Corbyn, Momentum and the new Tea Party

 

Jeremy Corbyn is 1/100 on to win the Labour leadership election. For non-aficionados of the ways of bookmakers, if you bet £100 on the current Labour leader, you’d make £1 in profit. It is safe to say, that the result is somewhat of a foregone conclusion. What that means for British politics though, is far less certain, but the similarities between Momentum – the Labour pressure group with strong ties to Corbyn – and The US Tea Party, are too great to overlook. Momentum’s claims to be a ‘grassroots’ movement, and a ‘voice of the people’ echo the language of the Republican agitators across the pond. More sinisterly, their proposed modus operandi: the deselection of disloyal MPs echoes the entryist tactics of the Tea Party also. This is a practice which has distorted the meaning of democracy, making politicians fearful of selection, not election; fearful of activists not voters. In the USA, it has turned the once proud Republican party – the party that opposed and defeated slavery, and faced down the threat of Soviet communism – into a cabal of populist race-baiters and bigots, each more anxious than the next to show how anti-abortion, equal marriage or science the next is. A victory for Jeremy Corbyn, would be a victory for Momentum and would carry with it the same threat faced by moderate Republicans in the USA: that you must be loyal to activists with the loudest microphone first, and to the electorate second, if at all.

Jeremy Corbyn has himself stated, that he wishes for mandatory reselections ahead of the 2020 general election, assuming the governments redrawing of constituency boundaries goes ahead, and there is great appetite for this in Labour’s left flank, Len Mccluskey, head of the influential Unite union has repeated that sentiment. Many on the left of Labour – including many of the recent surge of new members – view the moderate, and even soft left parts of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) as disloyal to Jeremy Corbyn, and by proxy, disloyal to them. This is not without reason, much of the PLP has consistently briefed against Jeremy Corbyn both publically and privately. In June, following Corbyn’s lacklustre efforts to persuade the country to remain in the EU, the majority of Corbyn’s shadow cabinet resigned and days later, a motion of no confidence was passed with a huge majority by his parliamentary colleagues.

However, what Momentum, and the deselection mob on Labour’s far left fail to understand, is that an elected official ought to be able to oppose their own leader, especially on the grounds of gross incompetence and the inability to provide any real option of electoral success, both of which Jeremy Corbyn stands accused. This is derived from the mandate that Labour MPs have, which comes not from the selection of local party members, but from winning general elections, when put to the wider electorate. Ultimately, there will always be trade-offs, but it is a woeful MP who values the former over the latter.

However, to understand the malaise that is likely to face Labour, it is necessary to understand the electoral climate in which general elections take place. For Labour MPs, the majority of seats need little campaigning to ensure a Labour MP is returned. This is dangerous enough for democracy, but when a pressure group is able to threaten a sitting member in a safe seat with deselection, or indeed get them deselected and one of their own selected in their place, it creates an environment where perverse incentives are rife. When there is both the threat of deselection, and a safe seat, loyalty is to those selecting the candidate, not to the electorate who must suffer through their term.

As aforementioned, The Tea Party has already mastered this strategy. With boundary lines in the USA so ‘Gerrymandered’ as to make any electoral competition almost non-existent, the battle is then to win over party activists, with complete abandon for what the wider public may want. Instead of the possibility of reselection that Labour MPs may now face, in the US, most politicians are selected to run via primary contests, which mean that the majority of incumbents face challenges from within their own parties in order to be on the ticket. The list of Tea Party affiliated politicians is a litany of the some of the worst people in US politics, with the venom-laced threats of the group with the snake insignia hanging over them, they have appealed to the worst instincts of the far right in order to win Tea Party approval.

Momentum and its affiliates already sound like the Tea Party. Their anger, particularly online, has lead to droves of suspensions from The Labour Party. To look at their real threat to British politics and to the Labour party, we need look no further than their paladin, Jeremy Corbyn. It was, after all, his campaign to become Labour leader in 2015 that lead to the group’s creation.

