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British Labour surrenders to the middle class and big business interests

My Wednesday blog post is designed to give me some more writing space. But in the last week, Syriza has lost the Greek election (about time) and the British Labour Party confirms it is more interested in satisfying the demands of the urban (London) middle classes and big business than keeping faith with its regional working class support base. That is a lot to consider. Tomorrow, I consider the Greek election. Today, I comment a little on the state of Brexit in the UK and the Labour Party surrender. And then I offer some great music (for those with similar tastes).

Representative Democracy

The UK system of government is based on the principle of – Representative Democracy – with a constitutional monarchy at the top, a relic of the past.

In the British House of Commons, members sit who are representatives of the people who elect them. In Australia, we make this link more explicit because our lower house is called the House of Representatives.

While these members typically belong to political parties, they are accountable back to their electorates, or, in the British parlance, their constituencies for the votes they cast.

They operate within a constitutional framework, which limits their powers.

There has been a long debate about whether these members should always represent the views of their consituencies or whether they can make their own judgements, even if they are in contradistinction to what the voters who put them into office desire.

On November 3, 1774, the conservative MP – Edmund Burke – who is a guiding light for modern conservatives (or so they say – rather than do), was elected the Member for Bristol and his ‘mandate’ was outlined in his famous – Speech to the Electors of Bristol at the Conclusion of the Poll – which is held out as the model where elected representatives do not have to reflect the wishes of the voters, but, rather to represent them using judgement.

He said in that Speech:

Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.

The Speech went on to outline a view that was deeply suspicious of the concept of democracy.

Burke was against the to-and-fro that occurs in democracies. He considered that:

Factions in republics have been, and are, full as capable as monarchs of the most cruel oppression and injustice.

He considered that the process whereby factions have voice was a dangerous threat to the state, which conditioned the way he conceived of representative democracy.

Voters were prone to being impulsive and lacking in judgement.

This view influenced his conclusion on whether an elected member should be bound by the views of the voters:

… these are things utterly unknown to the laws of this land, and which arise from a fundamental mistake of the whole order and tenor of our constitution.

Yes, a legal system dominated by the interests of the gentry and landed classes.

The Parliament was not their to serve the wishes of the people but to serve the interests of the nation, as the representatives judged them to be.

A very paternalistic view, which has been wheeled out in the on-going Brexit debate to justify MPs voting against the wishes of their constituencies.

Gerard O’Brien wrote in his 1993 study that:

Despite the relative paucity of bureaucratic controls, the ruling élites of eighteenth-century Britain and Ireland maintained through traditional methods a firm grip on their societies. In fact the very absence of governing institutions was in itself a form of social control in that it circumscribed the modes of and opportunities for expression of popular views and directed them into narrow and manipulatory channels.

(Reference: O’Brien, G. (1993) ‘The Unimportance of Public Opinion in Eighteenth-Century Britain and Ireland ‘, Eighteenth-Century Ireland, Vol. 8, pp. 115-127)

He went on to show that while there was a semblance where voters (the “outsiders”) could “access … the ears and minds of the decision-makers”, the reality was quite different – the “political power-structure controlled” debates.

Even within this context, there was a fierce debate as to how much autonomy the elected member should have.

Moreoever, an understanding of the historical context is very important.

The context in which Burke made his speech is totally inapplicable to modern Britain, where the political system is dominated by parties who offer options to the electors and promise to deliver on those outcomes if elected.

Burke was railing against the ‘pledge’ system which interest groups has tried to force on any future representatives – such things as the Member would not try to undermine the government.

An historical study of the time by Lucy Sutherland – Edmund Burke and the Relations Between Members of Parliament and Their Constituents – published in Studies in Burke and His Time (1968) provides a detailed account of why Burke’s Speech is specific to its time.

So to wheel it out now as a way of justifying MPs in the House of Commons ignoring the will of their constituents is a violation of the historical record, convenient though it might be to have some Burkean authority to throw around the Brexit debate to justify the unjustifiable call for a second referendum.

See for example this attempt in the New Statesman – Sorry, the role of an MP is to be a representative, not a delegate (December 7, 2015).

The point is this. In the modern era of British democracy (and in the Anglo world generally (at least)), we think it is appropriate that an MP, once elected, will not violate the preferences of the voters in his or her constituency/electorate.

