In the postindustrial wasteland, the working class embraced an old Etonian mouthing about unleashed British potential.
Donald Trump, in his telling, could have shot somebody on Fifth Avenue and won. Boris Johnson could mislead the queen. He could break his promise to get Britain out of Europe by Oct. 31. He could lie about Turks invading Britain and the cost of European Union membership. He could make up stories about building 40 new hospitals. He could double down on the phantom $460 million a week that Brexit would deliver to the National Health Service — and still win a landslide Tory electoral victory not seen since Margaret Thatcher’s triumph in 1987.
The British, or at least the English, did not care. Truth is so 20th century. They wanted Brexit done; and, formally speaking, Johnson will now take Britain out of Europe by Jan. 31, 2020, even if all the tough decisions on relations with the union will remain. Johnson was lucky. In the pathetic, emetic Jeremy Corbyn, the soon-to-depart Labour Party leader, he faced perhaps the worst opposition candidate ever. In the Tory press, he had a ferocious friend prepared to overlook every failing. In Brexit-weary British subjects, whiplashed since the 2016 referendum, he had the perfect receptacle for his “get Brexit done.”
Johnson was also skillful, blunting Nigel Farage’s far-right Brexit Party, which stood down in many seats, took a lot of Labour votes in the seats where it did run, and ended up with nothing. The British working class, concentrated in the Midlands and the North, abandoned Labour and Corbyn’s socialism for the Tories and Johnson’s nationalism.
In the depressed provinces of institutionalized precariousness, workers embraced an old Etonian mouthing about unleashed British potential. Not a million miles from blue-collar heartland Democrats migrating to Trump the millionaire and America First demagogy.
That’s not the only parallel with American politics less than 11 months from the election. Johnson concentrated all the Brexit votes. By contrast, the pro-Remain vote was split between Corbyn’s internally divided Labour Party, the hapless Liberal Democrats, and the Scottish National Party. For anybody contemplating the divisions of the Democratic Party as compared with the Trump movement’s fanatical singleness of purpose, now reinforced by the impeachment proceedings, this can only be worrying.
The clear rejection of Labour’s big-government socialism also looks ominous for Democrats who believe the party can lurch left and win. The British working class did not buy nationalized railways, electricity distribution and water utilities when they could stick it to some faceless bureaucrat in Brussels and — in that phrase as immortal as it is meaningless — take back their country.
It’s a whole new world. To win, liberals have to touch people’s emotions rather than give earnest lessons. They have to cease being arid. They have to refresh and connect. It’s not easy.
Facebook reaches about one-third of humanity. It is more powerful than any political party — and it’s full of untruths, bigotry and nonsense. As Sacha Baron Cohen, the British actor, said last month of the social media behemoths: “The truth is that these companies won’t fundamentally change because their entire business model relies on generating more engagement, and nothing generates more engagement than lies, fear and outrage.”
That’s the story of Brexit, a national tragedy. That’s the story of Johnson, the man of no convictions. That’s the story of Trump, who makes puppets of people through manipulation of outrage and disregard for truth. That’s the story of our times. Johnson gets and fits those times better than most. He’s a natural.
“Brexit and Trump were inextricably linked in 2016, and they are inextricably linked today,” Steve Bannon told me. “Johnson foreshadows a big Trump win. Working-class people are tired of their ‘betters’ in New York, London, Brussels telling them how to live and what to do. Corbyn the socialist program, not Corbyn the man, got crushed. If Democrats don’t take the lesson, Trump is headed for a Reagan-like ’84 victory.”
I still think Trump can be beaten, but not from way out left and not without recognition that, as Hugo Dixon, a leader of the now defeated fight for a second British referendum, put it: “There is a crisis of liberalism because we have not found a way to connect to the lives of people in the small towns of the postindustrial wasteland whose traditional culture has been torn away.”
Johnson, even with his 80-seat majority, has problems. His victory reconciled the irreconcilable.
- His moneyed coterie wants to turn Britain into free-market Singapore on the Thames. His new
- working-class constituency wants rule-Britannia greatness combined with state-funded support. That’s a delicate balancing act. The breakup of Britain has become more likely. The strong Scottish National Party showing portends a possible second Scottish referendum on independence.
This time I would bet on the Scots bidding farewell to little England. And then there’s the small matter of what Brexit actually means. Johnson will need all his luck with that.
As my readers know, I am a passionate European patriot who sees the union as the greatest achievement of the second half of the 20th century, and Britain’s exit as an appalling act of self-harm. But I also believe in democracy. Johnson took the decision back to the people and won. His victory must be respected. The fight for freedom, pluralism, the rule of law, human rights, a free press, independent judiciaries, breathable air, peace, decency and humanity continues — and has only become more critical now that Britain has marginalized itself irreversibly in a fit of nationalist delusion.