If the Tea Party’s hankering for small government was founded in the harbours of Boston’s shores, then Momentum’s cues come from Jeremy Corbyn’s world view, deeply pernicious in its own way. His domestic policies of opposing austerity and renationalising the railways (I won’t mention that the problematic bit – network rail – is government owned) are misguided, but harmless enough. It is elsewhere that the real issues lie. Jeremy Corbyn’s foreign policy positions have demonstrated an almost conspiratorial disdain for the West. From opposing NATOs genocide-preventing intervention in the Balkans to his all to comfortable relationship with his ‘friends’ in Hamas and his refusal to condemn the actions of the IRA it is clear that Corbyn holds unpalatable views on the use of force. The only maxim that seems to guide his judgement is whether or not the aggressor is in league with the USA or not. That he voted against the Iraq war is to be commended, but so did plenty of others, Charles Kennedy and Alex Salmond managed to do so, without supporting a host of thuggish populists and brutal terrorists throughout the globe. Then again, they do say that even a broken clock is right twice a day.

But whilst Jeremy Corbyn’s misguided foreign policy may smack of his simplistic worldview, it is without any serious political harms. Not so however, are his language towards NATO, that he would not guarantee defence for a NATO member if attacked. This should be an outrage. NATO, and it’s commitment to collective defence, has provided the security for much of Europe and North America in what has become an increasingly peaceful world, when before it, there was almost unrelenting violence between, in particular, the European states for the best part of a millennium. It is doubly disappointing when viewed within the current context of an expansionist Russian state which has already behaved with impunity in annexing Crimea. When small Eastern European states, unable to individually mount any serious defence against Russian aggression, are growing increasingly fearful.

Domestically too, this anti-western doctrine has caused rifts. The anti-semitism now seemingly rife within Labour has been fomented on the back of Corbyn’s rise to power. That he tought it appropriate to compare Israel, and imperfect, but ultimately democratic state which upholds the rights of Jews and Arabs, and sexual minorities to the barbarism of the Islamic State – while staggeringly trying to make an anti-semitic statement, he exposed his judgement, worldview and the premises on which these are based to be every bit as absurd as his worst rambling on the Troubles, the Balkans or Falklands.

Momentum are not yet the Tea Party, but a win for Jeremy Corbyn in this month’s Labour leadership election would give them the platform to imitate the Tea Party’s damaging effect on British politics. It seems ironic that a group on the far-left of British politics, who often complain that politicians are beholden to special interests rather than representing ‘the people’, will become to Labour MPs, a more important influence than the electorates that they are supposed to represent.

Project Fear Does Not Deserve Our Loathing

Sometimes the worst people say the most pertinent things: when Enoch Powell spoke of the double standards of colonial Britain towards Mau Mau and domestic prisoners, he was on shockingly enlightened; when Henry Kissinger spoke of the importance of foreign policy needing to rest in hearts as well as minds, he was prophetic, and when Benjamin Netanyahu said ‘Political leadership involves always choosing between bad and worse’ he was right. It seems that the Leave campaign have either ignored Netanyahu’s excellent maxim, or are willingly choosing the latter. The European Union has many faults, but a Britain outside of it would be worse off, not better.

The claim that Britain could both trade freely with Europe, and control inward migration from Europe is as mendacious as it is doltish. No European country enjoys both access to the single market, and the ability to reject European migrants at its borders. Norway, Iceland and Switzerland, often vaunted by the Leave camp as examples of how post-Brexit Britain could prosper not only accept free movement of people from the EU, but are in fact members of the Schengen area, allowing passport free movement, a step further along the road to the borderless state that the vote Leave camp so loathe.  The choice for a post-Brexit Britain is therefore, to cut itself off from the world largest economy, or to continue to freely accept EU migrants whilst having no say at the table of how the EU regulations it will have to abide by in order to trade with the bloc are drawn up.