Why do I say this?

This blog post – Comparing the 2016 Referendum vote with the 2019 Withdrawal Act outcome (January 16, 2019) – is relevant to the discussion.

The 2016 Referendum was very clear. The question was also beyond complexity:

Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?

And the instruction was equally simple – Answer by putting a single X:

Remain a member of the European Union

Leave the European Union

That binary choice is as simple as it gets. There was no conditionality (withdrawal agreements, etc) imposed to constrain this choice.

IN or OUT!

The government of the day promised in its supporting documentation handed out in May 2016 (the ’16-page guide’) that:

This is your decision. The government will implement what you decide.

No ambiguity there.

While the “voting areas” or “Counting areas” established by the 2015 Act setting up the Referendum were not not aligned with the 650 Consistituencies which elect MPs (they were mostly delineated by the local authority boundaries), subsequent research has been able to break down the Brexit vote by electoral constituency.

I detail all that in the blog post cited above.

The summary results (reported in more detail in that blog post) were:

1. 62.9 per cent of the Constituencies voted to Leave. That means that 409 Parliamentarians who that sat in the Commons were representing electorates that voted to leave.

2. The difference between the 52 per cent of votes for Leave and the 62.9 per cent of constituencies voting to Leave is mainly due to the clustering of Remain votes in the larger urban areas. Spatial breakdowns suggest the Leave vote was more evenly dispersed across the UK.

3. And this is the important point – 60.7 per cent of Labour constituencies most likely voted to Leave, 75.4 per cent of Conservative, 33 per cent of Liberal Democrat and 60 per cent of DUP.

This means that 159 of the 262 constituences that Labour won in the 2017 election (seats in the House of Commons) voted to Leave the EU in the June 2016 Referendum.

Overall, the conclusion is unambiguous – there are lot of MPs in both the major parties that are not representing the views of their constituencies in this regard.

The Labour Party is the worst offender.

Representative democracy demands these MPs represent their constituents, irrespective of their own personal views.

When I met with Labour MP for Derby North, Chris Williamson in London in May, he told me categorically that he had campaigned hard for the Remain position as a personal preference but 57.2 per cent of his constituents voted to leave. He thus felt duty bound to represent that view.

He followed up with an article in the Morning Star – Leaving the EU and entering a new economic paradigm (May 24, 2019) – which captured some of the issues we discussed a week or so earlier.

He wrote:

I vigorously campaigned to remain and reform the EU. I knocked on doors almost every night in the referendum campaign, and when I wasn’t, I was speaking at public meetings across the East Midlands urging people to vote remain. I organised weekend street stalls in Derby city centre to promote the remain campaign, and was up at the crack of dawn on the day before and the day of the referendum, to leaflet early morning commuters at Derby’s bus station and railway station respectively.

But despite my best endeavours, 57.2 per cent of those who voted in Derby opted to leave, a bigger margin than the country as a whole. That is why I believe we must uphold the wishes that were expressed in that democratic exercise.

Democracy isn’t a “take it or leave it” proposition. The voices demanding a so-called “people’s vote” in a confirmatory referendum and those calling for the repeal of Article 50 are playing a very dangerous game.

I have great respect for that position.

Labour Party surrenders to the middle class and big business

Pity the British Labour Party leadership has now surrendered its valuation of democracy in favour of some contrived view that they have to shift to Remain.

The decision (surrender) by the Labour leader yesterday to demand another referendum where the Labour Party will campaign for Remain is a disaster and is another example of so-called progressive Left political parties defying the wishes of the voters in favour of corporatist, neoliberal elites.

The London Cosmos all quote the fact that 70 odd per cent of people who voted for Labour in the 2017 election also voted to Remain. Apparently, this means the Labour Party is a Remain party.

But they ignore the fact that in the House of Commons, democracy plays out along the lines of One vote per Constituency (or MP).

The concentration of votes within constituencies is not the foundation of democratic organisation in Britain. The distribution of MPs is.

The relentless push for Labour to change their view on the Remain/Leave divide has finally cracked the leadership.

Tom Watson (Deputy Leader) was recently described by Dawn Foster (Source) – as “a lifelong professional wrecker, who has made it his official duty to complain weekly to the Sunday papers, without suggesting any concrete proposals for how to bring the party forward.”

