London, United Kingdom – Prime Minister Theresa May survives a no confidence vote; led by the free-market Eurosceptic and internationalist Remain wings of her party – she has polarised both and pleased neither. Why has this happened?
To put it simply, the rift in divisions between political figures and institutions has pulled critically wider.
The result of the controversial referendum resulted in more Brits voting to cease membership of the European Union than for anything in the democratic history of the United Kingdom. The significance of which cannot not be understated. As polls have marginally fluctuated since – one theme has remained consistent, both bases have evidently remained firm. However, the massive portion of the British public sceptical of European Union membership does not correlate to a parliament overwhelmingly in favour of ‘Remain’.
Days after a video of the chancellor of May’s government, Phillip Hammond, emerged of him labelling the Eurosceptics in his party ‘extremists’, another fortunately less noticed clip came to light. During the Prime Minister’s questions, he was again filmed triumphantly smirking “there you have it” to an overwhelming roar against the Prime Minister’s question “does this house want to deliver brexit?”. As this is directly against the popular demand of the very constituents in Runneymede the chancellor represents, this can be used to prove ever symptomatic of the political righteousness and ‘I know better attitude’ that permeates governments and institutions over Europe.
Theresa May: "Does this House want to deliver Brexit?"
Philip Hammond: "There you have it." *nods in agreement*
We knew before the referendum that politicians were out of step with the public on the EU, but they're now openly drawing battle lines agaisnt the people. pic.twitter.com/oKqjnWfeLF
— Jack Montgomery (@JackBMontgomery) December 12, 2018
In both instances, Hammond acted with utter carelessness to the polarising arrogance he was demonstrating. The unwillingness and reluctance of the chancellor to consider the wants of his opponents alongside that of his governments to address the demands of a massive portion of the British electorate underlines to us where the problem lies; elites becoming further removed and unconcerned with the public.
Many are not only not hearing the massive undercurrent against a largely internationalist and self-preserving agenda but pressing forward with their unpopular plans regardless. This is a recipe for disaster.
Look over to Paris now – the once crowned saviour of Europe and the end to the tide of populism is reeling from international humiliation from his own citizens. Emmanuel Macron’s popularity stands at a staggering 19%, an unbelievable 31% less than that of controversial president Donald Trump’s. Not that you’d have heard this dissatisfaction mind. The saturation of Trump-critical journalism in comparison material critical of Macron further shows how the journalistic bubble is floating away from that of regular people.
The Economist was particularly shown up by Macron’s failure having published numerous issues with the French liberal’s smiling face on the front titled ‘Europe’s saviour’ and ‘Europe’s new order’. The lack of coverage to legitimate criticism underlines the further unwillingness of publications to address the concerns of the public who had come to despise him. A direct reason to be credited for this is that the journalistic sphere is in general agreement with his green policy and liberal attitude. They loved him. Crucial self-reflection still notably eludes them.
Undoubtedly, many of these are well intentioned people however it remains that they are simply not noticing – or listening to the surge in disparity away from acceptance of their intentions and ideas.
Whilst a majority of French citizens have been found to disagree with the violence that was demonstrated at the Gilet Jaunes protests, over 70% said they in some form were supporting the protests. This is acts as staggering evidence of disenfranchisement with the establishment order. Macron, of course, made no friends. A flurry of errors in policy and image caused his moderately accepting base turn against him quickly. One can make the case for lowering corporate tax – something I, myself, advocate – however the symmetry must be made to seem fair to the public. After easing the strain on contributions of businesses, which includes the ultra-rich, you cannot burden taxes on the regular and on the poor. Or to increase that on pensions or on fuel in attempt to pursue green policy in one of the cleanest economies in the world.
In the violent reaction to Macron, however, I sense something deeper; betrayal. Anger is unleashing itself on someone who falsely-portrayed themselves as an outsider only to propagate the status-quo and distant interests of the institutions in Brussels.
Look to Brazil, the concept of Bolsonaro’s presidency and iron fist agenda resembled another strong electoral two fingers up to the corrupt and detached political class to many Brazilians. As in Europe and beyond, the political mainstream ignores the growing dissatisfaction and pursue their own aims and intentions regardless. Simultaneously, however, what can be observed is support peels off bit by bit for establishment parties. Whether it be a total collapse such as in Italy or France or slow gradual decline with replacement from outside parties, which is evident in Die Grüne and the AFD slowly being seen to collect the base of Germany’s centre left SPD and centre right CDU.
In a dinner earlier this December, I was witness to an atypical fragment of self-awareness from an establishment figure. James Cleverly MP, acting deputy chairman of the Conservative party stated that the overarching trend of recent elections is that the outsider is winning or making gains “Every. Single. Time.” For once, this serves as an increasingly rare piece of accurate observational expertise from our politicians – It is undoubtedly accurate, the evidence is on his side.
To the mind of some, it may be the internationalist argument is logically superior for prosperity, but the polling clearly underlines that populations are still attached to the nation-state. In dubiously pursuing through with plans in opposition to this you cannot still attempt to sell your governance as a democracy and must accept your actions bear no legitimacy with the people it represents.
UK, YouGov poll:
United States of Europe by 2025
— Europe Elects (@EuropeElects) December 28, 2017
Civil unrest is just the beginning, I fear, without a political establishment willing to improve the disconnect with the wants of the people, there is no doubt that this trend will continue to further violent fragmentation. A choice must be made, and made soon on which to continue – democracy or ideology?