Wednesday 9 November 2016
It’s President Trump, OMG
As I write this it’s not all over—at least that’s what the Clinton camp is saying. But, all bar the shouting, of course it is. Donald Trump will be the next president of the USA.
I turned off the BBC TV coverage just after six this morning as bemused presenters explained that, as they went on air seven hours previously, this was the last thing they expected. Well they need to get real. For many it doubtless felt like Brexit all over again.
It’s no surprise that Nigel Farage has been appearing on platforms with Trump: both this election and the Brexit campaign share many common features. They have successfully tapped into the deeply held mistrust of the political class—the elite. And the truth is that, on this at least, they had a point.
The seeds for this had been sown in the US by Clinton the first and in the UK by Tony Blair. I’ve never been that gripped by US politics but I know a bit about its UK counterpart and was intimately involved in it at the time of Blair’s rise to power: a process I opposed then as a member of the UK Labour Party and which is still deeply influential in the power base within it.
Blair back then, echoed by Owen Smith’s doomed leadership campaign just a couple of months ago, put winning elections above all else. And there’s nothing wrong with that: of course it’s true that you can’t do anything to help those you represent—at least from a parliamentary perspective—without power.
But the road to power for Blair was based on taking for granted his party’s natural constituency and cutting them out of the action. In the name of globalisation skilled manufacturing jobs went to cheap labour plentiful in India and China. Instead of state investment in services funded by taxes on the rich and businesses we had projects like PFI: a license to print money for that same wealthy elite whilst hospitals and schools appeared miraculously for apparently zero cost. But in reality the cost was incalculable. A ticking time bomb set to go off long after its chief architect had left the scene to pursue his own agenda of self enrichment. That those who still run the Labour Party still think this is OK is painful to see.
The “rust belt” of the industrial midwest was decisive for Trump as were the industrial heartlands such as—particularly painfully for me—the areas of the former South Wales coalfields for the safe delivery of Brexit.
And as with Brexit it’s too easy to pin the blame on some mass outbreak of stupidity. And many on social media are doing just that. But the truth, as ever, is far more complex. Huge swathes of the population have indeed become left behind. Instead of the traditional parties of the left—who have proved they don’t really care people with nothing left to lose turn to the wild promises of Trump and Farage.
They’re not stupid to do that but they are being taken for a ride by millionaires posing as the anti-elite, and summoning up the ghost of 1930s Germany for their simplistic unrealisable solutions. Tabloid headlines branding members of the judiciary “enemies of the people” for upholding the constitutional reality that parliament must ratify the UK’s withdrawal from the EU directly reference the press from that time and place.
So it’s Brexit all over again. That sinking feeling as you see the world take one more step—and I write this with extreme caution—towards fascism. In this climate what are the odds on Marine LePen repeating the act and becoming the president of France in the very near future?