Since the world’s major central banks came to the global economy’s rescue in 2008, they have had more and more tasks foisted upon them, even as some politicians question their expanded role and others seek to undermine their policymaking autonomy. To escape this dilemma, monetary authorities must get back to doing what they do best.
CAMBRIDGE – With the global rise of populism and autocracy, central-bank independence is under threat, even in advanced economies. Since the 2008 financial crisis, the public has come to expect central banks to shoulder responsibilities far beyond their power and remit. At the same time, populist leaders have been pressing for more direct oversight and control over monetary policy. And while central banks have long been under assault from the right for expanding their balance sheets after the crisis, now they are under attack from the left for not expanding their balance sheets enough.
This is a remarkable shift. Not too long ago, central-bank independence was celebrated as one of the most effective policy innovations of the past four decades, owing to the dramatic fall in inflation worldwide. Recently, however, an increasing number of politicians believe that it is high time to subordinate central banks to the prerogatives of elected officials. On the right, US President Donald Trump and his advisers routinely bash the US Federal Reserve for keeping interest rates too high. On the left, British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has famously called for “people’s quantitative easing” to provide central-bank financing for government investment initiatives. “Modern Monetary Theory” is an idea in the same vein.
There are perfectly healthy and legitimate discussions to be had about circumscribing the role of central banks, particularly when it comes to the large-scale balance sheet operations (such as post-crisis quantitative easing) that arguably trespass into fiscal policy. However, if governments undercut central banks’ ability to set interest rates to stabilize inflation and growth, the results could be dangerous and far-reaching. If anti-inflation credibility is lost, governments may find it very difficult – if not impossible – to put the genie back in the bottle.
“The danger is that the influential and the upper classes see journalism as too tabloid and populist, while working-class people think it pays little attention to people like themselves and their lives – and no one is happy.”
“It is beginning to feel like a culture war,” says Ian Katz, editor of BBC2’s Newsnight and formerly deputy editor of the Guardian.
.. “At Grenfell, a lot of the reaction crystallised around the idea of an establishment plot to minimise the extent of the catastrophe,” Katz explains. “There was an elision of a whole series of things into the Grenfell disaster, including the perception that the media had failed to give Corbyn a fair crack.
.. He’s talking about a new article of faith on the political left: that, in its attitudes to Corbyn, the media inadvertently revealed the truth about themselves. Instead of supporting Labour’s new leader, goes the narrative, liberal newspapers such as the Guardian and Observer, along with “state broadcaster” the BBC, set out to destroy him. When Corbyn did better than expected in the 2017 general election, this proved that the media were unequivocally wrong and the Corbynites were right.
.. She’s using a single Nick Cohen column as a synecdoche for the entire liberal press, but it’s central to the non-MSM worldview that the media be perceived as a consistent unit.
.. “The current Labour leadership is used to being a backbench rebel movement, a protest movement,” say Mark Wallace, editor of ConservativeHome. “The scrutiny you face when pitching to run the country is of a different order and that’s proving uncomfortable for them. I think there’s a knowing element to the endless personal pursuit of Laura Kuenssberg as well. If you bombard someone for long enough, they might never actually surrender to you, but it may have a chilling effect on what questions they ask.”
.. A 2016 survey by City University indicated that only 0.4% of working journalists are Muslim and only 0.2% are black, when almost 5% of the UK population is Muslim and 3% is black.
.. a brocialist [a male socialist or progressive who downplays women’s issues]
Cast as an incongruous combination of incompetent beardy old man and peacenik terrorist sympathizer
.. Mrs. May came across as robotic and out of touch; she didn’t seem to like engaging with the press, much less the public. The more people saw of her, the more her ratings sank.
.. his quiet confidence, credibility and integrity — so refreshing at a time when politicians are viewed as untrustworthy careerists
.. Momentum, a grass-roots organization of Corbyn supporters, activated the party’s estimated 500,000 members — many of whom had joined because Mr. Corbyn was elected as leader — into canvassing efforts across the country, including, crucially, in up-for-grabs districts.
.. appearances that were swiftly turned into video clips and raced around the internet.
.. For decades, Labour has been resolutely centrist, essentially offering a slightly kinder version of neoliberal consensus politics. .. this was what had caused the party’s slow decline, a hemorrhaging of support from its traditional working-class voters.
