Posts Tagged ‘Labour’

Labour ‘finished’ if it backs Brexit in a snap election, says Adonis

Poll suggests party would fare much better by opposing UK’s departure from EU

A pro-EU Labour peer and former cabinet minister has said the party is “finished” if it contests another election promising to back Brexit, as a new poll suggested the party’s support depends heavily on remain voters who could switch their allegiance to the Lib Dems.

Andrew Adonis, a former transport minister and a vocal critic on Britain’s departure from the EU, said the party could not be seen as an “accomplice to Brexit” should a snap election take place before March 2019.

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Generation wars over Brexit – and beyond: how young and old are divided over social values

Pippa Norris explains how generation gaps divide the electorate and mainstream parties. She writes that, while the EU referendum is a prime example of how these divisions play out in the UK, the changing nature of electoral cleavages raises important questions about politics and party competition in Western democracies more generally.

The Brexit decision shocked Britain’s image of itself, and sent reverberations around the world. Until recently, Westminster shared a broad consensus about the value of the liberal international order abroad and liberal democratic governance at home. The accord reflected a cosmopolitan vision, convinced of the benefits of access to global markets, open border, and international cooperation. In Europe, the ‘permissive consensus’ allowed Brussels technocrats to pursue a common vision of deepening and enlarging the EU, without giving a direct voice to the European public on the matter – even though polls suggest that this goal was increasingly rejected by many of its citizens.

At home, as well, the major UK parties differed on many economic and social policies, and the Conservatives have obviously been deeply divided on Europe ever since Thatcher. Nevertheless, beyond policy debates, during the 1990s British politicians on both sides of the aisle seemed to share broad agreement about the underlying rules of the game, tolerant respect for robust pluralistic debate at Westminster, and support for liberal democratic norms. This includes the values of liberal freedoms, social tolerance, and respect for diversity, the protection of minority rights, and the rejection of the forces of authoritarianism, racism and xenophobia. Mainstream parties agreed to quarantine the BNP, the National Front, and other fringe alt-right white nationalists.

In recent years, however, the outcome of the Brexit referendum and its dithering aftermath, the bitterly divisive splits within both the major parties, and polarizing battles over anti-Semitism in the Labour party and Islamophobia in the Tories, have shaken faith in the traditional tolerance of British society, raised challenges to the liberal consensus concerning the principles of democratic governance, and threatened the stability and unity of the UK.

The well-known story behind Britain’s momentous decision to seek a divorce from the European Union, after more than four decades, and the historical role of UKIP in this process, rests ultimately on ‘supply-side’ factors in Westminster politics – including the critical impact of contingent historical events and key blunders by spectacularly inept and short-sighted political leaders.

On the ‘demand side’ of the equation, once the referendum was triggered, several factors help to explain the main drivers of public opinion and voting behavior determining the outcome of the 2016 referendum – as well as the ups and downs of UKIP’s electoral support during the 2015 and 2017 general elections. Work by Harold D. Clarke et al. argues that Euroscepticism was fueled by anxieties about government management of immigration and, to a lesser extent, the economy and NHS. But a broader comparative perspective suggests that Brexit is part of the phenomenon of authoritarian-populism which has been sweeping across the globe, so it needs a more general explanation than one based on British party politics alone.

Beyond specific policy issues, several authors have sought to describe the emergence of a long-term cultural cleavage. For example, David Goodhart depicts Britain as split between the ‘Anywheres’, the degree-educated, geographically mobile professionals who embrace new people and experiences, and define themselves by their achievements; and the ‘Somewheres’, with a fixed identities rooted in their hometown community, unsettled by rapid change, particularly the influx of migrants, the growth of multiethnic cities, and more fluid gender identities.

Many have referred loosely to the ‘Left-behinds’ as an economic category referring to the losers from global trade. These ideas partially capture some of the tensions observed in the UK and can be applied elsewhere, such as the familiar divisions observed between the God and Guns values of heartland Trump America and the Climate Change and Diversity values of coastal Obama-nostalgic elites, or between voting support for Macron in urbane Paris and Le Pen in Ardennes, Alsace and Marseilles.

But observing the contrasts doesn’t help to explain the contemporary reemergence of this classic center-periphery geographic division – and thus why some people have become increasingly more reluctant to embrace social change than others. Impressionistic notions such the distinction between ‘Anywheres’ and ‘Somewheres’, or ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ from global markets, are also fuzzy concepts to measure. The distinction can also sound patronizing, as though the Left-behinds are deeply irrational and they just need to get with the culture.

