Friday, 3 August 2018

How complacent 'centrists' are to blame for the Brexit nightmare

Ever since the Brexit vote I've consistently argued that without the ideologically imposed suffering and impoverishment of the six preceding years of hard-right Tory austerity dogma, the Brexit vote would never have been carried narrowly over the line by the resulting wave of public anger.

It's always reassuring to have your political opinions backed up by hard empirical data, and that's exactly what Thiemo Fetzer at the University of Warwick has done in a working paper that draws clear causal links between grievances at Tory austerity policies and the Brexit vote.

What the Warwick paper doesn't do is look at the wider political context and the disgraceful failure of the political centre to counter this socially and economically ruinous Tory fixation with austerity dogma. A failure which ended up creating the opportunity for the hard-right of the Tory party (and their Ukipper allies) to cynically pin the blame for the consequences of their own right-wing ideological agenda onto immigrants and the EU.

The Liberal-Democrats are most obviously to blame for this failure having enabled the Tories back into power in 2010, then having repeatedly voted in favour of all kinds of horrific austerity policies such as cuts to in-work benefits, deliberate wage repression policies, massive local government cuts, savage welfare reforms such as the draconian sanctions regime and the systematic abuse of disabled people, unprecedented cuts in infrastructure investment, social care cuts, and significant reductions in real terms spending on vital public services such as hospitals, schools, policing, and the fire service.

The right-wing faction of the Labour Party who maintained a vice-like grip on the party's economic policy during Ed Miliband's leadership are perhaps even more culpable than the Lib-Dems. 

When the nation was crying out for an opposition party to actually oppose the ideologically driven social and economic vandalism of the Tories, the Labour right-wing faction actually decided to imitate the Tories with a lamentable "austerity-lite" agenda designed to pinch a few thousand "soft Tory" votes in marginal constituencies.

What the right-wing faction of the Labour Party failed to factor into their equation was the fact that for every "soft Tory" vote they managed to pinch by pathetically imitating Tory austerity dogma, vastly more traditional Labour voters turned their backs on the Labour Party in absolute disgust at it.

It's kind of understandable that self-serving Lib-Dem politicians wilfully engaged in the social and economic vandalism of the United Kingdom in return for a taste of second hand Tory power, but Labour's abnegation of their responsibility to oppose hard-right Tory austerity fanaticism and provide an investment-based alternative left the general public with the choice of nothing more than three different versions of the same disgusting austerity gruel.

Nowhere was the appalling scale of this error by the so-called Labour 'centrists' better illustrated than in Scotland, where the SNP gleefully nicked the anti-austerity anti-Tory tactical position that Labour should have used and romped to an unprecedented landslide victory (taking 56 of the 59 Scottish Westminster seats, and 40 of Labour's 41 Scottish seats in the process).

The surge in the Green vote in 2015 was another indicator of Labour's failings. The Greens held just one constituency, and only had an outside shot of winning two or three more, yet 1.1 million people across England and Wales voted for Green candidates knowing there was virtually no chance of them winning. Huge numbers of people actually decided to throw away their votes in protest 
at the grotesque pro-austerity consensus of the three establishment parties, rather than back Labour's grotesque lesser of three evils "austerity-lite" posturing.

Being offered three almost identical bowls of disgusting austerity slop by the main political parties added to the sense that Westminster politicians were living in an insulated bubble of privilege, far removed from the poverty and suffering their ruinous austerity policies were inflicting on ordinary people. However the shockingly complacent establishment austerity consensus created an even bigger problem than increased public disillusionment with the political class, it created the opportunity for cynical hard-right opportunists to hijack the political discourse with their own misleading explanations for rising poverty, cratering wages, and failing public services.

Thus a bunch of hard-right charlatans cynically blamed the horrifying consequences of austerity dogma on immigrants and the EU. Worse still is that many of these xenophobic hard-right snake oil sellers were those responsible for voting through, and even implementing ruinous hard-right austerity dogma in the first place (Ian Duncan Smith, Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Chris Grayling, Priti Patel, John Redwood, Nadine Dorries, Daniel Hannan ...).

The abject failure of so-called political 'centrists' to adequately oppose ruinous Tory austerity dogma created the political vacuum which hard-right Brextremists gleefully filled with their deceptive propaganda that immigrants and the EU, rather than their own hard-right austerity agenda, was the reason for rising poverty, falling wages, and crumbling infrastructure and services.

There is a certain irony that the so-called 'centrists' ended up delivering their own worst nightmare through their unforgivably complacent failure to oppose hard-right Tory austerity fanaticism, but it's definitely not much compensation given that the suffering and destitution from a chaotic Tory Brexit will be loaded onto the shoulders of those least able to bear it, just like Tory austerity dogma was before.

The 'centrist' politicians and the comfortably well off who supported them throughout their period of austerity collusion have plenty enough wealth, assets and smug self-centred complacency to insulate themselves from the appalling consequences of their own failure to provide an alternative to the last round of punishing Tory impoverishment.

They chose not to oppose ruinous Tory austerity madness because austerity wasn't hurting them personally, and even now they're obviously not opposing Brexit because of some sudden newfound concern for the millions living on or below the poverty line. They're opposing it because they're bitterly pissed off that they didn't get their own way in 2016.

So the next time you see a 'centrist' politician howling away about Brexit, just remember that they're actually the complacent tossers who helped the Tories deliver Brexit through their abject failure to argue that Tory austerity dogma was to blame for Britain's declining standards, thus leaving the door wide open to hard-right Brextremists to provide their own cynical and inaccurate explanations.

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