He has been undermining Corbyn’s position on Brexit ever since.

Most recently, he claimed the Labour Party had to become (Source):

… the party of remain …

And after gushing on about how “the European Union that it stands up for the weak against the strong” (excuse me while I consult the ‘bucket’), the declaration makes it clear what the motivation is:

As the party of Remain, we will not take every voter with us, but it’s the only way that Labour can win

Pure instrumentalism. Crude vote-seeking.

All the statements of ‘principle’ are lost in this haze of opportunism.

And remember, Watson voted to invade Iraq – Blair’s disgraceful, lying assault on that nation.

He opposed demonstrations against UK airstrikes against Syria.

He didn’t have the fortitude to vote in the October 2016 attempt by the Labour Party to force the Commons to withdraw UK support for the Saudi assaults on Yemen which has murdered thousands of civilians.

He also abstained on voting against the Tory welfare policy in July 2015, which cut payments to the poorest people in Britain, particularly impacting on children (Source)

It was this vote – Corbyn voted against the second reading – that according to Dawn Foster “sparked a huge surge of support for Corbyn”. This shift really marked the end of Ed Miliband’s “austerity-lite” hold over the Labour Party.

Dawn Foster’s analysis of Tom Watson concludes that his Remain narrative is about undermining “the party leadership” although she finds very little evidence that his right-wing views are proliferating.

She says:

The electoral failure of the Independent Group/Change UK (or whatever the handful of remaining ex-Labour and Tory MPs now call themselves) should be a warning to the Labour right, but their self-confidence is far greater than their analytical ability.

The point is that by abandoning (in most part – Fiscal Rule aside) the centre-right Blairite, Miliband ‘austerity-lite’ mantra, Labour went close to winning the 2017 election.

Dawn Foster concludes that this is:

… because it addressed so many of the problems faced by people and communities across the country. Labour won more seats, in spite of people like Tom Watson and his ideological bedfellows. Many centrist Labour MPs desperately wanted the party to lose heavily so they could depose Jeremy Corbyn. They still do. A Labour government with Corbyn in charge is less preferable to them than an indefinite Tory government.

She urges to have the “guts” and “quit the party and try to prove that his ideas have electoral traction.”


… the end result of Watson et al’s constant attacks will not be electoral success under another Labour leader, but a Tory victory. And the people who need a Labour government to change their lives and communities are unlikely to forgive people like him.

I couldn’t agree more.

I last considered these matters in this blog post – The Europhile dreamers are out in force (April 15, 2019).

I will write about the Greek election tomorrow.

The decision to surrender on the Brexit issue and give credence to the disgraceful views of the likes of Tom Watson will be another chapter in the way social democratic parties defy their voters and, in doing so, ultimately, walk the plank.

The Syriza experience is demonstrative.

The Party kicked its own voters in the teeth and fell into line with the neoliberal Europhiles and the Commission. As I will write tomorrow, there is a long tradition in the neoliberal era of turncoat social democrats.

Two examples in the Anglo world:

Hawke/Keating Australia 1983-1996

Lange/Douglas New Zealand 1984-1989

These governments were elected on progressive reform platforms and turned neoliberal immediately. By the end of their periods in office they were electoral poison but had paved the way for the conservatives – making it easier for them to do more damage.

British Labour have had two periods like this – the Callaghan-Healey years before Thatcher and then the Blair years.

Democracy has a habit of biting back when it is trodden on.

The decision to support a second referendum damages democracy. It overturns the 2016 choice which was hardly ambiguous.

I think it will also turn against Labour generally.

As Peter Ramsay (Professor of Law at LSE) wrote earlier this week (July 8, 2019) in his article – A second referendum would be Labour’s route to Syrizafication – the decision:

… will certainly make Tony Blair’s political divorce of the party from Labour’s working-class traditions irreversible.

What we have is obvious.

1. June 2016 – Leave wins the vote. Clear cut. A heavy working class Leave vote and a majority of Labour MPs represent Leave electorates.

2. The Remain gang – higher income etc – hated it. Immediately wanted to undermine it. The Leave voters were ignorant, racist, stupid etc.

3. The Remain gang had bombarded the population with spurious modelling about the economic disaster that would immediately follow. The predictions were never realised.

