Thursday, 28 February 2013

The Demise of the British Liberal Democracy


The self destruction of the Liberal Democrats is the opening salvo in a dangerous power play that leaves the door open to the return of the far right to the mainstream of British politics.

No, its not sensationalist. And that is something of a sincere admission from me, as someone in the past who has been not short of a sensationalist claim. There is a reason we need to call for cool heads and calm, rational thinking at this time. Simply, it is quite possibly one of the gravest matters our generation will have to face. 

We look back at a decade which resulted in the ruin of the political left across Europe. Two years ago, David Miliband delivered a speech on the European left which offered an analysis leaving no room for doubt: the last time this many key governments in Europe were on the right (or as it now turns out, having a significant far right component) it was a period of history when we were also seeing the rise of pre-holocaust Nazi anti-Semitism. In fact, prior to the economic crisis in the 1920s, the NSDAP were virtual unknowns. They had won only 3% of the Parliamentary vote in 1924. Within a decade, supported by disaffected youth and the unemployed, they were in coalition with the conservatives and had won 33% of the vote.

Today, we continue to live with the consequences of the left's dalliance with neo-conservatism: a hefty share of a multi-trillion dollar global war on terror, misadventures in Iraq and Afghanistan and £130bn for the renewal of trident; all of which have been minnowed by an entirely avoidable £1 trillion banking bailout which has left our economy shattered, battered and broken. It was those same shards which for the left, then brought about death by a thousand cuts.

Economic confidence is Odin's Draupnir. Without it we are utterly lost. Two decades ago in Japan, as markets tanked and consumer confidence hit rock bottom, interest rates plummeted and stagflation and growthlessness set in. Little can be done in that situation to stimulate confidence and the economy other than to drop money from a plane. And sure enough, the Japanese government issued vouchers to every man, woman and child to encourage spending. Japan took 20 years to recover from failed policies of tax cuts for the rich and staggering levels of quantitative easing. If you think economic confidence is a harsh task-master, loss of political and public confidence is arguably harder from which to recover. Withdrawals from the fidelity and trust bank are not easily compensated. 

Despite a renewed dynamism and with young Turks leading the way, Blue Labour has so far been unable to shake off the burden of the economic and political crimes of which its predecessor stands accused. It is something those on the right of centre have been utterly relentless and unrepentant in exploiting. Successfully. And who can blame them? Claims that Bullingdon Club initiates burn £50 notes in front of beggars, that 500,000 are to be taken off disability living allowance, or the reckless slash and burn of our educational system, health service and welfare system; none of this seemingly enough to oust an unpopular and out-of-touch Prime Minister currently leading a coalition with a partner in political death throes. More, much more, is needed by the left to eclipse the millstone of their past recklessness. Glasman's argument that Ed Mili needs to be everything to everyman, is a mistake. The left needs to find its soul, return to core values and underpin, not shift to capture the right of centre. Why? Because right now, that centre is very right indeed. 

A decade of unfettered media hysteria - the demonisation of immigrants, Muslims and now benefit claimants, large families, the disabled, the sick, the poor - it has left the electorate blaming one another for the ills of society, for the consequences of this moral vacuum now permeating every mien, nook and cranny of our public and private lives. This administration's modus operandi is that social reform is easiest ushered in under utter chaos, with fires to put out at every turn and where neighbour is turned against neighbour, the poor against the rich and religious orthodoxy against the LGBT lobby, in a twisted manipulation of the equalities brief.

It says much when the Rennard scandal and ensuing fiasco cannot further worsen the train wreck that the Lib Dems have become over the last two years. Broken promises, compromises on core values let alone policy and the fall of Huhne - a man who used to slam down papers onto the table as he went toe-to-toe against the PM in cabinet meetings - leaves the Lib Dems on the political equivalence of a palliative care pathway ahead of the next general election. 

We are, as things stand, facing a period of phenomenal change - a social engineering which places our society on the edge of a precipice. Beneath us lie the ruins of civilisations which have chosen self interest and injustice over the public good, iniquity and concentration of wealth and power over enlightenment and true democracy. Anger and outrage at Tory lead policies and social reforms need to calm, it is an anger that can easily return to bite us. We need to cut through the rhetoric, be cool headed and clear not only about where the left stands but also the about rise of the right. The far right is on the rise, let there be no mistake about it. In Germany, 9% of the country expresses right-wing extremist attitudes and xenophobic prejudice is expressed by 25% of the population. In Greece, we see Golden Dawn, Italy's Northern League, Le Pen's Front National, Wilders' Freedom Party, Hungary's Jobbik, the list goes on. Increasingly, people are speaking out but little is being done to stem the tide as they fill the vacuum created by the implosion of the left and liberal democratic parties.