‘But what of sovereignty?’ plead the Leave camp. The reality is that affairs which require the cooperation between states always require the pooling of sovereignty. A trade deal between two countries still requires the harmonisation of regulations and standards between the two parties, and that means that both sides are likely to have to amend some of their existing rules to support the other. To trade with the EU, our largest trading partner, and the world’s largest economy, we would be less sovereign, for we would as, other non EU members of the European Economic Area have, be forced to accept all EU standards without any say in their creation.

The Leave camp have complained constantly, of the negativity of the Remain campaign, to that I say: bad or worse? Because the reality of post-Brexit Britain, is far more dire than a status quo, in which is Britain not only richer, but is an influencer of the world’s largest economy, which we frequently use to our advantage.

If positivity is what the undecideds most crave, then a vote to remain, reflects many of the most positive things Britain has achieved. It was after all, the Allies, not Britain alone, through the pooling of talents, strategy, and lives,  that defeated Nazism. Even as Britain stood alone in the face of what seemed overbearing Nazi aggression during the battle of Britain, there were Poles and Czechs in her Spitfires and Hurricanes; as Britain drew herself up against after the monstrous destruction of that war, we accepted American terms attached to the generous loans that our friends across the Atlantic gave us, and turned to Carribeans, Indians and Pakistanis to help build our NHS, and our country after the war – faces similar to those who the leave campaign now tell us are pushing us towards ‘Breaking Point’. Britain has always been at its very best when it has worked alongside its friends in the world, and with its peoples. A vote to remain would reaffirm that we have not forgotten how much stronger we are thanks to that outward looking positivity.

On bad people saying pertinent things, Nigel Farage once said ‘It’s not fearmongering, if it’s true’. He is right. To say that Britain would be worse off outside the EU is not fearmongering, because it is true. That Britain would reject the insularity and anti-immigrant rhetoric of the Leave campaign, and continue its tradition of looking outside itself and to people who can make a positive contribution to our great country isn’t fear-inducing anyway; it’s actually rather beautiful.

WHY ECONOMIC LIBERALISM MUST BE THE FUTURE

The  claim is made in the article ‘Why Economic Liberalism Cannot Claim The Future’ – to which this article is a direct response –  that economic liberalism is supported by many, because they believe it to maximise individual freedom. There is a much more robust reason to be an economic liberal: economic liberalism simply provides the best outcomes; it is the framework that allows individuals to thrive and increases our material wealth more than any other.

In the article, the author noted that  the Liberal Party moved from a more liberal economic worldview, to a more interventionist one in the early twentieth century, and that subsequent gains made by those government such as pensions and the welfare state have not been rolled back. This is all true, but there have been plenty of enduring political consensuses in British politics that have overstayed their welcome. The post-war consensus formed by Attlee’s Labour government lasted 35 years, and was popular for creating the NHS and expanding state services. The reason that fell however,  was changing economic circumstances that exposed the system’s flaws. It was uncompetitive and British manufacturers were beholden to militant unions, shackled by excessive taxation being overtaken by growing economies, particularly in the Far East. In short, changing economic consequences force reassessment of long held economic principles.

When the author asks ‘why are those same Liberals fighting against the state and further regulation?’ the answer is simple: changing economic circumstances have exposed the flaws of over-regulated economies and overactive states meddling in economic affairs. There is no clearer example of where our current illiberal economic framework has failed, than the great economic malaise of modern times: the housing-finance bubble which partially burst in 2008, and continues to immiserate some of the most vulnerable people in society.