4. Since then – by hook or by crook – they have demanded a new vote – and will keep demanding votes until they get what they want.

5. That is not democracy. That is a bullying cosmopolitan elite thinking they have superior wisdom to the working class in regional areas.

As Peter Ramsay points out:

More than 85 per cent of MPs in this Parliament were elected on manifestos promising to implement the 2016 referendum. This was not some minor policy issue. It was a promise to implement a major constitutional change that the majority of the electorate voted for in a referendum Parliament itself enacted.

So reneging on the 2016 vote means these MPs are no longer representing the people. Democracy has failed and Labour are surrendering within that failure.

His analysis of the likely electoral results of abandoning the 2016 decision are worth considering.

The most sensible analysis of the 2016 result was that the:

… working-class and poorer voters were much more likely than middle-class voters to vote for Brexit, and for good reason. They voted against a political system that had ignored their interests for far too long.

Which means that:

For Labour to go over officially to the side of elite resistance to Brexit will send a clear message that the demands of working-class voters are less important than those of the middle class or of big business.

This is what Syriza did.

But, of course, the so-called progressive Cosmos will be happy.

They prosper whether it is the Tories or Labour that are in national government.

And if Brexit fails, they get to avoid the queue at the airport (non-EU lane) on their next ski holiday to the Alps and they will be able to keep writing their vacuous and arid reform proposals for the EU – and lecturing us on how the EU is the only thing keeping Britain (a currency-sovereign nation) from total collapse.

As before you lot!

It is almost as if one should hope that Boris Johnson gets up and pushes a No-deal through.

Music for today

I was listening to a great album from 1969 while I was working this morning. Bobby Womack was the artist – see below.

This song – I’m in Love – was on that album.

This version, however, is sang by one of my favourite artists – Wilson Pickett – with one of my favourite guitar players – Bobby Womack, who also wrote the song.

Wilson Pickett released the song in 1968. Apart from the magnificent Hammond organ, you get Bobby Womack on guitar.

Bobby Womack said he wrote the song when he married Sam Cooke’s wife three months after Cooke had been shot dead at the age of 33.

Womack said he wanted to let the world know how he felt. He must have felt really good. The marriage caused him a lot of trouble though.

This song came out during Pickett’s period at Atlantic Records when he teamed up with Bobby Womack, who played guitar (mostly a Telecaster) on the recordings produced.

For a guitarist, this song is notable. Written in E major, it is marked by a full fret board use of so-called – Double Stops – that beautiful sliding harmonic sound you can here throughout the song and which were an integral part of 1960s R&B.

Bobby Womack also wrote the early Rolling Stones hit record – It’s All Over Now – but his own band with family members – the Valentinos (aka. the Womack Brothers) – first recorded it with Sam Cooke as the producer in 1964. You can hear it – HERE.

They just don’t write and play songs like that very often.

Aretha Franklin’s 1974 cover version – the most popular version – is pretty hot too – HERE.

And this is the original version from Bobby Womack – and is my favourite. It is on his 1969 album (one of my favourites – in a long list) – Fly Me to the Moon. Well worth having on regular play cycle.

It features the dual contributions of Womack playing all the frills on guitar and the brilliant – Reggie Young (who died earlier this year) playing the chord ornamentations. A near perfect combination. Reggie Young played on a lot of Elvis Presley recordings out of Memphis.

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2019 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

This Post Has 35 Comments

  1. It seems turncoat social democrats are the norm. Tony Benn or Corbyn are described as a radical fringe. All the while shows like Ambulance show the daily damage and death from austerity, which is much more radical than saying it’s time to nationalise the water supply or British Steel. Many people are really really struggling and the urban liberal left celebrates LGBT is taught in primary school. Who cares if people are dying in A&E triage due to waiting times?

  2. Bill,

    If you were an elected Representative, and your voters demanded 1) the end of unemployment, and 2) budget surpluses, what would you do? And if they prioritize demand 2, because they wrongly believe that demand 2 leads to 1?

    And if you do your best to educate them in the following months or years, but they still demand budget surpluses?

    As their Representative, would you try to implement budget surpluses? Or, in your own judgement, would you try to implement a Job Guarantee program, ignoring the budget surplus demand?

