Interview #10 with Paul Taggart – Populism in the UK: a Story of Walls and Islands

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Paul Taggart

Paul Taggart is Professor of Politics and Director of the Sussex European Institute. He has published a number of books including Populism (McGraw-Hill, 2000) and is currently working on populism and the politics of Euroscepticism. In this interview, he explains why mainstream political parties in the UK should not be labelled as populist, and that the crisis of the only truly populist party in the UK, UKIP, should not come as a surprise.

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To break, or not to break? Brexit and the future of the UK’s relationship with Europe #2

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.

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To the left, to the left: Jeremy Corbyn and the British return to left-wing populism

Jeremyn Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn

Social democracy itself was exhausted.  Dead on its feet.  Yet something new and invigorating, popular and authentic has exploded.  To understand this all of us have to share our ideas and our contributions.  Our common project must be to embrace the emergence of a modern left movement and harness it to build a society for the majority” 

Jeremy Corbyn’s speech, September 2015

Laura Mackenzie‘s new article for POP presents the new leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn. Is Britain’s left-wing party following the examples of Spain and Greece? Is populism (re)becoming a relevant part of British politics, from Farage to Corbyn? Let’s try to answer these and other questions with Laura Mackenzie’s article. Continue reading

Poaching populists: is UKIP rising as a phoenix from the ashes of BNP support?

10438765746_e96d4b2bc8_hLaura 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).

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Interview #2 – Laura MacKenzie on Susanna Steptoe, one of UKIP’s newest recruits

Eccentric Party's Leader Lord Toby Jug. From cambridge-news.co.uk

Eccentric Party’s Leader Lord Toby Jug. From cambridge-news.co.uk

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.

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Interview #1 – Samuele Mazzolini about Populism in Europe and the Americas

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Samuele Mazzolini

This is the first of many interviews that POP will propose in the next months. Scholars, journalists, politicians and experts will answer  timing questions about the nature and development of populism. For this first interview, we have Samuele Mazzolini. He is a PhD candidate in Ideology and Discourse Analysis at the University of Essex. His research focuses on the declining hegemony of the Italian Left, read through the lenses of post-Marxist discourse theory. He is also interested in Latin American and European left-wing populism. He previously worked for the Ecuadorian government and is now a regular columnist of the state-owned daily newspaper El Telégrafo. He is also a blogger for the Italian newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano.

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It’s a matter of sense of humour

No-5-1948-by-Jackson-PollockIt 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.

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