The thousands of pages of financial regulations which drove smaller banks out of the market in the second half of the twentieth century, sowed the seeds for the desperation of governments to bail banks out. As there were simply so few, that feared the contagion effect on the rest of the market should one of these mega-banks fail. A market with numerous suppliers is a prerequisite for economic freedom, choice and agency. The voracious appetite of too many social liberals to believe that risk can be regulated away, has created markets where the barriers to entry are too high for anything other than an oligopoly of a few suppliers, who can then behave more like cartels than competing providers.
The economic case for a reduced government role in the economy is clear, the political reason why the Liberal Democrats should pursue one is too. The causes of the 2008 crisis, were driven by illiberal economic positions: an interventionist state underwriting banks and creating moral hazard; an engorged system of entitlements that bankrupted several states worldwide and a regulatory system that robbed consumers of genuine choice. The Green Party, Labour and  the Conservatives  want us to continue believing that the answer to every economic woe, is not to empower the individual by allowing them to choose. Instead it is to increase the scope of the regulations that prevent competitive markets existing while destroying the competition that drive economic growth and material wealth. The Liberal Democrats have a choice to put clear water between us and the other main parties, by accepting the flawed economic policies of the past. There are few realistic votes to be won from those who are despondent at what they perceive to be an under-regulated society, and an unsupportive state. They have been hoovered up by the Green Party and Labour, who will always outflank the Liberal Democrats on the left among those voters. We would do far better running on a ticket of radical, liberal economics, rather than sailing so close to the failed social democratic policies of the last 20 years.

It has been 8 years since the biggest economic crash since the Great Depression, and we as a party, should define ourselves by showing that we have learned from that event. Something which crushed the living standards of the poorest and most vulnerable people across the developed world. While every other party plods the same worn and failed course., we should argue that we have learned that overlarge states, and overzealous regulators do not destroy poverty, but instead destroy choice, competition and freedom.  Liberal economics, with a belief in the individual, and their ability to innovate and provide solutions free from the shackles of government machinations, is a message of hope, not just on the doorstep, but for those who need it most.

Labour Dont Know Their Own History, But Others Will Pay For It

Quotes become clichéd for two reasons: either they are so pithy that they become useful quips for the unimaginative, or they are so piercingly accurate that they bear repeating too frequently. George Santanaya’s utterance that ‘Those who do not learn their own history, are doomed to repeat it’ falls into the latter category. It bears repeating once again though, as the Labour party continues to make itself unelectable, in a way eerily similar to that of the 1980’s Labour Party did. Then, as now, a Conservative Party have those at the bottom of society firmly in their crosshairs. Then, as now, they do so only because there is no credible opposition.

The reason Labour lost the last election, was because the public did not trust them to steward the economy. Ed Miliband was perceived as weak, and the party’s refusal to accept that their spending levels were too high before 2010, failed to assuage a public who believed, rightly or wrongly, that the profligacy of Labour’s spending was a causal factor in the desperate economic conditions that straddled the Brown years, and the early years of the coalition. A period in time as fresh in memory, as it was harrowing in its endurance. Instead of learning from this rejection, Labour have elected Jeremy Corbyn, a man who embodies the fears of the middle-income moderates who failed to back Labour in 2015, more than any other politician seemingly could. His approval rating upon becoming Labour leader was the worst in 60 years. He has since appointed John McDonnell as his shadow chancellor. McDonell chairs the far left Labour Representation Committee, a cursory glance at whose website reveals a disdain for the very concept of living within one’s means.  Promoting a fellow left-winger may make Labour’s core vote feel good about themselves, but it will do nothing to convince swing voters that Labour Party is listening to its concerns about being fiscally incompetent. In short, Labour are unelectable, and this has huge implications on the way in which the Conservative Party can now behave in government, and toward the neediest in society.

An opposition party should act like a rival shop. If one cornershop doesn’t provide good groceries at a good price, then soon enough its regular customers will go to the other local store. Assuming of course, the other local store has its house in order. The problem with the Labour party at present though, is that it doesn’t. The Osborne owned store can sell rancid milk for extortionate prices, because it knows it’s the only shop in town; those who cannot afford to go to our metaphorical Waitrose will just have to drink it.

This is most obviously demonstrated by the proposed cuts to tax credits. A move that has generated criticism from all corners, including Conservative MPs, and which would normally be politically toxic. It’s so massively unpopular that a broad coalition in the Lords haven taken upon themselves to block it. However, It is not merely the severity of the cuts, which would have seen some families lose £1,500 from next year, but the fact it represents a complete vault-face on David Cameron’s pre-election promise that would make cutting tax credits in this way so unappealing to the Tories. Reneging on their pre-2010 election tuition fee pledge gutted Lib Dem support so badly it was almost terminal. But none of those concerns matters to the Tories, because with a Labour front bench so out of step with the publics concerns, there is no electoral cost, and therefore no deterrent, to the government ploughing on with something so unpopular.