    I think that it is impossible for a Representative to fully follow his/her voters’ opinions…

  3. Bill,

    Are you sure that’s Womack playing with Pickett – wasn’t Womack a left hander?

  4. The most significant difference between our elections and those in the time of Burke is universal suffrage.

    In Burke’s day, the electorate was solely made up of landed gentle*men* – and as such was hardly representative of a constituency.

    (As an aside, I was told recently [citation needed] that the first UK general election, post-universal suffrage, in which the majority of womens’ votes did *not* go to the Tory party, was in 1997 – which was depressing.)

    The votes of the leave-favouring working class will now be hoovered up by the Brexit Party, who will very likely form a coalition govt with a Boris Johnson led Tory party.

    I am convinced this is what the likes of Tom Watson are perfectly happy to accept, as it will end Corbyn’s tenure as leader, and pave the way for a return to a centrist Labour Party – but one which languishes in the political wilderness.

    This is not a problem for the troughing centrist MP; salaries, perks, and the revolving door still flowing.

  5. @Andre – i think the difference is that a political party wouldn’t (shouldn’t!) go in to an election with a manifesto that offers two policies that contradict each other. That would make no sense. Its perfectly understandable that voters might want their cake and to eat it given the lack of informed debate amongst the political classes when it comes to understanding how a currency issuing government operates. The manifesto is supposedly a cogent set of ideas and policies which will address the overarching desires of the majority of the population.

    In the case of Brexit though, parliament delegated this decision directly to the British people with a referendum.

    In relation to Labour though this is all rather besides the point – Tom Watson et al don’t really care about Brexit – he himself has advocated every position possible on the subject over the last 5 years. He is a cynical and quite pathetic careerist politician who is the walking definition of ‘will say anything to get power’. They’ll happily walk Corbyn down the plank as Bill says, then roll up the whole anti-austerity movement under recriminations over Brexit, anti-semitism etc for a return to their neoliberal safe space.

    The whole situation reminds me of the stand-off in the cemetery at the end of the Good, the Bad & the Ugly, albeit there are about 600 Angel Eyes in this scenario.

  6. Dear Henry Rech (at 2019/07/10 at 8:33 pm)

    My wording was ambiguous – if you read it carefully it just says that Bobby Womack played on the original Wilson Pickett recording. But I can see how you thought I was referring to the video imagery.

    best wishes

  7. @Andre I’ve never seen a demand by any normal person (non-economist or lobbyist) in the electorate for a “budget surplus” and whilst within the current neoliberal narrative current politicians of both stripes might frequently tout its necessity within political speeches and even manifestos they of course never achieve it.

    As we know the very process of trying to achieve that surplus as a goal damages the economy and the most vulnerable people within that economy so whether or not the wider electorate even understand the specific implications of that as a target, why would you ever put yourself in the position of standing on a platform where you had to give two opposing promises to your electorate? Unless like the Tories (and some LP) you simply intend to deceive them on one or another of those points.

    I’m interested in what Bills response is but my bet is he would never stand on a premise “budget surplus” that he knew would be: 1) a fallacy/lie as an achievable goal. 2) actively preventing the other policy. 3) a pointless target anyway.
    So I don’t see how that choice could ever exist for an honest representative and I think he would educate them on why not targeting a “budget surplus” or “balanced budget” or “budget deficit” as a political goal is appropriate and what should be done instead.

  8. In our Parliamentary system we have the occasional democratic representation (every general election) and a permanent technocratic occupation.

    “Practical men who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.”

    So it goes …

  9. The UK has a representative, not a direct, democracy. The vast majority of important political issues are settled in parliament, and only very rarely is a referendum used as a tool of decision-making. In the UK, referendums are not legally-binding, but until 2016, it was essentially within the power of the government of the day to implement any policy decided by any national referendum result.

    Bill states that there referendum asked a simple question: “Remain a member of the European Union” or “Leave the European Union”. However, the latter choice is an aspiration, not a policy. There are many alternative policies compatible with that choice, and as it turns out, there is no majority for any one of them, either within or most likely outside parliament.

    So the inevitable result of launching a referendum when they could not deliver on the outcome, is that the conservative leadership have broken democracy in the UK. The only way to implement “the will of the people” is to suspend representative democracy. Bill may have high hopes for Boris Johnson, but once he is installed as prime minister, he will make Tony Blair look like a model of progresseness and political integrity.

