I know that the right-left political spectrum is slippery, and most people consider it dead and buried. End of history, post-ideological world, and whatnot.
This is the second part of Laura MacKenzie’s article about Brexit. In the first episode she presented the two opposing factions and the key political figures. Today she analyses the key arguments of the leave and remain campaigns. In the meantime, former London mayor Boris Johnson declared that the EU – as well as Hitler and Napoleon – is trying to unify Europe under a superstate and to bring it back to the golden age of the Romans.
— The Economist (@TheEconomist) May 17, 2016
Laura Mackenzie‘s new article for POP investigates the different results of UKIP and the British National Party over time. What does explain their opposite degrees of normalization and success within the British political landscape?
“We are saying to BNP voters, if you are voting BNP because you are frustrated, upset with the change in your community, but you are doing it holding your nose, because you don’t agree with their racist agenda, come and vote for us”. Thus spake Nigel Farage, leader of the UK’s largest populist party, the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), in 2014.
Since then, Farage has claimed to have taken a third of supporters from the populist radical right British National Party (BNP), and his party is enjoying its highest ever level of support since its creation in 1993, having received over 12% of the national vote (nearly 4 million votes) at the general election held on 7th May 2015. In contrast, the BNP received just over 1,500 votes, down 99.7% since the last general election in 2010. Is this downward trend in support for the BNP evidence that UKIP has made good on its promises to be the voice of those who are “frustrated [and] upset with the change in [their] community”? Or has this declining interest merely indicated an inability of the BNP to achieve lasting political and social legitimacy?
The BNP was formed in 1982, based on the principles of the original National Front: national sovereignty; withdrawal from the European Economic Community; a reconfiguration of the British Commonwealth into an association of white ethnic groups; enforced repatriation of non-Europeans; economic nationalism; etc. The party failed to make any headway throughout the Margaret Thatcher years in the 1980s and early 1990s, with collective support for the far right averaging at approximately 1% during this period. The party was characterised by an incoherent electoral strategy, contesting elections sporadically and finding support inconsistent at the local level (in 1984, a BNP candidate polled almost 12% of the vote in a council by-election in Sunderland, in the north of England; in contrast, in a by-election in Plymouth in the south in the same year, another candidate received only 15 votes).
It is 4th May 2015, and the nation is abuzz. Newspapers have been debating the public eating skills of party leaders; internet memes of said party leaders consuming such items as bacon sandwiches have caused much merriment; mainstream politicians have been portrayed as boy band wannabies; one lot of nationalists have been accusing another lot of nationalists of racism; politicians have been outdoing each other on the ‘selfie’ front; and parties with names like Beer, Baccy and Scratchings are doing their best to convince the electorate that they have serious political objectives.
All of this can mean only one thing: the British general election is upon us.
Imagine. It is a rainy Tuesday evening. You realize that you wanted to tidy up the attic since a long time. Imagine. You find an old box. You open it, and a huge quantity of paper bobs up. And then you remember: your grandmother always told you that once, in the old times, the newspapers were printed. From your perspective, from a rainy Tuesday evening in the 22nd century, it is pure madness. You are curious, though. You just grab the first on top of the heap.
You open it. A stale smell of dust and ink. Page five. An article about the European Parliament. Yes, you think, you heard of that. Probably from your grandma. You start reading. Continue reading
It is really hard to understand Occupy Wall Street if you never heard of the French Revolution. It is equally unlikely to appreciate Jackson Pollock if you are not familiar with Kandinsky and the other expressionists. You may even occur in the same mistake of the critic Robert Coates, who once mocked a number of Pollock’s works as “mere unorganized explosions of random energy, and therefore meaningless”.
All in all, however, you don’t need to be a historian or an art critic in order to decrypt the reality around you. There is a more general rule you can always apply: the world can be divided in two big categories – people who have a certain sense of humour, and those who take themselves too seriously.
You can understand the relationship between the Islamic State and Pegida, via Nigel Farage, if you bear in mind this distinction.