Contrasting this with the behaviour of the coalition government demonstrates how far Labour’s failure to provide a credible opposition runs. When the coalition government considered in 2011 to remove the mobility part of Disability Living Allowance, it was met with howls of derision. In 2012, it duly scrapped this idea, wary of the electoral damage that could be done to both Conservative and Lib Dem image, by being seen to be so cold to the needs of the disabled. This was done however, in the full knowledge becoming increasingly unpopular in the eyes of the public, could mean a possible electoral defeat somewhere down the line. Even the somewhat bumbling Ed Miliband, beset by an awkwardness unmatched by anyone in modern politics, and completely lacking in charisma, represented a far greater electoral threat to the coalition parties. Resultingly, Labour were somewhat of a counterweight to a coalition’s – dominated by Conservatives – rightward impulses. Now however, Corbyn-lead Labour, busily patting themselves on the back about how  virtuous they are, present no threat whatsoever to a gleeful but sometimes hard-hearted Conservative party. No longer do the Conservative party need to think about the implications of their policies on the poorest in society, because regardless of their occasional callousness, they are still the only shop in town.

We have been here before though. The Labour party lurched to the far left in the 1980s forcing the split which created the SDP,  and leaving the country with no credible opposition to the Thatcher lead Conservative policies. Unsurprisingly, with no realistic opposition, Margaret Thatcher had no reason to consider the lot of the worst off in society, inequality grew at unprecedented rates during her premiership, as policies which hit those who would have looked to Labour to protect them, most notably the never-to-be-replaced sell off of council housing, and section 28 bit. Labour’s leftward swing threatens to do the same. With no chance of the current Labour leadership presenting a serious electoral threat, David Cameron and George Osborne have inherited the same platform as Margaret Thatcher did: a left wing Labour party, untrusted on the economy, and unwilling to compromise to make itself electable.

‘Power without principle isn’t worth having’ comes the predictable, but disingenuous, response from Corbynites overwhelmingly young middle class, and with little to lose themselves from welfare cuts. But principle mattered little to the massed ranks of unemployed in the 1980s; it matters little to the young and the poor of today either.

Political Correctness Needn’t Be The Pejorative Slur It Has Become

Peter Singer, the moral philosopher and effective altruist, took part in a Reddit ‘Ask me anything’ session a couple of months ago. He was asked why, if giving almost  all of our money away meant less suffering, should we not do that (rather than the 10% of income that he suggests). This was his response:

“Look, in theory, we [effective altruists] ought to all be wearing sackcloth, except that that would ensure that there were very few of us. We want more people to join us, and doing absolutely everything that, in theory, we ought to do, is not the best way to achieve that.”

Mr Singer’s point was: making your movement unattractive to others is counter-productive, because in the long run, you need people to join you, and people don’t want to join something they view as unattractive. In short, it’s difficult to attract people to join a club, if it’s not the ‘cool club’. The movement for political correctness (PC) can learn a lot from that maxim. The way in which the PC movement has hounded those who have made honest transgressions from social norms, has made them appear as unattractive as it possible to be.

If the ends of the PC movement are to prevent vulnerable people, such as the mentally ill or minorities, from suffering abuse, then it is indeed a noble one. However, what began as an empathetic and worthy cause, has descended into a rapacious and unforgiving mob. The approach that many in the movement take, to immediately call for the sacking of anyone guilty an ill-judged comment, has turned many off. Rightly or wrongly, the PC movement is now perceived by  a majority otherwise of otherwise empathetic people, to be a front for an illiberal political movement, hell bent on restricting free speech.