In a new book on Cultural Backlash forthcoming in the fall, we argue that support for Authoritarian-Populist parties and leaders in Europe and America, and the bitter polarization over Brexit in the UK electorate, reflects culture wars over fundamental social values dividing young and old in many Western societies. There is widespread evidence from the British Attitudes Survey that British society continues to move in a socially-liberal direction, with younger and college-educated people being far more tolerant than older and less-educated groups on same-sex marriage, LGBTQ rights, abortion, euthanasia, pornography, and pre-marital sex.

Millennials are also far more likely to have voted Remain, while a study of young people in Britain concluded that many are concerned about the negative impact of Brexit on multi-ethnic communities – and they expressed concern about rising intolerance, discrimination, racism and the decline of Britain’s multicultural image. They were also resentful that the decision to leave the EU was made by the older generation and concerned that Brexit would limit their opportunities to live and work in Europe.

Meanwhile, the Interwar generation supported Leave, and UKIP, because they tend to endorse a broader range of socially-conservative and authoritarian values associated with nationalism, Euroscepticism, and immigration. The generation gap in Europe and America is linked with cultural cleavages around these issues. As the old Left-Right divisions of social class identities have faded in Britain, an emerging cultural war deeply divides voters and parties around values of national sovereignty versus cooperation among EU member states; respect for traditional families and marriage versus support for gender equality and feminism; tolerance of diverse lifestyles and gender fluid identities; the importance of protecting manufacturing jobs versus environmental protection and climate change; and restrictions on immigration and closed borders versus openness towards refugees, migrants, and foreigners.In the long-term, the silent revolution continues to move the Western societies gradually in a more liberal direction. In the short-term, however, older generations are far more likely to vote than the young – and the authoritarian reaction against progressive values has mobilized to become  significant force in politics.

Our book accounts for the rise of Authoritarian-Populists in many Western societies by emphasizing the long-term consequences of the Silent Revolution in cultural values. This started to become evident with post-materialist value change among the younger and college educated generation who grew up in affluent post-industrial societies during the 1960s and 1970s. The proportion of more socially-conservative older cohorts holding traditional values towards core identity issues, such as those surrounding the values of religion, family, and nation, has gradually faded away over the years and younger generations with more socially liberal views gradually took their place in the population.

The proportion of Interwar and Baby Boomers in Western societies has gradually declined, losing hegemonic status and cultural power – although they usually remain a bare majority of active voters and thus their preferences continue to be over-reflected in representative bodies. At a certain point, a tipping point occurs in society, as the proportion of those holding traditional values becomes the new minority in the population. This experience, we theorize, triggers an authoritarian reflex among the older and less educated sectors most resistant to cultural change, who seek strong leaders to defend socially-conservative values, blaming liberal elites like Westminster politicians, the media, academic experts, Eurocrats and the establishment in general, as well as out-groups like immigrants and foreigners for lack of respect for traditional values.

This account can be applied to help explain the outbreak of cultural wars over Brexit and its dispiriting aftermath. If so, then the division between the Leave and Remain camps should be found to revolve around the cultural cleavage between authoritarian and libertarian values, especially where Leave is endorsed by older generations who feel threatened by the rapid pace of cultural change and the loss of respect for traditional ways of life. The threat to socially-conservative values is expected to have triggered an authoritarian reflex among these groups – emphasizing the importance of maintaining collective security by enforcing strict conformity with traditional mores within the tribe, a united front against outsiders, and loyalty towards tribal leaders.

This orientation is reinforced by populist leadership rhetoric reasserting the legitimate voice of ‘Us’ through claiming ‘power to the people’, denigrating the authority of Westminster politicians at home and, of course, Eurocrats and EU institutions abroad. The cultural backlash thesis argues that a tipping point in the long-term process of cultural change has been mobilized and reinforced by authoritarian-populist leaders, whether opportunistically motivated to advance their personal ambitions (Boris Johnson?) or whether they share similar values (Donald Trump?) or a bit of both. These developments reflect a new cultural cleavage in party competition and in the electorate, emerging not just in Britain, but also in many other Western societies.

