancellor. Vine has a weekly pulpit of gossip and comment in the <em>Daily Mail</em>. </p> <p class="mol-para-with-font">After the Leave vote won the couple strategized about how to hold Boris Johnson to their version of Brexit in the coming campaign for the Tory leadership. Vine sent an email to her husband to sum up her views and copied it to someone else by mistake (we all do it). It went public. At one point she wrote, “Crucially, the [Tory party] membership will not have the necessary reassurance to back Boris, neither will Dacre/Murdoch, who instinctively dislike Boris but trust your ability enough to support a Boris Gove ticket”. She rightly put Dacre/Murdoch in equivalent importance to the party electorate. She worked for Dacre, they both had recently attended Murdoch’s wedding.</p> <p class="mol-para-with-font">When Gove was unable to get the reassurances from Johnson that his wife urged, he torpedoed his bid and stood himself. But Dacre promptly threw the <em>Mail</em> behind Theresa May with an <a href="">editorial</a> and <a href="">a profile</a> that dug out everything positive about her that could be found. (The profile also highlighted a chronic inability to delegate – between the lines of praise the reader could discern a person who while determined is unsuited to the larger demands of the premiership). Dacre himself had lunched with her before his endorsement. Doubtless he established her unequivocal commitment to the Brexit that was and remains his priority. His editorial shows an appreciation of the contender’s background, her belief in achievement, seriousness and dislike of treating politics as a game. All views that uncannily duplicated his own. </p> <p class="mol-para-with-font">The point is not that Theresa May was wrong to seek the <em>Mail’s</em> endorsement or that the paper should not have the freedom to make its preference between the contenders known. The best way of understanding what has happened is to consider what it would have meant had Dacre backed Gove instead. This would have been a coup for Gove. But both as a journalist who had declared his love for Blair, and as a minister who read deeply and proved himself capable of original policies, first in education and then with respect to jails, it would have been clear that he was his own man. He would have won over the <em>Mail</em>.</p> <p class="mol-para-with-font">With Theresa May it was the other way around. She is supporting the <em>Daily Mail</em>, its voice, views and priorities. With no record of originality, her version of profound reflection is to declare that she “gets things done” and “just gets on with the job”. The job being, well, precisely who decides this is who rules. I’m not suggesting that May is being cynical. On the contrary, what is alarming is her sincerity. She spouts the well-honed worldview of Dacre because she does not have another way of being herself. </p> <p class="mol-para-with-font">One result is a significant shift within the political-media caste. The 67 year old Dacre has replaced the 85 year old Murdoch as its chief hegemon. It's a dangerous spot for Dacre as he is only an employee and not the owner of his paper, and if the costs of Brexit prove too great the pressures on his proprietor from the city to remove the troublesome Brexiteer may become irresistible. </p> <p>So what is Dacreism? In one way it is a distinct improvement on Murdoch’s grotesque outlook. Both embrace forms of Late Great Britishness, but Murdoch is a global warrior encouraging war, while Dacre was sceptical of the Iraq adventure and has been a ferocious critic of Blair and the corruptions of his foreign policy. Murdoch does not really give a toss for the Brits, while Dacre wants a government that works for all those who strive to improve their lives. The concept of a country fit for all “hard-working, ordinary people” is pure Daily Mail. Behind it lies the backwardness of the UK. There is no such thing as “ordinary people”, there are citizens. The notion of most of us being “ordinary” implies that some of us are extra-ordinary. Hovering above the appeal of the ordinary is deference to royalty, those special not-in-fact ordinary people about whom we read stories that say, "gosh aren't they quite like us".&nbsp;</p> <p>While skilful enough to publish prurience and manipulate popular fascination, Dacre is a moralist in a way that Murdoch is not, and a believer in royalty in a way that the Australian-American-republican certainly is not.&nbsp;</p> <p>But then Murdoch is a man of the world while Dacre is unhappy with globalisation. In his pioneering analysis of Thatcherism, Stuart Hall nailed its “regressive modernisation”. Thatcher sought a way forward to a new form of capitalism but to do so she mobilised reactionary visions of Victorian values. The contradictory tensions were part of Thatcherism’s energy and kept her opponents off balance. Dacreism is also a peculiar knot of conflicting desires. He wants to combine the conviction and clarity of Thatcherism with the inclusiveness of Churchillism. As a formula for appealing to middle-class readers nostalgic for the lost world of post-war greatness, yet fearful of anything that smacks of the collectivism of those years; relishing the individualism and dominatrix sexuality of the Falklands afterglow but disapproving of the corruption and permissiveness of the globalisation it entailed, Dacreism became an astonishing formula for readers and advertisers.&nbsp;</p> <p>But can it work as a politics? Is it capable of carrying forward an industrial and financial policy? The answer is surely not. It is not a consciousness that concerns itself with the integration of supply chains, scientific research and multi-national ownership neatly summarised by recently by <a href="">Nick Pearce</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p>Instead, at its heart is a Late Great British nationalism, desperate to be contemporary but unable to escape from its loyalty to the past. Its form of identity is an English consciousness and resentment expressed in a passion for the British Union. This creates a fraught English-Britishness that holds a passion for Thatcher and her English conviction politics and for Churchill and his British consensus politics at the same time. It was perfectly captured by Dacre’s <a href="">raging editorial</a>, across the front page of his paper, asking “<strong>Who will speak for England</strong>?” when, in the run up to the referendum, it seemed no senior Tory politician would support Brexit. Buried in the depth of his alarm call Dacre noted, “and, of course, by 'England'…&nbsp; we mean the whole of the United Kingdom”.&nbsp;</p> <p>At once hugely ambitious and profoundly uneasy with itself and the weakness this “of course" buries. Such Anglo-British nationalism can rise to the challenge of competition but is deeply threatened by any call for collaboration. The latter risks exploding its equilibrium. Hence a visceral opposition to membership of the European Union, to the cultural impact of immigrants and the rise of Scottish nationalism.</p> <p>I want to stress both the irrationality and authenticity of this fear of becoming European, this desire to remain true to ‘ourselves’. It means that Dacreism is not capable of embracing the deep partnerships and sharing of sovereignty that European economic and scientific development now entails. Instead, Dacreism takes it as a given that British decline is in the past and no problems of structural development confront the country that cannot be resolved by the application of will.</p> <p>Today, Dacreism has found its Premier. Someone who will “get on with the job” and speak for England: Theresa May. Tellingly, she comes not from a department of state dealing with welfare, industry or education, nor from the Treasury and dealing with finance, the city and global players, but from an unprecedented length of time running the Home Office. Here, Theresa’s job was to manage the control mechanisms of British society. She took on the Police Federation to try and drive corruption out of the constabulary and pushed through the Investigatory Powers Act that has legalised the country’s mass surveillance. The two go together even for the elite these days given the dangers of blackmail inherent in the intrusive powers of modern technology. To impose itself on British society as a whole as it implements its attempt to break away from the European Union, Dacreism has found… a good police officer. </p><p>“The British people have spoken”. “Brexit means Brexit”. These short, sharp phrases suggest the drumbeat of truncheons on shields. What lifts the spirit of readers as they struggle with the news over breakfast may prove less inspiring as the country is handcuffed to Dacre’s Brexit chariot.</p><p><strong><em>Anthony Barnett is currently writing WHAT NEXT: Britain after Brexit which will be published in the new year. Pre-order a hardback and join your name to its subscribers <a href="">here</a>. <br /></em></strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/anthony-barnett/revolt-of-natives-britain-after-brexit">The revolt of the natives: Britain after Brexit</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/jamie-mackay/blimey-it-could-be-brexit-book-so-far">Blimey, it could be Brexit! Download Anthony Barnett&#039;s on-line book </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk reset Anthony Barnett Wed, 05 Oct 2016 12:03:10 +0000 Anthony Barnett 105782 at Leave may have lied, but it was Bush, Blair and Cameron who killed political honesty <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>From Machiavelli to Cameron, there is a sad decline of truth in the age of Brexit.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//,_Barroso,_Blair,_Aznar_at_Azores.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//,_Barroso,_Blair,_Aznar_at_Azores.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="300" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>George W. Bush with then Portuguese prime minister Jose Manuel Durao Barroso, Tony Blair, and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar. Pubic Domain.</span></span></span></p><p>Is the role of lies in politics getting worse? Have we entered a ‘post-truth’ era as it is claimed (just recently in <a href="">The Economist</a> among many examples)? Is the “brazen disregard for facts” that marked the UK’s recent referendum a qualitative shift, as Guardian Editor-in-Chief Katharine Viner sets out, in <a href="">her argument</a> for asserting qualities of honesty and respect on the web. Or are such concerns a storm-in-the-elite stirred up to displace attention from the real issues posed, however demagogically, by the rise of a populist right? Issues that 83% of people want to be solved by policies that are evidence based, as Tracey Brown of <a href="">Sense about Science</a> argues eloquently in a recent<a href=""> Guardian</a> <a href="">article</a>. </p><p>I’ve a specific starting point. Working on the implications of Brexit I’m struck by the sheer venom of many on the Remain side directed at the lies of the Brexiteers for having won the vote fraudulently. Yes, they lied. Emphasising this aspect of Brexit, however, can imply that the Remain side was honest. True, vote Leave was more cunning in its deceit, but I’ll argue that the government with its greater power and authority was the more profoundly fraudulent – and it set the terms.</p> <p>For example, before he even called for a referendum, there was a key moment when Cameron echoed the way Blair told president Bush privately he would make sure the UK supported an invasion of Iraq but did not say this to parliament. In November 2012, prime minister Cameron told Chancellor Merkel in Downing Street how he planned to call for a referendum but that he was utterly committed to staying in the EU. He then explained to her that he would not tell the voters how strongly he felt, but would instead assure them it would be OK if they chose to leave. Just like Blair and Iraq, Cameron ‘spun’ the referendum with falsehood from the start.</p> <p>Since Machiavelli, there has been a secular argument for the necessity of deceit as an instrument of rule. The Florentine understood that claims of religious, royal and dynastic legitimacy could not be relied upon to generate and renew loyalty; rulers needed to exercise calculation as well. Was Cameron just very bad at being Machiavellian? Or is something new really taking place?</p> <p>I’m not convinced we are in a ‘post-truth’ era. Partly because the concept seems to presume that politics was previously a form of rational behaviour based on factual calculations. Be that as it may, there are three ways in which the early twenty-first century might be seen as ‘post-truth’.</p> <p>First, to go back to the Iraq war, Blair’s approach was defined by president Bush’s advisor Karl Rove. He scorned the New Yorker (and people like myself) as belonging to “the reality community”. “We're an empire now”, Rove claimed, “when we act, we create our own reality”. But Rove’s stark claim was enabled by the belligerent malevolence of Bush’s tabloid media supporters including Fox TV; and this is also a tradition that goes back to the end of the 19th century, with the birth of yellow journalism and the Spanish-American war.</p> <p>Second, neoliberalism: today’s dominant economic policy denies that it is a policy. Instead, it counterfeits itself as an expression of the market to which ‘there is no alternative’. To demystify the dishonesty of this is different from saying that austerity is wrong or that globalisation is being mismanaged. It concerns economic policy being a conscious masquerade. Neoliberalism has dishonesty and lack of responsibility built into it – it's systemic and central in a way it was not under Keynesianism.</p> <p>Third, there is the rise of data to replace facts, as argued by Will Davies of Goldsmiths, whose brilliant blogs led to a summary of his argument in <a href="">the New York Times</a>. Big data may allow our rulers to track sentiment, i.e. what different segments of the public are feeling, and to respond accordingly, bypassing engagement with the reality of actual problems altogether.&nbsp;</p> <p>For all this I’m unconvinced that we have entered a ‘post-truth’ era, if by this we mean realities no longer matter in the way they did. Rather, so far as the UK is concerned, I think that a political system, which historically was relatively honourable and principled, has been corrupted. Just as the City’s ‘gentlemanly capitalism’ was both efficient and profitable in its heyday but degenerated into post-war complacency and was then blown up by greedy maximisers after Thatcher’s ‘Big Bang’ in 1987, so its Westminster counter-part was wrecked in a longer parallel process which ended up with the MPs expenses scandal in 2009 – that fed into the rise of UKIP.</p> <p>The Brexit referendum from beginning to end was dishonest, contrived and rotten on both sides, with each defining its approach via focus groups. It takes a dishonest system to permit a country to be governed in such a way. In asking why this has come about there is another important question: are the British as a whole as delusional as their political masters? I’d say not. Relatively speaking, I think the different publics of the UK are not enamoured of lies and prefer to act with integrity, compared to some other countries at least (I leave you to name them).</p> <p>One of the many tragedies of the referendum was that only the Leave side successfully appealed to people’s sense of self-belief and self-worth. Michael Gove’s now notorious claim that, “The people of this country have had enough of experts”&nbsp;followed on from his saying, “I am asking the public to trust themselves” (<a href="">you can see it for yourself here</a>). Insisting that membership of the EU was economically destructive, when asked about his own interest in being prime minister Gove replied “count me out”. He could not have been more definitive. It proved to be one of the more glorious lies of the referendum.</p> <p>Brexit may mean Brexit but there was more to the referendum than the referendum. I was for Remain. As the evidence of the economic harm of Brexit becomes clearer so does the case for reversing it. But in terms of our politics and political culture I’m against wishing to return to the dishonesties of the situation before the referendum. After all, they got us to where we are now.</p> <p>The lies of the Leave campaign succeeded because they were rooted in the soil of deceit tilled and prepared by Blair, Cameron and their crews. A majority of the population said that they had enough of them. We should indeed say goodbye to that farmyard.</p> <p><strong><em>This reflection is feeding into my new book, WHAT NEXT: Britain after Brexit, which has to be crowdfunded by pre-orders to be published. Please <a href="">pre-order a copy</a>.</em></strong> </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/anthony-barnett/revolt-of-natives-britain-after-brexit">The revolt of the natives: Britain after Brexit</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Brexit2016 reset Anthony Barnett Mon, 03 Oct 2016 10:14:57 +0000 Anthony Barnett 105719 at The familiar axes of politics are changing, with momentous consequences <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Political identities have changed significantly, and politics has shifted with them.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="303" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Storming of the Tuileries on 10. Aug. 1792 during the French Revolution</span></span></span></p><p>From the time of the French Revolution, mass politics has revolved around two core conflicts: that between preferences for more or less economic inequality; and that between conservative, authoritarian values and liberal ones. The main divisions among political parties in most countries fit into this frame, but we have become accustomed to seeing the former, raising issues of redistributive taxation, the welfare state, and the role of trade unions, as the senior partner. In western Europe, if not in the USA, this has become even more the case as organized religion, the main historical carrier of social conservatism, has declined in importance. </p><p class="Body">This situation is challenged by the growing prominence of a chain of partly associated, partly quite independent, forces: economic globalization, immigration, refugees and the assertion of Islamic identities, which includes terrorism as its extreme. Together these reassert the old struggle between authoritarian conservatism and liberalism. Many people feel that everything familiar to them is being threatened, that they are being confronted with decisions, cultural artefacts and the presence among them of persons, all coming from outside their familiar and trusted sphere. They seek security by trying to exclude the forces and people that are doing this to them. Most affected are those whose own working lives give them little control in any case, and who are accustomed to the security that comes from the enforcement of rules that exclude troubling diversity. This response takes various forms. Many Russians become both highly nationalistic and also stress their homophobia. Many people in the Islamic world assert their religion (which is here far more important than nationality as a symbol of a pre-globalized past) and impose strict dress codes on women. Many Americans not only become fearful of Mexican immigrants and Islamic terrorists, but become agitated about abortion. A more general social conservatism, most powerfully embodied in deep-rooted feelings around sexuality, mixes with xenophobia to produce new social supports for the traditional, not the neoliberal, right. <span class="mag-quote-center">Most affected are those whose own working lives give them little control in any case, and who are accustomed to the security that comes from the enforcement of rules that exclude troubling diversity.</span></p> <p class="Body">Europe, especially western Europe, has been a partial exception. The final great battles of the 1970s in Catholic lands over contraception, divorce and finally abortion petered out, the churches, the main bearers of European social conservatism, became weak and in many cases often liberal in their social attitudes. There are today few supports for general authoritarian conservatism, and matters have narrowed down more closely to immigration and the following chain: the European Union is a super-national force that suppresses traditional national identities; in particular, it brings immigrants with unfamiliar cultures and languages; it is difficult to distinguish immigrants from refugees, who come in alarming numbers from even more unfamiliar cultures; and since these refugees are Moslems, they are likely to include terrorists who will try to kill us.</p> <p class="Body">Against these beliefs and fears stands a liberal, inclusionary mind-set that sees in globalization and multiculturalism a series of opportunities for a richer life, more varied cultural experiences, perhaps new possibilities for individual advancement.&nbsp; </p><h2 class="Body"><strong>A brief history of political identity</strong></h2> <p class="Body">To put this confrontation into context, we need to understand how it happened in the first place that ordinary people in the late nineteenth&nbsp;and early twentieth&nbsp;centuries, whose daily lives were very remote from big political issues, ever came to have political identities. </p><p class="Body">It occurred as they found that aspects of their social identities, which they understood very well, were engaged in struggles over inclusion and exclusion in voting and other political rights. Depending on one’s social position, one’s identity was implicated in either demands to be included, or demands to exclude others. Class and property ownership, religion, and occasionally ethnicity (in Europe normally with reference to Jews, in the USA to Afro-American people) were the key identities around which these struggles revolved. By the end of World War II and after considerable bloodshed the concept of universal adult citizenship had become accepted in almost all advanced economies. Spain and Portugal remained outside the consensus until the mid 1970s; Greece flitted in and out. In central and eastern Europe a very back-handed kind of universalism dominated, where universal inclusion came to mean universal exclusion except for a small communist party elite; but in general in the west politics became peaceful and more or less democratic.</p> <p class="Body">Once universal citizenship was achieved, those identities forged in struggles to achieve or prevent citizenship began to lose their <em>raison d’être, </em>but so deeply rooted were they that paradoxically they became the basis of democratic electoral politics. Over time they could do this not as direct memory but only as memories of parents’ and grand-parents’ experiences. These necessarily faded, and in any case many people moved away from the social locations of their parents and grandparents. Democracy therefore began to depend for its vigour on forces that its very achievement had weakened. Their decline was reinforced by three major changes. First came the rise of the post-industrial economy and the creation of many occupations that have no resonance with the struggles of the past, and whose practitioners cannot easily relate their occupational identities to political allegiance at all. Class declined as a reliable source of political identity. Second, (in Europe but not the USA) religious adherence declined, and along with it both the power of the identity struggles surrounding it and general conflicts over authoritarianism versus liberalism. Finally, the use of ethnicity or nationality as identity resources in partisan struggles had been rendered horrifying to most politicians and ordinary people, partly as a result of the two world wars and their demonstration of the destructive force of nationalism, and partly through knowledge of the Holocaust and the passions that had lain behind it. A nationalistic fringe continued in some countries, and the separate issue of racial entitlements to citizenship continued to flourish in the USA until the 1960s, but in general this became a no-go area in political conflict. </p> <p class="Body">We should not puzzle at declining voting turnout and even more strongly declining identification with political parties once we appreciate that a strong interest in politics by the mass of citizens who have no chance of being politically effective needs social supports, and that those bequeathed to us by the struggles of the past have declined in salience. There has now been such a general loosening of ties between parties and voters that it has seemed increasingly inappropriate to include a discussion of voting behaviour within a discussion of identities. Does voting for a party, even repeated voting for it, necessarily imply an ‘identity’ with it any more than frequent purchase of a brand of soap implies an identity with the firm making the soap? Certainly, election campaigns increasingly resemble advertising campaigns for products, suggesting that parties do indeed consider that they bond with voters no differently from the way producers of goods bond with customers.</p><p class="Body"><span class="mag-quote-center">There has now been such a general loosening of ties between parties and voters that it has seemed increasingly inappropriate to include a discussion of voting behaviour within a discussion of identities.&nbsp;</span></p><p class="Body">But this may now be changing, as economic globalization and its broader consequences start to reproduce social identities with powerful political potential. Central is revived national consciousness. While the great majority of politicians had for decades abjured using national identity in party conflict, there was no reason for them not to use it as a non-conflictual rallying call, since after all their role is to care for the nation. As a result national sentiment has been left lying around in popular consciousness, available for other purposes if occasion arose. Globalization, immigration, refugees and terrorism provide such occasions. Meanwhile memories of the appalling consequences of the political use of nationalism in the first half of the 20th century are fading. Nation is strengthening as a political force, while class and religion (unless the latter becomes implicated in conflict around Islam and therefore absorbed into nationalism) are declining.&nbsp; </p><p class="Body">The turnaround can be seen most clearly in parts of central Europe. The political implications of class identities had been stood on their head under state socialism, and national identity remains the only strong link that people can feel to their polity. This helps explain the puzzle of the Czech Republic, which has suddenly become the most Europhobic country in Europe after the UK. The country has benefited more than any other from the European Union, which has provided its modern infrastructure, a safe framework for the divorce from Slovakia, an easy channel for the German and other investment that has equipped an advanced economy, and a base for trading with the rest of the world that the infant country would otherwise have had to create from scratch. Then the EU asked for some payback, putting pressure on the Czechs to help bear the burden of Middle Eastern refugees arriving on the coasts of Greece and Italy. Czechs – whose nationalism historically never hurt anyone but has been a badge of resistance against various forms of foreign domination – suddenly became responsive to the wave of anti-foreigner feeling sweeping through Europe.</p> <p class="Body">One major, unexpected result of these developments is that the old predominant conflict axis around inequality and redistribution is itself becoming interpreted through nationalism rather than through class politics. The new nationalist movements nearly always include the global financial elite in their attacks. Many observers were surprised when there were relatively few mass expressions of anger after the 2008 financial crisis. We can now understand why. For ordinary non-political people to take any kind of action, including voting, against powerful forces they need some confidence-boosting assurance that they are part of something wider, something rooted in a strong social identity. Given the decline of class, only national identity has been available to give them that assurance. All contemporary xenophobic movements, from Donald Trump in the USA and Mariane Le Pen in France to Geert Wilders in the Netherlands and Norbert Hofer in Austria, link their attacks on immigrants and refugees to those on the national elites implicated in the financial crisis. In turn, some protest movement that began as non-xenophobic opponents of elites, like il Movimento Cinque Stelle in Italy, find that they can get more traction if they include resentment at refugees in their rhetoric. Groups like UKIP in the UK or Alternative für Deutschland, which started life as critics of the European Union, have found success by responding to fears around immigrants and Muslims. The challenge to powerful elites is hereby made safe, because it is enfolded in attacks on the weaker symbols of globalization. One might be frightened to kick a strong man, but one might kick what one believes to be his dog.&nbsp; </p><p class="Body">In a recent <em>Guardian </em>article, Martin Jacques claimed that the successful Brexit campaign and various other instances of widespread support for populist movements around the western world constituted the return of class politics in general and a political reassertion of the working class in particular<a href="#_ftn1">[1]</a>. This was wistful thinking. Outside Greece, Spain and possibly Scotland, the new populism is precisely <em>not</em> articulating itself as class movements, but as nationalistic, anti-immigrant, anti-refugee – quite apart from the fact that a majority of Brexit voters were comfortably off Conservative voters in southern England.</p> <h2 class="Body"><strong>The social supports of multiculturalism</strong></h2> <p class="Body">Is nationalism therefore set to trump all other political forces, as its deeply rooted emotions come up against little more than voting behaviour of the soap-buying kind? Are persons holding liberal opinions anything more than randomly scattered individuals? Stalin invented the term ‘rootless cosmopolitans’ to stigmatize Jews, but the general idea that cosmopolitanism or a positive approach to multiculturalism implies rootlessness or normlessness is widespread. Some recent research suggests otherwise, providing evidence that liberal attitudes are associated with particular social locations.</p> <p class="Body">The starting point is the work of a Swiss sociologist, Daniel Oesch<a href="#_ftn2">[2]</a>. He became dissatisfied with the idea of an undifferentiated middle class used in so much academic as well as popular discussion, given that the category was coming to mean the broad majority of occupational positions in the advanced economies. He proposed that social and political attitudes were formed, not just by the positions people occupied in organizational hierarchies (class), but by the kinds of work tasks on which they were engaged. He distinguished three of these: technical (e.g. manufacturing), administrative (e.g. banks, public bureaucracies), interpersonal (e.g. public services). If these categories were combined with hierarchical position, he found that one could account for differences in, say, voting behaviour among those occupying middle-class positions.</p> <p class="Body">Oesch’s idea was applied to issues of direct relevance to us here by two German political scientists working in the US, Herbert Kitschelt and Philipp Rehm<a href="#_ftn3">[3]</a>. Gathering data from all western member states of the EU, they examined typical differences in attitudes among people working in different hierarchical positions and on Oesch’s different types of task along the three dimensions that I have used here: inequality and redistribution; the role of authority versus liberty; and immigration. The first of these relates to the inequality axis, the other two to the authoritarian versus liberalism axis. Unsurprisingly, they found that people at the upper and middle levels of hierarchies in all types of task held less egalitarian views than those in lower positions, though senior and middle-ranking persons in interpersonal services were considerably less inegalitarian than the others. Those at higher and middle levels in all work tasks had liberal attitudes on both general authoritarianism and immigration, though there were differences. The most liberal were professionals in interpersonal services, then those engaged in technical tasks, least so those in administration. Those at the lowest levels of hierarchies held illiberal views on both dimensions, and egalitarian views on the third dimension. These findings held true after controlling for whether people worked in the private or public sectors, or whether they were male or female.</p> <p class="Body">Without more detailed research it is difficult to know to what extent people with certain social attributes are drawn towards working at particular tasks, or working at particular types of task leads people to develop the attitudes in question. From the finer details of Oesch’s and Kitschelt and Rehm’s work it emerges that the more people have discretion in their work tasks and work directly, face to face, with other human persons, the more liberal and inclusive they are; the more their own work follows rules and routines in impersonal contexts, the more they support authoritarianism and exclusion. There does not seem to be any important difference between attitudes to immigrants and those on general issues of authority. For example, people who believe that immigration should be restricted are also likely to believe that school discipline should be tougher.&nbsp;</p> <p class="BodyA">It seems clear that attitudes on issues of authority and liberty are not just personal whims, but socially rooted. The Brexit referendum similarly revealed sociological regularities. Young, particularly female, well educated people living in large cities were more likely to vote to remain in the EU; older, mainly male persons in both declining industrial cities and prosperous provincial areas not much touched by the new economy tended to vote to leave. The politics of this question is more complex in the British case than elsewhere. Whereas the Brexit campaign played on fears of foreigners and implicitly encouraged isolationist tendencies, the purpose of the ministers involved in negotiating the UK’s future economic place in the world seems to be to expose the country to intensified global competitive pressure. How they will eventually reconcile that with their mass supporters is a very interesting question, but beyond our concerns here. Most important is to recognize that openness to multiculturalism and internationalism have become deeply felt, socially grounded beliefs among those parts of contemporary populations whose work and other aspects of social location lead them to reject exclusion and value inclusiveness. This determined cosmopolitanism might be based on a positive appreciation of being enriched by engagement with other cultures, or on a desire to be free of constraints on individual freedom. In either case, it is necessary to note that the revival of exclusionary nationalism is not the only popular development in contemporary politics. A major cleavage is opening between two sets of deeply held attitudes. <span class="mag-quote-center">This determined cosmopolitanism might be based on a positive appreciation of being enriched by engagement with other cultures, or on a desire to be free of constraints on individual freedom.</span></p><h2>Long-term implications</h2> <p class="Body">These changes will have long-term and unpredictable consequences for all main political forces in advanced societies. The biggest challenge is to the alliance of neoliberals and conservatives, currently the world’s dominant political formation, expressing the inegalitarian end of the inequality and redistribution axis. Hegemonic as the economic ideology of an international elite, neoliberalism is rarely a powerful force in democratic party politics. When it appears virtually alone in a party’s identity, that party is usually very small (as with the German Free Democrats). More normally it appears within conservative parties, as with the UK Conservatives or US Republicans. But classic European democratic conservatism is weakening alongside its former religious supports. Its parties then face a strong temptation to rediscover the nationalism that is part of their heritage and become part of the new xenophobia. They can do this either in coalitions or deals with far-right parties (as in Scandinavia) or through shifts within the party (as with British Conservatives). But this threatens the heart of the neoliberal project, which is globalizing and highly cosmopolitan. So far the tension has been even more severe in the US, where the Christian right is far stronger than in most of Europe. The Republican Party is being torn apart between the neoliberals who have dominated it for years through their billionaire backers and the protectionist nationalism represented by Donald Trump. Neoliberalism and conservatism are allies when the main conflict axis is that around inequality and redistribution; if that is gradually replaced by one that sets liberalism and a nationalist conservatism against each other, they stand at opposite poles.&nbsp; </p><p class="Body">Moderate conservatives do not necessarily follow the nationalist path. Using their central position in most political systems, they can achieve simultaneous accommodations with the two main rival forms of liberalism, neoliberalism and social democracy. One sees this most clearly in German Christian Democracy – the country where the nationalist option is seen as most dangerous.&nbsp; It was also there in the currently defeated Cameron-Osborne wing of British Conservatism. <span class="mag-quote-center">But classic European democratic conservatism is weakening alongside its former religious supports. Its parties then face a strong temptation to rediscover the nationalism that is part of their heritage and become part of the new xenophobia.&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="Body">Neoliberals also have the option of shifting to the left by making compromises on the inequality axis, if that axis is being dwarfed by that over conservatism-liberalism. There are certainly precedents. Blair’s New Labour, Schroeder’s <em>Neue Mitte</em> SPD, Clinton’s New Democrats, have all been examples, as are today Renzi’s <em>Democratici</em>. These may seem uncomfortable antecedents, but arguably the largest social change in recent times, the move towards gender equality, has been a shared neoliberal/social-democratic, anti-conservative project. When, following the financial crisis, the OECD and IMF began to resile from their earlier neoliberal policy stances, they were motivated mainly by the risks being posed by growing US inequality to mass consumption<a href="#_ftn4">[4]</a>. In the wake of the Brexit vote some global investment advisors went further and began to worry whether growing inequality was not nourishing xenophobic resentment against globalization. How far are neoliberals willing to accept redistribution and strong welfare states in order to safeguard their other achievements?