The recent case of Tim Hunt a nobel prize winning scientists, who after making some ill-judged jokes about female scientists, was forced to resign from three roles, is a pertinent one. After a twitterstorm of incensed people called for his sacking, Mr Hunt resigned, not over a malicious piece of bullying, but over an ill-judged comment that he apologised for profusely. The fact that Tim Hunt’s comments were out of order, is not in question; that the PC movement’s response was disproportionate,  is equally putative. It seems odd that a group so aware of the fragility of the human mind to the denigration of others, is not also aware of the imperfection of the human mind when judging what is and isn’t appropriate. Mary Beard, the respected classics scholar put it plainly when she said: “I would like to smack his bottom… and give him a piece of my mind… but I wouldn’t drum him out of the academic town.”

The effect of the Tim Hunt saga, and a great many others, is that people who would be sympathetic to the aims of the PC movement, are completely turned off by it. To seek such a grave revenge, is ultimately counter-productive to the cause of political correctness, which can only succeed if the majority of people choose to moderate their own language in order to not demean others. This sort of hounding only alienates those who ought to be being recruited, and much worse, entrenches them in an anti-PC shell. It is notable that in many journals, newspapers and blogs, being deliberately offensive, the worst extension of political incorrectness, is being seen as a brave, anti-establishment thing to do.

In a world where we are brought up with the conception that to err is human, that the PC movement appears as if it refuses to forgive, is asinine.

It is understandable that when someone like Tim Hunt  makes a joke in poor taste, that many, myself included, become riled. I’m well aware that people like Tim Hunt are simply unable to empathise with people who may feel offended by certain slants or slurs, because, as a white, wealthy, upper-middle class man, he benefits from having the full pack of social power structure cards, stacked firmly in his favour. But, if you can hang onto that indignation for a second, and draft a proportionate response – a public apology maybe – rather than immediately calling for the maximum permissible punishment in every case, the PC movement would appear less reflexively punitive, and its name would stop being the pejorative title it has become. The movement would gain far more adherents, and the base insulting of vulnerable people would recede faster. You could even send the new recruits a welcome pack: welcome to the cool club, we’re nice here.

Follow the author Christian Barrow on twitter here: https://twitter.com/christianbarr0w

Next Year’s Election Debates Will Be Better Without The Greens

Despite the exasperation of many on the far left, next year’s electoral debates will be far better events without the Green Party’s participation. The arguments for the party’s inclusion are a collection of irrelevant statistics, and indignant pleas, that do little of alter the reality that The Greens have little relevance to a population that cares overwhelmingly about immigration, and the economic fortunes of the country. However, regardless of the legitimacy of their exclusion, the actual debates will be far better for not having the Green Party there. A Green-free debate narrows the field, to a small enough contingent which creates an adversarial environment, in which policy proposals can be keenly scrutinised. Furthermore, the absence of the party’s inapt and naïve set of policy proposals, will only help the debate steer clear of such unworkable irrelevancies as a maximum salary and the banning of GM foods.

Televised electoral debates, where leaders present a set of policy proposals, are relevant insofar as the parties in the debate, have a reasonable chance of constituting at least a part of the post-election government. The arguments for The Green Party’s inclusion fail to acknowledge that the other four parties can rightfully claim that their podium is justified, on the grounds that they could all conceivably be in at-least coalition government come next May – It should be noted that bookmakers find the possibility of a UKIP outright majority more plausible than the Greens being part of any coalition government. It follows that the public should be as informed as possible, about the national-level policies, and leaders of the four parties who could form the next government and be the next prime-minister or leader of a coalition party. The inclusion of parties who either do not aspire to this: the nationalist parties of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and the parties with little groundswell, are irrelevant given that they do not fulfil this crucial criterion. Furthermore, the broadening of debates is harmful to the overall quality of the debate, and the level of scrutiny afforded to each realistic ruling party’s policies.