And yet there seems to be an ostrich-like denial that this is, or could ever be the case in the UK. Like reporters in Iraq, we have become so 'embedded' with the far right here, that we cannot see the wood for the trees. UKIP is tied with a number of European far right parties through the Europe of Freedom and Democracy (EFD) group. Although UKIP walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, Farage has long denied ties with domestic far right movements. However, last year I was shown evidence of a secret meeting which took place between UKIP MEP Gerald Batten, the fundamentalist group Christian Concern for Our Nation, Islamophobic hate peddler Sam Solomon and via telephone, the leader of the English Defence League, Tommy Robinson. The meeting was entitled "Dismantling Multiculturalism" and amongst the policy discussions was the attack on core institutions of British Muslim communities - organisations such as the Muslim Council of Britain and Quilliam Foundation. Batten's scrawl also says (under green highlighter) "3) No Islamic Banking" and listed under number four "no halal, no kosher". On the last page of his “Charter of Understanding” intended for Muslims, Batten has prepared an “affirmation” for Muslims to sign and return by post.

Chilling.

There are significant questions for both UKIP and Farage. As the Lib Dem’s wither on the vine and Labour searches for its soul, UKIP continues to drag Tory policy (not unwillingly) to the right. Cameron continues to court their voters through policy tweaks and with Marta Andreasen defecting, we see little divide between the parties. As shown in Eastleigh, there is no effective protest option in the British political landscape outside of UKIP. At the Rotherham by election Farage remarked to Newsnight 

"at the general election two and a half years ago, UKIP scored 3% of the vote... you're looking at a very different party, a very confident party". 

The far right is here. In our midst. And we see it not. Or worse still, we care not. If the left can get their act together quickly, the Horn of Gabriel need not yet be sounded. In this instance, hope needn't prolong the torment of man. Epictetus asked us to leave our sons well instructed rather than rich, since the hopes of the instructed are better than the wealth of the ignorant. It's advice we would do well to follow. 

God only knows what horrors a UKIP-Tory coalition might usher in after 2015.

7 comments:

Ahmed Qerni said...

Very well said. The British left is looking for inspiration.

Ahmed Qerni said...

Good analysis. The British Left is looking for inspiration

The Akh said...

After Eastleigh - UKIP & The Future for British Politics

Anonymous said...

Trying to lump UKIP in with racist groups is like saying all Muslims are terrorists. Wrong and unfair.

Anonymous said...

These findings are disturbing and horrible, and illuminate the creepy underbelly of a party that comes across as kind of cranky but characterful.
However overall UKIP may not be such a bad phenomenon - taking votes off the crankier end of the Tories and the less unhinged borderline BNP crowd in a "first past the post" system - what's not to like?
Not to mention the UK at large, there are plenty of Lib Dems with a bad enough taste in their mouth not to want any more truck with the Tories, which leaves Labour - substandard as they unfortunately are - to pick up the spoils or drag any remaining Lib Dems along.

Marty Caine said...

What you seem to fail to understand Mo is there is little difference at all between Lab/Con/Lib because all three parties want the EU, not because it's a good idea but because they do believe it is their only chance of getting out of the inevitable collapse of this country. UKIP still believe in Britain and although the insurmountable debt is frightening we do believe there is still a chance of saving Britain. Trying to stop UKIP by saying we are racist is just pure stupidity as we do have plenty of Muslim members, unless of course you believe being a patriot is racist now. The biggest problem in this country is not uncontrolled immigration it is our national debt and that is not caused by our defense budget it is caused by a welfare state created in 1909 which now, because people are living far longer than they did then has simply become non-affordable in it's present state. If you really want to do some good for this country try looking at some real facts, read the treaty of Lisbon, do some real research instead of writing your own blogs and then believing every word you write must be true because. To be honest after reading this blog I am starting to feel quiet sorry for you.

Robert Hamling said...

What you seem to fail to understand Mo is there is little difference at all between Lab/Con/Lib because all three parties want the EU, not because it's a good idea but because they do believe it is their only chance of getting out of the inevitable collapse of this country. UKIP still believe in Britain and although the insurmountable debt is frightening we do believe there is still a chance of saving Britain. Trying to stop UKIP by saying we are racist is just pure stupidity as we do have plenty of Muslim members, unless of course you believe being a patriot is racist now. The biggest problem in this country is not uncontrolled immigration it is our national debt and that is not caused by our defense budget it is cause by a welfare state created in 1909 which now, because people are living far longer than they did then has simply become non-affordable in it's present state. If you really want to do some good for this country try looking at some real facts, read the treaty of Lisbon, do some real research instead of writing your own blogs and then believing every word you write must be true because. To be honest after reading this blog I am starting to feel quiet sorry for you.