Tuesday, 13 December 2016

The people have spoken, we need to listen but most of all, understand.

Former leading politicians including Tony Blair and David Cameron have piped up recently about Brexit, Trump and what is going on in Western politics.

I've been left pondering this sizeable question: do these two have any clue of their place in our new, post-truth, post-expert, populist world? My best guess is that, somewhere at the back of their minds - for these are intelligent men, their superegos are saying "and you are partly to blame". But clearly these men have tuned little superego out: if they hadn't done that Britain would look very different right now.

In a way, I'm delighted for the "ordinary working people" who voted for Brexit and for Trump. For too long they have been either lied to or ignored. This time, they've been lied to and then they've been heard. And that's not my way of saying that those people have been mislead and have made the wrong decision (although there are certainly some for whom that is true): many have been lied to but would have voted the same way anyway as their way of telling the establishment that they won't be ignored any more.

So let's go back to Cameron and Blair. Cameron has been saying that victories for Brexit and Trump were part of a "movement of unhappiness" and he's absolutely right, but I wonder whether he realises how much of that (in the UK at least) is his fault?! Meanwhile Blair has been defending the free market against ideas - from the left - that successive governments on both sides of the Atlantic have looked after business rather than people. These two men are an example of precisely where politics has gone wrong. Blair and the people around him switched Labour's focus from the public and onto business. At first, it worked, but in the long-run it left people feeling that none of the main parties looked after their interests. Cameron used Blair as a template and seemed to be taking the Tories to the centre ground in a bid to defeat Labour. But after the economic crash happened, the Tories seized their opportunity to shrink the state and blame benefits claimants, immigrants and union action for the state of the economy. The cuts that have been made since have hit the poorest and most vulnerable hard whilst the richest have become richer.

Blair's government worked hard for business and didn't address the potential for disaster in the financial industry while allowing areas with less opportunities to stagnate. Cameron's cuts fell hardest on those areas and, yes, people are unhappy! With neither Labour nor Tories doing anything to improve things for them, and with local amenities and infrastructure suffering from cuts (when they needed more money not less) and feeling the strain, it was easy for UKIP and the right wing media to convince people in these areas that immigration was the problem. Thus, it was inevitable given these conditions, that people in these former "Labour heartlands" would vote overwhelmingly for Brexit.

I'm guessing that similar scenarios in the US have led to Trump's victory.

Going back to an earlier point: I'm pleased that people finally felt they had something they wanted to vote for, I'm just desperately sad that they wanted Brexit and Trump. We need to understand why they voted this way and work out how to address the real issues behind these results. Blair is dead wrong when he argues against the left's views on neoliberalism and supporting big business: if our financial industry and large corporations are as fantastic as he would have us believe, then the public money poured into those areas isn't needed and can instead be spent on infrastructure in less prosperous areas and trying to bring the poor out of poverty with education, training, opportunities and most of all, HOPE. Then people might be less unhappy. Then they will be less likely to cheer on and vote for opportunists like Trump and the Brexit right. Blair is also wrong to suggest (as he did in October this year) that there should be a second vote on Brexit. As much as I don't want the UK to leave the EU, one of the biggest reasons for this vote was disillusionment with the political system: so imagine what would happen if the political system turned around and ignored the result!

The thing that sickens me most is the amount of money Blair and Cameron (and those who worked with and around them) will be making out sharing their ideas which have proven so out-of-date as to have caused the very issues they're professing to know how to fix.

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