Willard Foxton tries, in a piece for the New Statesman to defend the inclusion of the Green, but ends up relying on some extremely dubious claims. Most obvious among these, is the idea that debates with a large number of candidates work well – the evidence he provides is of primaries in the US. Anyone who has watched a Presidential primary – particularly for the Republican Party’s presidential race – will know that a stage saturated with candidates leads to awful debates. Rather than adversarial and informative debates between a few realistic candidates, the cornucopia of politicians vying for dominance leads necessarily to populism, and slogan heavy rhetoric, in an attempt to stand out from among the masses. Whilst other, more narrow debates surely suffer similar afflictions, the greater the size of the panel, the more likely populist pronouncements can go unchallenged, as candidates have little time to critique others as their individual airtime is squeezed. On top of the low quality of debate driven by the format, the level of scrutiny of relevant participants is harmed. Every second taken up by Herman Cain discussing his ridiculous ‘9-9-9’ taxation policy, is a second in which the relevant, and potentially realisable policies of serious candidates are ignored. Whilst The Green Party cannot quite match Herman Cain for lowest-common-denominator populism, time spent discussing their plans for future bank regulation, is not only irrelevant, as they will have no influence, nor be part on the next government, but reduces the level of in-debate scrutiny we have over the four parties who could actually be deciding crucial areas of Policy come 8th May 2015. It is not just the case that the Green Party are irrelevant in national level politics, but their inclusion would be actively harmful to the debates themselves.

Despite Foxton’s faux-pas in using a wholly inappropriate example to support the widening of electoral debates, he does cotton on to something important, and when drawn out, really quite profound. He remarks:

I’m sure the Greens don’t agree with the way the media works – but campaigners and politicians need to either accept that it works like that and manipulate it to their advantage or decide they don’t like it and try to change it. They can’t just do what they want and then ask why the media isn’t doing what they think it should be doing.”

This is highly indicative of Green Party policy and the wider Green movement. That the Greens fail to engage with something that is sub-optimal in order to improve it, is a dangerous political precedent. The Green Party’s manifestos – both for the 2014 European elections, and the 2010 general election – continually reject global capitalism. However, their policies, rather than attempting to engage with the problems they perceive are the fault of capitalism, indicate a desire to crack down heavily on individual autonomy, and replace it with a fantastical vision of huge government expansion, paid for by massive rises in taxation. These changes are clearly impossible, given the deficit of support from the electorate for such policies. The Greens would be better served if they were to engage with the elements of neoliberalism that rankle with them, rather than posturing from the sidelines about perceived injustices, and making themselves unelectable through a set of irrealisable and often irrelevant policies. In the context of next year’s debates, the fact that the Greens are still far from providing a set of policies that would be even partially achievable in government, shows that they are unsuitable for policy making, and a distraction, in what should be a discussion among serious politicians, and potential leaders. To UKIP’s credit – the party whose inclusion has riled the Green’s – they have realised that the constraints of forming part of the national dialogue of politics necessitates compromise. Gone are the flat rate of income tax, and anti-NHS rhetoric, in favour of policy proposals that could form part of a government agenda, rather than the series of activist-appeasing barbs that constitutes The Green Party’s manifestos.

The Green Party should not be denied a voice. That 250K voters picked them in the last election, and more chose them than The Liberal Democrats in this year’s European election is not to be ignored. However, the qualifications for being part of next year’s electoral debates are decided not on overall popularity (the Greens poll similar figures to the Liberal Democrats) but on having a realistic chance of forming part of a government – something the Greens do not possess. That aside, the smaller, adversarial debates, free from The Green Party’s irrealisable set of policies, will be much the better for their exclusion.

Follow me @ChristianBarr0w

Don’t Fear The Reaper: How UKIP trade off imagined fears.

When it comes to democracy, you have to take the rough with the smooth. Those saddened at seeing the manifestation of the latent support for UKIP in the last couple of years, will know this all too well. However, UKIP are not the problem, UKIP are merely the symptom of the problem. Namely, that democracy equalises the legitimate concerns of informed voters, with the imagined fears of the uninformed and hysterical. In every other field, be it the sciences, the arts or sports, the views of those deemed experts, based often on empirical and testable bases are privileged, despite noisy but substance-free opposition. That is why despite the claims of the anti-vaccine lobby, that vaccines cause autism, most still choose to have their children vaccinated, because those who understand medicine know, and say, that the anti-vaccine lobby’s claims are unfounded. In the political realm, UKIP are the anti-vaccine lobby: uninformed, marginalised and despised by many. Yet when it comes to the ballot box, their unfounded fears of Islamisation, immigration and LGBTQ rights count as much as the beliefs of the most astute political scientist.