.. It was a hopeful vision for a fairer society, offered at a time when the country is experiencing wage stagnation and spiraling living costs
.. the Conservatives are now a maimed party with a discredited leader
Now, though, in the imminent British election called by an overconfident Theresa May, a different sort of Trumpian figure is closer to victory than anyone expected. This is Jeremy Corbyn, the radical backbencher turned Labour leader, whose campaign was supposed to be a joke but now finds itself, like Trump’s before it, just a “normal-sized polling error” away from a truly shocking upset.
.. the Corbyn-era Labour Party’s tendency to find itself explaining why its members, activists and sometimes politicians are merely anti-Zionist and not actually anti-Semitic, even as their critiques of Israel or global finance blur into old-fashioned anti-Semitic cliché. Especially since the intersection of left-wing anti-Zionism and Islamist Jew-baiting is probably a more substantial threat to Jewish security in Western Europe than what remains of right-wing anti-Semitism.
.. Corbyn’s inner circle has a similar minimizing tendency where the crimes of Stalinism are concerned, plus the equally inevitable far-left affinity for Latin American authoritarianism. If the specter of long-ago Vichy lurked behind Le Penism, the specter of present-day Venezuela lurks not that far in the background of Corbynism.
.. Corbyn’s fellow-traveling with the Irish Republican Army at the height of its bombing campaigns, or his habit (for which he recently offered regrets) of offering comradeship to Hezbollah and Hamas.
.. All’s fair in love and the last week of a campaign, but still it’s a little audacious, since Corbyn clearly has an old revolutionary’s soft spot for a certain kind of terrorist.
.. a Prime Minister Corbyn would probably make Brexit somewhat softer
.. this amounts to saying that it’s O.K. to elect an extremist with anti-Semitic and authoritarian and even terrorist connections if he or she just takes the official European Union line on immigration and monetary policy.
.. The entire populist phenomenon, left and right, is happening because our establishment is in need of serious unsettlement, and that can’t happen unless movements and ideas with extreme or disreputable associations are allowed into the conversation.
.. May’s attempt to reimagine conservative politics along more populist, “Red Tory” lines strikes me as a healthier response to the moment than Corbyn’s unreconstructed socialism.
Of course Trump tried to make cheap political capital from the blood on London’s streets. He quoted London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, out of context in a flurry of tweets aimed at buttressing the case for his bigotry. The president of the United States just felt like insulting a prominent Muslim.
.. all that British pomp for His Neediness.
.. competing for the favor and lucre of despots. To heck with the European Union, there’s always Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Xi Jinping. So begins the post-American century.
.. His slogan — “For the Many not the Few” — was no less effective for having been borrowed from Tony Blair.
.. the urban under-30s, is remarkable. To them he is a near Messianic figure, the righter of capitalist wrongs; the proud socialist who will nationalize the railroads, make universities free again and inject billions into the National Health Service (while somehow balancing the budget)
.. I dislike Corbyn’s anti-Americanism, his long flirtation with Hamas, his coterie’s clueless leftover Marxism and anti-Zionism, his NATO bashing, his unworkable tax-and-spend promises. He’s of that awful Cold War left that actually believed Soviet Moscow was probably not as bad as Washington.
.. After the terrorist attacks, he said “difficult conversations” were needed with Saudi Arabia: Hallelujah! He would tackle rising inequality. He would seek a soft departure from the European Union keeping Britain as close to Europe as possible. His victory — still improbable — would constitute punishment of the Tories for the disaster of Brexit. Seldom would a political comeuppance be so merited.
The Labour leader used Monday’s brutal attack as a chance to blame Islamist terror on Western foreign policy.
We will also change what we do abroad. Many experts, including professionals in our intelligence and security services, have pointed to the connections between wars our government has supported or fought in other countries, such as Libya, and terrorism here at home. Look closely at Corbyn’s words here. On the first day of campaigning after a major atrocity, he chose to strike moral and strategic parallels between British foreign policy and ISIS. In so doing, he demonstrated the worst kind of moral cowardice. He also proved himself a man of deep strategic incontinence.
After all, while individual Islamist terrorists are often partly motivated by the perceived injustices of Western foreign policy, those they serve are not — and that difference is critical. From ISIS to al-Qaeda to Hezbollah, Islamist groups are motivated by Islamic scripture. The majority of scholars from various Islamic schools would attest that these groups adhere to their own warped interpretations of the Koran. But the Koran is nevertheless important, because it motivates an ordained mission that seeks something far more elusive than territory or political power: purity on Earth. The major Islamist terrorist leaders have dedicated themselves to the imposition of Allah’s law on all of humanity, and in this they see themselves as humanity’s liberators.
.. But when withdrawal came, the weight went with it. And suddenly, our ability to influence political developments perished alongside our capability to assist Iraqi security forces in counter-terrorism missions. And so ISIS filled the vacuum.