What evidence supports this thesis? Cultural Backlash provides a broad cross-national comparison across Western societies. For a snapshot on some of the evidence in the case of the UK, we can draw on the British Election Study (BES) panel survey of 31,196 respondents conducted by YouGov over 13 waves from February 2014 until after the June 2017 general election.

The survey evidence is most clear-cut and consistent across numerous polls for the sizeable generation gaps observed in voting for Brexit and in recent general elections in the UK. Figure 1 illustrates the contrasts in the BES, demonstrating that roughly twice as many of the Interwar generation voted Leave compared with the Millennials.

Note: “In the referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union, how did you vote?. Source: British Election Study Internet Panel Waves 1-13. Wave 9 post-Brexit (24 June to 6 July 2016)

What explains the generational gaps over leaving the EU and support for UKIP? We suggest that the Millennials and Gen X disliked the Leave camp and UKIP’s appeals to English nationalism and white nativism, racial and ethnic intolerance, and social conservatism. They were more strongly attracted to other parties with a cosmopolitan outlook and socially-liberal policies on cultural and moral issues, exemplified by Labour’s manifesto pledges to support LGBTQ equality, women’s rights, anti-racism, protecting animal welfare, lowering the voting age to 16, supporting international development, and building sustainable environments.

Note: Authoritarian values in Britain can be gauged using a BES 100-point standardized scale calculated from the following agree/disagree items: “(1) Young people today don’t have enough respect for traditional British values; (2) People who break the law should be given stiffer sentences; (3) For some crimes, the death penalty is the most appropriate sentence; (4) Schools should teach children to obey authority; (5) The law should always be obeyed, even if a particular law is wrong; (6) Censorship of films and magazines is necessary to uphold moral standards.”
Note: Populism can be measured in from the BES using a similar 100-point standardized scale constructed from the following agree/disagree items: “1) The politicians in the UK Parliament need to follow the will of the people; 2) The people, and not politicians, should make our most important policy decisions;  3) I would rather be represented by a citizen than by a specialized politician; 4) Elected officials talk too much and take too little action; 5) What people call “compromise” in politics is really just selling out on one’s principles.” Source: British Election Study Internet Panel Waves 1-13.

To reduce the risk of attitudinal conditioning by prior party voting preferences, authoritarian values were measured in waves conducted months before people went to the polls, and they are designed to tap into a broad sense of the value of social conformity and obedience towards authority, without asking directly about policy issues such as Euroscepticism or anti-immigrant attitudes.

After controlling for the standard socio-economic and demographic variables, the results show that support for both Authoritarian and Populist values strongly predicted Leave voting. As Figure 2 illustrates, among those who were most authoritarian, 8% voted to Leave. By contrast, among those who were least authoritarian, only 1% voted to Leave. Similarly disparities can be observed among those scoring highest in the populism scale. Moreover these patterns predict not only who voted Leave in the EU referendum, but also support for UKIP in the 2015 and 2017 general elections. The data confirms that authoritarian and populist values were strongly linked with generational gaps and with voting behavior in Brexit, as expected.

Therefore, the evidence suggests that generation gaps revolving around cultural issues deeply divide the electorate and factions within mainstream parties as well. The Leave vote mobilized the older generation by appealing to nationalistic and nativist identities, achieving a bare majority favoring divorce from the EU, while Gen X and the Millennials were more pro-EU – but also far less likely to get to the polls. If a second referendum were to be held today, the generation gap in turnout is likely to prove critical for the outcome. This development raises important challenges about the changing nature of electoral cleavages and party competition in Britain and elsewhere.


Note: the above is drawn from Pippa Norris and Ronald Inglehart 2018 (forthcoming). Cultural Backlash: Trump, Brexit and Authoritarian Populism. NY: Cambridge University Press.

About the Author

Pippa Norris is the McGuire Lecturer in comparative politics at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, the ARC Laureate fellow and Professor of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney, and she is founding director of the Electoral Integrity Project.



All articles posted on this blog give the views of the author(s), and not the position of LSE British Politics and Policy, nor of the London School of Economics and Political Science. Featured image credit: Pixabay (Public Domain).

Follow the nuance: Labour is edging towards a reversal of Brexit | Rafael Behr

As a soft Brexit becomes ever more implausible, Jeremy Corbyn is going to feel the heat from young Labour pro-Europeans

The referendum that propelled Britain towards exit from the European Union was called because David Cameron ran out of options for holding the Tories together. It would be a neat historical symmetry if the country voted on a reversal because Jeremy Corbyn faced the same problem with Labour.