The Spectator – rather unsurprisingly – has published a collection of articles praising UKIP on its website over the last year or so. The most deluded of which is surely Peter Oborne’s piece stating that UKIP and Nigel Farage’s political success is benefiting British democracy. Oborne is right that UKIP have been a vehicle for raising the concerns, of an otherwise ignored group, to the political fore. Where he is wrong, is in stating this is a good thing. UKIP’s rise has indeed made the country more democratic. Mainstream politicians are now forced to address the concerns of UKIP supporters. However these are not legitimate concerns, they are mostly imagined concerns, fuelled by a nefarious press which has left many with a warped understanding of modern Britain. Most perniciously, it is detracting from the real debates needed within politics that could present tangible harms. Whilst politicians must now pander to voters over immigration and Islam, the very real threat of climate change goes ignored; a banking regulatory system eerily like the one in 2007 remains unchanged; a bloated welfare system continues to reward well off elderly citizens and rentiers, whilst punishing those now reliant on food banks.

The evidence for the bubble inhabited by many who support UKIP, comes in the form of an Ipsos-Mori study from late 2013. The study was damning of the British public’s understanding of the country that they inhabit. That “The public think that 31% of the population are immigrants, when the official figures are 13%” is alarming enough. However, when you factor in that the British public also believe 24% of Britain to be Muslim, when the actual figure is 5%, and that black and Asian people make up 30% of the population when the figure is only 11%, an incredibly worrying trend begins to emerge. What this data demonstrates is that the British public believe their country to be far more Muslim, far more foreign, and have more ethnic minority members than is the case. What is striking with regards to UKIP’s recent success, is that the irrational fears prompted by these beliefs, correlate almost exactly with the narrative that UKIP presents to its supporters.

UKIP’s main appeal to voters, is not its opposition to Britain’s membership of the EU, but its stance on immigration – with 83% of UKIP supporters believing it to be one of the three most important policy areas compared to 36% believing Europe to be equally as important. When speaking to Newsnight in May Nigel Farage repeated the party’s often heard refrain about the ‘pace of change’ in modern British demographics to be too high:

“All over this country I talk to people who say ‘I hate to say this, I’ve never felt like this,

but I am beginning to feel a degree of enmity towards communities I am living with such

is the pace of change”’

However, this really isn’t a reasonable depiction of UKIP voters, very few of whom actually come from areas with high numbers of immigrants, or large immigrant communities. A YouGov piece from back in February highlighted the parliamentary seats that would have been won by UKIP if the local elections of 2013 were parliamentary elections instead. They find the seats that would have been won were: Aylesbury, Bognor Regis and Littlehampton, Boston & Skegness, Camborne & Redruth, Forest of Dean, Great Yarmouth, North Thanet, South Thanet, Worthing East and Shoreham. None of the areas in which the concentration of UKIPs’ support was highest, are the sort of multicultural, cosmopolitan areas that Nigel Farage claims his supporters are worried about the ‘pace of change’ in. If that were the case, we’d expect to see a strong UKIP following in large urban areas where there are significant numbers of ethnic minority citizens and immigrants. However, support for UKIP in places such as London, Manchester and Birmingham is among the lowest across the UK.

The correlation between the campaign messaging of UKIP and the misconceptions of the British public is too strong to overlook. UKIP are not the shot-in-the-arm that British democracy needs – as they are often heralded – rather they are the beneficiaries of a public that is worryingly ignorant of the makeup of its own country. The fact that support for UKIP is strongest in areas without significant numbers of immigrants or ethnic minorities, is more evidence that it is irrational beliefs, and not personal experience, that drives those fearful of immigration and demographic change to vote for UKIP. Contrary to UKIP’s perpetual refrain, British politicians are not out of touch with the British public; too much of the British public are out of touch with reality.