  10. @dnm,

    The thing about Boris Johnson is that, unlike Tony Blair, he is extraordinarily lazy.
    In 8 years as London Mayor his only notable achievement was commissioning some pretty (IMO), but highly impractical, Thomas Heatherwick-designed routemaster buses.
    Spaffing £34m up the wall on the ridiculous and unnecessary Garden Bridge project, £300K on secondhand German water cannons, and painting some busy roads blue in a laughable attempt at a London cycling policy, constitute the remainder of his useless legacy.
    When one’s political instincts are venal, then perhaps laziness and ineptitude are desirable – toxic hard workers, like Thatcher and Blair, are truly dangerous!

  11. @MrShigemitsu

    I’m not disagreeing with what you say, but the prime minister has considerably more power than the mayor of London, and if Johnson doesn’t want to wield it, then those around him will (look to the current US administration). And if they all do nowt, then by default they will shrink the state, a policy objective for many right wingers.

  12. As long as money has more influence on the behavior of parliamentarians than does the will, and aspirations of the people, no model of representative democracy can be trusted to function in a truly democratic way; hence representation should be replaced by a well developed participatory democratic model.

  13. Quite often, in the US, the more politically-aware leftists say that the democrats are fine with Trump as long as people Bernie, AOC, and Gabbard never gain any real power to change anything fundamental.

  14. @J Christensen

    So, the quality of the current bunch of parliamentarians leaves a lot to be desired. But if the UK were to become a direct democracy tomorrow, the flow of money would be diverted to all the right places to ensure that the newly empowered electorate voted the ‘right’ way.

    Whatever you think of the outcome of the 2016 referendum, do you think (a majority of) people voted based on a careful consideration of all the relevant facts?

  15. The referendum question was stupid. It may as well have been “Are you in favour of all British people emigrating to Atlantis?” What needed to happen was to present a viable economic and social solution as an alternative to EU membership.

  16. > a viable economic and social solution as an alternative to EU membership.

    The moment to present it (apart from the referendum itself, which was the more appropriate moment) was in the run-up to May’s snap election. The fact that it didn’t happen tells you that there was no politically viable solution.

  17. Jeremy Corbyn also represents the labour party membership. He has campaigned
    for decades for greater democracy in the labour party including deciding policy.
    Clearly the labour membership is pro remain. Not just the right wing but the
    tens of thousands who joined the party to support him. His instincts were to
    support the referendum result but hoped to pin that on the tory government,
    Mays loss of the tory majority the refusal of the far right tories and the ulster unionists
    to support Brexit as negotiated with the EU { a transitionary arrangement } has meant
    this has unravelled . He could not take his parliamentarians or his left wing membership
    down the path of the labour party delivering Brexit.
    It may be cognitive dissonance but generally progressives are passionate remainers here in
    the uk. I have not been able to change the minds of one progressive remainer friend family or
    work colleague who are generally sympathetic to my left wing politics on brexiting.
    Indeed with boris about to become our own Donald trump and when he opens up the
    NHS as apart of a trade deal with the USA I am going to find it hard to face down their
    opinion that I was a useful idiot of the right wing when I voted to leave.

  18. UK Labour has a long and tortured history with the EU having swing from staying out to joining in to leaving to remaining to sitting on the fence to remaining again.

    This is now playing itself out in an endgame. The cosmopolitan middle class luvvies who dominate the membership are determined to sabotage the leave project, but the working class voters on zero hours contracts who actually elect Labour MPs are Brexiteers.

    The electoral backlash could be horrendous.

  19. While I agree with the sentiment, and it was bill who quickly turned me into anti-EU after a short period of “skepticism”, the question is fairly loaded about what the voters understand of the concepts. And I do indeed think that member of the parliament have some leeway to avoid the tyranny of the majority, however nebulous such a thing is.

    « I’ve never seen a demand by any normal person (non-economist or lobbyist) in the electorate for a “budget surplus” »

    You should really visit Portugal then (were we’re both from, I think), a fine example of something I learned about the other day, “self-colonialism”. “Poor, but honored” is a saying from our fascist period that isn’t going away anytime soon.