A referendum on Brexit terms is not Labour policy. In March, Owen Smith was sacked as shadow Northern Ireland secretary for saying it should be. But nuance has crept on to the frontbench since then. “We’ve not ruled anything out,” John McDonnell said in July. “But our preference is a general election.”

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More than 100 seats that backed Brexit now want to stay in EU

Study for the Observer shows most constituencies now have majority who want to Remain

More than 100 Westminster constituencies that voted to leave the EU have now switched their support to Remain, according to a stark new analysis seen by the Observer.

In findings that could have a significant impact on the parliamentary battle of Brexit later this year, the study concludes that most seats in Britain now contain a majority of voters who want to stay in the EU.

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Corbyn hopes to avert call for public vote on Brexit at conference

Labour members seeking second referendum could inflict damaging defeat

Labour has been considering how to head off a concerted attempt by remain-supporting members to stage a vote at its annual conference calling for a second referendum, to avoid what would be an embarrassing defeat for Jeremy Corbyn on the party’s Brexit policy.

Related: ‘It’s not a done deal’: inside the battle to stop Brexit

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British business has no party: it fears Brexit almost as much as it fears socialism

For years, the binary between left and right when it comes to business matters in British politics meant that the Conservatives were predominantly supported by that sector. Contemporary British politics, however, has become very difficult for British business, writes Iain McMenamin (Dublin City University). Today, both main parties have taken up positions which are distressing for British business, which is now caught in a bind between the left-wing socialist politics of Jeremy Corbyn and the nationalist foreign economic policy of Theresa May, he argues.

Politics used to be easy for British business. There was really only one relevant policy dimension (left versus right) and really only one party worth supporting (the Conservatives). The role of the state in the economy and the management of inequality had structured British politics since the first mass-suffrage elections. Although the distance between the two parties was constantly changing, the Conservatives have always been to the right of Labour on this dimension. This century of straightforward politics meant that the Conservatives received substantial donations from the business sector. These donations varied a lot over time, but the question has always been: “How much do we like the Conservatives?”, rather than “Do we prefer Labour or the Conservatives?” Sure, Tony Blair claimed that the Labour party was the “Natural Party of Business”, and attracted the support of some rich people, but even during New Labour’s pomp, the numbers of businesses donating to Labour were a fraction of those contributing to the Conservatives.

Image by Airwolfhound, (Flickr), (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Contemporary British politics is very difficult for British business. Now there are two dimensions. The left-right dimension has been separated from contestation of the extent to which the state will engage in frameworks of multilateral economic governance. Painfully, both main parties have taken up positions which are distressing for British business, albeit on different dimensions. For the first time in a century, there is no British party which is clearly pro-business. On the globalisation dimension, the Conservative Party has spent most of the last two years committed to a so-called “Hard Brexit” that almost inevitably involves reduced access to the largest market for UK business, along with disruption of long-established supply chains. On the old left-right dimension, the Labour Party has its most left-wing leader since at least 1983 and the radical left is increasingly prominent at all levels of the party. The funders of the Conservative Party need to make up their minds as to which is more frightening, the left-wing politics of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour or the nationalist foreign economic policy of Theresa May’s Conservative Party.

In the new more complex and fluid policy space, donations to political parties can provide insights into the preferences of donors. I study 19,000 donations to the Conservative Party between 2001 and the end of 2017. I focus on how many businesses donate to the Conservatives on a given day, rather than how many donations (as one business can make several simultaneously) or their financial value (as large donations can skew the numbers). I take into account regular influences on donations, such as the popularity of the parties, which party is in government, the time since the last election, and whether an election has been called. My calculations imply that donations under Brexit were 81 percent of what they otherwise would have been and that donations after Corbyn were 142 per cent of what they otherwise would have been. These are massive effects: both policy shifts had a greater impact on business donations than a six per cent change in the Conservatives’ poll rating relative to Labour. I also investigate the impact of different versions of Brexit by tracking the number of articles in the UK mentioning “Hard Brexit” or “Soft Brexit”. Twenty-six fewer articles (one standard deviation) about Hard Brexit imply a sixteen per cent increase in donations. Nine more articles (also one standard deviation) about Soft Brexit imply a thirty-three per cent increase in donations. These figures are little bit more speculative, but also indicate the strength of business sensitivity to the globalisation dimension and its impact on the finances of the Conservatives.

