UK Elections: Identity Over Ideology
|by Nathan French|
File under: Fake Freedom08 May 2015 10:40 EDT
Yesterday's national elections in the UK may be of some interest to those in Fakenation who are wondering how the 2016 "presidential election" will take shape. Being a wealthy but learning-disabled stepchild of the UK, Fakenation has proven itself to be a little slower than its older relatives when it comes to political developments. The election results in the UK may give us an early glimpse into the future... or not.
Ostensibly, yesterday's elections were a victory for David Cameron and the "conservative" Tories, who won a majority in Parliament. But the real winners were those who have been pushing for national and regional identities. In the Anglosphere, idea-based politics seems to be disappearing, or perhaps emigrating elsewhere.
Today, the media will be awash with stories about the Scottish National Party and how it suddenly rose from relative obscurity to a major political power during the course of these elections. It is now the #3 party in the UK (just after the McDonalds-Burger King parties), displacing the "left-of-center" parties that traditionally occupied that position. Yet its political priority are the interests of a subregion: Scotland. Although the leader of the SNP, Nicola Sturgeon, has said that a new referendum on Scottish Independence is currently 'off the table', she no longers needs to ask for anyone's permission. The cultural momentum seems fully behind her. One of the newly-elected SNP candidates is 20-year old university student Mhairi Black, who has become the youngest person elected to UK parliament since 1667.
Although the other regional parties, particularly Plaid Cymru (Wales) and Sinn Fein (N. Ireland) didn't make any substantial gains this time, they have assumed the #7 and #6 positions in the national rankings, displacing (perhaps forever) the once-hopeful UKIP.
It couldn't have happened to a better party. One of the biggest losers was also perhaps the fakest: Labour. Ed Milliband and his David Axelrod-assisted PR campaign failed to punish the Tories, despite widespread discontent with that party. Like his predecessor, Blair, Milliband is a true blue Fakenation-style politician, reducing himself to robotically repeating soundbytes during interviews (video here), publishing 'manifestos', pretending to represent a middle class, etc. His voluntary resignation earlier today is perhaps the most honorable act of his career.
The Liberal Democrats, a "left-of-centre" party, have nearly been destroyed, but this only seems dramatic because they were granted an artificially large role in preceding coalition government. They are simply back to where they've been for decades.
Alas UKIP, that British apple of the American libertarian's eye. More or less finished, superstar MEP Nigel Farage has resigned his leadership.
Europe and the UK
The two major issues of UK politics during the past few years have been immigration and the EU, often linked together. These two issues formed the core of UKIP's (and before them, the BNP's) platform. But the cultural mood seems to have shifted. Instead of worrying about whether or not the UK should join a United Europe, UK voters are now worrying about whether or not they should remain within a United Kingdom. The devolution question has been domesticated. This should indicate a deep distrust of the basic political system in the UK and its ability to produce a truly representative government. The system itself is under attack, not just the ideas within it. Perhaps in a more important sense, this election was another referendum on UK rule by England (and London). The Tories, who certainly represent England, have consolidated their power, while regional opponents have gathered around them. Are we looking at the beginning of a kind of tribal warfare within the UK, the likes of which hasn't been seen for centuries? That's perhaps unclear, but regional identity has trumped national identity — or ideology — in the minds of the voters.
In times of political crisis, history has proven that ideology takes a backseat to more primitive, more immediate concerns. If you have no hope for the future, no food, or are in the midst of a war, you are unlikely to have the luxury of formulating, evaluating, and implementing alternative political ideologies. Instead, you simply band together with your neighbors on the basis of more primal relations — like race, or geographical region — until basic political stasis can be re-established. (This is similar to the way political groupings are formed in US prisons.) Although the UK has been rocked by bank fraud and disenfranchisement of the middle class, they haven't been hit as hard as the US. The real crisis may yet happen. And these political choices may be those of a pre-crisis situation.
The collective, superstimulated ADHD brain of the US is still trying to determine, nearly 8 years after the mortgage meltdown, whether massive bank fraud is really a good or bad thing. Given the way the 2016 "presidential elections" are shaping up, there doesn't appear to be any significant discontent with the present system, and in general, the US seems to be about 10 years behind the UK in terms of political developments. Therefore it's a little difficult to imagine any regional upheavals or attempts at devolution in the coming years. But yesterday's UK election results defied the predictions of most pundits. The US may yet encounter a similar surprise... for better or worse.
Full, fake disclosure: Fakenation officially endorsed the 'None of the Above' party in yesterday's UK elections.
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