  20. Dear PhilipR (at 2019/07/11 at 9:23 am)

    If you simplify and characterise the British Labour Party voters as being of two broad groups: (a) the Urban Cosmos who support Remain; and (b) the Regional workers who support Leave, then under two scenarios we might have these outcomes:

    1. Labour leadership supports Remain: The Cosmos are happy and continue to vote Labour, the others feel disenfranchised and move to the Brexit Party.

    2. Labour leadership supports Leave: The Cosmos have no other place to go – I cannot see them voting Lib Dems, the others are happy and vote Labour.

    The probabilities would have to be on Labour retaining more votes under Option 2.

    best wishes

  21. The truth is despite the EU being economically entrenched in neo liberalism the
    vast majority of labour mp,s AND members are fanatical supporters of the remain cause.
    These members are not Luvvies they are predominantly regular young lefties.
    Context may not be everything but it is not far off. The Brexit campaign was run by Farage
    and Johnson more venal representatives of the entitled rich are hard to find. They bashed migrants.
    Even in the working class heartlands the majority of labour voters supported remain
    overall 66% of labour supporters supported remain. I believe it is a passionate emotional
    tribalism which drives this cognitive dissonance but the idea that the labour leadership
    could have backed Brexit and retained that leadership is laughable.

  22. Bill you are the Cosmos .Again you demean yourself with ad hominem attacks.
    In politics as in sport you play the man and not the ball when your position on the field
    is weak.

  23. Dear Kevin Harding (at 2019/07/11 at 5:24 pm)

    So the progressive-leaning Remainers are not motivated by what is known in the literature as cosmopolitanism? I think you will find it hard making that case. I have written about the links. It is a very well defined view within this demographic cohort and the concept is regularly used to justify continued support for the EU over revitalising nation states.

    Calling this camp – Cosmo – is just short-hand for that view. There was no ad hominem component to it. Just a plain reality.

    best wishes

  24. You can call leave voters thick “little” Englanders who all hate migrants and whose opinion is irrelevant because they will all die soon anyway!

    But cosmopolitan middle-class luvvies is beyond the pail?

  25. The demographic cohort I am talking about are family ,friends and work colleagues.
    the two that spring to mind ,who I have the most agitated debate with about brexit are a gas man and a roadie and the idea that a beret wearing academic professor think of them as cosmos
    and luvvies is ridiculous.
    If I called brexit voters like myself thick migrant hating little Englanders I would be demeaning myself. As I said ad hominem attacks always come from a position of weakness .
    In my experience the lexit argument has had very little traction people[regular working people}
    who self identify as progressive sympathetic to arguments for full employment, fiscal stimulus,
    greater equality cannot relate to my position .They suspect me of being a useful idiot of the far right.I fear they may be right.

  26. I may be wrong, but I would hazard a guess that when Bill refers to “Cosmos”, he is most likely using it as, yes, a slightly disparaging term, to refer not to the absolute entirety of Remain supporters, such as your gasman and roadie, but to its most prominent and publicly visible advocates – including not just the elites, but those who have become tropes in themselves, such as the young woman who, on a sign at a Remain demo, demanded that Brexiteers explain to her dog why post-Brexit it would no longer be able to accompany her on skiing holidays!

  27. @dnm
    As I read Bill’s posts, I can see parallels between what happens in the UK and what’s happening wherever representative democracy is the model for government; state power has become a tool for corporatists.

    It’s not clear what differences exist between today’s parliamentarians and parliamentarians of the past; although there was a brief progressive period in the aftermath of the second world war, when those in power felt it necessary to put a happy face on capitalism, as socialist movements were a perceived growing threat to the status quo. I think we can safely say that era ended long ago.

    Participatory democracy, one specific form of direct democracy, appears to me, to be a top candidate for replacing this cozy and convenient arrangement serving the few.

    Clearly, if the system of governance were of the PD style, then there would be a need to deliver the best information to all of the people voting on issues, and voters would need to have the means to test their knowledge of all the angles an issue prior to voting; however, I trust the collective efforts of average, otherwise un empowered citizens, to make good quality democratic decisions, when everyone gets to vote according to their own conscience.

    It’s difficult to see how a private entity could spend enough to influence every single vote in a participatory democracy. The elimination of a special intermediary political class in the process of government by and for the people would be a step forward.

    Obviously, a major change in the model of government, especially one that has so heavily influenced all institutions for so long, would not be without growing pains.

