Sunday, June 11, 2017

Thoughts on the British Election

Please excuse today’s only peripherally trade-related post, but the recent UK election has been on my mind, not least because I’m currently visiting my in-laws here.

In particular, I want to put forward a theory relating to the swing of nearly a fifth (18%) of UKIP voters away from UKIP and towards Labour (57% of of 2015 UKIP voters voted Conservative in the 2017 election, unsurprisingly).

The 2015 UKIP gains and the subsequent Brexit vote can be viewed as a similar manifestation of populist discontent with globalization, writ large, and concern with the growing wealth inequality between the very rich and the rest of the population that was mirrored in Bernie Sanders’ and Donald Trump’s popularity in the 2016 US elections.

If Brexit represents a version of Make Britain Great Again that hearkens back to the pre-1970s Britain, before engagement with the European experiment, then it makes sense that with Farage gone and UKIP in tatters, many UKIP voters would support the Conservative agenda to go through with Brexit. But what about the 18% who went Labour instead?

I would posit that arguably, for some, Jeremy Corbyn represents a return to a properly left-wing Labour, not seen since before Thatcher’s Tory government privatized the UK’s economy. If we view the goal of these UKIP voters as Making Britain Great Again, then some of these voters, who may have come to realize that Brexit is not the answer to their problems, but rather a start of a whole host of other problems, may have decided that the Britain they yearn for, that pre-1970 Britain, can also be recreated by a return to left-wing policies and re-nationalization of the public sector.

Obviously, this is pure speculation. But all things considered, an 18% shift to Labour from supporters of a xenophobic, anti-immigrant party is a positive change, and one that hopefully Labour can capitalize on. Not all those who are frightened by the toll (whether real or perceived) of globalization on national economies are racist or close-minded. Some may be ready to rally behind truly progressive causes.

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