</p> <p class="Body">Social democrats have their own crises. As the manual working class declines in size, they reluctantly face the reality that they will never again be the assured representatives of the biggest fraction of society. Instead they fight for their share of that large middle mass of the post-industrial world. Thanks to Oesch’s analysis, we can see that this mass is no longer just the conservative bourgeoisie of the past, but includes, particularly among those engaged in interpersonal work tasks, the new constituency of the left, though where voting systems give them the chance, they often prefer environmentalist and other non-social-democratic forms of the left. These people are primarily liberal, though also favourable to redistribution, and there is growing tension between them and the old working class as the conservatism-liberalism axis grows in importance. Can social democrats reassert the priority of the inequality axis to hold their coalition together?</p> <p class="Body">David Goodhart<a href="#_ftn5">[5]</a>, Wolfgang Streeck<a href="#_ftn6">[6]</a> and some other observers have pointed out that the social democratic welfare state was an essentially national institution, rooted in people’s sense of shared membership in a national community. The idea is expressed most clearly in the Swedish idea of the welfare state as <em>folkshemmet</em>, the place where people can feel at home. These meanings could be stretched to include small numbers of immigrants, but to how many? Is the US aversion to a strong welfare state a reflection of its cultural heterogeneity? Thinking on these lines leads some to seek a national social democracy, which requires severe limitations on immigration, a rejection of liberalism, and in the case of European countries withdrawal from the EU.</p> <p>Political clocks cannot be put back. The great welfare states developed under the aegis of a benign form of national identity that was not directed against outsiders. The most advanced welfare states developed in open trading nations – Scandinavia, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK. That world cannot be recaptured. To assert the limitation of social citizenship to ‘real’ nationals now can no longer be the <em>folkshem </em>of a people who just happen to be ethnically homogenous, but becomes symbolized by the demand of the Front National that rights be limited to <em>français de la souche </em>(best translated broadly as ‘true born French’), requiring active exclusion of those deemed to be outsiders. Non-aggressive nationalism is still possible in places like Scotland or Greece, where resentment against external domination does not require the victimization of immigrants and refugees. Elsewhere it has become very difficult to sustain.&nbsp; </p><p class="Body">Also, free trade is now nested in a regime with global rules, not a series of national decisions to choose how much free trade they want to accept. In this context the EU constitutes an opportunity to extend social policy alongside free trade, expressing the pooled sovereignty of its members, rather than the loss of sovereignty implied by the pure free trade of the World Trade Organization.&nbsp; </p><p class="Body">But is the direction of pooled sovereignty towards the construction of transnational social policy possible with the current politics of the EU? Today’s European tragedy has two components. First, Europeans are being asked to absorb large numbers of dispossessed people from the other side of the Mediterranean. Second, the EU is coping with both this and the free movement of labour from central Europe at a moment when EU policy makers and the European Court of Justice have experienced an extreme neoliberal turn, rendering it unwilling to provide the social policy support that these large movements of people require. The first was not Europe’s fault; the second it is fully within the power of its policy makers and jurists to change. This is again dependent on some rethinking by European neoliberals, which the withdrawal of the UK might make easier. <span class="mag-quote-center">No political family can look forward to a comfortable future. The outcomes of these tensions and their explosive consequences for the main contemporary political currents will be very varied.&nbsp;&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="Body">No political family can look forward to a comfortable future. The outcomes of these tensions and their explosive consequences for the main contemporary political currents will be very varied. A particularly important variable is the balance between the electoral (democratic) component of political systems and that which concerns lobbying, the role of big money, the bargaining power of global corporations. The latter is probably more important in shaping our politics, though since it is largely invisible we can say least about it. It is the arena within which neoliberalism mainly operates as a political force. Ironically, it is likely to be here that alliances between neoliberals and social democrats are forged. It may be easier for neoliberalism to soften in this non-democratic but dominant part of political life, because change involves rational calculation by small numbers of self-interested individuals and corporations, not the deep feelings of large numbers of people. One can already see the framework for this elite compromise in the changing approaches of the OECD and IMF. As international organizations, these can never share in the new xenophobia. Since the late 1970s they have helped forge the neoliberal hegemony and have been major protagonists of an open global trading system, but their recent fears about the impact of growing US inequality on mass consumption, and the role of big money in political lobbying marks a major shift. The OECD has also started to change its earlier hostility to the work of trade unions and collective bargaining. This could be the start of a new neoliberal/ social democratic historic compromise.</p> <p class="Body">In the electoral sphere much depends on the relative sizes of Oesch’s different fractions of the middle class, on party structures and voting systems. The tensions within both conservative and social-democratic parties as the relative importance of the two great axes of conflict changes can be most fruitfully released in systems where new parties can form and then make various alliances. Electoral systems of the British and in particular US kind force everything to remain within existing parties, sometimes contorting them out of all meaning. Within all this complexity, generational change and economic restructuring seem to favour the growth of various kinds of liberalism, while every new horror emerging from the Middle East strengthens xenophobic nationalism.</p><p class="Body"><strong><em>This piece first appeared in Juncture, <a href="">the IPPR journal</a>.</em></strong></p> <hr size="1" /> <p><a href="#_ftnref1">[1]</a> Jacques, M. (2016) ‘The death of neoliberalism and the crisis in Western politics’, <em>The Guardian, </em>21 August.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref2">[2]</a> Oesch, D. (2006) <em>Redrawing the Class Map. </em>Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref3">[3]</a> Kitschelt, H. and Rehm, P. (2014) ‘Occupations as a site of political preference formation’, <em>Comparative Political Studies.</em></p> <p><a href="#_ftnref4">[4]</a> See, in particular, OECD (2011) <em>Divided We Stand </em>(Paris: OECD).</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref5">[5]</a> Goodhart, D. (2013) <em>The British Dream: Successes and Failures of Post-War Immigration. </em>London: Atlantic.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref6">[6]</a> Streeck, W. (2015) ‘The Rise of the European Consolidation State’, MPIfG Discussion Paper 15/1. Cologne: Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies.</p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk reset Colin Crouch Thu, 22 Sep 2016 23:01:01 +0000 Colin Crouch 105538 at Deeper into democracy: the legitimacy of challenging Brexit’s majoritarian mandate <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Would a second European referendum be democratic?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image: @letmelooktv</span></span></span></p><p>In <em>The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe</em>, Aslan is slain by Jadis on the stone table in the middle of the night – the apparent climax of Narnia’s deep magic. At dawn, Lucy and Susan hear the table breaking and notice the body has gone. Could this be, they ask, more magic? Aslan appears before them, revitalised. “Yes”, he affirms, “<em>more </em>magic.” </p><p>In the battle for legitimacy, the only thing that can beat democracy is <em>more democracy</em>. This understanding is helpful for those still wounded by the EU referendum result, hoping three months on that the result might yet be undone. The result was such a shock that it seems to have eviscerated our self-belief, and I have written this piece to help us rediscover our democratic courage.&nbsp; </p> <p>We have to start looking deeper than the weak willed gasps of disbelief that say the process was illegitimate or the result must somehow be ignored. On the EU question we might paradoxically need to grieve for what has been lost before finding the strength to prevent the loss from occurring. The goal, then, <em>is</em> to ‘accept the result’ and definitely to learn from it, but <em>not</em> to ‘move on’. The challenge is to find a legitimate democratic solution to a result that stemmed from a democratic failure.</p> <h2><strong>Beyond false hope</strong></h2> <p>In scrambling for an intellectually coherent case for remaining in the EU I fear many are focussing on the wrong issues.</p> <p>For instance, turnout was ‘only’ 72%. Around 13 million registered voters did not vote, about seven million eligible adults were not registered, 16 and 17 year olds were not allowed to vote, and nor were EU nationals whose future was being decided. That’s all painfully true. On the other hand, the referendum details were agreed through a broadly democratic process in parliament, such numbers are not unusual, and more people voted to leave the EU than have ever voted for <em>anything</em> in the UK. </p> <p>And the margin of victory was very small, yes, but it still amounted to over a million people. &nbsp;</p> <p>The Leave campaign contained abundant and often toxic misinformation, yes, but the Remain campaign was full of bogus projections, and truth is a casualty in most political campaigns.</p> <p>Two constituent nations of a devolved multi-national state – Scotland and Northern Ireland – voted to remain, yes, but in its relationship with the EU, the UK is effectively a unitary state. </p> <p>We are a parliamentary democracy, yes, but with an established convention of direct democracy on constitutional questions. In this context, the referendum was advisory rather than binding, yes, but de-facto at least, the advice is hard to ignore. </p> <p>These stock objections to the outcome remain useful as ‘surround sound’ while we come to terms with what has happened. However, none of the above arguments – alone or together – are powerful enough to override the legitimacy of the majority victory. And we need to take that idea on the chin; neither the process nor the outcome can be undone.</p> <p>And yet, deciding not to enact a referendum outcome is <em>possible</em>, and merely very controversial rather than unimaginable treason. In 1992 Denmark narrowly rejected the Maastricht treaty and in a second referendum a year later accepted it. Ireland underwent the same reversal with the Treaty of Nice in 2001 and 2002 (and latterly with the Treat of Lisbon in 2007 and 2008). In 2005 both France and the Netherlands said a fairly emphatic no to an EU constitution, but arguably the Lisbon treaty that was later adopted had a similar constitutional effect. </p> <p>However, these examples do not offer a prima facie case for a second referendum in the UK, because a vote to leave the EU is fundamental and binary in the way that an adjustment to a relationship with the EU is not. Their value is rather to remind us that democracy is a process, not an event.</p> <h2><strong>Democratic?</strong></h2> <p>Where are our political theorists when we need them? We have heard too much from economists, endured ambient punditry for weeks and even grappled with some <a href="">judicious sports commentary from a constitutional lawyer</a>, but I have searched in vain for the voice of authority that helps us make sense of whether the decision to leave the EU really was ‘democratic’. </p> <p>So I will attempt it myself. Democracy is an essentially contested concept. The point is not just that its meaning is fluid, debated and socially constructed, but rather that its meaning is a function of a social struggle for power and legitimacy, and never entirely prior to that struggle. ‘Rule by the people’ after all, is only slightly clearer than ‘Brexit means Brexit’. ‘Democratic’ is therefore used rhetorically for all sorts of purposes, including to silence resistance to the UK’s exit from the EU. </p> <p>It is time to remember that the concept of democracy has some pre-political integrity. Democracy is about the rule of law manifest in institutional norms and relationships, individual and minority rights, freedom of the press, and the adherence to constitutional principles including checks and balances through a separation of powers. Last and in some senses very much least, there are voting procedures that seek to establish majorities to confer legitimacy on decisions.</p> <p>Far from being the essence of democracy, majoritarianism is often viewed in democratic theory – a point most fully developed by Alexis de Tocqueville – as a form of tyranny to be vigilantly guarded against. </p> <p>In a recent <a href="">open letter</a> about Brexit, the Philosopher Anthony Grayling juxtaposed democracy properly understood with <em>ochlocracy</em>, rule by crowd acclamation, or ‘mob rule’. The letter reeked of elitism, though by saying so I am swayed by the spirit of our times – a rhetorical land grab rather than a substantive argument. The ‘elitist’ letter also made a legitimate democratic case – based on the familiar issues outlined above – for why the result should be effectively ignored.</p> <p>My fellow inactive chess grandmaster, now Professor of Economics and Public Policy at Harvard, Ken Rogoff, made a similarly elitist and <a href="">cogent case</a> for why it was utterly foolish that this referendum, on these terms, ever happened: </p> <p>“This isn’t democracy; it is Russian roulette for republics. A decision of enormous consequence – far greater even than amending a country’s constitution (of course, the United Kingdom lacks a written one) – has been made without any appropriate checks and balances… Does the vote have to be repeated after a year to be sure? No. Does a majority in parliament have to support Brexit? Apparently not. Did the UK’s population really know what they were voting on? Absolutely not. Indeed, no one has any idea of the consequences…”</p> <p>Compelling yes, but again the politics of hindsight. It is hard to shake the painful conclusion that despite various parliamentary committees overseeing the process, the referendum was designed on the assumption that the UK would never vote to Leave. </p> <p>Now that we have, more than seventeen million voices will not be silenced so easily. Moreover, there are two features of British political culture that make it particularly hard for any appeal against Brexit based on democracy to be entertained, never mind accepted. Both these additional barriers stem from the enculturation of First Past the Post, the <em>anti-democratic</em> voting system we have endured for centuries. </p> <p>The first norm we have inculcated is the idea that voting is about picking a winner (choosing a government) and that winner takes all (it’s not about representing the views of those who voted). The second is that the (roughly) two thirds<em> </em>of voters who don’t live in marginal constituencies feel like their vote is mostly ritualistic and unlikely to matter, and many cast it without the sense that it will affect political outcomes. Our democratic culture therefore not only failed to prepare us for the sense of responsibility that voting in a referendum entails, but also has few salient reference points for notions of democracy that go beyond simple majorities, and binary outcomes.</p> <p>If any momentum builds for the case that the referendum result doesn’t entail Brexit we can therefore expect howls of outrage and betrayal from leaders and followers within the 52%, channelled through a vituperative press. Worse, there will be hardening of hatred towards politicians, enough perhaps to break the thin veneer of democratic culture. If Brexit is denied, it would be a surprise not to see riots in the streets. Consider the legitimate and widespread anger and frustration in most of England and Wales that led to a Leave victory, and imagine it curdling, now laced with disgust and bitterness, and amplified. Existing tensions over immigration would probably escalate further to full scale race hate, and perhaps even more murders.</p> <p>It’s not a pretty picture. The fear of societal collapse makes even thinking about the case for resisting Brexit difficult, but the decision to leave the EU is arguably so tragic and so disastrous that we have to go beyond ‘the deep magic’ of the referendum result, and find something even deeper. </p> <h2><strong>Democracy and time</strong></h2> <p>Hope for resurrecting legitimacy lies in recognising – true to the form of the UK’s uncodified constitution – that democracy cannot be severed from time. The idea of ‘a democratic moment’ doesn’t make any sense. Democracy’s legitimacy stems from the historical, cultural and institutional context that gives voting moments legitimacy. ‘The people’ are not just the raw calculus of votes cast on a particular issue at a particular time; they are the broader democratic norms and institutional and intergenerational allegiances that define them.</p> <p>Where does that leave us? It’s not all good news for Europhiles. What was democratic about the leave victory was not so much the majority that won, but the perceived sanctity of the process that makes winning matter. When the Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron, for instance, argues for a new referendum because Leave’s victory was built upon lies, he misses the point. What makes the result democratic is not the 1,269,501 extra votes that may have gone the other way if misinformation hadn’t prevailed. What makes it democratic is the implicit promise in having the referendum in the first place; and that promise depends upon historical, cultural and institutional factors that uphold our social and political settlement.</p> <p>The flip side is that it is quintessentially democratic to resist a majoritarian outcome when that outcome is a violation of democracy viewed through a wider temporal lens, the broader democratic context that made it possible. That context is not inert, a mere part of the setting. It can also be part of the plot. This is what I mean when I say the result was a democratic mistake – not that the result is invalid on its own terms, but rather than the terms of the referendum, the question, the campaign and the outcome all arose through democratic processes that are functioning below their optimal level.</p> <h2><strong>Hope in the gap</strong></h2> <p>Hope now stems from the glaring legitimacy gap between the general mandate of the majority who voted to leave and the lack of a particular mandate to leave on particular terms. </p> <p>That gap makes brexiteers nervous, because they know it could be filled with a higher quality of democracy. Moreover, the ‘de facto’ legitimacy of the result is a form of soft power and a function of political capital; both highly volatile commodities in the uncertain months ahead.</p> <p>Theresa May has become prime minister partly by default, but also because she looks like a pragmatist and (to some extent) unifier, who will prioritise Conservative party unity in the cause of national stability. She has said emphatically that “Brexit means Brexit”, but not yet what <em>that</em> means. She has no plans to trigger Article 50 until 2017, it still seems unlikely she will call a general election, and she almost certainly won’t call another referendum or may not even ask for parliamentary approval for the negotiating position or outcome.</p> <p>What scope is there in this context for ‘more democracy’? </p> <p>Given the significance of the Brexit negotiations, if there is not going to be a general election, there is a strong case for all political parties, representatives from each of the home nations and those voting to remain being represented when the negotiation strategy is being prepared prior to Article 50 being invoked. In principle, that should ensure that the default goal is something like remaining in the single market, with some greater autonomy on immigration and protecting research alliances. LSE Professor Simon Hix makes <a href="">a good case</a> for focussing on precisely this kind of outcome. In practice, of course, politics will be about the volatility of power and those with the greatest influence and sharpest elbows are likely to prevail. </p> <p>The point about democracy though is this. If we cannot achieve in negotiations with the EU what ‘the people’ as a whole might reasonably be thought to want (not just ‘the winners’) democratic legitimacy suggests we should put the outcome to the British people in another referendum to accept or reject. This is not a re-run. It’s not even a ‘second’ referendum, strictly speaking. It’s a new question. As Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron puts it, if we can trust the British people with the direction (in or out) we should also trust them with the destination (in what way, ‘out’).</p> <p>In that case, a rejection of the proposed new destination would be a de-facto ‘change of mind’ over the prior decision to leave. </p> <p>Scandal! Hardly. That kind of revision is precisely what you might expect in a democracy that recognises that time and perspective changes opinions and prefences. Moreover, the notion that you can want to leave in principle, but not want to leave in a particular way in practice stacks up in theory, but not in reality – it can only happen one way, there is no multiverse containing multiple forms of Brexit. Well there might be cosmologically, but you can’t vote for it!</p> <p>In practice, voters would be asked to choose, not a single political party, but rather a complex political outcome with a myriad of details. The only coherent explanation for the status quo is that somehow it’s valid to ask people for the general direction, but more appropriate for politicians and their associates to deal with the details once the direction is decided.</p> <p>Could that be fair?</p> <p>Maybe. It’s not absurd, but you can hardly justify it with an appeal to democracy. The theoretical question then becomes: which is sounder in principle, to ask the public whether they want to leave the EU, ceteris paribus (all things being equal) which is what happened. Or is it fairer to say: Do you want to leave now that you have a much clearer idea of what leaving actually means? </p> <p>If you asked the public the meta-question: which of these two questions would you rather be asked – it seems almost certain they would prefer the latter – a matter of profound democratic significance. Who would vote to have the option of a leap in the dark?</p> <p>On the face of it, the question about a particular destination is also much more democratic. Indeed it is somewhat ironic – tragic even – that no particular leave option would have beaten the status quo of remaining in the EU with the UK’s various privileges. Part of the reason Leave won is because it was Protean and could change form to suit voter preferences. In this respect the EU referendum was quite unlike Scotland’s referendum on independence, where there was a government <a href="">white paper</a> detailing the transition and the early policy platform – in that case many questions (not least on currency) remained, but there was a genuine attempt to clarify what people were voting for and against.</p> <p>So where are we then?</p> <p>What concerns people at some ineffable cultural level, I think, is the idea that the British people might say they would rather stay in the EU after all. Just think of the sheer <em>awkwardness </em>and <em>embarrassment</em> and <em>cost</em> of putting ourselves through all that, and for nothing. </p> <p>But what if it turns out that the general decision to leave followed by the particular decision to stay is precisely the will of the people? </p> <p>Shouldn’t we then get over our queasiness, and fight, not only for the EU, but for a democracy worth being part of?</p> <p>Brexit remains probable, but it is by no means inevitable. Our hope in shaping it or preventing it lies in rediscovering a richer conception of democracy. In practice it means this: </p> <p>First: Accept the result in this sense. Fight for our best negotiating position with the EU and acknowledge the domestic policy implications (inequality, immigration, integration) of the referendum result. </p> <p>Second: Make the case for a second referendum on that negotiated position, which – despite our genuine best efforts - is highly unlikely to be as good as our existing position in the EU. </p> <p>Third: Run a much better campaign to stay in the EU. </p> <p>Fourth: Win, and restore dignity to a deeper idea of democracy.<strong></strong><strong>&nbsp;</strong> </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/gilbert-ramsay/those-who-dont-like-referendum-result-should-demand-more-democracy-not-less">Those who don&#039;t like the referendum result should demand more democracy, not less</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk reset Jonathan Rowson Thu, 22 Sep 2016 13:46:56 +0000 Jonathan Rowson 105533 at Why should we care that Exxon is lobbying the UK Government on electric vehicles? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>We shouldn't ignore the oil giant lobbying to stop the electric car revolution in Britain.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// Shot 2016-09-20 at 11.34.19.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// Shot 2016-09-20 at 11.34.19.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="335" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>An electric car charging in Detroit, 1919. Cress-Dale Photo Co., Seattle, public domain due to age.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Behind the scenes lobbying to slow the rise of electric vehicles is growing. And in the UK, ExxonMobil is leading the charge.</p><p dir="ltr">Newly released documents show the US oil giant repeatedly lobbying the British government against policies for greener transport.</p><p dir="ltr">“Switching transportation from petroleum to renewable or alternative fuels is not the most cost-effective way to reduce GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions” reads one slide of a presentation delivered to the Department for Transport (DfT).</p><p dir="ltr">Another reads: “In the near term other sectors are likely to provide more direct cost effective CO2 abatement solutions than the transport sector.”</p><p dir="ltr">This is the message that Exxon has delivered to the DfT in three separate presentations since the Paris climate deal was agreed last December, the <a href="">documents obtained by DeSmog UK</a> reveal.</p><p dir="ltr">And what’s more, Exxon appears to be the only major fossil fuel company currently heavily lobbying the British government against decarbonising our transport system.</p><p dir="ltr">So why is this such a big deal?</p><p dir="ltr">In the most basic terms, it goes something like this: governments should be acting in the public’s interest. Allowing corporate lobbying to influence a government’s policy making process threatens our democracy because it is effectively saying that the corporation’s interests are more important than the public’s. One year on, govt has done little about VW scandal, but found time to listen to Exxon lobbying against electric car. </p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p dir="ltr" lang="en">1 yr on, govt has done little about VW scandal, but found time to listen to Exxon lobbying against electric cars <a href=""></a></p>— Stefano Gelmini (@gelmo1981) <a href="">September 12, 2016</a></blockquote> <script charset="utf-8"></script><p> And when it comes to issues related to tackling climate change – of which electric vehicles are one piece of a larger puzzle – it’s not just a question of what’s best for the public now but it’s about what’s best for our future and for future generations. </p><p dir="ltr">Reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and transitioning to a clean economy is what’s in the public’s best interest. In fact, it’s also in the interest of companies too, many are now arguing.</p><p dir="ltr">But that’s not how Exxon sees it. And it’s not what we’re seeing our government doing.</p><p dir="ltr">The document release comes as the government’s environmental audit committee <a href="">warned the UK is “falling behind” on its electric vehicle targets</a>. The committee criticised ministers for failing to implement the proper incentives and infrastructure needed to encourage the growth of the sector. </p><p dir="ltr">Increasing the number of electric vehicles, however, is critical if the UK is to tackle both climate change and <a href="">harmful air pollution</a>. </p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p dir="ltr" lang="en">Next time someone says "we're all equally responsible for <a href="">#climate</a> change," send 'em here: <a href=""></a> <a href="">@DeSmogUK</a> <a href="">@kylamandel</a></p>— Emma Gilchrist (@reporteremma) <a href="">September 13, 2016</a></blockquote> <script charset="utf-8"></script><p> In order to meet the UK's 2050 climate change targets, 60 percent of new cars and vans need to be electric by 2030 according to <a href="">analysis by the Committee on Climate Change</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">But as parliament’s Energy and Climate Change Committee <a href="">warned earlier this month,</a> the UK is unlikely to meet its interim legally-binding target to have 15 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. Why? Because efforts in heat and transport are falling way behind.</p><p dir="ltr">Exxon has long been working to undermine efforts to tackle climate change – the oil giant has denied the science on climate change and has funded groups which actively lobby against government efforts to address the issue.</p><p dir="ltr">This is despite the company <a href="">having “no doubt” that CO2 was a harmful pollutant </a>since the late 1970s.</p><p dir="ltr">And now, electric vehicles are in its crosshairs. While publicly Exxon has downplayed the threat electric vehicles pose to its business model, the documents obtained by DeSmog UK suggest otherwise.</p><p dir="ltr">And Exxon’s not the only one trying to undermine the transition to a clean transport system. In the United States, a Koch Industries-backed campaign to rebrand fossil fuels called <a href="">Fueling U.S. Forward</a> was recently launched to <a href="">undermine clean energy innovations including electric vehicles</a>. </p><p dir="ltr">And last month a <a href="">report sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute</a> was released claiming that biofuels are worse for the climate than gasoline. </p><p dir="ltr">Why is the oil industry so afraid? Because, as the <a href="">Financial Times reported</a> at the end of August, the total number of electric vehicles on the road around the world has grown a staggering amount in the past seven years – from fewer than 6,000 in 2009 to 1.2 million last year.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class="mag-quote-center">The total number of electric vehicles on the road around the world has grown a staggering amount in the past seven years – from fewer than 6,000 in 2009 to 1.2 million last year</span></p><p dir="ltr"><a href="">Analysts at Bloomberg New Energy Finance expect </a>that by 2040 electric vehicles may make up a quarter of the world’s car fleet. This would lead to a 14 percent drop in oil demand. They also expect electric vehicles to be <a href="">cheaper than conventional cars by 2022</a>, assuming the price of oil recovers to around $60.</p><p>As Michael Wojciechowski, a Houston-based oil analyst at energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie, told the FT: “Everybody is paying attention… This thing has the potential to really start to take off.”</p><p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;" id="docs-internal-guid-3e51b3fd-4726-0311-4002-5f087298b2cd"><i><b><span style="font-size: 14.6667px; font-family: Arial; color: #000000; background-color: transparent; font-variant: normal; text-decoration: none; vertical-align: baseline;">Please donate to openDemocracyUK </span><a href="" style="text-decoration: none;"><span style="font-size: 14.6667px; font-family: Arial; color: #1155cc; background-color: transparent; font-variant: normal; text-decoration: underline; vertical-align: baseline;">here </span></a><span style="font-size: 14.6667px; font-family: Arial; color: #000000; background-color: transparent; font-variant: normal; text-decoration: none; vertical-align: baseline;">to help keep us keep producing independent journalism. Thank you.</span></b></i></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/kyla-mandel/how-much-does-exxonmobil-spend-on-lobbying-in-europe">How much does ExxonMobil spend on lobbying in Europe?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay/cop21-business-fair">The climate conference and the corporate lobbyists dressed in green</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk reset Kyla Mandel Tue, 20 Sep 2016 10:39:28 +0000 Kyla Mandel 105482 at Media attacks on Corbyn show he’s a threat, not an irrelevance <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Recent <em>Panorama</em> and <em>Dispatches</em> episodes confirm: the media has never been so biased against a Labour leader.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// Shot 2016-09-20 at 10.28.38.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// Shot 2016-09-20 at 10.28.38.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="524" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Daily Mail headline from Wilson's election as Labour leader</span></span></span></p><p>It was hardly a night of vintage investigative journalism in the tradition of Bob Woodward, Seymour Hersh, Nick Davies or Heather Brooke. Both the BBC’s <a href=""><em>Panoram</em></a><em>a</em> on the impending ‘death’ of the Labour party under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and Channel 4’s <a href=""><em>Dispatches</em></a> investigating Momentum, an organisation so shadowy that they hold huge <em>public</em> meetings and have the nerve to ask Labour members to vote for their preferred candidates, chose to attack Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters in the lead-up to the result of Labour’s leadership election. </p><p>The programmes contained no political earthquakes and no actual evidence of inflammatory behaviour or illegal activities though there was a lot of Neil Kinnock who has suddenly become a sage with respect to Labour’s electoral fortunes.</p> <p>What was outrageous about the programmes was not that they weren’t formally impartial – indeed <em>Panorama</em>, in particular, included both supporters and opponents of Corbyn – but that their overall agendas could have come straight from a PLP meeting. ‘Is the party over?’ asked <em>Panorama</em> about an organisation that now has the biggest party membership in Europe. <em>Dispatches</em>, on the other hand, focused on a tiny handful of Trotskyists prepared to ‘battle for the Labour party’, a starting point that conveniently allowed them not to investigate the policies that have so energised the hundreds of thousands who have rallied behind Corbyn. The language in both programmes was consistently skewed: ‘moderate’ Labour MPs (ie those who have forced a hugely divisive leadership election) are tearing their hair out because of ‘entryists’ from the ‘hard left’ whose commitment to democracy is so threadbare that they are standing in freely contested elections for positions in the party and running phone banks in support of Corbyn.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// Shot 2016-09-20 at 10.28.48.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// Shot 2016-09-20 at 10.28.48.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="454" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Daily Mail front page when Jim Callaghan was elected Labour leader</span></span></span></p><p>Given the paltry amount of high quality current affairs output on free to air TV, it’s more than a little depressing that so many resources could have been committed to programmes that achieved so little in the interests of so few. </p><p>The two programmes are, however, only the latest examples of a systematic misrepresentation and distortion of the Labour leader. Corbyn, unlike <a href="">Theresa May</a>, was never allowed a honeymoon by the media. A <em>Panorama</em> that aired last year <em>before</em> his victory was so one-sided that a BBC producer actually wrote to the Corporation’s in-house magazine <a href=""><em>Ariel</em></a> to complain that it was ‘seen by many as a character assassination of just one of the four candidates’. (So pluralistic is the British TV landscape that the same indie producer, <a href="">Films of Record</a>, made both that programme as well as this week’s <em>Dispatches</em>.) In the week following Corbyn’s election, the <a href="">Media Reform Coalition</a> found that some 60% of articles in the press were overtly negative with 27% neutral and only 13% positive.</p> <p><a href="">Researchers at the LSE</a> looked at press coverage later that year and found a similar phenomenon: that the press wasn’t a ‘critical watchdog’ but an ‘antagonistic attackdog’ attempting to delegitimise a democratically elected leader. &nbsp;Things got so bad that even the former chair of the BBC Trust, <a href="">Sir Michael Lyons</a>, insisted that ‘there has been some extraordinary attacks of the elected leader of the Labour party.’ </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// Shot 2016-09-20 at 10.29.01.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// Shot 2016-09-20 at 10.29.01.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="752" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Daily Mail front page from Blair's election as Labour leader.</span></span></span></p><p>One reaction to this systematically negative coverage has been to claim that all Labour leaders have faced the same levels of hostility from the media. This simply isn’t the case. It’s true that Neil Kinnock and Ed Miliband were mocked and/or vilified at different points in their leadership but not so much when they were first elected. Indeed, George Lansbury – the Labour leader who is perhaps the closest politically to Corbyn and who resigned as leader in 1935 because his pacifist principles weren’t compatible with the rest of the Labour leadership – was virtually ignored by the right-wing press of the day. </p><p>Other Labour leaders from both the left and the right of the party faced nothing like the hostility that Corbyn can expect each morning. Take this, for example, from the front page editorial of the <em>Daily Mail</em> when Harold Wilson was elected leader in 1963: ‘Without wishing Mr Wilson success in the next general election, we offer him the good wishes which are the right of any man who takes on so onerous and responsible an office.’ Not exactly the spirit that informs coverage today. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// Shot 2016-09-20 at 10.29.10.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// Shot 2016-09-20 at 10.29.10.