  28. After reading Bill’s post and the comments I suspect the confusion over Brexit is partly due to the use of identity politics to eliminate the concept of social class in analysis.
    From the perspective of Remainer ”Cosmos”, they are the progressive ones because they enthusiastically support the demands of minorities of various sorts, and immigrants. In their opinion those who don’t care very much about these matters, or have questions about immigration levels, are ”ignorant”, ”racists”, or ”fascists”.
    However if you are a working class non-”Cosmo” your perspective is very different. Your quality of life is poor and declining, immigrants are taking your job and undercutting your wages, and importantly, nobody cares. The people you expect support from, self described ”progressives”, Labour supporters mostly, are greatly concerned for fairness for an array of identity groups and immigrants but most definitely don’t care about you. Under this political landscape, one in which there is no space for class analysis, people talk by each other even if they self identify as ”progressive”, and the overall discussion is confused.
    If class were melded with identity, the ”progressive” view would be ”We are all being exploited by the ruling elite. Members of the working class, as well as those of us who are prosperous and support the common good, need to unite in all our diversity to advance our common interests and well-being”.
    Since melding the issues of class and identity is not in the interests of the ruling elite the media it controls and influences promote identity issues alone and ignore class analysis. So confusion and division reign.

  29. Ahhh sanity, I really enjoy reading this blog. It makes me happy when I find some common sense out there on the internet.

  30. Hi Bill
    I do not think that our Labour Party here in NZ has changed too much from the Lange, Douglas era, they are still basically neo-liberal. They talk of wellbeing budgets and curing poverty but things only seem to get worse.
    Sadly I am left with the feeling that our politicians are no more than agents for the banks. Our mostly foreign owned banks here are amongst the most profitable in the world and every year they announce another record profit.

  31. Keith Newman,

    The heavy use of identity politics in recent years has mortified many communities, LBGT etc..
    Their intent was modest, to merely be treated as every other human being, and nothing more.

    Minorities as encompassed within the oft used by consevative’s phrase “Identity politics” , have born more than their fair share of misery in the class war. There are varying shades of misery in that conflict depending on ones identity, and the struggle for minorities is just the struggle to be treated as equals, nothing more.

    Rest assured that hidden, and open minorities,both, exist within every community, whether cosmopolitan or people living in smaller municipalities, and they exist independent of political activity.

    i think the point you were trying to make was the focus on the determination of social class and political influence based on how much money ones family has, which is most important.

  32. @J Christensen

    It’s possibly a bit late in the day to continue this thread, but I think your post deserves a response…
    Very briefly re the changing face of British parliamentarians, parties are less class-oriented than in the past – Thatcher’s crew split the Conservatives, and the Blairites the Labour party, both factions hewing (neo)liberal. But in the absence of an important ideological divide, narrowly self-interested cabals could more easily form.

    Participatory democracy, one specific form of direct democracy, appears to me, to be a top candidate for replacing this cozy and convenient arrangement serving the few.

    The problem is that, as you say, the alternative requires a diligent and well-informed voting public, while recent history has been one of ever-increasing media concentration, and timorous reporting. So there is no need to acquire every last vote in order to control a participatory democracy; just switch resources previously used to influencing politicians to regulate the output of fourth estate – we are already well on our way down that road.

  33. I voted Leave as soon as I got my postal vote. But I later regretted doing so and wished I’d abstained because I considered the referendum as illegitimate. The only legitimate reason for a referendum is a wish to change the status quo, i.e. the government had decided to leave the EU and had a plan. Of course we all know that the reason was entirely to do with keeping tory voters sweet.
    In 1975, when I also voted Leave, we’d only just joined and it would have been easy to leave if people didn’t like it. (I was working at the time for a tory – a nice one – with a degree in economics who predicted that UK would become a leisure centre as production moved towards the main market. I don’t think he was wrong as production has indeed moved towards the south east. He voted Remain, by the way, as that was tory policy.)
    I think we’re too harsh on Corbyn who is a fundamentally democratic leader – pretty perfect so far as I’m concerned, despite his not being a natural orator (unlike Benn who had the benefit of an expensive education).
    The best we can hope for is a tory Brexit by Halloween and a general election in 2022. But have no idea what’s actually going to happen.

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