The British case offers both reassurance and a warning to other business-funded parties considering a foray along the globalisation dimension. It is reassuring that the financial flood from Corbyn’s election was greater than the financial drought attributable to Brexit. This suggests that the left-right dimension remains more salient than the globalisation dimension. A pro-business position on the left-right dimension may allow centre-right parties to limit the financial damage from anti-globalisation moves. It is a warning that Brexit would have been a severe financial constraint for the Conservatives if it were not for Labour’s lurch to the left. Other centre-right parties cannot rely on their competitors to be so obliging.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Brexit blog, nor the LSE. For more on this topic, you can read the full paper here.

Iain McMenamin is Professor of Comparative Politics and Head of the School of Law and Government, Dublin City University

Campaigning For Fools

Campaigning For Fools

Ladies and Gentlemen, good morning, good afternoon, good evening! For those who do not know me: my name is Phil Bottomley.  Let me ask you all this question. How many fools are there reading this?

Come on, put your hands up.

No one? Are you sure?

Not one of you ever voted Labour or Conservative or Liberal Democrat?

I ask, not to insult you but to bring home to you that that is exactly how the other three Parties perceive you. They treat and think of you as fools!

I’m talking about me, I’m talking about the person sitting next to you, your next door neighbour, your children, your siblings, your Mum your dad, your Uncles, your Aunts, everyone that you know who votes in an election.

They do it time and time again and we, like the fools they perceive us to be, let them get away with it.

The referendum on whether we stay or leave the European Union is a classic example.  For some inexplicable reason 17.4 million fools’ caps fell to the floor giving those hatless souls instant access to common sense. Lo-and-behold the government was defeated, make no mistake: this vote was heavily rigged in their favour and heads had to roll. As we saw, the first head to roll was that of the architect of the Referendum, David Cameron.

Conservative Head Office went into frenzied overdrive, this wasn’t right. Order, according to European Union diktat, had to be restored.  Voila, I give you Dithering Doris, the Queen of Remain, the fudge-makers’ floozy.

What did we do, the 17.4 million who thought that they had won? I’ll tell you, we all stood idly by and allowed the System to take us all for fools once again.

When was the last time your local MP knocked on your door to ask if you were OK? When was the last time that he or she organised a meeting specifically to thank you, the ordinary voter, for putting them in Office? When was the last time your local Councillor knocked on your door – the one that you voted for because they said that they were the person to tackle the potholes that still festoon your roads and seem to grow when given a good watering? When was the last time your local Councillor knocked on your door to thank you for allowing them to speak on your behalf in Council?

Do you feel ever so slightly foolish because you voted for these people?

My advice: stop feeling foolish, stop allowing these people to treat you as fools, instead get angry. Get angry enough to become active in your community, find out exactly what these people do on your behalf so that you can present a reasoned argument when you confront them. Not one of them, no matter from which Party, Labour, Conservative or Liberal Democrat, likes to be confronted with the truth. That old saying that “The truth hurts” really shows its true meaning when these people are confronted by it.

Most people are parochial voters which is what the three main parties rely on. They rely on people who are myopic in their political views, intolerant of change, provincial and illiberal. These are their core voters, you can hear them:

‘This town has always voted for them’,

‘Mum and Dad always voted for them and if it’s good enough for them it’s good enough for me!’

‘It doesn’t matter who you vote for, once they get their feet under the table they’re all the same!’

Do you recognise the pattern? Fools. We are all being taken for fools.

No one likes to be thought of as a fool, I don’t and I suspect that neither do you. So how do we put a stop to it? The simple and easy answer is to stop voting for them, in fact, stop listening to them because, let’s face it, we have heard it all before and nothing ever changes.

There is a growing consensus that our present system of government, basically a two-party system, has failed and that now is the time for a new, vibrant, Right Wing Party. A Party which will rejuvenate politics and the country. I happen to believe that this Party is UKIP.  Probably the only Party in this country that can guarantee that it will honour the result of the Referendum. No transition period, no more money to Brussels, a Party which will put Great Britain and the British people first!

I know from experience that UKIP will never, ever take people for granted nor will they take those who vote for them as fools!

Corbyn and May hold you all in contempt, evidenced by their atrocious handling of Brexit and their indifference to the result of the Referendum, when the truth of the matter is, it is they who should be held in contempt by each and every one of us.

Bear this in mind when you are next at the ballot box.


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