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="373" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Daily Mail from Ed Miliband's election as Labour leader</span></span></span></p><p>The elections of both James Callaghan and, of course, Tony Blair were also covered in pretty glowing terms by much of the press because both were publicly committed to pursuing agendas (notably taking on the left of the party) that were acceptable to the press. The <em>Mail</em> described Callaghan as a ‘man who decided to tell the people the truth’ in its lead story following his election while Blair received gushing front pages in 1994 with the <em>Mail </em>speaking of his ‘youth and charisma’ that could ‘propel [Labour] into government for the first time in a generation’. </p><p>The key difference is that Jeremy Corbyn represents – and, crucially, is seen to represent – a potential threat to vested interests in a way that right-wing Labour figures never did. This is what underlies the extraordinary hostility to his leadership. Any radical individual or movement that refuses to abide by the usual consensus on austerity, immigration or foreign policy can expect to be either marginalised or ridiculed, misrepresented or ignored.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// Shot 2016-09-20 at 10.24.12.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// Shot 2016-09-20 at 10.24.12.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="629" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Daily Mail front page from Corbyn's election as Labour leader.</span></span></span></p><p>This tells us a lot about the balance of power in the mainstream media: you depart from the rules, you should expect to be punished. Should Corbyn win the leadership election, we can expect more attacks, more dirty tricks and more misrepresentation. But the best response to this is not to bow down before media power, it’s to intensify your campaigning and sharpen your opposition. That’s the lesson of history: trade union rights weren’t won by Chartists with a clever media strategy; the suffragettes did not, as far as I know, stop smashing windows because it didn’t play well in middle England; today, I suspect that junior doctors will be best able to defend the NHS not simply by making reasonable arguments on news bulletins (which they often do brilliantly when given the opportunity) but by organising the action that makes it difficult for journalists to ignore their demands and mock their arguments. </p><p>Progressive movements and parties have to make effective use of social media and engage with mainstream media at the same time as challenging their agenda-setting power. But they don’t need an army of spin doctors and communications consultants to do this. Instead they need to use all available channels and spaces to inspire and mobilise ordinary people who are desperate for a genuine alternative to inequality, warmongering and profiteering. This is, after all, the exact same public, a majority of whom, <a href="">according to YouGov,</a> also believe that the mainstream media has been deliberately biased against Corbyn. The lazy and partisan attacks by <em>Dispatches</em> and <em>Panorama</em> will simply add to that perception. </p> <p id="docs-internal-guid-3e51b3fd-46f3-5c6c-2e88-9a651409d9a7" dir="ltr"><em><strong><span>Please donate to openDemocracyUK </span><a href=""><span>here </span></a><span>to help keep us keep producing independent journalism. Thank you.</span></strong></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/des-freedman-justin-schlosberg/jeremy-corbyn-impartiality-and-media-misrepresentation">Jeremy Corbyn, impartiality and media misrepresentation</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourbeeb/des-freedman/if-dissensus-is-new-normal-in-britain-we-need-new-media">If dissensus is the new normal in Britain, we need a new media</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk reset Des Freedman Tue, 20 Sep 2016 09:39:03 +0000 Des Freedman 105478 at What the Labour leadership candidates think about democratic reform <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Electoral Reform Society quizzed the Labour leadership candidates on electoral reform...</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// reform.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// reform.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="344" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>What the last election would have looked like with a proportional system, and what it did look like...</span></span></span>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p><em>The Labour leadership election is in full swing, with the vote closing on the 21st September. </em></p> <p>Given that it’s a summer of leadership ballots, the Electoral Reform Society have been running Q&amp;As with the candidates for the different parties. </p> <p>On Tuesday we published our <a href="">Q&amp;A with UKIP</a>, who are also in the midst of a leadership election, while last month we quizzed the Green Party’s contenders on democratic reform too –&nbsp;<a href="">see the answers&nbsp;here</a>. They include responses from the winners, Caroline Lucas and Jonathan Bartley. </p> <p>So it’s the turn of Labour’s candidates – Owen Smith and Jeremy Corbyn – to outline their positions on voting systems, increasing voter registration, sorting out Britain’s broken party funding system, and how to reform the House of Lords.</p> <p>Smith used the opportunity to outline his position calling for a five-year ban on Labour officials and donors entering the House of Lords after service/donations, while Jeremy Corbyn has, for (we think) the first time, committed to a <em>proportionally</em> elected House of Lords.&nbsp; </p> <p>It’s a great shame that neither candidate has committed to electoral reform for the Commons – Smith says he is ‘not yet convinced’ while Corbyn would like it discussed as part of a constitutional convention. But there is some openness on both sides, particularly for the Lords, which is encouraging – particularly given the growing movement for PR within the party (and the wider labour movement), including the backing of figures such as Chuka Umunna MP and Clive Lewis MP. </p> <p>The fact is – no programme of democratic reform is complete or substantive if it ignores the huge elephant in the room: the need for a fair voting system. </p> <p>However, both candidates are, encouragingly, thinking about backing a ‘motor voter’ registration system – where you’re encouraged to register to vote every time you interact with government - something we don’t think either candidate has spoken about in the past. They’re also calling for cross-party action of party funding reform.</p> <p><strong>Either way, we hope this is a useful contribution to the debate. Read the highlights from Smith and Corbyn’s responses in the extracts below, and read the </strong><a href=""><strong>full Q&amp;A answers here</strong></a><strong>.</strong></p> <h2><strong><em>On electoral reform:</em></strong></h2> <ul><li><strong>Corbyn: ‘</strong>Our electoral system should properly reflect the collective choices of the electorate as well as providing stable government and direct representation - in any change the constituency link must be maintained, as it has been in Wales and Scotland. <strong>Reform of the electoral system should be considered as part of a wider constitutional convention’</strong></li><li><strong>Smith:</strong> ‘There needs to be a debate about the Westminster voting system…[but] <strong>I am not yet convinced that the correct response is to move to a proportional system’</strong></li></ul> <h2><strong><em>An elected House of Lords:</em></strong></h2> <ul><li><strong>Smith: </strong>‘There is no place for unelected legislators in the 21st century. I back the calls for a constitutional convention to decide how the second chamber is elected…<strong>As Leader I’d introduce a five year ban on former Labour Party staffers, advisers, MPs and donors from becoming a member of the House of Lords.</strong> I’m calling on the leaders of other parties to match this ban until the Lords are overhauled.’</li><li><strong>Corbyn:</strong> <strong>‘I am pleased to pledge my support for a directly, <span>proportionally</span> and fully-elected upper house’</strong></li></ul> <h2><strong><em>Party funding reform:</em></strong></h2> <ul><li><strong>Corbyn: ‘I support firm action to remove big donors from the British party funding system…</strong>I support a fairly low cap on donations and lower spending limits, with the levels ideally to be set by common agreement…I would therefore place party funding as a major item in a constitutional convention, which I am committed to initiate.’</li><li><strong>Smith: ‘The first thing we need to do is ensure that the laws we have in place are properly enforced…</strong>Hopefully we now have an opportunity to get back around the table and engage in sincere talks with an upper limit on individual donations on the table.’</li></ul> <h2><strong><em>Voter registration: </em></strong></h2> <ul><li><strong>Smith: ‘I would be keen to consider US-style ‘motor voter’ campaigns where citizens are prompted with a simple tick-box to register to vote’</strong></li><li><strong>Corbyn: ‘I support the introduction of methods of easier registration…automatic registration and simple tick-box registrations when interacting with public authorities would both significantly boost registration and I would therefore be happy to consider both these methods…</strong>I am in favour of constituency boundaries being set by population rather than numbers on the register’</li></ul> <p><em>What do you think about their responses? Thoughts in the comments below are welcome.&nbsp; </em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/sophie-cartwright/proportional-representation-can-offer-democracy-to-all-not-just-to-majority"> Proportional representation can offer democracy to all, not just to the majority </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk reset Josiah Mortimer Fri, 09 Sep 2016 15:02:38 +0000 Josiah Mortimer 105236 at It’s time to think about how we do referendums in the UK <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Referendums are now a thing in Britain. So we need to get better at them.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Spectator EU debate. Image: Rathbones.</span></span></span></p><p>Those committed to improving our democracy can no longer ignore the elephant in the room: referendums have become a central feature of our politics in Britain. </p> <p>Since 2011 we have had two UK-wide referendums (on voting reform and membership of the European Union), a Scottish independence referendum, and a Welsh referendum on devolution of powers.</p> <p>That represents a significant acceleration from previous years – there was only one prior UK-wide referendum (on membership of the European Community in 1975), and other referendums on devolution to the nations were mainly concentrated into the two years after the 1997 Labour government came into power with its promises of devolution.</p> <p>The UK is in an extended period of constitutional flux, and is showing few signs of coming out the other side any time soon. The terms of Brexit must be decided, and conceivably ratified by parliament, the public or both; Scotland looks ever closer to independence; devolution of power to more local levels of government than Westminster is widely supported, but the path is unclear; the question of English governance remains live; and so on. Given this state of uncertainty about our constitution, it is a fairly safe bet that we will see referendums again in the near future.</p> <p>So there are serious questions to be asked about the place of referendums in our politics:<strong> </strong>should there be an agreed trigger for referendums? How should they be conducted and regulated? And how do we ensure high quality public information and debate before people actually get to the polling booth? </p> <p>The Electoral Reform Society have now made an <a href="">initial attempt</a> at addressing some of these questions, through a detailed analysis of this year’s EU referendum. These are the main findings:</p> <p><strong>1. <em>Information</em></strong><em> –</em> <strong>People felt consistently ill-informed – yet not for lack of interest</strong>: voters expressed high levels of interest throughout the campaign. </p> <p><strong>2. <em>Personalities</em></strong> <strong>– The ‘big beasts’ largely failed to engage or convince voters to their side</strong>, with many voters appearing switched off by the ‘usual suspects’. </p> <p><strong>3. <em>Negative campaigning</em> – As the race wore on, the public viewed both sides as increasingly negative. </strong>It is not clear that either side gained from this approach.</p> <p><strong>4. <em>The need for real deliberation</em> – There is an appetite for informed, face-to-face discussion about the issues</strong>, but this can only be nurtured within the context of a longer campaign. </p> <p>Above all, our analysis has demonstrated the need for a much greater level of citizen involvement and deliberation - not only during referendums themselves but throughout the workings of our wider democracy. An informed and engaged electorate is the first step towards a political system that can tolerate the divisive aspects of a binary referendum debate. We should therefore do everything we can to foster higher levels of deliberation and engagement, both during referendum campaigns and in our wider political culture. </p> <p><strong>Given the findings, we need a root and branch inquiry into the conduct of referendums in the UK. Within that inquiry, we’re asking for these nine recommendations to be considered: </strong></p> <p><em>Laying the groundwork</em></p> <ol><li><strong>Mandatory pre-legislative scrutiny</strong> for any Bill on a referendum, lasting at least three months, with citizens’ involvement</li><li>A <strong>minimum six-month regulated campaigning period </strong>to ensure time for a proper public discussion</li><li>A <strong>definitive ‘rulebook’ </strong>to be published, setting out technical aspects of the vote, as soon as possible after the passing of any referendum Bill&nbsp; </li></ol><p><em>Better information</em></p> <ol><li>A <strong>‘minimum data set’ or impartial information guide</strong> to be published at the start of the regulated campaigning period</li><li>An official body should be given the task of <strong>intervening when misleading claims are made</strong> by the campaigns, as in New Zealand</li><li><strong>Citizenship education</strong> to be extended in schools alongside UK-wide extension of <strong>votes at 16</strong> </li></ol> <p><em>More deliberation</em></p> <ol><li>The government should fund a <strong>resource for stimulating deliberative discussion</strong>/debate about referendum</li><li>An official body should be tasked with providing a <strong>toolkit for members of the public to host own debates</strong>/deliberative events on the referendum</li><li><strong>Ofcom should conduct a review</strong> <strong>into an appropriate role for broadcasters</strong> to play in referendums, with aim of making coverage/formats more deliberative rather than combative/binary</li></ol> <p>In one sense, a referendum offers the clearest possible indication of the popular will. But in another, the waters are easily muddied. The EU referendum result was decisive, formally unchallenged and with a relatively high turnout. The public’s decision was clear. But there are many concerns about the way the campaigns conducted themselves, the nature of the question being put to the British people, and the relationship between the result of the referendum and the ongoing proceedings of Britain’s parliamentary democracy.</p> <p>Given the increasing frequency of the use of referendums in the UK, it is more important than ever that we look at the EU vote and ask how do we make sure the mistakes that were made during the EU campaign are never repeated again? We’ve <a href="">laid down</a> the foundations in terms of how we start to answer that question. Let’s hope they’re built on.</p> <p><strong><em><span>This article is an extract from ‘It’s Good to Talk: Doing Referendums Differently in the Future’. </span></em></strong><a href=""><strong><em>Read the full report and recommendations here</em></strong></a><strong><em><span></span></em></strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/anthony-barnett/revolt-of-natives-britain-after-brexit">The revolt of the natives: Britain after Brexit</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Brexit2016 reset Will Brett Thu, 01 Sep 2016 10:05:29 +0000 Will Brett 105065 at The Welsh Interregnum (or reasons not to be cheerful) <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Worried thoughts on Wales and what is to be done.</p> </div> </div> </div> <span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood, Plaid Cymru</span></span></span><p class="graf--title graf--leading graf--h3">In some <a href="">previous</a> blogs I’ve spoken about why Wales voted Leave. Here I’ll continue to speculate on what the future might hold for Wales in a post-Brexit UK.</p><p class="graf-after--p graf--p">Last time I said that given the existing balance of forces, it is more likely that Wales moves closer to England than it is for Wales to move further away. The last blog suggested quite a bleak if not completely dystopian future. However, I think it’s important to be cynical, because I think many in Plaid Cymru possess a streak of naïve optimism which often seems to cloud their judgement.</p><p class="graf-after--p graf--p">With Brexit triggering another <em class="markup--p-em markup--em">potential </em>crisis of the Union, I think this way of thinking has reared its head again. I can sense an optimism about Wales’ future bubbling up- this notion that if Scotland goes, Wales will surely follow.</p><p class="graf-after--p graf--p">There is a saying associated with Antonio Gramsci: ‘<em class="markup--p-em markup--em">pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will</em>’. Pessimism of the intellect simply means you have to accurately and ruthlessly assess the scale of the challenges in front of you. This is obviously extremely hard to do on an emotional and psychological level: it is far easier to suppress facts that don’t fit your narrative, to only listen to people you agree with and who tell you what you want to hear. Only follow people you agree with on twitter. Only speak to people in your small social circle. Shout down people who you disagree with, ignore their substantive points.</p><p class="graf-after--p graf--p">Optimism of the will is hard. It involves avoiding the cognitive dissonance which is so common in politics. It is a real challenge to break out of your comfort zone, to take on board uncomfortable truths, and to keep struggling even though the task at hand may now seem 100 times harder than you previously thought. Yet whilst it is hard it is necessary- those who don’t understand what they are up against, who refuse to reflect, always lose (see the Remain Campaign, the Labour Party in Scotland).</p><p class="graf-after--p graf--p">Anyway, back to Wales.</p><p class="graf-after--p graf--p">Now, even if there <em class="markup--p-em markup--em">was</em> a radical groundswell of public opinion towards further devolution/independence, the way devolution has been organized means that any change ‘at the top’ has to proceed at a snail’s pace: any mass movement would be retarded by the actual mechanisms of devolution which would entail the drafting of more legislation, which would then be sent to Westminster for approval, have to get past Welsh MPs who are notoriously hostile to devolution. Even if public opinion became deafening (highly unlikely), this energy would likely be co-opted by the Labour party (again) and transformed into watered down demands, perhaps a Welsh parliament with tax raising powers- but a situation still short of independence.</p><p class="graf-after--p graf--p">How would a Welsh independence referendum even come about? What is the mechanism for achieving it? For Wales to become independent Plaid would need to win a majority in the Assembly with a referendum on independence a central part of their manifesto, as the SNP did. Of course, not only was the Assembly voting system designed to make a Plaid majority unlikely if not impossible (this was the case in Scotland too, but the SNP beat the system), Labour have the Unions, the Welsh Media and other organizations all in their pocket. Gramsci calls these ‘apolitical’ arenas the ‘ outer trenches’ which support dominant parties and the state: power and influence does not just lie in the Assembly or at Westminster but is diffused throughout political and civil society. These forces can all be mobilized at a moment’s notice to attack Plaid and the concept of independence, as they were in Scotland&nbsp;during&nbsp;their&nbsp;referendum. The Unions in particular are simply mouthpieces for the Labour party and represent a huge bulwark against any progressive movement.</p><p class="graf-after--p graf--p">Plaid have little to no presence in these ‘capillary’ fields of power which comprise hegemony. If they want to gain power through a ‘long march though the institutions’, then they have a long way to go.</p><p class="graf-after--p graf--p">Moreover, there is currently no alternative media or public sphere in Wales which could facilitate a realistic challenge to Labour, which could challenge their intellectual dominance or challenge the prevailing logic about independence (with <a class="markup--p-anchor markup--anchor" rel="nofollow" href="" target="_blank">notable </a><a class="markup--p-anchor markup--anchor" rel="nofollow" href=";" target="_blank">exceptions</a>). In Scotland, alternative media forms like Wings over Scotland and Bella Caledonia were central to the independence movement, providing a loud and effective voice against ‘project fear’ and generally helping to invigorate Scotland’s national conversation about its future. Of course, even these prominent alternative media forms could not sway the result in Scotland, so consider how much work has to be done in Wales.</p><strong class="markup--h4-strong markup--strong">Know your&nbsp;enemy</strong><p class="graf-after--h4 graf--p">Something I have been shocked by is a naïve assumption by some nationalists that Labour will also think that a Wangland-style future would be bad, that everyone else will start to panic about the prospect of Wales being absorbed culturally and politically into England. <strong class="markup--p-strong markup--strong">Labour is wedded to the Union far more than even the Tories</strong> (who I believe would be perfectly ok to let Scotland break away now they are likely guaranteed to be in power in England for a generation). Observe the calls by ‘progressive’ Corbynites to win back <a class="markup--p-anchor markup--anchor" href="" target="_blank">Scotland</a>. Labour <em class="markup--p-em markup--em">need</em> Scotland and Wales if they have any chance of gaining power in Westminster. This is why Labour have always been so uneasy about forms of Welshness which extend beyond the rugby pitch or the Royal Welsh Fusiliers.</p><p class="graf-after--p graf--p">If Scotland goes, Wales will be Labour’s last outpost which it will continue to guard jealously (providing, of course, there is a Labour party then). Therefore further Welsh devolution makes zero sense for them, especially if it could give succour to nationalists (they will look to Scotland and see what went wrong there).</p><p class="graf-after--p graf--p">In other words, once Scotland leaves, Labour will fight <em class="markup--p-em markup--em">even harder</em> to cling onto Wales than they did with Scotland: there will be no automatic loosening of the ties that bind Wales to whatever is left of the UK, in fact they may get tighter.</p>The interregnum<p class="graf-after--h4 graf--p">The reality is that talk of ‘absorption’ (Wangland) or independence are probably equally hyperbolic. The likelihood is that the current purgatory in Wales will continue.</p><p class="graf-after--p graf--p">Brexit may not signal any mass re-engagement with politics by the mass of disaffected people in Wales. The simple ‘fuck you’ yes/no format of the referendum may have been a one-off outlet for their anger. People may well slink back to their poverty to suffer in silence once more. <span class="markup--p-strong markup--strong">To be clear: a situation of mass detachment and despair is perfectly tolerable for Welsh Labour as long as it does not translate into an electoral challenge to them</span>. As long as people stay away from Welsh Assembly elections, they can think what they like.</p><p class="graf-after--p graf--p">However, in the event that the anger behind the leave vote <em class="markup--p-em markup--em">does</em> translate into votes for UKIP (or the Tories), and Labour continue have their base eroded, they will tack to the right to try and win back the disaffected, rather than attempt to change the narrative. This process has already <a class="markup--p-anchor markup--anchor" rel="nofollow" href="" target="_blank">begun</a>. Of course, trying to out UKIP UKIP and talking about ‘valid concerns’ about immigration in areas where there <em class="markup--p-em markup--em">are no immigrants</em> does nothing other than fuel racism and xenophobia.</p><p class="graf-after--p graf--p">So, Wales will continue to exist as a rugby team and as a football team, and most people will be perfectly happy with this. The Assembly will limp on, gaining more small, meaningless powers every five years or so. Labour will likely continue to rule because of tradition and voting arithmetic, but the last vestiges of the communitarianism which sustained the old radicalism in the former industrial areas will disappear completely. So on the surface little will change, but the ‘morbid symptoms’ will continue to bubble away under it like a tumour. Over time xenophobia will become normalised in Wales, meaning that Independence will likely not be the main political issue – instead it may well be about combatting the rise of the far right.</p><p class="graf--last graf-after--p graf--p">This may sound depressing, but without an insurgent, truly <em class="markup--p-em markup--em">radical</em> Plaid Cymru, without a popular independence movement, without a Welsh public sphere or media, this is what will happen.</p><p class="graf--last graf-after--p graf--p"><em><strong>This piece first appeared on Dan's <a href="">Medium page</a></strong></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/adam-ramsay-leanne-wood/interview-leanne-wood-wales-and-spreading-of-scottish-rebellion">Interview: Leanne Wood - Wales and the spreading of the Scottish rebellion</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/geraint-rhys-whittaker/welsh-football-brexit-and-future-of-british-national-identity">Welsh football, Brexit and the future of British national identity </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Brexit2016 reset Dan Evans Thu, 01 Sep 2016 09:29:14 +0000 Dan Evans 105059 at As A-level results come out, it's time to look again at our education system <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Jeremy Corbyn is right – England needs to repurpose its education system.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Bedford College. Image, Simon Speed, public domain</span></span></span></p><p>Today, the annual cycle of the education system cranks round, as another cohort of nervous school leavers discover their A Level results. If their route ahead of them looks like a debt-ridden treadmill, that’s because it is one. University debt repayment operates as a tax on those unable to afford fees upfront – so almost everyone – and erects a barrier to any repurposing of higher education beyond servicing the needs of a narrow, centuries-old elite.</p> <p>More than ever, we are in need of an alternative vision for the education system, and, at last, someone is providing one. This week is also witnessing a series of detailed policy announcements which form the backbone of a vision which is daring and absolutely necessary. The National Education Service which is being announced by Jeremy Corbyn goes far beyond the abolition of tuition fees, venturing to equip everyone with skills that the Conservatives have spent their years in office draining and wasting. </p> <p>At the moment, tuition fees are breeding an insidious psychology. Transforming education into an item that one may ‘purchase’ cultivates a logic in which the university is a private investment through which we buy our dream jobs. ‘Employability’ takes precedence over the nourishment of learning and skills, both eroding the public utility yielded from higher education and abandoning graduates to the anonymity of a job market still gasping for life.</p> <p>With the Tories’ higher education reforms, currently cruising towards parliamentary ratification, the inevitability of this logic is coming to full fruition; through the absurdly named Teaching Excellence Framework, universities are to be ranked on customer satisfaction and employment metrics – rather than any serious qualitative measure of learning – and so directly threatening academic staff with further casualization and redundancy.</p> <p>Indeed, opening our university system to the forces of the market in such a way has come with its own shining measures of cruelty, with the Tories scrapping support for disabled students and maintenance grants for those from low income backgrounds and so making terrible farce of the promise to ‘sharing prosperity’ with which Theresa May ascended to the premiership.</p> <p>Labour needs to reassert the higher education system as the social utility it was once held to be – one that is available to all, democratic and ultimately free, and whose staff are resourced to their potential by a tax on corporations. Corbyn’s pledge to this effect is serious, and deeply encouraging.</p> <p>But the crisis extends so far beyond our universities. Every layer of our education system is under attack; over the last few years, these institutions have been so broadly and fundamentally fractured that it’s been difficult to imagine how the pieces might ever be swept back together.</p> <p>The Tories scuppered a lifeline in the Education Maintenance Allowance; our Adult Skills Budget has been starved; the spectre of forced academisation still haunts our schools; and further education has suffered cuts so extreme and irresponsible, according to the Association of Colleges, that it could be all but extinct by 2020.</p> <p>The Conservatives, for whom the kind of classical education that put Boris Johnson into government exists to distinguish their elite from those they govern, have launched a frontal assault on Britain’s entire education sector – and, so far, they’ve gotten away with it.</p> <p>Corbyn’s pledge for a national education service could give Labour the language and the artillery to fight back; it demands that we reimagine this country’s education as a single whole and as a public good, serving everyone with irrefutable equality and fairness, where an attack on one is an attack on all.</p> <p>Sadly, the age in which we live radiates a capricious and almost arbitrary reverence for universities. The market values someone like myself – a history graduate – apparently with plentiful quantities of ‘transferrable skills’ much too highly above those trained with the real vocational abilities upon which our society depends in order to function.</p> <p>Corbyn’s national education service recognises this – and does not hold some special candle to the abolition of tuition fees. Universal childcare provision is absolutely vital for putting disadvantaged children onto an early and vital equal footing with those whose parents can afford nursery spaces; investment in further and vocational education will provide us with the skilled workers needed to launch our society into its globalised and technological future; and a fully funded university system, with living grants, could make it truly accessible to all.</p> <p>A national education service will reinvigorate our frozen and decaying job market, where students currently scrap blindly amongst one another. People have been shut out of education for far too long, and prejudiced in the pursuit; only a vision committed to fighting for the social good of an entire life’s education can turn things around.</p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk reset Mark Crawford Wed, 17 Aug 2016 16:57:12 +0000 Mark Crawford 104822 at Proportional representation can offer democracy to all, not just to the majority <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Proportional representation can better reflect the messy, complex reality of collective self-rule.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="A polling station opens in Westminster, London. Photo: Dominic Lipinski / PA Archive/Press Association Images. All rights reser "><img src="//" alt="A polling station opens in Westminster, London. Photo: Dominic Lipinski / PA Archive/Press Association Images. All rights reser " title="A polling station opens in Westminster, London. Photo: Dominic Lipinski / PA Archive/Press Association Images. All rights reser " width="460" height="301" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A polling station opens in Westminster, London. Photo: Dominic Lipinski / PA Archive/Press Association Images. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>The question of Electoral Reform rears its head at every Westminster election. In order to design the best electoral system, we need to ask: what is democracy? What are we trying to achieve when we ask how to do democracy best? I would argue that we are trying to achieve not simply majority rule but collective self-rule, and that proportional representation (PR) can do this much better than the first past the post (FPTP) electoral system currently used at Westminster.</p><p dir="ltr">FPTP has come under deserved fire because the number of MPs that a party gets under this system doesn’t tend to reflect the number of people who voted for them. A lot of support bunched together in one place carries more weight than the same amount of support spread across the UK. FPTP is, at best, made for a two-party system of forced choices. We don’t have one, and we should be happy about that, but we need another voting model to support the multi-party system we do have. Proportional representation (PR), where seats are awarded according to a party’s share of the vote, is often suggested as an alternative to FPTP. PR is more representative than FPTP, and this itself is a compelling reason to support it. However, to cast the argument purely in these terms still equates democracy with majority rule. If we adopt a more expansive vision of democracy as collective self-rule, this argument for PR does not suffice. But there are other features of PR that speak in its favour, indicating that it’s better equipped than other electoral systems to offer us the possibility of this second, more robust vision of democracy. These features may seem like obvious points - but in practice, they are often ignored.</p><p dir="ltr">When I say that democracy is collective self-rule, I am partly making a claim about what I think democracy should be, and about what it often spectacularly fails to be. However, this interpretation of democracy is grounded in its history. The self-rule principle, though tragically not the practice, goes back to the roots of modern democratic thinking, in the English civil war and the American revolution. It’s why there are constitutions: the point is to ensure that you’re not just doing what most people want; rather, but respecting everyone’s autonomy; thus, the constitution guarantees that some things that cannot be done to individuals even if the majority of people want them to be done. The most obvious example is the case of minority rights; a majority shouldn’t be able to vote them away. A white majority shouldn’t be able to vote to that a black minority can’t attend university.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">the point is to ensure that you’re not just doing what most people want; rather, but respecting everyone’s autonomy</p><p dir="ltr">Why collective self-rule? Because there is such a thing as society, and this is a good thing. Therefore, we have to make quite a lot of our decisions together. This raises the question: together with whom on which issues? These goals are not woven into the fabric of the universe and can change, as the recent referendums on Scottish independence and the UK’s EU membership remind us. The questions of ‘who’ and ‘about what’ are also raised in the perennial discussions about the balance of local versus regional, national, UK-wide, and EU-wide power. Right now, I’m making the more general point that democracy is not only about autonomy. It is about respecting each individual’s equality within an inherently social context. For instance, some things, like the provision of healthcare, need to be done collectively in order to work. No individual has an inherent moral right to power over another, so we all get an equal say in working out how these things operate; we all should have an equal seat at the table where government is worked out.</p><p dir="ltr">I suspect that majority rule is sometimes practically necessary for collective self-rule. There are times at which we must all agree to abide by the decision of the majority. For instance, where a clear majority of the overall population has voted for a particular party, that party should be in government, even though this doesn’t give them carte-blanche. In a referendum, questions should be carefully considered so as to reflect the concerns of the populace; this will be better done in a more politically engaged society. Nonetheless, once this is done and the vote is cast, I think you do have to go with the majority of the electorate, where there is one. (This is not necessarily to advocate referenda by simple majority of votes cast; proposals to require a majority of the electorate and/ or a majority large enough to be stable have merit – but these seek to fulfil, rather than undermining, the principle of majority rule). So, I’d acknowledge that when people disagree, going with the majority can be a necessary, if imperfect, mechanism for breaking a deadlock. However, democracy should not be reduced to a social contract to submit to majority rule, even with legal constraints preventing the majority from doing anything too horrific. It should involve trying to find consensus together, taking into consideration each other’s main concerns. I want to suggest that proportional representation can foster this type of democracy.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Democracy should not be reduced to a social contract to submit to majority rule.</p><p><span>Proportional representation is very likely to lead to coalition; in which the make-up of parliament reflects votes across the whole political unit for which parliament speaks. In such situations, if there is no overall majority, it is difficult to work out who is in charge. This is an argument frequently put forward for first past the post: that it enables strong, stable government. There are two problems with this argument: firstly, it suggests that the ideal is simply to impose majority rule as forcefully as possible. Secondly FPTP often ends up imposing the rule of a minority, albeit a significant minority, of voters. So, behind the ‘strong, stable government’ defence of FPTP lurks the idea that a false answer about who should be in charge is better than an unclear answer about who should be in charge. Reality is messy. We need to live with that.</span></p><p dir="ltr">The oversimplification of democratic will that happens in a FPTP parliament is mirrored in constituencies. Constituencies can be hotly contested and deeply divided, but whoever gets the most votes, even by a fraction, simply represents them. This imposes a false homogeneity on constituencies. One argument in favour of FPTP is that it takes places seriously – each constituency does get who the largest number of constituents vote for, and these constituents then have a strong, clear link to their MP; unfortunately, it also treats each place as a cardboard cut-out. In each constituency, the winner takes all and the myriad losers are obliged to shut up until the next election. PR can stop this happening at constituency level. It can also make it much less prominent at parliamentary level, where the true diversity of each place will be better represented.</p><p dir="ltr">PR will enable minority voices to be heard, and give them a seat at the table. Adam Ramsay, <a href="">reflecting on the lead up to the Scottish Election</a>, rightly notes that, thanks to Holyrood’s more proportional system, the various parties are doing “more than appealing to an imagined centre”. PR will also lead to coalitions. It will lead to compromises. It will lead to representatives having to talk to each other to work out what to do. It will foster a messier way of making decisions, but a way that is messier by virtue of being more honest. Even where PR does elect a majority, it will be a smaller majority, required to work closely with the rest of parliament and beholden to its electorate because it is much more likely to lose its majority. Whereas FPTP rests on a false majority that only, at best, represents a narrow middle masquerading as consensus, PR represents the breadth of public opinion and obliges it to seek a true consensus.</p><p dir="ltr">There are two caveats, often foregrounded by critics of PR. Firstly, in coalitions, large parties often make common cause with smaller parties, to inch themselves over the 50% threshold. In practice, this can drag the policy aims of the first largest party further away from those of the second. For instance, if the Tories made a coalition with UKIP this would take them further from Labour; similarly, if Labour made a coalition with the Greens, this would take them further from the Tories. </p><p><span>To be clear, the government formed in such a case would be no less democratic than the government formed when one party commanded a majority; it would still be made up of the same number of elected representatives. The potential problem is that the government’s compromise position would not be a consensus position. Maybe, instead, the two largest parties should just team-up as a matter of course? This has its own problems. If you’re not making a coalition based on shared ground, you are destined to make a nonsense of manifesto promises you can’t guarantee you’ll be able to propose. This brings us to anti-PR caveat number 2. Don’t all coalitions risk manifesto promises to some extent, leading to backdoor deals, so that the politics of a PR parliament is unrepresentative, even if its politicians aren’t? Doesn’t this also reduce accountability?</span></p><p dir="ltr">One way to guard against both of these problems would be to have guidelines preventing policies that a clear majority of voters rejected. For example, suppose the Tories make a coalition with UKIP. Under such provisions, they would not be able to incorporate into their coalition agreement a 5 year moratorium on ‘unskilled immigrants’, this not being in the manifestoes that most people voted for.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">The erosion of manifesto promises is, nonetheless, a risk of coalition government, and therefore of PR.</p><p dir="ltr">I’ll acknowledge that the erosion of manifesto promises is, nonetheless, a risk of coalition government, and therefore of PR. I think it is a risk worth taking partly because manifesto promises aren’t binding anyway, and regularly aren’t kept under the current system. PR might well fail to solve this particular problem with British democracy. But it wouldn’t create it. What would mitigate this problem is a more participatory democracy; a representative democracy where everyone engages closely with parliamentary politics, and seeks to hold parliament to account, is a good start here. It’s not going to happen while people believe that their votes simply don’t count. PR can make them count.</p><p>Much of this points towards a greater focus on parliament than on government as a locus of power. PR plays to the genuine strengths of parliamentary democracy in which a patchwork, cross-party legislative body represents the people. The government comes together out of that, as the group most likely to command a consistent majority, but it doesn’t have power to pass laws without involving all the representatives of the people. PR accentuates the discursive, consensus-focused aspects of this process in a way that gets a lot closer to doing justice to a diverse population seeking answers to genuinely complex questions. PR allows the electorate’s real diversity to be reflected in parliament, and fosters their serious engagement and negotiation between diverse perspectives. It won’t, of course, ensure that we will always make good decisions; nor will it be sufficient to solve all other problems that encroach on our democracy, such as corporate power and the influence of big media outlets. It will empower us for collective decision-making and promote a more politically engaged society, and that will help us tackle those other issues.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/idea/electoral-processes-and-democracy-a-moving-field">Electoral processes and democracy: a moving field</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/neal-lawson/arguments-against-proportional-representation-have-melted-away">The arguments against proportional representation have melted away</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/jeremy-gilbert/this-vote-shows-people-do-care-about-democracy">This vote shows that people do care about democracy</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk reset Sophie Cartwright Wed, 17 Aug 2016 11:35:38 +0000 Sophie Cartwright 104813 at Time for a UK agricultural policy that doesn’t subsidise the rich <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Now that the UK is leaving the disastrous Common Agricultural Policy, let's transform our farming for good.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//,_Pennsylvania.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//,_Pennsylvania.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="303" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>image: Public Domain, Wikimedia.</span></span></span></p><p>Let’s get one thing straight. The EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is a disaster. It is essentially a £50 billion welfare system for the landed gentry and other big landowners across Europe. While people who genuinely need public funds find their benefits cut to the bone, these people get huge amounts of public money for doing absolutely nothing. It amounts to one of the most glaring transfers of money from poor to rich in the UK. The CAP has also been disastrous for people in the global south. For decades, Europe dumped excess agricultural produce into markets in the global south, ruining the livelihoods of local farmers who could not compete with the artificially cheap imports. But cleverly, through the WTO, rich countries have ensured that poor countries cannot raise equivalent subsidy programmes of their own. For example, India has been castigated for its food security policy that gives cheap food to the poor, while relatively rich EU farmers gets huge sums for doing not very much at all.</p> <p>So given all of this, you would think that leaving the EU could actually be a positive thing for agriculture. Free from the shackles of the CAP, we might finally get a fairer system. Right?</p> <p>Wrong. Theoretically of course it is possible that Andrea Leadsom, the new secretary of state at DEFRA, the government department in charge of agriculture and the environment, could spearhead a radical progressive programme of subsidy reform. But all the political indications suggest this is highly unlikely.</p> <p>For a start, there will be a huge lobbying effort from bodies like the National Farmers Union and others who represent big agricultural and landowning interests to keep the free cash flowing to them. They will undoubtedly be helped by the fact that some people in government personally benefit from subsidies. It was<a href="">&nbsp;revealed yesterday </a>that the environment minister, Lord Gardiner, has interests in a farm that receives £49,000 a year in agricultural subsidies. Leadsom herself has also accepted money <a href="">from someone who gets over £450,000 a year from the scheme.</a>&nbsp;Iain Duncan Smith’s wife’s family got £159,000 and <a href="">the Queen claimed £686,000 in 2014</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p>Even within the EU, the UK refused to implement more progressive parts of the CAP. For example, the UK no longer gives subsidies to small farmers with under 5 hectares of land and has not implemented a cap on payments to large farms. Outside the CAP, the UK is free to further stack subsidies in favour of the rich. This is especially the case considering the fact that as the economy enters post-Brexit blues, there is likely to be less money to go round. If the government doesn’t cut subsidies for its rich friends and donors, then the alternative is to cut the subsidies linked to environmental protection, which would be a disaster.</p> <p>But it doesn’t have to be this way. First we need to untie subsidies from landownership to ensure that wealthy landowners are not getting huge welfare handouts regardless of whether what they do has any social benefit. We must reform agricultural subsidies in a way that promotes a more sustainable farming model. Subsidies should only be given to those farms that practice high environmental standards. There is also an argument that more could be done to support smaller-scale farmers who do not enjoy the economies of scale that industrial-scale farms do if they are willing to follow best environmental practice. Implementing a ceiling for subsidy payments would help save money and level the playing field a bit in this regard.&nbsp;<a href="">The Landworkers Alliance </a>has estimated that even a fairly lenient cap on payments of £120,000 would save £400 million a year, money that could be spent on fostering a much fairer and more ethical food system.</p> <p>It is also a scandal that farms that pump healthy animals with antibiotics are given handouts.&nbsp;These farming practices are contributing to the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria to the extent that we now face the dawn of a terrifying new post-antibiotic era. This must end.</p> <p>We could also link subsidies to more stringent animal welfare standards. The taxpayer should not be paying farmers to subject animals to the cruel and unusual punishment that is battery farming.</p> <p>It is also important to ensure&nbsp;that whatever agricultural subsidies we decide to retain do not end up harming the livelihoods of farmers in the global south. Subsidised British produce must not end up being sold at below cost prices in the markets of Beijing or Bangui.</p> <p>In theory, the sky is the limit in terms of what we can achieve. In practice, however, we are limited by the blinkers of a myopic political elite constrained by what is considered acceptable to influential landowners. Campaigners should fight to overcome this and push for a UK food system that is fair and ecologically sound for both producers and consumers.</p><p><strong><em>This piece first appeared on the Global Justice Now <a href="">blog</a>.</em></strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/struggle-of-dairy-farmers-gives-us-opportunity-to-democratise-our-worlds-food-system">The struggle of dairy farmers gives us an opportunity to democratise our world&#039;s food system</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/griffin-carpenter/eu-common-fisheries-policy-has-helped-not-harmed-uk-fisheries-0">The EU Common Fisheries Policy has helped, not harmed, UK fisheries</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk reset Alex Scrivener Mon, 08 Aug 2016 11:15:59 +0000 Alex Scrivener 104627 at Brexit Britain and the political economy of undemocracy: part 2 – the left <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>While the right acts decisively to restore the established order, the Corbyn experiment eschews both democracy and state power, and thus Labour’s best hope of transforming capitalism – part two of two.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="261" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jeremy Corbyn. Image, Momentum.</span></span></span></p><p>Labour’s current predicament is one of many dimensions. It is also not simply Labour’s dilemma, insofar as the turmoil engulfing the party is symptomatic of that which now characterises the basic notion of social democracy, that is, a negotiated compromise between social justice, growth and the market economy. When capitalism falters, elites protect their own material interests through political consolidation, responding to the weakening of the accumulation regime’s legitimacy by arguing that even the slightest shift to the left poses the risk of an economic crisis even greater than the one just concocted by the regime itself. </p><p>Crucially, the social democratic dilemma is in part rooted in a more encompassing crisis of democracy. Waning adherence to democratic ideals has facilitated the right’s <a href="">decisive response to Brexit</a> (and, indeed, the earlier response to financial crisis). Of course, this is a crisis which Labour has been complicit in creating the conditions for in Britain. The last Labour government did staggeringly little to reform the bastions of British undemocracy, by sustaining the Westminster model of governance and further emasculating local government, failing to reform the first-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral system or Britain’s archaic electoral administration processes, failing to challenge the market structure of press ownership or political party funding rules, and barely touching the House of Lords. </p> <p>Some of these features of British political life have often worked in Labour’s favour in the short term, but one of the long term consequences of acquiescence to undemocracy has been to insulate the party from the perspectives of those it purports to represent (especially once the decline in trade union membership had gathered pace). </p> <p>Labour has nevertheless been able to rely on substantial working-class support at the ballot box. Yet the Brexit vote offers a worrying portent in this regard. Only 60 per cent of people who voted for Labour in 2015 voted to remain in the EU; the <a href="">notion</a> that this represents any semblance of success for the Labour leadership is a highly illusory one. It represents in fact a staggering withdrawal of support for a longstanding foundation of centre-left statecraft and, more worryingly for Labour, a profound desertion by working-class supporters, insofar as the Labour remain vote was concentrated among the party’s better-off supporters in large cities.</p> <p>Jeremy Corbyn continues to <a href="">claim</a> that the result vindicates his own approach, therefore indulging in the <a href="">political bullshitting</a> the right mastered during the campaign. Whether intentionally or otherwise, by indulging in the post-truth tropes of Brexit, Corbyn is beginning to embody part of the crisis of British democracy. Ironically, his election as Labour leader was of course a product of his more moderate colleagues’ own complacency regarding the fragility of democratic ideals. The so-called ‘<a href="">morons</a>’ in the parliamentary party nominated Corbyn even while many, if not most, did not support his candidacy. </p> <p>Furthermore, the hastily designed rules of the leadership election he won are the product of political positioning far more so than any democratic principle. Corbyn’s predecessor Ed Miliband implemented one-member-one-vote (OMOV) in place of the electoral college solely to distance himself from the trade unions that had been decisive in his own victory in 2010, and at the same time introduced the ‘registered supporter’ model – a neither-here-nor-there nod to American-style primary elections – solely as a response to the argument that David Miliband, not Ed, would have won had OMOV already been in place.</p> <p>The left’s embrace of undemocracy is perhaps more worrying than the right’s, given the historical association between left-wing politics and campaigns to enfranchise less privileged groups within society. The Corbyn camp claims the mantle of democracy, but it is one of the paradoxes of democratic life that democratisation within parties – an inherently problematic endeavour – invariably serves to widen the distance between the party and the electorate at large.</p> <p>Corbyn consistently argues that Labour’s MPs must respect his ‘mandate’ (that is, the votes of around 59 per cent of members and supporters). Notwithstanding the fact that leaders in democratic societies can and must be challenged irrespective of the size of their victories, the notion that it represents a form of democratisation to disempower MPs, who were both selected by local parties and then elected to parliament by the public, from exercising their own judgement on questions of party leadership clearly exists within a philosophical quagmire. Julian Baggini is surely correct in labelling Corbyn’s politics as ‘<a href="">populism in its purest form</a>’, and to warn of the threat to genuine democracy that populist politicians have always posed.</p> <p>Irrespective of their procedural rules, essentially all political parties must function as coalitions between members, activists, elected officials and the wider constituency they exist to represent. This is surely the <em>spirit</em> of Labour’s leadership election rules, even if these rules were drafted rather absent-mindedly.</p> <p>As such, any attempt to treat political parties of microcosms of the wider polity, mimicking basic citizenship rights for members, is flawed, precisely because individuals exercise discretion over whether to join the organisation in the first place. The idea that the 12th January cut-off date for Labour members to be eligible to vote in the coming leadership election ‘disenfranchises’ new members is a classic example of the fallacious thinking that often surrounds this issue. It is indeed an arbitrary date, but no more than any other date would have been, and it was decided on at the same executive council meeting that ruled in Corbyn’s favour on much more consequential matters.</p> <p>One new member, Joshua Steele, actually sought to ‘crowdfund’ resources to mount a legal challenge against the cut-off, on the basis that it was a ‘<a href="">clear breach of the terms of [his] contract with the Labour party as a member</a>’. ‘Imagine,’ he added in reference to the new £25 charge for registered supporters, ‘if in general elections everyone had to pay £25 to be eligible to vote’.</p> <p>And so it is that in the current Labour leadership election, it is increasingly common to hear quintessentially anti-democratic narratives – justifying the continuation of Corbyn’s leadership irrespective of how this might be achieved – wrapped up in a superficial defence of democracy. Political parties are clearly allowed to privilege loyalty and activism if they wish to do so – if new or prospective members disagree, they can, armed with their rights as British citizens, form their own party. </p> <p>The current process, after another bout of complex gerrymandering, is therefore another deeply ambivalent exercise in democracy.</p> <p>Corbyn is a keen student of history, so will be well aware there is little that is historic about his mandate from the perspective on internal party democracy. Neil Kinnock received a far higher proportion of votes when challenged in 1988 than Corbyn did in 2015, and Tony Blair received a far higher volume of votes in 1994 (because the party membership was so much larger). Yet Corbyn defied both, despite their overwhelming mandates. And as leader, he consistently defies the party’s sovereign policy-making body (the annual conference) on key areas of policy.</p> <p>Corbyn also appears to fret very little about the questionable democratic procedures within the trade unions which continue to sustain his leadership. Union leaders, and delegates for the conferences that establish union policy, are elected on miniscule turnout rates. Meanwhile, Unite, for instance, is currently <a href="">threatening</a> to attempt to deselect all MPs opposed to Corbyn’s leadership, while at the same time YouGov <a href="">polling</a>&nbsp;suggests the majority of its own members want Corbyn to resign.</p> <p>All the while, Labour is failing to fulfil the basic functions of parliamentary democracy, either by opposing the incumbent government or forming a meaningful alternative. Arguably all parts of the Parliamentary Labour Party are at fault here – not least those with substantial parliamentary and ministerial experience.</p> <p>Corbyn’s supporters would of course retort that they are building a ‘social movement’ rather than simply a parliamentary party (a case explicitly made by <a href="">Paul Mason</a>, and expertly unpicked by <a href="">Matt Bolton</a> and even Corbyn sympathiser <a href="">Owen Jones</a>). This was clearly behind the argument of Jon Lansman, chair of the pro-Corbyn campaign group Momentum, that ‘<a href="">[d]emocracy gives power to people, “Winning” [sic] is the small bit that matters to political elites who want to keep power themselves’</a>. While Corbyn <em>et al</em> might genuinely want to build a mass movement both encompassing and reaching beyond Labour, it seems incongruous that they have offered little by way of a <a href="">radical policy agenda</a> around which the movement can cohere.</p> <p>None of this is necessarily meant as a criticism of the Corbyn leadership. Yet it is necessary to locate Corbyn in a broader canvas, one in which democratic norms appear to be fading as various interest groups jostle for supremacy in a post-crisis environment. One issue for which Corbyn must be criticised is his indifference towards the increasingly abusive nature of internal Labour party relations, despite his self-proclaimed ‘kinder politics’. He may rightly condemn abuse in one breath, but it means little if in the next if continues to use the language of treachery and betrayal to describe his opponents – whom he chillingly referred to recently as ‘<a href="">unkind</a>’, and therefore presumably unworthy of protection from abuse, having apparently failed the kinder politics test.</p> <p>Democracy and all its messy compromises should matter more to the left than the right. Even if a social movement in favour of radical economic reform were to arise, it will need institutions through which to exercise both voice and control. The invitation to Labour to participate in those institutions cannot be taken for granted; it has to be consistently defended and renewed through political struggle. The norms and habits of democratic citizenship, which constrain capitalism but which it cannot feasibly jettison from Western societies without jeopardising its own future, are allied to the left’s long term interests in this regard. Labour must find a way to nurture them, and settle on an organisational model which allows it to do so.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/craig-berry/brexit-britain-and-political-economy-of-undemocracy-part-1-right">Brexit Britain and the political economy of undemocracy: part 1 – the right</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk reset Craig Berry Mon, 08 Aug 2016 10:40:57 +0000 Craig Berry 104511 at Brexit Britain and the political economy of undemocracy: part 1 – the right <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The aftermath of economic crisis, followed by Brexit, has seen the dismantling of democratic norms in Britain. The right benefits, while the left stands by. Part one of two.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// may 2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// may 2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Theresa May. Image, FCO, public domain.</span></span></span>&nbsp; </p><p>Another Conservative prime minister, another Downing Street <a href="">speech</a> drenched in one nation mythology. Many will doubt Theresa May’s sincerity when she talks about equality and inclusion, but to conclude that she is being duplicitous would be to miss the point. It is more a question of conceptual hierarchies: there will be plenty of time for progressive politics, but only once the economy has been ‘stabilised’.</p> <p>The problem is that while politicians of the right borrow the language of the left, their real priorities go largely unsaid, or are at least obscured. When May praises her predecessor’s commitment to ‘social justice’, we are attuned to focusing on the word ‘justice’, insofar as it conjures up egalitarian politics. But her focus, like David Cameron’s, will probably be on the ‘social’ bit. Individuals must make themselves more morally worthy, if they wish to be rewarded by the <em>inherently just</em> market order.</p> <p>Such wordplay is of course a normal, and usually unthinking, element of political discourse. We can therefore both take May at her word, and with a pinch of salt. My fear, however, is that this is becoming <em>more normal</em>, with contorted conceptualisations now deployed more consciously by politicians. Colin Hay and I use the term ‘<a href="">communicative dissonance</a>’, to describe the way that the coalition government, especially George Osborne, talked about the economic recovery. </p> <p>In the aftermath of Brexit, the willingness of competing elites to engage in post-truth politics, or what Ben Rosamond and Jonathan Hopkin call political ‘<a href="">bullshitting</a>’, is as alarming as it is fascinating to any student of politics or political economy. It is an additional dimension of the post-crisis ‘<a href="">unravelling</a>’ of Western values identified by Andrew Gamble, made possible by an entire generation of elites’ indifference to the norms of representative democratic life. Colin Crouch’s 2000 work on ‘<a href="">post-democracy</a>’ chronicles the emergence of this shift.</p> <p>In this way, Theresa May takes forward Cameron and Osborne’s toxic legacy for Britain’s democratic culture. She told us during her abbreviated leadership election campaign that ‘<a href="">Brexit means Brexit</a>’; this is only true because Brexit essentially means very little. May claims that as prime minister she will be guided above all by respecting the people’s democratically expressed preference, but it is becoming <a href="">increasingly clear</a> that she has no intention of delivering Brexit in any straightforward sense.</p> <p>I believe that the UK will ultimately agree to the closest possible relationship with the EU, short of full membership, including free movement of labour (FMOL). The deal will probably see Britain included as a partner in both existing and future trade deals between the EU and the rest of the world. This would be largely unprecedented for a non-member; it will presented as a way of delivering a new ‘global Britain’, but it will of course represent the opposite, that is, salvation for the pre-Brexit status quo. </p> <p>To enable Britain to ‘save face’ in these circumstances, I would expect an EU/UK trade deal that allows Britain to sign supplementary bilateral deals on financial services with non-EU countries. Such deals will in practice be quite rare, and insofar as they do materialise, the EU will probably welcome them, given the City’s Eurozone entrepôt function.</p> <p>Caving in on FMOL might damage May, but no more so than she was hurt as home secretary by missing pre-Brexit immigration targets. Crucially, opposition to FMOL will soon be dampened by a likely <a href="">collapse in immigration</a> as Britain’s stuttering post-Brexit economy offers a weaker ‘pull’ to migrants. Migrants from outside the EU will also probably have fewer rights in Britain in the future; although May advocated remaining in the EU, she also argued in April that Britain should <a href="">withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights</a>.</p> <p>Immigration will for the foreseeable future be even more concentrated in London (and so will be less visible to most pro-Brexit regions in England) and Scotland. The Sturgeon government will seek to use higher immigration in lieu of a fiscal stimulus as Scotland enters the next recession. This will create a dilemma for the Scottish National Party if it precipitates an anti-immigration backlash among more disadvantaged groups – which the Conservatives, under the leadership of Ruth Davidson, rather than Labour, are well-placed to benefit from.</p> <p>All the while, the Bank of England will embark on an enormous monetary stimulus that nobody voted for in an effort to again prevent recession turning into depression. Its effects will be as <a href="">regressive</a> as they were after 2008.</p> <p>No matter how ‘Brexit Britain’ takes shape, the link to the exercise in mass democracy undertaken in June will seem increasingly tenuous over time. The referendum result was of course a kick in the teeth to those elites who favoured remain, but clearly, and crucially, it was not a mechanism by which the established order was seriously endangered.</p> <p>To clarify, I am not arguing that the new government <em>should</em> respect the Brexit vote. From the perspective of democracy, the referendum was a profoundly flawed process. Cameron believed he could use the referendum to manage his own unruly backbenches, in the way he had in 2011 used the Alternative Vote referendum to manage his junior coalition partners. Very little thought was given to whether a hasty, one-off, UK-wide, winner-takes-all, in/out referendum represented the correct way in a parliamentary democracy for the people’s voice to be heard on such a seismic issue.</p> <p>That many millions of Britons wanted to challenge EU rules such as FMOL should be neither doubted nor ignored. But it was only the loose correlation of this perspective with certain elite interests that made the politicisation of EU membership permissible. And it is the same elites that will now translate the result.</p> <p>As such, many of the actions that Britain’s leaders have undertaken or will undertake following the referendum clearly fit the notion of ‘post-democracy’ quite well. But the crisis of democracy is arguably intensifying: I believe we are moving into an age of ‘<em>un</em>democracy’. It is no longer simply the case that popular opinion is marginalised by technocratic decision-making processes; it is becoming apparent that people themselves no longer appreciate the value of democratic institutions as arenas in which they can exercise any meaningful influence on public life.</p> <p>One of the paradoxical dimensions of undemocracy may be a populism of the left, whereby a mass protest movement forms with only a fairly superficial focus on formal democratic processes – this is explored further in Part 2 of this post. But the left’s evolution seemingly mirrors a broader contradiction of undemocracy: while post-democracy marginalises popular opinion by narrowing the scope of democratic engagement by elites, in contrast, in the age of undemocracy, the people are themselves mobilised to execute the final stages of the destruction of democratic culture. </p> <p>That they are asked do so <em>in the name of democracy</em>, through exercises such as the EU referendum, serves to underline the significance – and perhaps irreversible nature – of this shift.</p> <p>What we are witnessing is the effective severance of the apparent operation of democratic principles from the actual institutions of democracy, thus creating a vacuum that only existing elites are capable of filling. In this scenario, Brexit might be the least of our worries.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/craig-berry/brexit-britain-and-political-economy-of-undemocracy-part-2-left">Brexit Britain and the political economy of undemocracy: part 2 – the left</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk reset Craig Berry Mon, 08 Aug 2016 10:40:47 +0000 Craig Berry 104510 at Video: Black lives matter: shutdown <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>"1,562 deaths in police custody in my lifetime. 0 convictions". As Black Lives Matter protesters set up blockades in London, Birmingham and Nottingham, here's their video explaining why it's time for a shutdown.</p> </div> </div> </div> <blockquote class="twitter-video" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">We call a nationwide <a href="">#Shutdown</a> because <a href="">#BlackLivesMatter</a>, because this is a crisis.<br /><br />05.08016 <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; #BlackLivesMatterUK (@ukblm) <a href="">August 4, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script> Follow their Twitter account here: <a class="twitter-timeline" href="">Tweets by ukblm</a> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shinealight/lotte-lewis-smith/rough-handling-and-restraint-uk-forced-removals-still-nast">Rough handling and restraint: UK forced removals still a nasty business</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk reset Black Lives Matter UK Fri, 05 Aug 2016 11:06:06 +0000 Black Lives Matter UK 104567 at Don't make crude assumptions about young people's attitudes to the EU <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Until recently, young people were one of Britain's most Eurosceptic demographics.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// ukip.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// ukip.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Young UKIP members. Image: Young UKIP, fair use.</span></span></span></strong></p> <p>It has become a mantra that, as a matter of natural course, <a href="">younger people are pro-EU</a> and that therefore the future looks bright for the Remain camp. This is not reflected either in the recent history of UK voting or opinion polling, or indeed of current surveys in other EU countries. </p> <p>The unmentioned story of the EU referendum is that to win it, the Leave camp had to alienate one surprisingly eurosceptic age group over a very short period. The 18 to 24-year-old voter. </p> <p>The casual and almost unchallenged assumption that the young are ‘bound’ to be pro-EU is belied by very recent statistics. As I myself pointed out in a piece I wrote for openDemocracy only <a href="">three years ago</a>, at that time the youngest age group was second only to the oldest age group in its support for UKIP, an observation based upon a long term compiling of the opinion polling done by YouGov.</p> <p>In the 2012 <a href="">YouGov survey</a>(pdf) of attitudes regarding a referendum on EU membership the young would vote 42% to Leave, and 32% remain (the rest ‘don’t know’ or wouldn’t vote).&nbsp; </p> <p>But it is pretty clear that the group did split 3 to 1 in favour of Remain in the actual vote. Dramatically different to the intentions being trailed only a short time before. </p><h2><strong>Turned off by Leave focus</strong></h2> <p>It is surely the case that the younger voter was specifically turned off by the focus on immigration and, possibly more self-interestedly, in the fear that this would impact on their own desire to travel. Whatever it was, it is interesting the degree to which clips on social media tend to often feature the young voter’s fear of not being able to travel. <a href="">This video</a> at around 5.30 sums up the point quite well. </p> <p>Quick fire journalistic speculation has dealt in simplistic logics about ‘young people’ – they like to travel…see a future without borders…want to live and work in harmony with all our great friends ‘in Europe’…don’t like the anti-immigrant undercurrents etc. Etc. However, this idealised version is belied by the immediate past history of sudden alteration in views, which of course could swing back just as easily to opposing the EU. </p> <p>The cringe-making Youtube clips and social media comments by young voters which have <a href="">flooded</a> the <a href="">internet</a> or may be fun for committed Leavers, but they are worth looking at in a detached and understanding way to see how the Leave camp was perceived by that group.<strong> <br /></strong></p> <h2><strong>Class and money</strong></h2> <p>There is also the awkward matter of class, backing up the title of John Harris’s <a href="">Guardian piece</a> the day after the vote “If you’ve got money you vote in, if you haven’t got money you vote out” – I hope this is not seen as insulting but most of the young in the Youtube clips or interviewed on marches sound like they are privately educated and therefore from considerably richer-than-average backgrounds. Harris indeed pointed to dismissive twentysomethings with a sense of superiority, and a type of class war. The voice of working class 18-24s voters not working for political parties or for pressure groups is not so audible. </p> <p>As a former Vice Chair of UKIP, until just over a decade ago, one of my tasks had been to talk in schools and colleges about the EU. The students’ views were the same as those that drew <span>me</span> to the eurosceptic cause in the first place and generally they were strongly eurosceptic. The worries about organisations like Europol and its immunities, issues around democracy and accountability and corruption etc. Immigration and potential restrictions on movement were never ever mentioned.</p> <p>The drift away by the young occurred in the run-up to the European elections which UKIP ‘won’ in Britain (meaning they got the most votes). By this point, in any event, polling showed that it would not be the younger voter that would deliver UKIP its historic victory in 2014. By this point, as well, the message about immigration had strongly hit home.</p> <h2><strong>Different view in other EU countries</strong></h2> <p>The simplistic idea that the EU is ‘bound to be’ popular with younger people is not reflected across all other EU countries. The rise of very varied anti-EU parties like the Five Star Movement in Italy (regularly leading the polls or equalling the government party) and the more troubling Golden Dawn in Greece have been achieved with large and committed support from the very youngest voters. For a few years now, figures in respected research show the youngest age group being the strongest supporter of, say, Golden Dawn in Greece (see page 555 <a href="">here</a>). </p> <p>According <a href="">to Reuters</a>, quoting a&nbsp;September 2015&nbsp;opinion poll done by Alco,&nbsp;Golden Dawn had by that stage&nbsp;worryingly&nbsp;become the party of first choice for the 18-24s. Stats from the respected <a href="">Friedrich Ebert Foundation</a> should alarm those commentators who have reported uncritically the young Remainer argument that older voters have acted unfairly in voting Leave and that their votes somehow should not be seen to count in the same way. Step aside all but Golden Dawn in Greece, then, on that basis? “Tomorrow belongs to us?” as the now-discredited song has it.</p> <p>This support appears to have <a href="">grown again</a> considerably since Tsipras and the left in general in Greece capitulated to the EU during 2015 and simply did the EU’s bidding on acting as hardline enforcers of austerity, having achieved a clear mandate through elections and referendum to do the opposite.&nbsp; </p><p>The stats on Page 5 of the <a href="">European Consortium for Political Research</a> (ECPR) 2013 paper on Italy also make sobering reading for anyone who wishes to luxuriate in the undoubtedly reasonable argument in the UK about “graduates and the young supporting Remain and the not-so-educated more on the Leave side”. The Italian situation appears to demonstrate the mirror opposite. </p> <h2><strong>Insular British commentary</strong></h2> <p>It is within these striking differences, and the insularity of British commentary taking refuge in simplistic and hopeful views, that surely lies a key to the referendum result. Self interest. While M5S, and alas Golden Dawn, have created an impression as modern, youthful and in-touch parties, inspiring their young voters to actually turn out, the Remain camp in the UK ran a Project Fear awkward and turgid campaign, trying to shore up inconsistencies with a barrage of claims and insinuations about war and financial collapse that were quite extreme and difficult to believe. I dislike the word ‘lie’ because it polarises and is intended to end discussion, demonise, implying full access to an opponents’ mind: the Leave campaign simply focused hard on its core voter ignoring the young. </p> <p>The issues which might inspire younger voters to support Leave appeared to be all but absent from the campaign and certainly were not a priority. It meant that the second most eurosceptic voter group deserted, and those that did vote surely took Leave at what they assumed was their word – that there would be dramatic restrictions in freedom of movement if they won. But because of the turnout stats, this would appear to have been a sound strategic move by Leave.</p> <p>And having won the referendum, it is now a key task for the Leave camp to make sure that they win back round the younger voter. If it is all as simple as convincing them that they can still go skiing or to Thailand on their gap years, and that Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage won’t be beastly to foreigners, then it should be a fairly easy task. Well, it should be.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourbeeb/josiah-mortimer/women-and-young-are-left-in-dark-by-eu-referendum-debate">Women and the young are being left in the dark by the Brexit debate</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk reset Damian Hockney Fri, 05 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Damian Hockney 104535 at Labour needs a programme of political education <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Labour party membership has grown hugely. To mobilise this membership, it needs to invest in educating it.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Paulo Friere, theorist of political education.Image,</span></span></span></p><p>This week, Owen Jones published a blog, ‘<a href="">Questions</a> all Jeremy Corbyn supporters need to answer’, which has caused a stir on the left.&nbsp;His ninth question was about how the mass membership of&nbsp;Corbyn’s&nbsp;Labour can translate into votes. Here is one possible answer.&nbsp;</p> <p>If you randomly select 75 people from the UK electorate one of them&nbsp;will be&nbsp;a&nbsp;Labour Party&nbsp;member. Soon this could rise to one in every fifty. Recognition of this&nbsp;astonishing transformation into a mass party must&nbsp;be central to any future strategy. As Paul Mason&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">puts it</a>&nbsp;“Labour is close to having an identifiable face in every milieu — in every pub conversation, every workplace, every college lecture, every group of mums with toddlers.”</p> <p>But a workforce is only ever as good as its tools.&nbsp;Over the past decade the Labour Party has deployed its membership for&nbsp;two&nbsp;functions:&nbsp;fundraising and&nbsp;data collection. The #LabourDoorstep rarely involves political discussion or persuasion; its purpose is to identify how the household is voting so that they can be targeted by post, or encouraged to vote on polling day.</p> <p>If this was ever&nbsp;an effective strategy,&nbsp;it is now&nbsp;utterly&nbsp;inadequate. Our society is becoming increasingly politicised and Labour cannot win an election, never&nbsp;mind transform society, on the basis of effective state-management. We will only win by articulating a positive and transformative vision for a fairer society.&nbsp;We can do this&nbsp;with&nbsp;savvy press strategy and effective use of social media but nothing can replace&nbsp;one-to-one, or small-group, conversations on the basis of mutual trust and respect.</p> <p>This necessitates an active, political and articulate membership who can&nbsp;persuade&nbsp;those around&nbsp;them.&nbsp;How we can&nbsp;develop&nbsp;this?</p> <h2><strong>Short-term&nbsp;plasters</strong></h2> <p>Ultimately this is a long-term strategy. It means empowerment: giving people the self-confidence and the intellectual tools to analyse and change the world. But there are also short-term steps we can take.</p> <p>1)&nbsp;<strong>Clear vision.</strong>&nbsp;This does not need to be policy-heavy but it does need to be tangible. If we cannot provide a rough sketch&nbsp;outlining&nbsp;life under a Labour government then what’s the point? If our supportive members cannot explain this in a minute conversation in the pub then how can we expect more sceptical voters to be convinced when it is mediated through a hostile media?</p> <p>2)&nbsp;<strong>Watercooler points</strong>.&nbsp;Across the country colleagues and friends will discuss, however briefly, current&nbsp;affairs over a pint, or by the office watercooler. Increasingly, there will be a Labour party member participating in these&nbsp;conversations,&nbsp;but they’re there&nbsp;with no support. We need to make regular, perhaps weekly, contact with our members to share key talking points and responses to criticisms. It is already someone’s job to do this for&nbsp;an&nbsp;inner core of press spokespeople: we need to expand that core to over&nbsp;a million.</p> <p>3)&nbsp;<strong>Break out of our bubble</strong>. The danger of relying on our membership is that we end up just speaking to ourselves. We need a conscious approach to avoiding this. This means supporting local members to&nbsp;have a presence in other spheres, and to organise outward facing events ourselves. This means book clubs, football tournaments, coffee mornings, yoga sessions, bingo nights etc.</p> <h2><strong>A long-term cure: political education&nbsp;</strong></h2> <p>Part of being a political activist is being able to analyse the world around you and produce ideas for how to change it. The existing Labour party practice is that this work is done externally – by academics and&nbsp;thinktanks&nbsp;– and not by the membership. This is an elitist model which undermines the democracy of&nbsp;the&nbsp;party and makes&nbsp;it&nbsp;less effective.</p> <p>Labour needs a programme of political education to&nbsp;empower members to better persuade those around them and to participate more confidently in internal debates on&nbsp;Labour’s&nbsp;policy&nbsp;and direction. It can also contribute towards building more participative&nbsp;and less fractious&nbsp;local parties, where members better understand one another’s perspective.</p> <p>Access&nbsp;to political education is both minimal and inconsistent.&nbsp;If you are not at a university&nbsp;(and probably a posh one at that) then your only access to political education is likely to come through&nbsp;family or social connections, or self-guided reading.&nbsp;Unlike many of&nbsp;Labour’s&nbsp;sister parties abroad, there is no systematic approach to political education in&nbsp;Labour’s&nbsp;youth wing or in&nbsp;any of the party’s structures.&nbsp;Local parties or Young Labour groups might do some work&nbsp;–&nbsp;but it is&nbsp;possible to be active in Young Labour and the Labour party for many years and never be invited to anything that resembles political education.</p> <p>This needs to change.&nbsp;We&nbsp;must&nbsp;be under no illusions: this is a huge task which will require vast quantities of time and energy. It will also be entirely unglamorous. But it has&nbsp;one strength&nbsp;over the short-term suggestions above: we can start right now. We do not need permission from the leader, the party machine, or anyone else. We can just start doing it.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/hilary-wainwright/new-politics-from-left">A new politics from the left? </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk reset James McAsh Tue, 02 Aug 2016 23:00:01 +0000 James McAsh 104484 at Popular delusions: Corbynism constructs its people <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Team Corbyn conjures a people, but fails to do the hard work of building one.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// York.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// York.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="272" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jeremy Corbyn rally, York - image, Jeremy Corbyn</span></span></span>&nbsp; </p><p>Last week, the&nbsp;<em>Economist</em>&nbsp;journalist Natasha Loder&nbsp;<a href="">shared a train carriage</a>&nbsp;with Jeremy Corbyn. She eavesdropped as Corbyn and his staffers stressed over his leadership campaign&nbsp;slogans. The choice came down to two: ‘Putting people first’, or ‘people powered politics’. <a href="">The latter won</a>. But the common theme? ‘People’. The same ‘people’ that pops up, inexplicably, in the moniker of <a href="">Peoples Momentum</a>, the organisation otherwise known as <a href="">Jeremy for Labour Ltd</a>.&nbsp;Corbynism may&nbsp;lay&nbsp;claim to a politics of&nbsp;the&nbsp;real, the&nbsp;immediate,&nbsp;the&nbsp;concrete. But the people to which Corbynism addresses itself is&nbsp;totally&nbsp;abstract, a mere&nbsp;<a href="">fugazi​</a>.</p> <p>The idea of the people is now as pervasive on&nbsp;the left as the idea of class once was. Its pervasiveness owes to a surge in&nbsp;<a href="">left populism</a>. With Corbynism, the UK caught what&nbsp;swept Europe post-crisis. But continental populism’s successes highlight the divergence. Syriza carefully constructed a popular&nbsp;platform through&nbsp;<a href="">practical solidarity work</a>. Podemos&nbsp;<a href="">harnessed media messaging</a>&nbsp;to articulate a popular project around points of popular grievance. Insofar as people power is possible within capitalism at all, these interventions worked.</p> <p>But Corbynism summons up a people it has played no such part in piecing together.&nbsp;<a href="">As Nick Cohen writes</a>, when Corbyn claims to be ‘authentically reflecting “the people”’, he speaks only of ‘that tiny section of “the people” who pay £3 and click on a link to show they agree with him'.&nbsp;Corbyn won the&nbsp;leadership surfing no wave of popular struggle.&nbsp;And,&nbsp;<a href="">as Matt Bolton has pointed out</a>, he may pass from it in much the same manner. ‘The people’ is a placeholder for something that exists only as pure potential. But, a spectral presence at the head of a virtual movement, Corbyn wields no ability to realise it. Slogans, as Corbyn’s challenger&nbsp;Owen Smith<a href="">&nbsp;himself&nbsp;sloganizes</a>, are not enough. We need solutions.</p> <p>But the people’s non-existence&nbsp;does not diminish its political effect on the faithful. It rallies supporters around a rhetorical perch on which to rest their laurels. This is best seen in the logic of the 99%. On one hand, this gives the perfect alibi. When you're losing, who do you blame? The 1% of course, who fix reality against the popular will. Conspiracy theories provide a convenient excuse to avoid&nbsp;the complex thinking and activity necessary to comprehend and change a world where power has no central point. On the other hand, an added sense of comfort rewards those sharing&nbsp;Corbyn's conviction that&nbsp;'<a href="">things can, and they will, change</a>'. This says: the 1% may command incredible power right now. But&nbsp;through sheer force of numbers, our victory is inevitable.&nbsp;Others just need to come around to it.&nbsp;This optimism induces&nbsp;both an intellectual and political paralysis.</p> <p>It gains a sophisticated veneer in Paul Mason’s contention that Corbynism represents a&nbsp;<a href="">‘counter-power’</a>. Mason follows an Italian&nbsp;<a href="">leftist tradition</a>&nbsp;that started out seeing working-class revolt driving capitalist change. By&nbsp;the 21st century,&nbsp;the working class made way for a&nbsp;<a href="">‘multitude’</a>&nbsp;whose&nbsp;desires&nbsp;determine world order. So globalisation, for instance, reacts to the border-hopping boundlessness of uncontainable masses. The idea of the multitude as counter-power consoles us that&nbsp;the world is our creation. And because we are&nbsp;good&nbsp;people,&nbsp;it promotes a&nbsp;<a href="">Panglossian</a>&nbsp;belief that all is for the best, and we live in the best of all possible worlds. It belongs to us, and owes us a living.</p> <p>So there’s a two-sided political utility to being part of the ‘people’. On the one hand, it reassures you that you’re losing because of a powerful elite. On the other, it confirms that you’ll win in the end regardless. Whichever they&nbsp;choose – conspiracy or teleology – the popular&nbsp;sleep&nbsp;safe in the knowledge&nbsp;there’s nothing else left&nbsp;to do –&nbsp;like win elections, for instance. So, staring down Brexit,&nbsp;Corbyn’s defenders elide the&nbsp;peril of a rudderless parliamentary opposition. Just&nbsp;<a href="">sit still and shine</a>.</p> <p>Either route affords false resources of hope and anger. Things aren’t as bad as conspiracy suggests, but are much worse than the teleology foretells. The rosy hue with which populism endows the present is belied by its realities. At least some of the blame rests in an abandonment of a proper analysis of capitalism. Populism reduces class analysis to the posing of an elite against the people. This personalises power and forgets that class is a relation between people rather than a category in which one sits.</p> <p>Social change is thereby seen as a question of putting the people in charge of structures the elite control at present. But this ignores the forms of social domination embedded in these structures. Populism obscures how the class relation binds&nbsp;elites&nbsp;to a form of abstract rule as surely as it does the masses. Constructing a people here substitutes for a critique of class society, however much some&nbsp;see populism as a way past it.</p> <p>Pinning their hopes upon a succession of popular subjects, of late the left has wended a strange trajectory. Post-crisis, horizontalism sought to ‘<a href="">change the world without taking power</a>’. Then things started getting serious. Shrugging off disdain for the state, winning elections and wielding power became the aim.&nbsp;This is reflected in the new vogue for big thinking on the UK left. There has been a&nbsp;<a href="">Podemos-like</a>&nbsp;rediscovery of&nbsp;<a href="">the concept of hegemony</a>&nbsp;and how to build it. Dreams abound of&nbsp;seizing state power&nbsp;to implement&nbsp;<a href="">postcapitalism</a>&nbsp;or so-called ‘<a href="">Fully Automated Luxury Communism</a>’.</p> <p>The radical left accommodation of statist solutions would have been&nbsp;unthinkable as tents sprung up outside St Pauls in 2011. In some ways, it shows the adulthood of the Occupy generation. In others, it is not entirely without illusions.&nbsp;A reflex against&nbsp;Occupy’s failure, the new verticalism still bears its foreshortened class critique. Against the ‘elite’, the ‘people’ stands in as the alibi for a state politics that lacks a social basis in class struggles and institutions. Without this basis, one must be imagined. Hence: Corbynism&nbsp;constructs its people.</p> <p>Contradictions should be embraced by those interested in power. But among left populists, their&nbsp;proliferation is telling. Curiously, the&nbsp;statist turn often couples&nbsp;with&nbsp;fierce resistance to&nbsp;political calculations around&nbsp;Corbyn's electoral credibility. Any sop to political&nbsp;convention is sullied&nbsp;as elite sophistry.&nbsp;Those fixated on&nbsp;regulating a tech-utopia into existence&nbsp;find themselves defending losing elections. There are bigger fish to fry, like creating an as-yet ill-defined social movement. But their political strategies hinge upon constructing a&nbsp;'people'. This cannot happen as long as Corbynism obsesses with party leadership, certain that its people already exists. The populist paralysis pervades.</p> <p>The&nbsp;theoretical and strategic twists and turns of the left&nbsp;express the pursuit of a popular subject that cannot exist in a world criss-crossed by the class relation. Nothing unites us beyond the abstract&nbsp;economic&nbsp;rule to which we are all&nbsp;subject, elites included. A&nbsp;unified&nbsp;'people' may&nbsp;spring from&nbsp;its&nbsp;destruction, but cannot preexist&nbsp;it. Better to&nbsp;stake a politics on what exists now&nbsp;than what does not.&nbsp;As Marx wrote, quoting Aesop: ‘<a href="">hic Rhodus, hic salta</a>’.</p> <p>Corbynism constitutes the&nbsp;crisis of at least one thread of post-2008 left politics. With it, the left finds itself stuck between protecting a precarious parliamentary leadership and building a grassroots social movement, at the expense of both. And its people is still nowhere to&nbsp;be seen.&nbsp;</p> <p>In the&nbsp;<em>FT</em>,&nbsp;<a href="">Jon Cruddas</a>&nbsp;recently compared&nbsp;Labour’s competing claims for legitimacy with the German left in 1918. On the cusp of Weimar, the SPD’s Ebert claimed his legitimacy from the electorate.&nbsp;Luxemburg and Kautsky&nbsp;staked theirs in&nbsp;class power: workers councils, factory committees.&nbsp;Corbyn has no such social basis on&nbsp;which to stake his. The SPD-Sparticist split&nbsp;resulted in a political polarisation. A void opened. Today, a&nbsp;Labour split&nbsp;could&nbsp;see&nbsp;one side listing to the left, untethered from&nbsp;concrete conditions. That&nbsp;way awaits&nbsp;a void no imagined people can fill.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/ian-sinclair/who-is-owen-smith">Who is Owen Smith?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/aaron-bastani/labour-can-only-win-with-jeremy-corbyn">Labour can only win with Jeremy Corbyn</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk reset F. H. Pitts Mon, 01 Aug 2016 23:00:01 +0000 F. H. Pitts 104419 at We need to reach out <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Activists and organisers across the UK need to find a better way to do politics.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Default"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="317" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>the Black Panther free food programme - image,</span></span></span></p><p class="Default">Like many campaigners in Scotland, and up and down the length of the UK, I’m shattered. Exhausted after years of pounding pavements delivering leaflets; spending every waking minute organising meetings; writing post after post trying to persuade friends, colleagues and twitter trolls of the rights and wrongs of our respective positions; even standing for election. Exhausted because after all these years of work, at times I find myself wondering whether any of it was worth it.&nbsp; </p><p class="Default">In the Brexit-destined Britain of today, it feels impossible to be inspired and hopeful about the better future we’ve been working for. But whilst giving up and stepping back is as tempting as lying on a beach in the sun for a month, there is a way to build that future without destroying ourselves in the process.</p> <p class="Default">Step one: We need to start by examining what we’ve been doing for the last few years. Whether you’ve been working for or against Scottish independence, backing Corbyn or stabbing him in the back or arguing for or against the UK’s EU membership, ask yourself this: how much of your energy has gone into designing and delivering leaflets that go straight in the bin? How many hours have you poured into organising an action where fewer than ten people showed up? How many days have you spent organising meetings where you end up preaching to a room full of the converted?</p> <p class="Default">If the answer to any of these is “too much” then maybe we’re doing something wrong. </p> <p class="Default">The hard truth is that all too often, we opt for the easier path of speaking to people we know, of reading and sharing things that confirm our own biases and broadcasting our message without stopping to wonder who our audience is or what they need and want to hear. And so long as we’re doing all of that in the context of fighting some big bad “other”, we can be comforted by knowing that even if we’re ineffective, we’re not as bad as them. </p> <p class="Default">Whether your “other” is Brexiteers or Blairites doesn't really matter. The point is that so long as we’re laying the blame for all the ills of modern Britain at the feet of someone else, whilst simultaneously spending our time talking to people who already agree with us, we render ourselves powerless. </p> <p class="Default">Step two: Go out and talk to people. Movement building isn’t just about pulling together with likeminded folk, but reaching out to folk who can challenge and strengthen your beliefs. The chances are that while you can guess at what motivates your great “other”, you don’t know until you talk to them and listen. So instead of pounding pavements delivering leaflets broadcasting your views, get out on the streets and ask folk what they think and what matters to them. And crucially, find some common ground.</p> <p class="Default">Step three: We need to start doing things for ourselves. Over the last three decades, the social infrastructure of the UK has been eroded. Benefits have been slashed, trade unions undermined and industry privatised, all under the watchful eye of an increasingly corporate media. It’s easy to think that only governments have the power to affect any of these things, but governments get their power from us. It’s our assumption that we’re too small and too powerless that makes us so. </p> <p class="Default">Nearly fifty years ago, the Black Panther Party saw that the struggle for civil rights and racial equality had to go hand in hand with fighting poverty. They set up free breakfast clubs for poor, largely black, hispanic and latino children in 1968. By 1969, they were feeding 20,000 children a day. After initially being attacked by the FBI for “subversion”, the example set by the Black Panther Party was later adopted by the US government in a programme which today feeds 13 million children.</p> <p class="Default">Around the world today, there are new media establishments springing up to counter the prevailing bigotry and bias of the Rupert Murdochs and Paul Dacres who dominate the stories we tell about ourselves. In the UK there are movements to start alternative local currencies and take power away from supermarkets and big banks and invest in local economies. These are actions taken by people just like you and me which have changed the balance of power.</p> <p class="Default">My point is not just that it is possible to do things for ourselves, but that it is necessary. </p> <p class="Default">So – let’s stop pouring our hearts and souls into confirming our own biases and getting nowhere. Let’s stop assuming we know what other people think and start a conversation with them. And let’s stop sitting around in half-empty church halls talking to the same 12 people about why everything’s broken and instead, work together to fix it.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay/finding-path-forwards">Finding the path forwards</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk reset Sarah Beattie-Smith Mon, 01 Aug 2016 13:34:21 +0000 Sarah Beattie-Smith 104424 at We must abandon the idea of legal protest <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The laws governing the legality of civil dissent narrow the parameters of political possibility.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="The Peterloo massacre, Richard Carlile. Image: Manchester Library Services/Wikimedia commons. Public domain."><img src="//" alt="The Peterloo massacre, Richard Carlile. Image: Manchester Library Services/Wikimedia commons. Public domain." title="The Peterloo massacre, Richard Carlile. Image: Manchester Library Services/Wikimedia commons. Public domain." width="460" height="316" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Peterloo massacre, Richard Carlile. Source: Manchester Library Services/Wikimedia commons. Public domain.</span></span></span>On 16th August 1819, some sixty to eighty thousand people assembled in St Peter’s Field,&nbsp;central Manchester. Men and women, young and old. They had gathered to protest for greater suffrage, and for an end to the Corn Laws that had plunged many into poverty, exacerbating the disastrous effects of the famine ushered in by the Napoleonic Wars. The local magistrates, understandably alarmed, read out the following fifty three words to the few who could hear them over the din:</p> <p>“Our sovereign lord the King chargeth and commandeth all persons, being assembled, immediately to disperse themselves, and peaceably to depart to their habitations, or to their lawful business, upon the pains contained in the act made in the first year of King George, for preventing tumults and riotous assemblies.&nbsp;God save the King.”</p> <p>This is the infamous Riot Act: a piece of legislation giving local authorities the power to disband groups of twelve or more people, <em>or else. </em>A gesture of slick political magicianship designed to transform a crowd of citizens into a dangerous mob. This particular dangerous mob, of course, did not disperse after the Act was read. So, hundreds of heavily armed militiamen set about the task of preventing tumults and riotous assemblies – with swords, with horses and with guns. Fifteen protesters were killed, and hundreds injured.</p> <p>2016 is not 1819. To draw a mawkish one to one comparison would be to do a enormous disservice to those who, in the intervening years, have fought long and hard for the various legal protections alien to those at St Peters Field: the formal rights to free assembly and universal suffrage, to name a couple. Nonetheless, this incident – known to history as the ‘Peterloo massacre’&nbsp;– stands in grim testimony to a fact that still defines the terms of political contestation in this country: that our laws grant the police the power to determine the (il)legality of any particular act of protest. Let’s look at that again: the legitimacy of actions designed to change or contest politics is decided by those whose job it is to make sure that the given political settlement is neither contested nor changed.</p> <p><span class="print-no mag-quote-center">our laws grant the police the power to determine the (il)legality of any particular act of protest</span></p><p>This isn’t some harmless paradoxical quirk of the British legal system; it narrows the parameters of political possibility. If we are to challenge these longstanding political settlements; to resolve the democratic deficit so keenly thrown into light by the EU referendum; we must demand the decriminalisation of public assembly and protest.</p> <p>Enshrined as it is in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we do in theory have the right to freely assemble and to express dissent. But in reality, there are a lot of ways of undermining legal rights without actually taking them off the books. Introducing a whole host of caveats and exceptions can make a right too inconvenient, too unpleasant, or too dangerous to be actually exercised. Such is the case with the laws surrounding governing what counts as ‘legal protest’.</p> <p>You could argue that it is, surely, a good thing that protest is to some extent legal. And there’s some sense to this. It’s doubtless a sign of progress that some legal concessions towards public accountability have been made. But the problem remains that declaring some specific types of protest legal simultaneously outlaws many others; giving way to a whole gamut of exceptions and limitations made in the name of ‘safety’ and ‘public protection’ that steadily chip away at civil liberties. These laws legitimate police actions taken against those who, intentionally or no, fall in the nebulous border regions of the law, allowing the initial legality of their actions to be declared by whichever boy in blue happens to be within grabbing distance.&nbsp;These actions range from continued surveillance, to confiscation of possessions, to being arrested on trumped-up charges of ‘aggravated trespass’, to the occasional rough-up caught by faulty radio recorders, to stints in prison, to fatal batonnings.</p> <p>If - concerned for the integrity of your wallet, your criminal record or indeed your cranium -you want to avoid this sort of confrontation, you must gain the consent of the police to hold a march, telling them the size, destination, and exact route. They may “limit or change the route of your march, [and] set any other condition of your march”. You must not block any public highways, or damage any property – or look like you’re liable to do so. You may be ‘kettled’ for hours at a time if the police judge the march to pose a risk to public safety or to have breached the peace. If there is a ‘Section 60’ provision in place you may be stopped and searched without police suspicion. You may be rounded up on (often pre-booked) buses and carted off to police stations in your hundreds. Your image and details may be collected and stored without your knowledge. In the run up to the most recent royal wedding, some activists were even ‘pre-arrested’ by the Metropolitan Police. These actions were later sanctioned by the High Court. These aren’t far-flung limit cases. They are the bread and butter of policing civil disobedience. Thus, the flexibility and intentional vagueness of these laws is enormously powerful. Any direct action can be declared illegal if it threatens to get anything much done. Any individual can be nabbed for stepping out of line once a protest has been given the go-ahead. </p> <p><span class="print-no mag-quote-center">Thus, the flexibility and intentional vagueness of these laws is enormously powerful</span></p><p>Faced with this ‘total policing’, some campaigning bodies are determined to remain respectable, stressing the need to stay within the bounds of the law even as that law becomes more and more restrictive. Even as New Labour clamped down on dissent in the Anti-Terror legislation of 2006, as the current government passed the Trade Union Bill, as it allowed mayors to import water canon to use on their electorate. They are not some thoughtless rampaging mob with no respect for the law – they are citizens, with legitimate concerns that ought to be listened to. They are angry, perhaps, but in a politely self-contained, petition-signing way. And we shouldn't castigate people for trying to stay on the right side of the law. Solo activists, and in those organisations with an ethic of civil disobedience (such as Greenpeace) – who flout the law in order to expose its moral failings – often find their way onto watch lists as ‘domestic extremists’. But at the same time, it’s worth considering that this kind of respectability politics might do half the police’s work for them. </p> <p>With such little room for legal maneuver, it’s little wonder that large-scale legal protests now mostly consist of long trudges through city centres. Whether dynamic and jubilant or damp and dispiriting, they make us feel a little bit better – and then, when political hopes are snuffed out in the drizzle of a London park, a whole lot worse. Little wonder people say that these kinds of protests don’t work. They are not really supposed to. They are designed to ensure that&nbsp;people protest without inconveniencing anyone, without making anyone feel nervous that perhaps they’re not best representing the interests of their electorate, (or employees, or indeed customers).</p> <p>But that discomfort is at the heart of any democratically accountable relationship between the governor and the governed. The point is not to soothe or to ask – but to unsettle, to demand. To remind those in power that it should not be within their gift to ignore their electorate. Without that discomfort, any government can luxuriate in the quiet of an uncontested term in power, untroubled by the extent to which it may-or-may-not be pursuing the wellbeing of the public. This is half-baked spectacle of democracy is the sort that leads – understandably – to the rampant disaffection that the EU referendum threw so sharply into relief.&nbsp;</p> <p><span class="print-no mag-quote-center">This is half-baked spectacle of democracy is the sort that leads – understandably – to the rampant disaffection that the EU referendum threw so sharply into light.&nbsp;</span></p><p><span>The organisers of the marches against the Iraq war insisted on the importance of open communication with authorities in the run up to the demonstration, initially running into difficulties when they were denied permission to use Hyde Park as a meeting venue. Eventually though, they relented and it went off without a hitch. This march was, famously, completely ignored. It was a masterpiece of public disappointment; the kind that’s sometimes more effective at quashing political action than a few nights in jail. Tony Blair might perhaps have found it less easy to ignore the striking Scottish train workers, whose </span><a href="">actions</a><span> threatened to derail the delivery of armaments and effectively halt the war. This was, of course, illegal: politicized industrial action without a direct workplace grievance enjoys no protection under UK law.</span></p> <p>Nonetheless, you might still contend that this sort of policing is a reasonable price to pay to stamp out the ‘troublemakers’ – stock characters featured prominently in the press coverage of all protest and civil disobedience. Those from whom the respectable elements of protests take pains to distance themselves, and those in whose name protests can be banned altogether. The violent, lurking elements of our society from whose vicissitudes we need protecting. This rationale seems altogether more palatable if one falls reliably within the shifting category of the ‘we’ in need of protection – usually the wealthy, the white, the uncomplaining. The less likely one is to be at the angry end of a water cannon, the more likely one is to view it as an acceptable price of peace on our streets. Unfortunately for many, the subtlety and vagueness of legislation surrounding protest &amp; ‘public order’ – now increasingly bound up with sprawling anti-terrorism legislation – makes it surprisingly easy to be a dangerous member of society from whom everyone else needs protecting. It suffices to redirect the route of your student march, or to jump the police barriers to take a shortcut to the tube stop. To stand in a menacing way too close to a public monument. To be a Muslim with some opinions on the Israel/Palestine conflict. To be black at the wrong time or place.</p> <p>Something’s got to give. We must abandon ‘legal’ protest as a tactic, and call for its wholesale decriminalisation. In one sense, this is a modest proposal. No more than a revindication of a right which is already guaranteed us. Any one person has (in theory) the right to stand on the street. From here, one can simply extrapolate a collective right by adding one more person. Then perhaps a hundred, a thousand more.&nbsp;That rights are more effective when exercised collectively is an understanding lodged deep at the heart of paranoiac Tory policy-making.</p> <p>In another sense, this proposal is totally quixotic. It would involve the unravelling of many provisions on surveillance, much of the current ‘anti-extremism’ legislation. An overhaul of &nbsp;&nbsp;how the government views the public: more or less, as an inconvenience. But to welcome the power of collective action as a part of democracy would amount to the state wilfully defanging itself; obliging itself to continually prove its legitimacy not by the maintenance of an enforced peace, but by the judiciousness of its actions. It’s a necessary step towards a redressing of the imbalance of power between state and citizen - and a royal headache that few governments would welcome.</p> <p>It is quixotic, yes. But quixotic according to a discourse that defines 'political realism' as a begrudging choice made between the offers of mainstream political parties – parties that spend their time scrapping across the vanishingly narrow territory that separates them from one another. And if we are to attempt to found a genuinely democratic settlement beyond that in which we find ourselves mired, we must expand the limits of the ‘possible’ in our political imagination. There are many words that can be used to dismiss political proposals as illegitimate, unfounded or mad. ‘Illegal’ is one of those words. ‘Impossible’ another.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/roslyn-fuller/using-technology-to-inject-demos-back-into-democracy">Using technology to inject the demos back into democracy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/sunder-katwala/its-time-to-disband-tribe-of-48">It&#039;s time to disband the &#039;Tribe of the 48%&#039;</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk reset Luther Blissett Mon, 01 Aug 2016 12:27:00 +0000 Luther Blissett 104422 at Don't forget the role of the press in Brexit <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The lies of Britain's papers have been key to shaping the country's current predicament </p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Body"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="304" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>image:</span></span></span></p><p class="Body"><em>They lied and they got away with it and that’s outrageous – s</em>ince the referendum this sentiment has prompted hundreds of thousands of words of commentary, and rightly so. A crisis so grave and unexpected inevitably makes us suspect some underlying, fundamental shift that we must hurry to comprehend, and so ideas that were not previously at the centre of our thinking have arrived there, with a bang. </p> <p>We ask ourselves whether we have entered a post-factual society dominated by emotion, whether social media are killing the truth, whether society is fracturing in ways that traditional political discourse can’t express. </p><p class="Body">In the excitement and confusion, however, it is worth reminding ourselves how much of what we have experienced is <em>not </em>new. If we do that, then at the very least we should have a clearer picture of what has really changed, which in turn might help us to respond better.</p> <p class="Body">Who lied? Politicians for one. There is nothing new about that. The press for another: the right-wing dailies and Sundays that dominate the national newspaper market lied again and again, and no one could say there was anything new in that.&nbsp; </p><p class="Body">Anyone else? A good case is made that news broadcasters assisted the liars by presenting lies and truth on an equal footing in the name of ‘balance’, but this too is hardly a new problem: look at the history of climate change reporting. And whatever they may have done wrong, the broadcasters can’t reasonably be accused of deliberately lying to the public.&nbsp; </p> <p class="Body">Then there are the social media, the algorithmed, bitesized bubble-world in which many if not most of us now experience news. That is certainly new, although it is easy to exaggerate how new – many people in their twenties today can’t remember life without social media while few in their thirties can have much recollection of life before the internet. That’s a lot of people.</p> <p class="Body">The distorting effects of internet and social media activity may well have influenced the referendum outcome and they definitely need close study and debate. But we don’t yet have evidence that they played a decisive or even a significant role. And we can say with confidence that the lies which appear to have made a difference – and the emotions to go with them – did not originate on Facebook, on Twitter or in blogs, though no doubt those media provided an echo-chamber for them.&nbsp; </p><p class="Body">And despite persistent claims that in some post-modern way ‘facts don’t work’ in politics any more, the referendum experience does not begin to prove that, for this important reason: fact-testing was not allowed to function properly in the campaign. </p> <p class="Body">Yes, there were debates and confrontations in which remainers challenged leavers and vice versa, and yes there were online fact-checkers at work, from Full Fact and other dedicated and serious bodies, but none of this was able to shake, discredit or erase the lies.</p> <p class="Body">We need to confront this: the forces that generated and defended the lies were not new but old. Those lies were crafted by politicians and the right-wing press, and above all it was the power of right-wing newspapers, notably <a href="">the Mail</a> and <a href="">the Sun</a> but also <a href="">the Express</a> and the Telegraph, that ensured that lies could not be effectively exposed for what they were.</p> <p class="Body">Far-fetched? Paranoid? Not in the least. The enterprise began decades ago, when these papers adopted the EU as a scapegoat. Anything that could be blamed on a supposedly overweening, top-heavy, mad and unaccountable Brussels bureaucracy was blamed on it, and from the 1980s onwards fictions were created about its decisions.&nbsp; </p><p class="Body">Thus they created the climate. Once the referendum became a real possibility they proceeded to whip up the storm, confecting new lies of their own and propagating those of others for all they were worth. </p> <p class="Body">Getting away with this was easy because, despite the Leveson Report and the will of parliament, when it comes to ethics and accuracy the national press remains free to mark its own homework, answerable only to a complaints body (‘IPSO’) entirely of its own design. IPSO is the discredited Press Complaints Commission with new window-dressing: even if it wanted to raise standards of accuracy in reporting it does not have the power. </p> <p class="Body">Thanks to IPSO, therefore, these papers lied to their millions of readers every day with complete impunity, and it is hardly surprising that the lies steadily grew bigger and more brazen. </p> <p>But surely, you might think, there were truthful journalists capable of challenging the lies in other publications, online and on screen. Surely in the internet age every liar can be called out. This is a misconception. </p><p class="Body">Truthful journalists exist, and there are papers such as the Financial Times and the Guardian which have a serious commitment to accuracy, but they have nothing like the reach or power of the Sun and the Mail. As for the Mirror, which opposed Brexit, it may still have a daily sale of almost a million but in comparison with the two market leaders it is poor, understaffed, muddled and unimaginative. </p> <p class="Body">And just as they dominate the newsstands, the Mail and the Sun – prodded along by the ever more reckless Express – are able to set the agenda for broadcast news. </p> <p class="Body">If the Mail goes big on anything, and it does that every day, the editors in the television and radio news studios rarely have the nerve to ignore that claim or that subject, no matter how crazy it might be. And thanks to the legal obligation to provide balance the views of the Mail and the Sun, however blatantly dishonest, are almost always at least half the picture. </p> <p class="Body">Meanwhile, of course, in their own pages these papers almost never present a balanced view. On the contrary, they blot out the opinions and activities of their adversaries so far as they can, and on those occasions when they have no choice but to engage (perhaps because those adversaries have managed to make their point on television) they resort to the personal, to mockery, to mudslinging and to more lies. </p> <p class="Body">This is the power of the megaphone. This is how the truth gets lost, and how those who seek to test facts on behalf of the public are drowned out, marginalised and hamstrung.</p> <p class="Body">At the same time, the arguments are vigorously infused with emotions, so that reason is pushed to the margin. Neither Twitter nor Donald Trump invented this; newspapers have been piping outrage, fury and contempt into our homes and lives for decades. Paul Dacre, the editor of the Mail, doesn’t talk about informing his readers, he talks about making them laugh, making them cry and most of all making them angry. </p> <p class="Body">These were the forces at work in the referendum and very little about them was new. Most of the same things happened in the 2015 election, and look at the result then. </p> <p class="Body">They also happened, to give another recent example, in the response of these and some other newspapers to the gravest crisis they have experienced in decades: the phone hacking scandal and the Leveson Inquiry. Their campaign of lies and thuggery in relation to that inquiry, combined with their power over a mystifyingly compliant David Cameron, ensured that even though parliament approved reforms to press regulation, and even though public opinion was overwhelmingly behind the changes, nothing happened.&nbsp; </p><p class="Body">A little further back, similar methods were used in the press assault on the family of Madeleine McCann.&nbsp; </p> <p class="Body">This is not to suggest that the referendum outcome was exclusively the work of Paul Dacre, Rupert Murdoch and their ilk. Other people and other factors, including factors wholly unrelated to the EU, played their parts. Farage, Johnson and Gove, for example, were capable of contriving evasions and distractions of their own, while the Remain campaign was, to say the least, unsophisticated and lacklustre. </p> <p class="Body">But this much is surely clear: <em>the Leave victory, which relied so heavily on falsehood, would not have been possible without the full-blooded commitment of the right-wing press</em>. This means that, while it is right to scrutinise other, newer factors that may have been at work, it would be a mistake to lose sight of the vital role of editors and proprietors. </p> <p class="Body">Two further points need to be made and the first is this. Deliberate press dishonesty may be old and familiar, but it always was and it still is absolutely wrong. It is an offence against civilised society and a betrayal of the responsibilities of journalism. In the words of the journalist <a href="">Peter Oborne</a>: ‘Newspapers have what amounts in the end to a constitutional duty to tell their readers the truth.’ </p> <p class="Body">If that sounds high-minded, then consider this. As a society, we choose to subsidise our newspapers every year to the tune of hundreds of millions of pounds by zero-rating them for VAT, and we do that on the grounds that those newspapers are essential to us because they provide the information we need as citizens if we are to make democratic decisions. Now ask yourself: are the Sun, the Mail and the Express performing that role?</p> <p class="Body">Finally, this is not just about the past. It is also about the future. If you imagine that one day a couple of years hence it will be possible to have a reasoned national argument about whether the terms of Brexit are good for Britain or ruinous, then think again. Unless something changes, exactly the same storm of falsehood will engulf that discussion as did the referendum.</p> <p>Equally, if you believe that five or ten years from now it might be possible to reach some reasoned national view about whether Britain has gained or lost by Brexit you are kidding yourself. The Mail and the Sun – they may not exist as print papers but there is every reason to assume they will still enjoy great power – will do all they can to prevent a rational, fact-based public assessment.&nbsp; </p><p class="Body">This is a bleak prospect, but change is possible and it can begin now. We came close in the aftermath of Leveson, and the structures have all been created. When David Cameron lost his nerve, however, or had his lead jerked by the editors and proprietors, he failed to deliver the sticks and the carrots needed to make the system work. </p> <p>A stroke of a pen, quite literally, is all that is needed now to initiate the process of protecting the British public from press abuse while at the same time painstakingly safeguarding freedom of expression. It can be done, if the government will do it. Perhaps together we could shame it into doing so. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/henry-porter/let-s-reset-our-future">Let’s reset our future</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk reset Brian Cathcart Fri, 29 Jul 2016 23:00:01 +0000 Brian Cathcart 104382 at Why a second independence referendum is not inevitable in Scotland <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In the complexity of post-Brexit Britain, a second independence referendum in Scotland isn't the dead-cert some think.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="330" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>image: Yes Scotland</span></span></span></p><p>The consensus is that a second independence referendum is now inevitable. The SNP assertion in its 2016 manifesto of the Scottish parliament’s right to hold a referendum “if there is a significant and material change” has taken on renewed relevance, especially since the only quoted example was “being taken out of the EU against our will”. </p> <p>After the 62-38 vote to Remain in the EU in Scotland, Brexit has highlighted the democratic deficit once more. This is in addition to Trident renewal and the proposed scrapping of the Human Rights Act. Post-Brexit polling has shown a 10 point bounce for independence. In this context, Alex Salmond has said that Indyref2 is ‘inevitable’ if Scotland can’t stay in the EU and that this will have to take place within the Brexit timetable.</p> <p>Unfortunately, there are a number of factors which could prevent a new referendum from taking place. These include: debates over the timing for Indyref2; the tactics currently being adopted in lieu of a new referendum and finally the drawn out negotiations over Brexit between Sturgeon, May and the EU.&nbsp; </p><h2><strong>Timing</strong></h2> <p>Despite being obviously committed to independence, Nicola Sturgeon is extremely cautious and very guarded in her language. On the possibilities post Brexit, she states:</p> <blockquote><p>“If we find that our interests can’t be protected in a UK context, independence must be one of those options”&nbsp; </p></blockquote><p>Similarly:</p> <blockquote><p>“Everything, up to and including independence, is on the table”</p></blockquote> <p>Therefore, even once Scotland is refused continued membership of the EU, it is still seen as an “option” rather than a certainty. This is presumably why Salmond saw fit to directly contest this by saying that without EU membership within the UK, a second referendum was “not just on the table, but inevitable”.</p> <p>This proxy war between Salmond and Sturgeon over tactics is also evident in the depute leadership campaign currently under way in the SNP, initiated after the previous incumbent, Stewart Hosie, was forced to step down. </p> <p>The main dynamic of this depute leadership election exposes the caution of Nicola Sturgeon in relation to the increasing impatience of elements of the SNP membership. In short, to win the contest, you have to make loud noises about Indyref2 and the certainty of independence.&nbsp; </p><p>Whilst all the candidates are making these noises, the eventual victor will influence how likely Indyref2 actually is. Tommy Sheppard is the most reliable in this respect, given his desire to mobilise the grassroots of the party and his aim of a clear campaigning focus.</p> <p>Tied in to the discussion about timing is the requirement of elements of the SNP and the Yes movement to have a clear 60/40 in favour before pro-independence supporters can safely call it, lest the indy flame be extinguished forever.</p> <p>However, to consistently get 60/40 for a sustained period is a serious ask. Waiting for the perfect time to strike is just as likely to mean independence is never achieved as acting decisively. In addition, it is not too far fetched to say the 10 point bounce may be temporary, especially if those supporting independence do not campaign whilst everything is still in flux and whilst people are most open to ideas and discussion.</p> <p>Former SNP leader Gordon Wilson has said that he is “sceptical of the chances of victory in a premature second attempt” and warned against starting a campaign “with no timescale to work to”.</p> <p>Ronnie Cowan has further argued that campaigners for independence should “take a break” and wait for a “clearer picture” to emerge post Brexit.</p> <p>Whatever the intent, comments like these have the effect of encouraging passivity within the Yes movement and of limiting the influence of more radical voices (since grassroots campaigners don’t have access to the media in the same way, what else can be done but grassroots campaigning?).</p> <p>Although the SNP conference in October will debate independence, it seems unlikely that anything will be any “clearer” by that point. At the risk of considerable understatement, the uncertainty over post-Brexit discussions could last a very long time. It is worth remembering that this whole process is unprecedented and two years may well be a minimum rather than a maximum timescale.</p> <p>So, given the importance of the 60% trigger to some key players, the tactics deployed now matter a great deal and may well be undermining the case already. </p> <h2><strong>Tactics</strong></h2> <p>Firstly, as journalist Jamie Maxwell has pointed out, this campaign is already being pitched as maintaining stability versus disruption and will hence target the wealthy and the business lobby. </p> <p>A lot was made of Kerevan’s <a href="">article in CityAM</a> with his talk of post independence “fiscal consolidation”. The Herald headline of “5 years of austerity” was perhaps unfair given that he didn’t actually say that and that he also spoke of “shared economic pain” which potentially allows for tax rises on the super-rich. However, even being this generous, the key point is that he opened himself up to this criticism precisely because of whom he was trying to court. Appealing to the wealthy is not going to win a new referendum and will ensure far more votes are lost than could ever possibly be gained. This is without even mentioning the dispiriting effect it will have on the wider Yes movement.</p> <p>Secondly, the tactics of elements of the Yes movement with respect to the EU are also problematic. If anything, the land of “milk and honey” caricature of Scottish independence would be better applied to the EU. This is especially true since Scotland in the EU would have even less power than the UK does in that relationship.</p> <p>Moreover, the EU issue will not motivate people to campaign. Many of the poorest in Scottish society voted Leave and for independence. In the latter case, the correlation of benefit claimants and Yes was particularly high. Although the EU will inevitably be part of the discussion, moving away from a social justice focus will not even maintain the support that currently exists, let along increase it. Moreover, as Neil Davidson has pointed out, some 400,000 people voted Leave in Scotland. It should go without saying that too much emphasis on the EU will fail to appeal to many of these voters.</p> <p>Similarly, whilst Sturgeon has been very aware that the Leave vote was not simply racism, comments from Alan Cummings about “<a href="">stupid English people</a>” seem particularly counterproductive and misguided. Ironically, it is precisely this kind of patronising attitude that helped to drive the Leave vote in the first place.</p> <p>Lastly, is the question of the EU negotiations and the general uncertainty surrounding these.</p> <p>Theresa May said that she will delay triggering Article 50 “until Scotland’s position becomes clear”. (It is pleasing to see so much consideration given to the Scottish people – I don’t doubt that motivation for a second). The truth is, rather than any consideration of democracy, this reflects May’s need to work through tensions in her own party (largely hidden behind the Parliamentary Labour Party’s self destructive idiocy). After-all, it is worth remembering that the UK government still do not know what position to take in the negotiations.&nbsp; </p><p>In a strange way, there is a temporary mutuality of interests between Sturgeon and May in this delay. For Sturgeon, she wants to show that she is not bashing the Indy button at the first opportunity and is genuine about trying to preserve Scotland’s EU status. It is also entirely possible that this is about managing contradictions in the SNP over tactics and to take some of the heat out of the indy flame post Brexit. </p> <p>The problem with all of this is that whether it is UK/EU or UK/Scotland discussions, drawn out negotiations reduce us all to spectator status. The popular meme “Don’t worry the Sturge has got this” perhaps sums up a dominant sentiment that could emerge. </p> <p>As indicated previously, the problem here is that these negotiations could last a very long time and the energy for indy could easily dissipate in this context.</p> <h2><strong>Conclusion</strong></h2> <p>Having outlined why there is nothing inevitable about Indyref2, the question remains what the wider independence movement should do to ensure that it does.</p> <ol><li><p>Don’t allow the Yes movement to be trapped in the “perfect timing” strategy which says we need 60/40. This could easily mean that there is never another indyref and the opportunity is lost forever.</p> </li><li><p>Encourage Tommy Sheppard to hold public meetings on the need for a campaign now. This will shape the depute leadership debate and help to motivate the Yes movement. This will also help independence campaigners to reach the hallowed 60% if that is what people think is necessary.</p> </li><li><p>Maintain the key focus on social justice questions. Neither appealing to businesses and the super-wealthy nor running a campaign entirely on a pro-EU ticket will work and will lose more votes than it could ever gain. The EU question will not motivate people in the long term and there is a need to reach out to the 400,000 people who voted Leave in Scotland.</p> </li><li><p>Argue for Nicola Sturgeon to set a deadline for her 5 key demands, at which point if there is no agreement with the EU, we will start negotiations with the UK for Indyref2. At present, Theresa May is making the running. Give her another front to fight on and force the issue. For people waiting for a clear picture, realise that uncertainty will be a permanent feature of UK politics for the foreseeable future. </p> </li><li><p>Join the pro-independence demonstration tomorrow (Saturday 30th July) in Glasgow setting off at 10.30am from the Botanic Gardens.</p> </li><li><p>Call an emergency Radical Independence Conference immediately. Times of political uncertainty are not the time to fall back but the time to act. Whatever people have said, the campaign has started. If the left wants to influence the debate, it has to act now.</p> </li></ol><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay/finding-path-forwards">Finding the path forwards</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk reset Danny McGregor Fri, 29 Jul 2016 17:37:37 +0000 Danny McGregor 104389 at Welsh football, Brexit and the future of British national identity <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Wales' performance in the European Cup helped build a cross-racial national identity. But more must be done if everyone from Wales is to feel accepted as Welsh.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// wales.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// wales.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="170" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image: FA Wales, fair use.</span></span></span></p><p>The achievements of the Welsh national football team in the Euro 2016 tournament in France this summer have been remarkable for many reasons. Not only did the team reach the semi-finals, the best performance in Welsh football history, but the players managed to whip up the type of national engagement that those working in the Welsh government could only dream of. Thirty-three thousand people packed inside the Principality stadium in the capital Cardiff to watch the game being beamed on a giant screen live from Lyon. </p><p>The football team’s simple hashtag of #togetherstronger urged fans that if we, as Welsh supporters, stick together, we can achieve great things. Such is the power of national identity that strangers can imagine themselves as belonging to each other because of where they call home. Notably, the Welsh football team represented the nation’s diversity: from Neil Taylor, whose mother is from Calcutta to Hal-Robson Kanu and captain Ashley Williams who are both from mixed-race heritages. Around Wales, people of different backgrounds – including many who do not follow football – felt united. We all felt that this journey belonged to all of us. &nbsp;</p> <p>It was also during the Euro tournament that UK voters decided to leave the European Union, with majorities in England and Wales voting in favour of Brexit and majorities in Scotland and Northern Ireland against. In many ways, even as Wales felt most united, the whole of the UK has looked anything but cohesive or together. </p> <p>Worryingly, post-Brexit hate crime has seen a surge. Tell MAMA, an organisation that measures anti-Muslim attacks, received 33 reports within <a href="" target="_blank">48-72 hours of the vote</a>, whereas they usually receive around 40-45 a month. <a href="" target="_blank">Shocking videos and images</a> continue to emerge of racist attacks against those perceived as being foreign or supposedly out of place. </p> <p>With some attributing the rise in post-Brexit hate crime to an increase in the number of xenophobic versions of British nationalism (and their followers), we must address what kind of society we want to be and what national identity means in an increasingly diverse age. </p> <p>Now is as important time as ever for us in Wales (as well as the rest of the home nations), to recognise the potential of a more plural, diverse and inclusive sense of national identity. </p> <p>My research on how Welsh Muslims negotiate their faith with their Welsh and British identity in their everyday lives shows that Welshness and Britishness matters regardless of faith. Having a strong sense of place is integral to how everyone constructs a sense of home. And contrary to political rhetoric on the far right, there is no contradiction between feeling both Muslim and Welsh or Muslim and British. </p> <p>The attachments that people have to where they grow up are immensely important to feelings of wellbeing and belonging. For the people I talked to, being Welsh is a salient part of their identities and mattered in both profound and banal ways. Whether it’s the feeling of longing for Wales when visiting the homeland of their parents, taking part in the national holiday St David’s Day or identifying as Welsh when in England because of their strong Welsh accents, there are many ways in which Welsh identity is reinforced in the daily lives of Muslims.</p> <p>A major challenge for our society is how much others can accept that Welsh, English and Scottish identities can be multifaceted. A white Welsh non-Muslim hearing an ethnic minority Muslim speaking with a strong Welsh accent might understand that she grew up in Wales, but might not accept that she can be Welsh. </p> <p>Such attitudes can have a deeply negative impact, not only on the way Muslims are perceived and treated in public, but upon how they self-identify. Those in my research who experienced racism or Islamophobia, stressed to me that this made them feel like they didn’t belong and questioned if they ever will be able to be considered Welsh or British by the wider community. </p> <p>The challenge is therefore to ensure that a diverse nation is not something which is only reflected sporadically – when there is an <em>Eid al</em><strong>-</strong><em>Fitr</em><strong> </strong>celebration or when a politician wants a quick photo op hugging someone who isn’t white. Rather, we as a society, including politicians, the media and people in the street, must continuously acknowledge the positive contributions that ethnic and religious minorities have long been making and continue to make to Wales and to the United Kingdom as a whole. </p> <p>These contributions are many and span many different fields – from sports to business to the arts, and they are becoming more prominent in the Welsh national narrative. The football team at the Euros was reflective of the participation of ethnic cultural and religious minorities in local and national sporting teams. The Welsh Yemeni fashion designer Haifa Shamsan, who started her fashion label Maysmode from her flat in Butetown Cardiff Bay, is making her mark on Islamic fashion, and has her models confidentially model Maysmode designs at the Senedd Building, the house of the Welsh Assembly. Welsh language songwriter Kizzy Crawford sings about her Welsh and Barbadian heritages.</p> <p>An increasing number of different third sector organizations and charities in the field of diversity and race relations, have mobilised around the Welsh Assembly since devolution. One of these organisations, a Swansea-based youth charity called the Ethnic Youth Support Team, responding to a planned White Pride demonstration, launched a <a href="" target="_blank">‘we too are Welsh’</a> campaign that argued you don’t have to be white to be Welsh. </p> <p>Today, Welsh identity is being embraced by ethnic and religious minorities in creative ways, and Wales is stronger because of this. For a more inclusive national identity to develop, people of different backgrounds must feel like they can contribute to how Wales and Welshness is constructed, so they can claim ownership over their own identities. Government institutions, third sector organisations and ordinary people must create opportunities where meaningful contact and dialogue across faith and culture can develop every day. And we must as a society work to foster a sense of belonging and attachment that can be harnessed in an inclusive way, binding people in a common community, regardless of faith or ethnicity. If this happens in Wales, Scotland and England, only then will we become stronger together. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/david-moon/same-but-different-wales-and-debate-over-eu-membership">The same, but different: Wales and the debate over EU membership</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk reset Geraint Rhys Fri, 29 Jul 2016 12:00:00 +0000 Geraint Rhys 104349 at Using technology to inject the demos back into democracy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Online deliberation allows us to take a leap towards much deeper democracy.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Agora at Tyre, Heretiq, Wikimedia</span></span></span></p><p>The recent Brexit referendum revealed a deep societal rift about what the word ‘democracy’ means. To some, the term ‘democracy’ is inseparable from the idea of majoritarian rule, and is viewed as the revolutionary triumph of the downtrodden over a corrupt aristocracy meant to deliver freedom, equality, and a system of personal advancement based on merit and graft instead of birth and wealth. But to a surprising number of others, democracy would appear to be conceived more as an elaborate debating society, where points are politely exchanged on the issues of the day before everyone concurs in doing ‘the only decent thing’. On the rare occasions when the <em>hoi polloi</em> are given the opportunity to make a decision, as happened during Brexit, their betters should feel no compunctions in over-riding it, should it prove convenient to do so. </p> <p>This ‘debating society’ conception of democracy surfaced in a multitude of articles written post-Brexit, e.g. <a href="">here</a>, <a href="">here</a>, <a href="">here</a> and <a href="">here</a>. Such perceptions of democracy as the mere art of noble statecraft tend to portray the common folk as ignorant dupes, incapable of assessing their own best interests and dangerously irresponsible, all too prone to shrieking ‘Give me freedom or give me death!’ in front of blood-stained guillotines, or – at the other end of the spectrum – marching in jackboots by torchlight. The debating society democrats are, by contrast, self-portrayed as intelligent, courageous and above all righteous in their willingness to save the people from themselves, or at least from making any decisions that could negatively impact a balanced stock portfolio. Debating society or bloodthirsty chaos – these are the alleged choices. </p><p>But the truth is that champagne-flute clinking ‘civilized debate’ and the classic peasant revolt are but two sides to one coin. Exclude people from having a hand in their political destiny for too long, ignore their repeated polite warnings that they’re unhappy with the decisions their self-anointed superiors are ostensibly making for their own good, and eventually their anger and frustration will boil over. The relationship is not one of alternatives, but rather of cause and effect. </p> <p>And for evidence that the people <em>are</em> excluded from politics under current ‘democratic’ practices, one need look no further than the fact that the Conservative party currently wields 100% of political power in the United Kingdom with less than 37% of the vote. Such skewed election results are the norm rather than the exception – Tony Blair’s Labour ruled even more absolutely with much the same level of popular support. And ‘ruled’ is indeed the appropriate term, because between elections, there are few ways in which the general population can participate in politics. Referenda are non-binding and, due to their extreme infrequency, tend to be dominated by moneyed interests, petitions are merely an advanced form of groveling, and protest an exercise in letting off steam. No matter how often or passionately people protested the Iraq War, for example, they did not suddenly acquire command of the United Kingdom’s armed forces with the authority to direct their activities. Consequently, the war happened.&nbsp; </p><p>As this demonstrates, possibilities to ‘take action’ under our current system may exist, but they are rarely effective. Debating-society democracy leaves the majority of people increasingly conscious of the fact that, while they may be able to express their opinions, there is no mechanism in place for translating those opinions into action. It has long been understood that it is the duty of politicians to <em>listen</em> to these expressions and act upon them, but there is nothing in our political system that actually ensures that this happens at any point, much less in a timely fashion. It depends entirely on politicians voluntarily doing their duty; when they don’t things go pear-shaped. Fast.</p> <p>If we want to correct this, we need to incorporate a legitimate and visible connection between citizens expressing their political preferences and concrete actions taken. Such a mechanism would need to involve citizens in decision-making on a continual basis, so as to allow issues to be dealt with before the tension builds. With millions of citizens in the United Kingdom, it is impossible to imagine how this could be done offline, but such a system of rolling participation could be implemented online. After all, <a href="">Estonians</a> have being using internet voting in elections since 2005 with parts of <a href="">Canada</a> and <a href="">Switzerland</a> following suit.</p> <p>More sophisticated online tools (see eg. <a href="!/">here</a>, <a href="">here</a>, and <a href="">here</a>) allow citizens to vote not just in elections, but directly on specific issues, such as rent control, financial regulation, or fracking. Frequent issue-specific voting means that it is less likely for the accompanying debate to become conflated across issues, and commenting functions can allow citizens to directly engage with each other, introducing a deliberative aspect to decision-making across disparate sub-groups that is currently utterly lacking in both referenda and elections. Most importantly, online voting on specific issues allows for transparency, removing much of the guesswork from politics, and making it difficult for representatives to dismiss voters’ expressed will. The grey space between expression and action disappears.</p> <p>If we want to reset democracy, we need to put the demos – the people, that is – back in the middle of the process, and this is precisely what technology allows us to do.</p> <p>Despite oft-repeated fears of the dangers of ‘online participation’, the facts indicate that we are ready for this transition. </p> <p>When <a href="">The Guardian</a> analysed over 70 million comments, posted on its site over 10 years, it discovered that only 2% of them had been blocked by moderators, including comments blocked for being off-topic rather than for containing offensive content. Actual threats were described as ‘extremely rare’ while ‘[h]ate speech as defined by law was rarely seen on Guardian comment threads’. Similarly, a <a href="">Pew study</a> in the United States revealed that 27% of internet users had been called an offensive name online while 6% had experienced online sexual harassment. Compare this to the 24% of women who experience sexual harassment in the <a href="">workplace</a> and what must surely be the 100% of people who have, at some point, been called an offensive name offline. Obviously any level of harassment is unacceptable, but this data does call a narrative of an unruly online environment that is intrinsically more abusive than the offline world into question. Thus, while it would certainly be necessary to set parameters on the deliberative aspect of online decision-making, there is no reason to believe that this would prove an insurmountable task.</p> <p>When things are out in the open and people are regularly consulted in a manner that clearly leads to results, contentious situations tend to be more easily defused, mistakes more easily spotted and rectified, and debate more easily centred on the issue at hand. It is when people’s wishes are suppressed for long periods of time, that politics begins to get chaotic. The debating society version of democracy we have been championing for so long is not an alternative to, but rather a cause of, social unrest. Giving people a transparent stake in decision-making, as technology now allows us to do, is the best, and perhaps the only, way to effectively reset democracy in a peaceful manner. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay/finding-path-forwards">Finding the path forwards</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/henry-porter/let-s-reset-our-future">Let’s reset our future</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk reset Roslyn Fuller Thu, 28 Jul 2016 12:17:35 +0000 Roslyn Fuller 104364 at It's time to disband the 'Tribe of the 48%' <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><span style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; color: #222222;"><span style="font-size: 12.8px; line-height: normal;">We cannot ground an effective political movement on the 48% who voted Remain. Instead, we must look for solutions to the political divisions that created this tribe.</span></span></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="A Union flag, a Saltire, and an EU flag. Andrew Milligan / PA Wire/Press Association Images"><img src="//" alt="A Union flag, a Saltire, and an EU flag. Andrew Milligan / PA Wire/Press Association Images" title="A Union flag, a Saltire, and an EU flag. Andrew Milligan / PA Wire/Press Association Images" width="460" height="312" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A Union flag, a Saltire, and an EU flag. Photo: Andrew Milligan / PA Wire/Press Association Images. All Rights Reserved.</span></span></span>Britain’s surprise vote to leave the EU, with Leave’s narrow but decisive win by a margin of over a million votes, led to a surprising outpouring of emotion on the Remain side of the referendum.&nbsp;It was surprising because there had been precious little emotion over the previous weeks of a campaign, which had been entirely focused on the pocketbook economic risks of leaving the EU. Indeed, there had been precious little emotion across the previous four decades of British engagement in the European club, largely seen as a transactional economic relationship, joining a common market without ever being entirely comfortable with the political idea of 'ever closer union' that animated the founders of the European project.&nbsp;<br /><br />Yet, in the days after the referendum, the banner was raised of a new&nbsp;tribe - the&nbsp;48% &nbsp;- with Facebook appeals to sign petitions or attend rallies and even a new “Newspaper for the 48%”. The 48% knew what they wanted: that Britain shouldn’t leave the European Union even if a majority of the country had voted that we should.</p><p>There appeared to be no shortage of ideas about how Brexit could be stopped – but none that looks at all viable. The idea of blocking the referendum in the courts lacks any sound legal basis in Britain’s uncodified constitutional system. The idea of a parliamentary rejection of Brexit is even more tone-deaf to how the public think about democratic legitimacy. Indeed, there is a serious risk of damaging the public reputation of the ex-Remain camp as being dominated by an out-of-touch elite who simply cannot accept the result of a democratic vote.</p><p><span class="print-no mag-quote-center">&nbsp;there is a serious risk of damaging the public reputation of the ex-Remain camp as being dominated by an out-of-touch elite&nbsp;</span>A good democratic argument can be put that a general election should take place before the UK has formally completed its departure from the European Union. But those who see this is a route to reverse Brexit seriously underestimate just how difficult it would be to elect a government on a pro-EU ticket. More than seven out of ten Parliamentary constituencies had a Leave majority.&nbsp;&nbsp;The current political turmoil within the main opposition party makes it difficult to see when the British public will next be offered any viable alternative to a Conservative government. Those who want to make the principled case for EU membership have every democratic right to keep making the argument, but they are unlikely to prevail.</p><p>From the inside, those involved saw the 48% as a vibrant new social and political movement. From outside, the shocked response looked more like the early stages of the grieving process – denial and anger after the lost vote. A new British Future report published today, ‘<a href="" target="_blank"><em>Disbanding the Tribes</em></a>,’ suggests that there are strong arguments for seeing that grieving cycle through the next stages – depression and bargaining through to acceptance – difficult though this would be for those most committed to a Remain vote.</p><p>There are important gains if they do. Those who backed Remain face a choice between trying to reverse the referendum result to prevent Brexit - and almost certainly failing - or seeking to influence the type of Brexit we get. The large, defeated minority would find that they could have significant chances to shape the form that Brexit might take, but that this will depend on their first accepting that it is going to happen.</p><p>Many people will want to engage in the debate about what changes after Brexit could mean for the causes they care about: employment rights and environmental protections; how Britain can play its full role on global issues like defence and international development; and how welcoming we are to those who seek to come here to do business, learn at our universities or work in our economy. Those 48%ers who remain fixated upon proving that we are going to hell in a handcart post-Brexit are unlikely to be part of these conversations. But their voices in support of an internationalist, open, and outward-looking post-Brexit Britain are needed now more than ever.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">voices in support of an internationalist, open, and outward-looking post-Brexit Britain are needed now more than ever.</p><p>A key progressive dilemma is the tension between two different 48% tribes.&nbsp;48% of voters preferred Remain to Leave in the 2016 referendum. 48% of voters in England also voted in 2015 for parties other than UKIP or the Conservatives. These are not the same 48% – they comprise two different, shifting and temporary alliances.<br /><br />Of the 16 million voters in the Remain 48%, around 4.5 million voted Conservative in 2015.&nbsp; Calling for a ‘progressive alliance,’ made up of a united left-liberal-Green flank, to mobilise the 48% around a plan to remove the Conservatives from office is not likely to be the most effective appeal.&nbsp; Of the 15 million who voted for ‘progressive parties’ in May 2015, around a third went on to vote for Leave in the referendum, across SNP. Liberal Democrat and Green voters, as well as from Labour.&nbsp;&nbsp;So the idea of a political realignment, founded on the referendum result, may be more problematic than its proponents might think. Many of the voters to whom it would hope to appeal might not want to come to the party. In fact, that crossover vote of ‘Remain progressives’ amounts to just a third of the electorate – who themselves hold mixed views on the priority or urgency of the European Union.<br /><br />For some, it won't matter that the 48% doesn't exist, or may only be half of its purported size. Tim Farron of the Liberal Democrats has spotted the gap in the market for a "Cosmopolitan UKIP", a liberal and urban mirror party to Nigel Farage's populist insurgency, responding to defeat by stealing the slogan "give us our country back". When Farron says "we are the 48%", he may well mean "we were the 8% in May 2015 and we would love to be the 16% next time that Britain goes to the polls".&nbsp;<br /><br />Those may be good Liberal Democrat party tactics. A similar approach may sometimes help to build a broader liberal base for progressive campaigns too. But liberal causes should take care to&nbsp; not become defined and confined by being part of a minority tribe. Those of us who want to defend values of tolerance and internationalism should want to succeed with majority support too. After Brexit, it will be important to entrench social values in British society, and show that a vote to leave the European Union in 2016 certainly does not entail turning the clock back to the country that we were before 1972. There is no reason why the progress that Britain has made on equal opportunities for women in society, on gay rights and on the reduction of racism in our society over those decades should not be sustained outside the European Union.<br /><br />One of the first big political decisions involved in getting Brexit right has been how we treat the 3 million EU citizens currently living in Britain. This is not an issue that sets the 16 million against the 17 million: 84% of the public are happy to say to Europeans in Britain: ‘this is your home and you continue to be welcome here’. Voters across the Leave-Remain divide can show that they are united against a toxic, racist and deluded minority who believe that the referendum vote gives them a licence for prejudice, hate speech and street racism. Yet neither the 48% nor the 52% can do this alone: we need to work together.</p><p>Some political issues are central to the contest between political parties at elections. Others are uncontested and are not at stake as the political pendulum swings – they form the foundations underpinning equal citizenship in our democratic society. If we want that to be the case for our shared support for equality and our opposition to racism, prejudice and discrimination, then it is essential to maintain broad and sustained majority support for them.</p><p class="gmail-MsoNormal">This September, the issue of refugee protection will also return to the agenda, with UN and US summits, and the first anniversary of the death of Alan Kurdi; the Syrian child whose body was famously photographed washed up on a Turkish beach. Our tradition of protecting refugees long pre-dates Britain’s membership of the EEC and will outlast our membership of the EU too. It is a source of pride for seven out of ten Britons. This autumn, it needs to be clear that the invitation to uphold that tradition is not going out to just one side of the referendum: everybody should feel invited to come together and stand up for Britain being a country proud to welcome refugees.<em><br /></em></p><p class="gmail-MsoNormal">The 48% does contain most of Britain's graduates, but few of those who left school with no educational qualifications.&nbsp;It is curious to take too much pride in doing best among those with most educational qualifications and worst among those with fewest, given that the task in the referendum was to secure majority consent in a society where we have a universal adult franchise, not one restricted to university graduates.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">It is curious to take too much pride in doing best among those with most educational qualifications and worst among those with fewest</p><p>The referendum illuminates the long-term, growing divergence between the politics of social justice and those of identity and belonging – and the need for much broader geographical and cross-class reach of those pursuing progressive coalitions.&nbsp;&nbsp;There will be no successful defence of liberal ‘open society’ values without engaging a much broader coalition than is achieved by the polarising frame of ‘open versus closed’, which pits the confident, liberal minority against the nativist, left-behind minority - but which also leaves most of the public unpersuaded by either camp.</p><p>A more successful strategy will require liberals to engage with both the gains&nbsp;<em>and</em>&nbsp;the pressures of ‘openness’; to be able to respond constructively to legitimate concerns about the impacts of immigration on public services, jobs and culture; and to engage with the values and interests of blue-collar and non-graduate audiences. If we are to secure majority consent for the values of an open and fair society, we need to do so together and ensure that it works fairly for everyone.</p><p>Even on a disagreement this big, we – Leave and Remain, old and young, graduate and non-graduate, metropolitan and provincial&nbsp;&nbsp;- can still find much common ground. "Build bridges, not walls" has&nbsp;long been a slogan of internationalists. But preserving and strengthening the 48% and 52% tribes will not build a bridge, it will build a wall. It is time to tear it down.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/henry-porter/let-s-reset-our-future">Let’s reset our future</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk reset Sunder Katwala Thu, 28 Jul 2016 10:17:52 +0000 Sunder Katwala 104360 at Labour can only win with Jeremy Corbyn <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Labour's long decline can only be ended by an insurgent movement. And Corbyn is the candidate of that movement.</p> </div> </div> </div> <blockquote data-lang="en" class="twitter-tweet"><p dir="ltr" lang="en">Take note Labour: this is how you win an election. Jeremy Corbyn phone bank filling up 6 entire rooms <a href=""></a></p>— Charles B. Anthony (@CharlesBAnthony) <a href="">August 19, 2015</a></blockquote> <script charset="utf-8"></script> <p>&nbsp;</p><p>Jeremy Corbyn is no ordinary politician. For his supporters that is his unique selling point, for his critics a terminal flaw. The former claim his leadership can offer a break with the current system, the latter that he is unable to even compete within the confines of the present one. What both sides do agree on is that Corbyn doesn’t look, or sound, like a prime minister. Were some future Hollywood blockbuster to include a British PM, it could foreseeably be David Cameron or Teresa May. ‘JC’? Well, that’s a little harder to imagine.&nbsp; </p><p>And it is that difficulty which has meant Corbyn’s tenure as leader of his party is now associated, among his detractors at least, with a single word: electability. For them, and this is a default presumption among liberal-left opinion (broadly the only kind permitted in the mainstream): Labour will never form a government – whether majority, minority or in coalition – with the member for Islington North in the top job.</p> <p>During last summer’s leadership race, when the proposition of prime minister Corbyn was more abstract than real, the problem was his politics. That’s why, when he won, the membership was blamed as much as the man himself. The base, we were told, had lazily chosen its comfort zone and a return to the 1980s over the challenges of government. For Corbyn read Michael Foot. The next general election? A repeat of 1983.</p> <p>And yet claims of Corbyn’s policies being out of kilter with the public have fallen away, particularly since Brexit. When former cabinet minister Stephen Crabb made a tilt for the Tory leadership recently – winning thirty four nominations in the first round – he did so on the promise of a £100 billion stimulus to the economy, in the process arguing for greater economic interventionism than Ed Miliband and the majority of the parliamentary Labour party. A fortnight later, and it seems almost certain that Theresa May’s government, given the likely recession Brexit will cause, will now pursue a program of fiscal and/or monetary stimulus over the coming months. The promise to eliminate the deficit by 2020, the bedrock of the Osborne/Cameron years, was quietly discarded on a cold and rainy weekday when most lobby journalists were only capable of asking – or tweeting – whether Labour’s leader would resign. The biggest story since Brexit? That the <i>raison d’etre</i> of Cameron’s two governments <a target="_blank" href="">was effectively bullshit</a>. Not that you would know it from reading the dailies. <span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Credit: Jonathan Brady / PA Wire/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Credit: Jonathan Brady / PA Wire/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>The economic debate has moved with impressive speed. Theresa May will have to significantly break Osborne’s budget forecasts to <a target="_blank" href="">implement an industrial strategy worthy of the name</a>. That reality is why Owen Smith recently included a £200 billion stimulus as part of his leadership offer, something utterly unthinkable to Corbyn’s rivals last summer – and almost certainly Smith himself.</p> <p>So the politics has changed, and it’s clear that with deficit elimination gone, and deficit reduction of little importance, Corbyn’s politics – interventionist, radical, socialist – have a real opportunity to challenge the mainstream. It’s probably unsurprising, then, that the criticisms now levelled against him aren’t about his policies – their time has almost certainly come – but his competence.&nbsp;</p> <p>Now let’s be fair to Corbyn’s critics. The MP for Islington North is not ‘slick’ (although he appears all the more resilient for it). What is more, he certainly never viewed himself before last summer as a potential Labour leader. It’s no surprise, therefore, that the team assembled less than a year ago initially struggled, although it has improved tremendously in recent months. The Labour left simply didn’t have the resources or pool of experienced people on which to draw to prepare for potential government. After all, their function in the party was more ornamental than real for the best part of three decades.</p> <p>Big mistakes were also made in regard to the shadow cabinet, foremost among them trying to include MPs who wanted Corbyn to fail from the very beginning, something few leaders would survive. More than incompetence, Corbyn’s original sin was generosity. Lisa Nandy, a standard bearer of the parliamentary party’s ‘soft left’, <a target="_blank" href="">recently spoke</a> of how the right and the left of the party were at war with one another. That simply isn’t true, at least not at the beginning. From day one Corbyn tried to assemble a broad cabinet. His reward? Political inertia, punishment, and almost ritualised humiliation, of which the ‘Chicken coup’ is only the most recent chapter.</p> <p>In addition to various problems of personnel, ill-preparation and misplaced kindness, politics at the top is always a messy affair. The decade of the Blair-Brown supremacy was marked by ceaseless conflict within Labour’s front ranks. You only need to read anything by Andrew Rawnsley to know as much. The same was true in the final Thatcher years and nearly all of John Major’s premiership. Despite the easy ride he got from the British media, David Cameron’s position during the Andy Coulson revelations was more fragile than seemed apparent. In retrospect what made the coalition all the more stable was that the constant sniping&nbsp;– a perennial feature of statecraft – could be put down to two parties having to govern together. Just a year after he delivered the Tories their first majority since 1992, a historic achievement, David Cameron resigned – his legacy as poor as any of his predecessors since the Second World War. He would almost certainly still inhabit Number Ten had there been a second coalition government.&nbsp;</p><p>So politics at the top is cut-throat. All the more so in an age of social media. All the more so when many of your own colleagues want you to fail from the start. All the more so w<a target="_blank" href="">hen the mainstream media treats you with a contempt, from the off, that has been reserved for no other politician in modern Britain</a>. That, taken with the fact that the radical left was far from prepared to seize the initiative, and Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership looks all the more impressive.</p> <p>What is more, and it is important to remember this, Corbyn does have considerable victories to his name including by-election wins, a massively growing membership (Labour are now bigger than at any point since the Second World War), and major u-turns from the government – particularly around welfare reform. More than all those however, which were accompanied by middling election results in May, Corbyn’s ten months as leader has significantly framed the space that Theresa May’s government is about to step into. The Overton Window has moved. The question is how far it is yet to go.</p> <h2><b>The devil is in the details</b></h2> <p>Yet it’s also clear that there is much that Corbyn can personally improve on. Self-improvement gurus often say that the solution to a big problem is the smallest tweak consistently applied over time. Similarly, the attitude of England’s rugby union team in the early 2000s was improving one hundred things by one percent. Constantly. In regard to issues of competency and daily media management that is my view with Corbyn: what is needed is an attitude of constant iterative improvement. The leadership is most certainly improving, and the team around Corbyn is now much stronger than before. Is there a desire for this? After the last month I really believe there is.&nbsp; </p><p>But as important as the belief that Corbyn is improving&nbsp;– and that issues of media management can be further rectified – his potential challengers have shown themselves to be utterly shambolic in the last few weeks. Even their supporters, in their heart of hearts, can’t think they have the answers.&nbsp;</p> <p>The genesis of what became the Chicken Coup was devious, manipulative and short-sighted. Corbyn’s foes wanted him to resign without standing a challenger; then they wanted to keep him off the ballot altogether; then the rules for those able to vote were, quite frankly, gerry-mandered (that didn’t stop nearly 185,000 joining as registered supporters). Angela Eagle, originally put up to run by the likes of Hilary Benn (much of Eagle’s campaign team were ex-Benn staffers) pulled out last Tuesday to give Owen Smith a free run. Her actions have angered her local party in Wallasey who, having passed a motion of confidence in Jeremy Corbyn a few weeks ago, have now been suspended. It seems likely they would have passed a motion of no confidence in Eagle.</p> <p>Before its timely expiration, Eagle’s candidacy was an exercise in farce. Its poor launch was preceded by two weeks of collective dithering – calling on Corbyn to resign while failing to make the next move. When the launch did finally happen, the essentials were lacking. The defining moment for that came when Eagle invited specific journalists to ask questions of her who weren’t even present in the room. For a candidate criticising Corbyn’s competence it was calamitous to watch.&nbsp; </p><p>What is more, Eagle – originally intended as a unity candidate by the right of the party who initiated the coup – was a politically strange choice. She had voted for war in Iraq and against an investigation, doubly problematic given events kicked off a fortnight before the release of the Chilcot Report. In terms of her position and voting record on austerity, Eagle was no different to the rivals Corbyn had stunningly defeated the previous summer.</p> <p>So when the former cabinet minister stood aside on Tuesday, former Pfizer lobbyist Owen Smith became the last hope for those who wanted a new leader. And yet, as with Eagle, basic issues were obvious from the off. Smith, who has seemingly found a vein of political radicalism in his soul after five years of lobbying in the pharmaceutical industry, has clearly moved left to appeal to a very different party membership to even a few years ago. Nevertheless, his views on PFI, privatisation in the NHS and, only last year, reducing welfare spending, is plainly at odds with what the membership wants. Smith – we now know – is also prone to gaffes, making two major ones in the first few days of his leadership bid.</p> <h2><b>Social Democracy is in crisis: Owen Smith is no answer</b></h2> <p>But more than the individual flaws of any specific candidate, what is most concerning with Smith (who is now trying to pitch himself as a more electable left-winger) is that the politics he champions, and the direction he would like to take the party in – along with the likes of Ed Miliband – has no winning model in Europe. Centre-left politics – across the continent – is mired in defeat and inertia. Whether it be the SDP polling at 25% in Germany, the PSOE winning 22% in the recent Spanish General Election, or French president Francois Hollande polling at 13%, there are no real bright spots. The only arguable exception is Italy’s <i>Partito Democratico</i>, led by Matteo Renzi. Yet even there Renzi is PM having never contested a general election, and his predecessor but one – Pierluigi Bersani – led the Democrats to only 27% in the 2013 election (the coalition they headed won just under 30%). Last month the 5 Star Movement’s Virginia Raggi won the Rome mayoralty from the PD. Even with Europe’s best performing party of the centre-left, the story is one of managed decline.&nbsp;</p> <p>The crisis of social democracy has been a topic of conversation for years. That has been turbo-charged by the fact that the centre-right has benefitted most from the global financial crisis of 2008. Ed Miliband and Labour’s electoral defeat in 2015 was testimony to that, with Labour winning only 9.3 million votes. Perhaps most concerning however, was how Labour lost votes to both their left, and their right. Were Owen Smith to be Labour leader for the next general election I think he would struggle to even get Miliband numbers: Greens would be less likely to switch to Labour, his vague offer of a second referendum on EU membership would almost certainly land UKIP a number of Labour seats in the north, and the Lib Dems, probably regardless of who leads the two major parties, will make a minor comeback.&nbsp; </p><p>Labour’s problems reflect those of both the British establishment and European social democracy, and to my mind Owen Smith isn’t a solution (nor indeed is any individual). While you can point to Corbyn’s low personal approval ratings – for what it’s worth I think any politician’s would be as bad given what he has uniquely faced – the Labour party he wants, and more importantly the one now under construction, arguably does. You see it’s not just about Corbyn, it’s about a party of a million members, grassroots organising and a generational break with a broken centre-left politics adrift across the continent. Labour now needs to invent its future. It has no choice.</p> <h2><b>Understanding Labour’s long decline&nbsp;</b></h2> <p>The obstacles Jeremy Corbyn will now have to surmount in order to become prime minister and oversee precisely that are unprecedented. Some of the parliamentary party will simply refuse to work with him if he wins again. Tom Watson will likely resign as deputy leader after any second Corbyn victory to exert maximum dramatic effect. Senior Labour MPs are seriously talking about <a target="_blank" href="">annual leadership elections until Corbyn goes</a>. On the bright side any split, which should be avoided at all costs, would likely only include the right of the party – led by the Blairite MPs named and shamed by John Prescott in a recent <i>Sunday Mirror</i>. Most, however, understand that any new party of the centre would face a very inhospitable set of circumstances: the historic social base of the SDP, progressives in metropolitan areas, are now a hotbed of Corbyn support. What is more, there are few examples of successful centrist projects worldwide right now – with the exception of Justin Trudeau’s Liberals in Canada. What is more, the Labour right clearly lacks a politician of that calibre. If they did, she or he would be standing against Corbyn, not Owen Smith.</p> <p>In addition to the hostility Corbyn Mk. 2 will now face from many of his own MPs, and as many MPs on the soft-left need to be won round in the next few months as possible, the Labour party machine is nowhere near good enough to win a general election. That is true at both local and national levels. Half-a-dozen people have described to me how the party HQ is set up to win an election in 2005 rather than 2020, with problems going a long way back. After all, before Corbyn’s rise last summer, the party hadn’t won a general election since 2005. Even then it lost forty-six seats to Michael Howard’s Tories. Indeed Labour has lost seats at every single general election since 1997, almost two decades ago.</p> <p>In terms of actual votes, Labour lost five million between 1997 and 2010. Ed Miliband’s brand of heavily triangulated, frequently contradicting soft-left politics won back fewer than a million of them last year. For my money that is the ceiling on the party’s vote with his brand of politics and its present organising structure. In other words, Owen Smith.</p> <p>Looking back, the rise of Blair – and his historic election win in 1997 – was as much one of Tory decimation as Labour ascendancy. The mid-1990s were a unique cycle in global capitalism since the early 1970s, with GDP, employment and real wages all rising. The factors behind that – the doubling of the global labour market foremost among them – aren’t going to be repeated again. But alongside the bigger economic picture, the Tories were also in chaos. Winning the 1992 General Election was the worst thing that ever happened to them. Within twelve months the party needed the votes of Ulster Unionists to pass legislation, and Major’s second term was permanently furnished in crisis. No Labour leader, before, since or likely ever again, will be offered that kind of opportunity. The dynamics behind 1997, as much about Tory collapse as Labour supremacy, effectively carried on for a decade, with Labour’s vote steadily decreasing but the Tories incapable of taking advantage. Thus even at its zenith, the Labour machine was a never particularly impressive one. Those on the Labour right who talk of imitating the US Democrats have shown neither the skill nor foresight over the last two decades to come good on their lofty ambitions. Given they have controlled much of the party’s formal infrastructure during that period, especially at Victoria Street, it’s fair to say it isn’t going to happen.</p> <h2><b>A different kind of leadership; a member-based party</b></h2> <p>Jeremy Corbyn is not a generic political leader. But perhaps that doesn’t matter as much as some think. Twenty-First Century leadership takes many forms with it not only being about attracting supporters – but more importantly – creating more leaders too.&nbsp;</p> <p>While he will never look like a Hollywood impersonation of a PM, what Corbyn can do&nbsp;– and is doing – is give rise to a movement. As Paul Mason says, he is a placeholder. That phrase needs to be more than rhetoric however, it must inform an organising strategy by which Labour comes to have more than a million members and can feasibly form a government after the next general election.</p> <p>But before explaining how that happens, it’s important to clarify why Labour’s growing membership is such a game changer. Well, the Conservative party dominated British politics for much of the 20th Century because they had significant resources that others did not: three million members (yes, really); influence among opinion-makers and the mainstream media; and wealthy supporters. Labour’s greatest hour came in 1945 when, to the astonishment of many, Winston Churchill was replaced by Clement Atlee. The basis of that was a popular movement, a uniquely changed political context and a vision for a different kind of country. Labour only wins as a movement.</p> <p>As I hope to have made clear, the major exception to that – 1997-2005 – was as much a story of Tory decline as Labour success. What is more, that project was in decline almost immediately after its high point. The Conservative leaders of the early 21st Century, William Hague and Iain Duncan-Smith, even Michael Howard, were at the time harder to imagine as prime minister than Jeremy Corbyn is now. That was without kamikaze elements within their own party and the collective force of the entire mainstream media arrayed against them.</p> <p>So if the Tories (almost always) win because they have more money and media influence – the members have long since gone – what does Labour have? During Labour’s great exception at the end of the twentieth century, the view was they had to ‘spin’ better than the Tories while converging with them in key policy areas, particularly wages, housing and industrial policy (i.e. not having one). That led, in the long-term, to the decline I’ve already identified: the party’s working class heartland being taken for granted to win swing voters in marginals elsewhere. That strategy is now a busted flush, not least because Scotland has now gone and those industrial and former mining areas no longer look quite so impregnable. Over the same period the party neglected member-based democracy, local organisation and effective ground campaigning.</p> <p>Rather than spin, or a hotline to Rebekah Brooks or Paul Dacre, the biggest resource the Labour party can now possibly have is its membership. That membership can, potentially, serve to do several things. Firstly, it provides the party with a much sturdier financial base (the party, rather than rely on wealthy backers, would have been long bankrupt without affiliated trade unions and loans); it creates a large base of advocates who can informally persuade their own social networks and formally campaign among strangers; and, with social media, it creates a huge network for the self-broadcasting of Labour’s ideas, policies and events. None of this is inevitable with the rise of a mass membership, and appropriate organisational choices have to be made, but it is a pre-condition for it. Again, I believe none of this happens with Owen Smith as leader.&nbsp; </p><p>My contribution here is this: among that million plus membership, the party will need 100,000 change advocates to make significant inroads. These are people who are trained to campaign in local areas as well as reaching out and getting even more people to join the party. While Momentum could oversee such an undertaking, it may well require a well-resourced and committed organisation, equivalent perhaps to the American <a target="_blank" href="">New Organising Institute</a> (albeit with adaptations for the British context). These 100,000 activists would be a major part in winning any ground campaign against the Tories and building even wider circles of local support on a constituency-by-constituency basis, starting in marginals. Were the future selection of parliamentary candidates to be undertaken through local primaries, something I inclined towards, registered supporters would also be able to participate.</p> <p>The electorate should thus be seen as an ever larger set of concentric circles: at the heart are these change advocates, then members, then registered supporters, then Labour voters, then potential Labour voters. If organised properly this would be a very competitive force during elections. As much as persuading strangers, activists would be mobilising pre-existing affinity groups of friends, families and colleagues to not only vote for candidates, but campaign for them as well. Additionally they would interface with extant efforts around things like food banks as well as beginning initaitives like literacy groups and breakfast clubs. How would this be funded? The party would build something that integrated <a target="_blank" href="">Act Blue</a> and JustGiving to enable dis-intermediated financing of these projects by members as well as the general public. That Labour was able to raise £4.5 million in just 48 hours in the recent registration of supporters, is testimony to the good will and resources out there. Charitable giving in the United Kingdom is significant, that culture should be channeled within any modern mass-membership party that aims at systemic change.</p> <p>As much as building the party membership, and crafting it into a force capable of persuading the general public and even engaging in social reproduction, any campaign that sees Jeremy Corbyn into Number 10 will have to exhibit features of a movement assemblage rather than a political party. That assemblage will engage in personalised campaign practices.&nbsp; </p><p>Now I know what you are thinking – an assemblage? Personalisation?</p> <p>Until very recently general election campaigns have been hybrids of professionalised party efforts which incorporate large numbers of volunteers. The volunteer efforts were almost entirely for offline&nbsp;‘ground’ campaigning, while professionalised elements included public relations, media and fundraising. That has dramatically changed in recent years through the emergence of social media and crowdfunding. Additionally, the last decade has seen a move to ‘personalised political communication’, especially in the United States. This kind of campaigning places an emphasis on ‘ground war’ practices such as door-to-door canvassing and phone banking, both pursued with the help of allied groups, volunteers, and paid part-time employees. This kind of communication is ‘personalised’ in the sense that people, and not television or websites, serve as the primary media for messages (Kleis Nielsen 2013). All of which means that media and mobilisation functions are now fusing into one another. In the English context, one saw this for the first time in Corbyn’s campaign last summer – especially in phonebanking efforts that <a target="_blank" href="">deployed the ‘Canvassing’ app</a>&nbsp;– the Corbyn campaign found scale through the personal media networks and efforts of tens of thousands of advocates – and how this interacted with legacy media – rather than simply the old ‘one-to-many’ channels. This explains, to a significant extent, <a target="_blank" href="">how Corbyn can currently enjoy a 32% lead over Smith among the membership</a> despite little to no support from the mainstream media. </p><p>Survey research demonstrates that tens of millions of citizens are contacted in person or by phone by parties and candidates each cycle in the US, and experimental research in political science suggests that it works (Kleis Nielsen 2013). Corbyn’s first campaign for Labour leader brought that model to the UK – and his second one will likely improve on it.</p> <p>So the first aspect of Labour as a campaigning assemblage is to acknowledge this model of campaigning, its relative absence in the UK, its potential effectiveness, and use its large, growing membership accordingly. Again, I don’t think anyone believes this happens with Smith. Without such an approach, at least until Labour wins the wholesale backing of the print media and the financing of oligarchs, Labour simply have no other route to power.</p> <p>But as well as channeling this new kind of personalised campaigning through an ever-larger membership, Labour also needs to embody both collective, and connective logics of action.&nbsp;</p> <p>In their recent, groundbreaking work, Lance Bennett and Alexandra Segerberg distinguish between the traditional logic of collective action that has been accepted within much of the social sciences for decades, and observably different logics of connective action which have recently emerged in the digital environment. As a result they offer a three-fold typology of large-scale action networks, with one representing the brokered networks characterised by the logic of collective action (Olson 1965) and the other two exhibiting the newer logics of connective action. These are as follows:&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="// Shot 2016-07-28 at 13.41.41.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="// Shot 2016-07-28 at 13.41.41.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="335" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p>Traditionally most formal political efforts – from voter registration campaigns, to protests and elections – have relied on the first kind of action. That necessitated hierarchy, incentives for participants to not free-ride (often paid jobs or status) and a highly centralised operation. Fundamentally, it presumes higher costs for information than is, in reality, now the case. So while one might think of politics, until recently, as being about top-down, organisationally brokered collective action, it isn’t. In the recent referendum on membership of the European Union, the ‘Leave’ campaign more closely resembled organisationally-enabled connective action than ‘Remain’. We also saw it in the nomination campaigns of both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump in the United States. While Clinton, with a more classically vertical campaign did ultimately prevail, Sanders picked up an astonishing thirteen million votes. The reality is that in the contemporary media environment the choice isn’t between hierarchy and networks but between more collective or connective strategies. Both require organisation and leadership, just different kinds. Because of a relative lack of resources my view is that Labour can never compete through collective action strategies, hence the importance of the Corbyn project, member-based democracy and organisational renewal.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Bernie Sanders supporters, image: the Bernie Sanders campaign.</span></span></span></p><p>The major reason why Jeremy Corbyn won the Labour leadership so convincingly last year was because elements of all three logics were evident in his campaign. His triumph was powered by old-fashioned politics – such as winning trade union support – but also by a groundswell of grassroots support which managed to achieve tangible things: remote phonebanking, events organising, social media campaigning and, most importantly, getting new members to join. Much of how this was achieved was through crowd and organisationally-enabled connective action which fosters much higher levels of personalised communication. That was expedited through organisational forms, both formal and informal, that one would not typically associate with British electoral politics. </p><p>Had Corbyn’s campaign tried to win through old-school collective action they would have lost, quite simply because they lacked the resources - primarily money and media exposure - of the other candidates. Its important to remember that while Corbyn may be naturally open to this kind of approach, one where formal efforts easily interface with what feels like a social movement and an amorphous body of support, his campaign also had high incentives to adopt it, or at least be comfortable with it.</p> <p>Sadly, once Corbyn did win, that approach was dispensed with. There was the general presumption, ultimately misguided, that such efforts could be easily channeled into the Labour party. But modern action – at its most powerful – doesn’t work like that. For Corbyn’s Labour to be highly competitive there needs to be the recognition that both collective and connective action logics are necessary, and that these will be mobilised across a range of actors which enjoy distinct organisational features. That means a great deal of autonomy to local activists to organise with an emphasis on personalised communication; strong levels of access to media that is beyond the mainstream; content created by Labour, Corbyn’s office and others that is not aimed at their supporters but is, instead, intended to be re-broadcast by them; and a general approach that seeks to choreograph events rather than lead them. It requires more than simply telling supporters it is their movement, but to build things so they experience and produce it as their movement, daily.</p> <p>Much of this may sound like new management speak, but these were the precise organisational dynamics which saw Corbyn win last summer, as documented by digital campaigner <a target="_blank" href="">Ben Sellers</a>. Such an approach will not only mean Labour exerts more media influence, but will also mean higher levels of mobilisation (such as door-knocking, leafletting and ‘get out the vote’ campaigns) and more resources (not only through membership subs but also crowdfunding efforts). Again, none of this seems to be on offer with an Owen Smith leadership. Jeremy Corbyn, perhaps surprisingly, appears to offer the only path to a Twenty-First Century party in Britain. </p> <p>In the following months, in the knowledge that personalised communication, campaigning assemblages and connective as well as collective action are all integral to a successful Labour ‘machine’ (one that actually goes beyond the party) I would suggest that several things begin to happen.</p> <p>Firstly there needs to be a discussion about the ecology which would exert media influence and mobilise activists. In regard to the former the leading channels the Corbyn leadership wants to operate through need to be identified, particularly with television (beyond current affairs shows) and new media. Additionally, influencers need to identified. I’m circumspect as to how much they can change minds – after all, David Beckham’s intervention on Brexit went down like a lead balloon – but they undoubtedly extend reach, especially with specific, targeted demographics. This is especially important in regard to the coalition of voters that Corbyn’s Labour must now build. In regard to mobilisation, I would imagine something equivalent to the NOI should be set up. It would offer not only training, skills and experience for 100,000 organisers, but certification too. These organisers would advocate the new politics, but also add new members. They would also be the basis by which party activists begin to engage in local community organising beyond electoralism. As mentioned, in terms of funding those projects the party needs its own equivalent of Act Blue to fund local campaigns and initiatives. The problem, with a national membership of over half-a-million, is not raising resources, but effectively channeling them to where they are most needed. If Labour HQ is too short-sighted to create these two institutions, others should. They will be crucial in the assemblage that makes Labour a serious electoral force.</p> <h2><b>Labour needs to identify and build its coalition of voters</b></h2> <p>Alongside creating the right ecology through which it can flourish as both a campaigning movement and electoral force, Labour needs to understand the coalition it must build to win. Again, I think that Corbyn – and more importantly the changed Labour party he will lead – offers much more promise here than Owen Smith.&nbsp;</p> <p>While Labour must remain rooted in the trade union movement, one thing it can learn from the US Democratic party is how to build a social majority which beats ‘Middle England’. In both 2008 and 2012, Barack Obama won the White House despite being relatively unpopular with what is presented as the deciding force in politics: white men. While Britain does not have the same ethnic composition as the US, Jeremy Corbyn&nbsp;– or indeed any potential Labour prime minister – will have to do something pretty similar. Obama’s ‘coalition’ was women, the young, and BME voters. In terms of who joined Labour during and immediately after Corbyn’s campaign last summer, <a target="_blank" href="">something similar happened with the party’s 150,000 new members</a>, with joiners tending to be younger and female. </p><p>Labour actually won the last election among under-45s. A primary task for Corbyn, then, would be to generate a considerable increase in turnout among that demographic, as in fact <a target="_blank" href="">happened in the recent referendum on membership of the European Union</a>. This is low hanging fruit, and should be a central aspect of Labour’s electoral strategy.</p> <p>In fact Labour needs a considerable increase in overall turnout just to stay where they are after boundary changes. Again, I don’t think Smith can do that. The difference between Al Gore in 2000 and Barack Obama in 2008 was a 7% increase in turnout for the latter. Labour now needs a similar trend in England and Wales just to stay competitive.&nbsp; </p><p>In addition to more people powering a higher turnout, particularly among the young, Labour also needs to win a majority among women and BME voters. Nowadays women are more likely to vote Labour then men – although in last year’s general election <span style="text-decoration: underline;">it appears almost certain that most women voted Tory</span>. Labour did however have a big advantage among women under 50, enjoying a six-point lead. Along with increasing turnout among that vote – far more likely to vote Labour anyway – Corbyn also needs to win a majority of women next time round. Against a second woman as Tory prime minister – Theresa May – that would appear difficult, but anti-austerity policies, as well as big offers on pay discrimination, social housing and care (adult, child and for those with disabilities) would be very popular. As already mentioned, a national base of activists – mobilising around issues of social reproduction – would be a major difference here.</p> <p>Corbyn’s Labour will also need to win the BME vote, something Labour historically does anyway. <a target="_blank" href="">In 2015 Labour won 65% of BME votes</a>, an increase of 5% on five years earlier. Again, as with younger voters the aim must be to get far more of this demographic to not only vote but to actively campaign for Labour. That will go hand-in-hand with Labour becoming an effective organisation for anti-racist activism in the years ahead – something crucially necessary given the growth of xenophobia and racist violence in the aftermath of Brexit. Can Smith do that? It’s unlikely given his <a target="_blank" href=""><b>comments on immigration</b></a> in his recent Newsnight interview.</p> <p>But along with Obama’s coalition, the big ask for Corbyn is how you win such a ‘social majority’ while maintaining the party’s historic heartlands in former mining and industrial areas. On a range of issues, from Europe to migration, such areas express diverging attitudes with Labour’s metropolitan core. If just this balancing act can be achieved, in the process seeing away the challenge of UKIP, Corbyn would enjoy a much more successful general election than Ed Miliband a year ago. With Owen Smith, given his lobbyist history, his offer of a second EU referendum and his pro-austerity policies, something similar seems unlikely. For me, Labour wins those areas, and handsomely, with a big offer on industrial strategy, jobs, housing and a new kind of economy. This will go hand-in-hand with critiquing a failing model of globalisation, but insisting the solutions are economic and around issues of labour reform, rather than immigration. There can be no doubt about it, this will take years, but it is absolutely crucial.&nbsp;</p><p>So in terms of who is more likely to win, or even compete, at a general election between Corbyn and Smith I would suggest Smith can’t build the necessary coalition that Corbyn can. Yes, Smith might look a lot more appetising to southern swing voters, but when you zoom out, that is less important than it looks.</p> <p>What is more, Corbyn offers Labour a path to reinvention. The centre-left is dying across Europe, and I’d suggest Owen Smith would take Labour in a similar direction. Can Corbyn become the next prime minister? It’s possible, but it depends both on the growing movement that now surrounds him and how his leadership interacts with it. Most importantly, his leadership can feasibly change Labour, at both a local and national level, into a party fit for the modern era. As important as&nbsp;winning elections and modernising the Labour party, is how a mass, active membership can not only re-define party politics, but Britain. We need change in Westminster but also across civil society. Only Corbyn offers that.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/john-heathcliff/post-factual-labour-leadership-election">The post-factual Labour leadership election</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/jeremy-gilbert/is-momentum-mob-no-this-is-what-democracy-looks-like">Is Momentum a mob? No – this is what democracy looks like</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk reset Aaron Bastani Wed, 27 Jul 2016 12:34:58 +0000 Aaron Bastani 104333 at After Cameron: How can you mend a broken country? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In seeking a One Party Britain, David Cameron sowed the seeds not for a united nation, but a divided one. A sign that Britain’s ‘Left Behind’ are now beginning to have their voices heard.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="340" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>David Cameron, Toms Norde, Valsts kanceleja, Wikimedia Commons</span></span></span></p><h2><strong>In Brexit, Britain is Divided</strong></h2> <p>On Friday, June 24, 2016 Britain awoke and was forced to look at itself in the mirror. In its reflection it saw the signs of a society more divided that it had previously felt comfortable to admit. The Brexit result was not just about the rejection of the European Union. It also signalled the British people’s unwillingness to view the world beyond the familiar conception of <em>the nation state</em>, calling into question the country’s social and cultural unity.</p> <p>As a country deeply integrated into the international system, in every sense of the word, British society is caught in the dilemma of how to preserve a national identity, in a context of ever expanding globalisation. Put otherwise, it’s tasked with maintaining its national unity whilst simultaneously managing and encouraging internal differences. This is both a question of social justice – by ensuring broad equality – <em>and </em>nourishing a multi-ethnic society. </p> <p>With the country now entering the uncertainty of the post-Brexit era, it is vital that these two issues are addressed if Britain is to come together as a tolerant, united society. Yet, looking back over the last six years of government, David Cameron’s brand of One Nation conservatism has contributed little to this aim. In fact, it is the very catalyst of the divisions that are staring Britain in the face today. </p> <p>* * *</p> <p>The frequent use of military force abroad, and the invariably linked rise in violent attacks on the innocent in parts of Europe, has certainly inspired a number of societies across the continent to a return to nation-building. However, the widespread rise in <em>nationalism</em> that we are witnessing can be accounted to more than just these security narratives that have come to the forefront of global politics in recent years. For alone, it fails to take into account the social dimension – that is, why society’s <em>Left Behind</em> are drawn to <em>nationalism</em> in their bid to recapture control over a country and identity that they feel has forgotten them.</p> <p>And they are forgotten – because while it is undeniable that much of Britain has benefitted from the country’s presence and ongoing integration into the international system, the <em>haves</em> have reaped more of the rewards than the <em>have nots</em>. After Spain and Greece, <a href="">the UK has the third highest income inequality in Europe</a> – a fact many Brits would be shocked to hear. But what is worse is that this social division is as much visible by class, as it is by geographic location: of course, referring to the notorious North-South divide.</p> <p>Across the world, <a href="">the UK is second only to Russia</a> in the dominance of its capital city over the rest of the country. London has achieved this position over years of growth and development. Since 1989, London and the South East’s share of the country’s production (GVA) has risen from 20% to over 38%. Yet, despite the country’s capital being one of the largest transactional markets in the world, the wealth that international integration has attracted has neither ‘trickled down’, nor been shared to ‘help people out of poverty’. This structural transfer of wealth to the capital has condemned many communities across the UK to a life of hand-outs and low-skilled work, as their iconic industries have faded around them.</p> <p>London may well have the international status of a cultural powerhouse, with a vibrant migrant population of over 36%, but it is by no means representative of the country. Since 1951, Britain’s foreign born population has risen from 3.5% to 12% – but this fact is not celebrated in many communities that feel their politicians are looking beyond their own shores, before looking after <em>their own</em>.</p> <p>And despite the promises of a more inclusive society by previous governments, especially those of David Cameron, each one has failed to do enough. We know this, because increasingly the electorate has been looking for alternatives, finding the once peripheral figures of Jeremy Corbyn and Nigel Farage. Now, the popularity of their (albeit contrasting) positions are undeniable.</p> <p>And so it happened that the prime minister gave the electorate their <a href=",_2011">fourth</a> referendum of his premiership, by which point it was clear that the boundaries of debate would be set by the nationalist agenda that was growing within Britain’s divisions. How unsurprising it was, therefore, when the Vote Leave campaign provided an uncanny impersonation of one of their founding fathers, the notorious anti-marketeer Enoch Powell. With acute precision, they irresponsibly exploited social anxieties, normalising their xenophobic rhetoric. </p> <p>To their thanks, Britain not only woke up to Brexit, but also <a href="">a spike in hate crime across the country</a>.</p> <h2><strong>Cameron failed to create One Nation</strong></h2> <p>An apostle of Disraeli’s One Nation conservatism, David Cameron entered No. 10 Downing Street having promised to ‘govern for all’. It was a popular brand of rhetoric, remaining at the forefront of his addresses even into his second term. While as a theme it was used to emphasise his Unionist credentials (the Scottish claim for independence an additional divide to consider), it was also a bid to make inroads into the electorate of a Labour party that was becoming increasingly fractured. And in seeking a <em>One Party</em> Britain, David Cameron sowed the seeds not for a united nation, but a divided one.</p> <p>Despite ensuring future electoral success for the Conservatives, David Cameron’s premiership saw the UK’s <a href="">North-South economic divide strengthen</a>; a rise in the number of ‘high earners’ in an era of heavy austerity and an overall economic recovery plan that favoured many, but <a href="">forgot the bottom two-fifths of the population</a>. Britain’s <a href="">wealth distribution</a> is more unequal than in 2010, and the country’s <em>Left Behind</em> have not seen the social justice of the One Nation they were promised. </p> <p>This has led to an alternative, more harmful conception of the One Nation. In 2011, the prime minister launched an assault on ‘the failures of state multiculturalism’. He was referring to a policy approach that maintains a pluralistic conception of citizenship, protecting the social and political rights of discrete ethnic groups, and thus institutionalising <em>difference </em>within a single nation. His move away from the dominance of <em>multiculturalist</em> thought was a much needed one – such policies only serve to institutionalise sensitive differences. It should also be recognised, however, that it was also a means of appeasing the growing nationalistic elements of society – complaints of unfair preferential rights for minority groups and excessive political correctness were growing louder – and therefore, it began the legitimisation to the darker parts of British society.</p> <p>Soon after his first electoral success, Cameron introduced the <a href="">Government’s 2010 Equality Strategy</a> - the cross-party committee for which was chaired by Teresa May. It promised to do away with the ‘social engineering’ of tick boxes, instead opting to ‘[recognise] that we are a group of 62 million people’. This sounded very appealing: both simple and of common sense, and that was its charm. Or it would have be, if it weren’t accompanied by policies that took a bold step towards the French model of <em>civic-assimilation</em>, such as the ‘Life in the UK Test’ for immigrants intending to stay in the UK. As we are regrettably learning, this alternate approach is as equally <a href="">ill-equipped in ensuring a healthy, vibrant multi-ethnic society</a> as the multiculturalist approach, as Kenan Malik writes.</p> <p>Simultaneously enshrining ‘equal rights’ and ‘the right to be different’ is the Catch 22 of the multi-ethnic society. However, Cameron’s One Nation conservatism was more of a political tool than a substantive framework for uniting the nation. During his six years as prime minister, he not only managed to widen the gap between the <em>haves </em>and the <em>have nots</em>, but critically he prepared the platform for a Vote Leave campaign that would use British nationalism as its primary weapon.</p> <h2><strong>May must be cautious when calling for One Nation</strong></h2> <p>David Cameron has left office with a rather uninspiring mixed bag of successes and failures. In his wake, Teresa May has seemingly picked up the baton by promising to lead <a href="">in the spirit of her predecessor’s ‘one nation government’</a>. However, she should be wary of the effect that such rhetoric can have, if not accompanied by genuine political will to address the glaring socio-economic divides in Britain.</p> <p>Aside from ensuring that the UK retains a seat at the table of Europe, May must continue to promote international engagement and inter-dependence beyond the Anglosphere. Every country’s future should now lie in a constructive, outward-looking approach to both external <em>and</em> internal politics, as opposed to exercising the comforting, but archaic appeals of nationalism. Most importantly, however, beyond Brexit, she must ensure that Britain feels united; not under a flag, language or birth right, but as part of a just and tolerant society. </p> <p id="docs-internal-guid-59b4805d-21f4-1885-5b32-4c9b0307fee7" dir="ltr"><em><strong><span>This article is part of our Reset series. Chip in </span><a href=""><span>here</span></a><span> to help fund the conversation about how to change Britain for good.</span></strong></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay/finding-path-forwards">Finding the path forwards</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk reset Piers Purdy Tue, 26 Jul 2016 23:00:01 +0000 Piers Purdy 104245 at An industrial strategy for energy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Britain should abandon Hinkley Point and invest in storage.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Hinkley Point nuclear power station. By Di Richard Baker.</span></span></span></p><p>In early July, French parliamentarians produced a report on EdF, the largely state-owned electricity company that wants to build a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point. The legislators concluded that the Hinkley project ‘is probably the last opportunity for EdF to restore the reputation of the French nuclear industry internationally and gain new business in a highly competitive market’. The implication was clear; Hinkley is a central part of the national industrial strategy of France. </p> <p>The nuclear power station will proceed not because it is good for Britain or its electricity users but because the French state thinks that maintaining the capacity to export nuclear power stations is a paramount objective. And, by the way, France itself is closing down the nuclear plants on its own soil as fast as it can, with no intention of replacing them. Instead it is driving forward with solar and wind. </p> <p>A few days after the French parliamentary report, the UK’s National Audit Office brought out its own report on nuclear power. Among its conclusions was a calculation that Hinkley will receive subsidies of about £30bn in the first thirty five years of its life. This figure is the difference between the open-market price of electricity and the much higher figure paid to EdF for the electricity produced by the proposed new power station. Directly and indirectly through higher prices of goods and services, the average UK household will pay about £32 a year for more than three decades for the privilege of supporting the French industrial strategy.</p> <p>In fact, the NAO figures are probably too optimistic. It assumed wholesale electricity prices of around £60 per megawatt hour. Based on today’s trades, the electricity market thinks differently. Wholesale prices for 2018 - the best guide we have to the future – are around £41, or less than 70% of the NAO’s figure. If the cost of wholesale electricity remains at this level, Hinkley won’t cost UK households £30bn but the rather larger figure of £47bn.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">If the cost of wholesale electricity remains at this level, Hinkley won’t cost UK households £30bn but the rather larger figure of £47bn.</p> <p>Estimates for the underlying price of putting nuclear power on the grid continue to rise sharply. Nuclear power stations being built around the world today are almost all very much more costly than predicted and are taking several years longer to build than promised. The most troublesome new plant – at Olkiluoto in Finland – is now slated to start generating in late 2018, about eight years late. The cost overruns have near-bankrupted the developer, which is now fighting legal battles over $5bn of claims and counter-claims in international arbitration. Olkiluoto is built to the same design as Hinkley, suggesting that the French unions and EdF middle managers that are so opposed to the UK power station have considerable logic behind them. </p> <p>The NAO acknowledges the cost inflation of nuclear power around the world and also notes that solar and wind require lower subsidies. One chart in its report shows this point clearly. By 2025, the earliest conceivable date by which Hinkley could be providing electricity, the NAO sees solar costing £60 a megawatt hour (about 65% of nuclear’s cost) with onshore wind at a similar figure. In other words, the subsidy needed by solar is expected to be little more than a third of that required by EdF. </p> <p>What’s also clear is that while nuclear power is tending to get more expensive, wind and solar get cheaper and cheaper every year. Even experts find it difficult to keep up with the speed of the change. In 2010, the government’s energy department said that solar would cost £180 a megawatt hour in 2025. The most recent estimates, less than six years later, are no more than a third of this level. And, by the way, this failure to predict the steepness of decline in the costs of solar power is characteristic of all governmental and research institute forecasts around the world. The likelihood is that by 2025 solar will actually need no subsidies at all, even in the gloomier parts of the UK. </p> <p>Nobody really disputes any of this. Even the NAO acknowledges that the only remaining argument in favour of the ‘cathedral within a cathedral’ at Hinkley is that nuclear gives the UK what is known as baseload power.<a href="#_ftn1">[1]</a> This comment mirrors an assessment by the new UK Chancellor, Philip Hammond, who described security of energy supply as an ‘absolute prerequisite’ in a BBC interview on 14 July, although he added he had not seen the new cost figures from the NAO and hopefully gave himself some space to reconsider. A well-functioning nuclear power station will provide a stable and consistent output for every hour of the year. It cannot be turned up and down as power needs vary during the year. Mr Hammond sees this an an advantage but as renewable sources grow in importance, the opposite is likely to be true. Modern economies actually don’t want baseload at all; we need electricity sources that ramp up and down to complement highly variable amounts of wind, solar and other renewables. Inflexible nuclear power is the worst possible fit with increasingly cheap but intermittent – although predictable – sources of low-carbon energy.&nbsp; </p><p class="mag-quote-center">Inflexible nuclear power is the worst possible fit with increasingly cheap but intermittent – although predictable – sources of low-carbon energy.</p><p>By 2025 the UK will probably have at least 18 gigawatts of offshore wind and perhaps 12 gigawatts of onshore wind. My guess is that we might see at least 25 gigawatts of solar power, and it could be much more if photovoltaic technologies continue to surprise us with rapid declines in price. (We already have about 12 gigawatts, mostly added in the last two years). The scope for continued improvement in the cost and performance of solar is substantial.</p> <p>Total demand for electricity falls as low as 19 gigawatts in summer compared to the 55 gigawatts of renewables. So there will be many occasions when the UK has too much power and nuclear power will be unnecessary. On other occasions, such as still December evenings, demand will be 50 gigawatts or so and solar and wind will be producing a fraction of the amount required. The 3 gigawatts at Hinkley will be helpful but insufficient.</p> <p>Here then is the challenge facing Greg Clark, the new minister in charge of both energy and ‘industrial strategy’. How does the UK avoid becoming the testbed for France’s horrendously expensive nuclear technologies and the proving ground for EdF, its national champion? What technologies will come to the fore that allow the world to switch principally to cheap solar power, by far the most abundant source of renewable energy? In what technologies can the UK develop knowledge and skills that both provide us both with the reliable power that Philip Hammond stressed is needed but also give us goods to make and to export? </p> <p>Batteries aren’t the answer for us. Although the energy storing potential of lithium ion cells is substantial, they will never get northern latitude countries like the UK through the winter. We have little sun and sometimes the wind doesn’t blow for weeks at a time. Batteries won’t hold enough electricity. And, second, the car makers and the Asian industrial companies that make their batteries have that market already cornered. The UK would be wasting its money on R+D in this area. </p> <p>The real opportunity is finding ways of storing large amounts of energy for months at a time. This is where the need is greatest, and the possible return most obvious. More precisely, what we require are technologies that take the increasing amounts of surplus power from sun or wind and turn this energy into storable fuels. In The Switch, a book just out from Profile Books, I explore the best ways of converting cheap electricity from renewables into natural gas and into liquid fuels similar to petrol or diesel so provide huge buffers of energy storage.</p> <p>This sounds like alchemy. It is not. Surplus electricity can be used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. Carbon dioxide and hydrogen can then be merged by microbes to make more complex molecules, such as methane. Methane is the main constituent of natural gas, so it can be simply stored in the existing gas network. Other microbes take carbon and hydrogen molecules and turn them into liquids that can be kept in the oil storage networks. </p> <p>Many companies around the world are trying to commercialise zero-carbon gas and green fuels as natural complements to solar and wind. This is where Greg Clark’s new industrial strategy could really make a difference. A few percent of the £30bn+ subsidy for Hinkley devoted to conversion technologies that can take cheap electricity and use it to store energy in gas or liquids could help build British companies that could expand around the world. The UK’s ability in applied biochemistry is acknowledged and the country could become the global research and manufacturing centre. We missed the early opportunity to develop a large onshore wind industry and gave the market to Denmark twenty years ago. Brexit threatens to have the same impact on offshore wind fabrication here. Greg Clark has the chance to support an even larger industry developing chemical transformation technologies for seasonal storage. Let’s not miss this opportunity. </p> <hr size="1" /> <p><a href="#_ftnref1">[1]</a> This phrase was used in a public lecture by Cambridge University’s Tony Roulstone, a nuclear engineer who trains postgraduates.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/david-lowry/new-challenge-for-uks-nuclear-debate">The new challenge for the UK&#039;s nuclear debate</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk reset Chris Goodall Tue, 26 Jul 2016 10:34:26 +0000 Chris Goodall 104276 at After Brexit: the received ideas of racism and nationalism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>It's time to challenge 'common sense' on immigration.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="287" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Received wisdom tells us that a swan can break your arm. Image, Pjt56, some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Writing in the 1870s, the French novelist Gustave Flaubert wrote a series of short satirical pieces, published as the Dictionary of Received Ideas, in which he mocks the conventional everyday wisdom that many French people believed but had no proof of. He called these Received Ideas because almost everyone believed them, but no one could quite say where they first heard them any many had no actual direct experience of them. He brilliantly exposed the ridiculous fads and trite sayings that were common across French Society. </p><p>In Britain there are similar ‘received ideas’; whenever anyone mentions a swan someone will say “be careful they can break your arm!” How many actual arms have been broken by swans is unclear. Other examples are familiar — it is common practice to call British émigrés ex-pats (particularly the ones living in Spain), though no one knows why any more.</p> <p>A major theme of the dictionary was an attack on inherited prejudice and misinformation. Today in the aftermath of the EU referendum campaign and its results, we can see the terrible consequences of similar problems in our own society. What swung the referendum vote was the received ideas in Britain that fester among many people; the ways of explaining their poverty, the ways of making sense of the decline of their communities. That immigrants “take all our jobs” or “lower wages” are routinely spoken of in workplaces, in pubs, living rooms, political meetings up and down the country.&nbsp;</p> <p>What makes them dangerous is that they are common sense ideas — the economy has a certain number of jobs to go around, so more people means less jobs for the rest. Likewise it is common knowledge that foreigners are willing to work for less money (also that they are harder working, more industrious, more obedient), so that must also have an impact on ‘native’ wages.&nbsp;It is these 'common sense' views that are the Achilles heel of all attempts to build a progressive movement in this country.</p> <p>These received ideas are regularly expounded in the mainstream press. Tabloid papers on a daily basis use these arguments as if they were simply unarguable, uncontroversially obvious to everyone.</p> <p>The bitter fruits of these views that circulate around our society (indeed nearly all societies) were tasted during the referendum campaign, when Vote Leave tapped into the bubbling discontent, the poisonous sense of alienation, of anger to create a climate of fear that surged them ahead in the polls. When Nigel Farage unveiled his infamous Breaking Point poster, the Sun’s response was instructive. Their editorial criticised the racism implicit in the poster, but concluded that opposition to immigration was not wrong, only that the Sun’s position was based on the simple problem of numbers. The far right racists make immigration an issue of “culture” and this sometimes seeps into the right wing press, but largely the primary line of attack for racists is the maths angle. There are just too many people. In a subsequent poll 28% thought that the posters were ‘fair’.</p> <p>The 3.8 million people that voted for UKIP in the 2015 election are primarily motivated by concerns around immigration. As are most Tories. Many Labour voters think the same, though they still vote Labour out of class loyalty. The fascist movement, small and divided it may be (though as the assassination of Jo Cox shows, they are willing to commit horrific acts in the name of their cause) are more than happy to ride the wave of mainstream thinking about immigration, for them it is the gift that keeps on giving.</p> <p>And we mustn’t forget that the Remain Vote was itself predicted on implementing the Cameron ‘new deal’ with the EU, the key points of which all obsessed over the question of migrants access to benefits. The deal that Cameron wrung out of the EU to sell to the British people sought to discriminate against newly arrived EU migrants to placate the nationalist vote back home. The key argument from the Leave campaign was that this discrimination does not go far enough, only a complete ending of so-called open borders offered a solution.</p> <p><strong>Giving ground…</strong></p> <p>If we want to build a more socially just society then not just tackling but undoing and reversing the dominant — indeed hegemonic — received ideas around immigration is absolutely essential. Simply put, if we don’t win the argument then it will be almost impossible to build on other more progressive issues. UKIP shows the contradiction — many of their voters describe themselves <a href="">as ‘left wing’</a>, they are pro NHS, they want a greater distribution of the national wealth to workers, they believe that there is one rule for the rich and one for the poor and that big business and managers are ripping off working people.&nbsp;This is a constituent base for the left — but with one problem, they have been convinced that the primary mechanism used to keep them down is ‘uncontrolled immigration’. They both blame the bosses for their situation and foreign workers. In that contradiction UKIP eat away at the Labour voting base, consolidating a right wing politics that is attracting a huge following — because it seems like ‘common sense’.</p> <p>And the problem is that these views are now so dominant that the opportunist Labour MPs — terrified of losing votes — have bent the knee to the false god of ‘tackling immigration’. Gordon Brown’s intervention into the referendum was to put the blame on Albanian immigrants. Other MPs followed suit in the following days, admitting that even if Britain voted to remain the government should renegotiate the open borders of the EU. This isn’t surprising, Brown’s British Jobs for British Workers slogan preceded a worrying trend in strikes by industrial workers against EU workers, dividing the workforce along national lines. Unions have generally been timid about tackling these lies — in the referendum, scandalously, UNISON’s leaflet on the EU question didn’t mention immigration once, limiting itself to concerns around workers’ rights — implying the British trade unions would be so helpless without the EU that we would be all back in the poor house. Thanks UNISON.</p> <p>So when Gramsci made the distinction between common sense (widely held ideas) and good sense (right ideas), it is time for us to focus on a good sense campaign that reaches out into UKIP heartland communities to defeat these received ideas of racism and nationalism and win people back to a progressive, left wing view.</p> <p><strong>The campaign we need</strong></p> <p>What might such a campaign look like? It would probably be mostly led by the left, but it would have to rely on the mass organisations of the trade unions and the Labour party. Only they can get the millions of leaflets and pamphlets out there, hold the kind of mass meetings that would attract hundreds of people. Only they can tackle the daily hate spewed out by the mainstream press and convince people that the right wing propaganda is biased.</p> <p>The myth busting UNITE leaflet on EU migrants rights is a good start. But we need to go further — we have to put the argument out there that the commonly held views that foreign workers drive down wages or take jobs is simply untrue. It is based on a false economic premise that the economy is somehow static with a fixed number of jobs. Since this contradicts reality so strongly, it is an argument that can be refuted relatively easily.</p> <p>No credible study yet published has shown any correlation between immigrant labour and a reduction in jobs or a reduction in wages. By May 2016, 6.8% of the British workforce were from the EU, yet studies done by&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">the LSE</a>&nbsp;and the <a href="" target="_blank">Migration Observatory at Oxford University</a>&nbsp;have found no significant effect on jobs for ‘native born’ British workers. The Good Sense reply to common sense thinking is that more people creates more jobs, since you need more homes, schools, shops and so on.</p> <p>And although there has been a historic drop in the level of wages in the last few years, it does not correlate to levels of immigration. EU immigrants were coming to Britain during the boom years in the 2000s and wages rose. The LSE study concludes that the drop in wages was caused by the Great Recession after the financial crash of 2008.</p> <p>Other studies have found that there is either an increase in wages during times of immigration or a small decrease — the conclusion can only be that the effects are so minimal that it is impossible to say that always and everywhere immigration reduces wages. For instance; “Dustmann, Frattini and Preston (2008) find that an increase in the number of migrants corresponding to one percent of the UK-born working-age population resulted in an increase in average wages of 0.2 to 0.3 percent. Another study, for the period 2000–2007, found that a one percentage point increase in the share of migrants in the UK’s working-age population lowers the average wage by 0.3 percent (Reed and Latorre 2009). These studies, which relate to different time periods, thus reach opposing conclusions but they agree that the effects of immigration on averages wages are relatively small.” [<a href="" target="_blank">source</a>]</p> <p>A&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">study by the Bank of England</a>&nbsp;published in early 2016 concluded that in a few sectors (low skilled service and construction) immigration may have contributed to a decline in wages of around 1.8% overall, but it was almost impossible to tell if that was caused primarily by immigration or by a whole host of other factors, including the rate of inflation. Again, the good sense response is to say “Join a trade union and level everyone up to the same wages and conditions.” A minimum wage of £10 and hour and the return of the closed shop would halt any potential undermining of wages in the future.</p> <p>But tackling these arguments alone will not be enough. They cannot be confined to the Guardian or the rearguard actions of a few progressive NGOs. Unless the trade unions and Labour are bolder in their positive vision of the future the sense of unease or outright betrayal that many feel in the ‘abandoned’ post-industrial towns across Britain will not go away, leaving people vulnerable to the predators of the right. A Britain with stronger trade unions, well paid jobs, more time off work, better city planning and decent, cheap homes is one that can inspire millions. We just have to convince people that it doesn’t have to be built on the broken backs of immigrant workers.</p> <p>Crucially, that means not just fighting to protect the rights of migrants who are already here, but to secure the same rights as were enjoyed pre-Brexit. How that plays out will be a complicated political issue but should be taken as a principle in the fight over the exit negotiations.</p> <p>Whatever the future holds in an increasingly uncertain time, the anti-immigrant racism in the British working class will be an Achilles heel that frustrates attempts to create social justice and could fatally undermine a left Labour leadership. The time has come to build a movement — not a front or an <em>ad hoc</em> alliance — a genuine movement that reaches into every home and workplace and exposes the received ideas for the nonsense that they are.</p> <p id="docs-internal-guid-59b4805d-21f9-552a-566e-f8710931e7ea" dir="ltr"><em><strong><span>This article is part of our Reset series. Chip in </span><a href=""><span>here</span></a><span> to help fund the conversation about how to change Britain for good.</span></strong></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/alex-scrivener/we-must-fight-leave-side-s-lies-on-migration-not-support-them">We must fight the ‘leave’ side’s lies on migration, not support them</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/jeremy-fox/brexit-reflections-to-contrary">Immigration isn&#039;t to blame for Brexit</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/david-elstein/brexit-some-reflections-on-aftermath">Brexit: reflections from a Leave voter</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Brexit2016 reset Simon Hardy Mon, 25 Jul 2016 12:01:34 +0000 Simon Hardy 104093 at