Föhrenbergkreis Finanzwirtschaft

Unkonventionelle Lösungen für eine zukunftsfähige Gesellschaft

British politics has become dangerously bad-tempered

Posted by hkarner - 24. Juli 2017

Date: 23-07-2017
Source: The Economist: Bagehot

And if you don’t agree you can get stuffed

THE end of the current parliamentary session, on July 20th, is a good time to reflect on the mood of British politics. Several things catch the attention: anxiety about the future, exasperation at the childish antics of senior politicians, confusion about Brexit. But the most striking thing is anger. Politicians are angry with each other. The public is angry with politicians. The internet throbs with vitriol. American historians have dubbed the period after the war of 1812 “the era of good feelings”. The current period in British politics could be dubbed the era of bad feelings.

This week the cabinet infighting became so vicious that Theresa May, the prime minister, was forced to tell her ministers to shut up or ship out. Even more disturbing is a surge in violent threats. A year after the murder of Jo Cox, a Labour MP, by a far-right extremist, politicians of all stripes say that they fear for their safety, such is the intensity of the insults they face. The threats extend to journalists. The BBC was reportedly obliged to provide its political editor, Laura Kuenssberg, with personal security.The worst of it is directed at women and minorities. Diane Abbott, Britain’s first black female MP, told Parliament that she had received tweets saying that she should be hanged “if they could find a tree big enough to take the fat bitch’s weight.” During the election campaign, Labour supporters in Bristol unveiled a banner of Mrs May wearing Star of David earrings. Many of the abusers regard criticism of their loathsome behaviour as an invitation to redouble their efforts. When Yvette Cooper, a Labour MP, gave a speech condemning the culture of abuse, she was accused of being a “bully”, a “saboteur” and, worst of all, a “Tory”.

Britain is not unique in all this. Donald Trump has ushered in an era of bad feelings in America that is even more unpleasant. The runner-up for France’s presidency, Marine Le Pen, leads a xenophobic party. Supporters of Turkey’s ruling party use online bots to harass reporters. Britain has experienced other spasms of political rage in recent decades, particularly over Margaret Thatcher’s breaking of the miners’ strike and Tony Blair’s support for the Iraq war. But none of this diminishes the seriousness of Britain’s current problems. Its mood is darkening as that of Europe is lightening. And it is engaged in history-shaping negotiations with the European Union that can be saved from disaster only with the help of clear heads and reasoned debate.

Why has British politics become so unpleasant? The answer to almost everything these days is Brexit, which has split the country and inflamed opinion. But Brexit is a symptom as well as a cause. Britain is suffering from a malign combination of economic disruption and stagnation. Smart machines are eliminating some jobs, reorganising others and spreading anxiety. Average pay has declined by some 7% since the financial crisis of 2008. People might be willing to accept disruption if it were accompanied by improvements in living standards, or perhaps to tolerate stagnant living standards if they were accompanied by stability. But the combination of the two is uniquely dangerous, unleashing a wave of populism that is gaining momentum.

Populists rage against the centrist establishment for failing to keep its promise of crisis-free growth (remember when Gordon Brown claimed to have abolished the boom-and-bust cycle?). And they demonise anybody who stands in their way as traitors to be crushed rather than as erring colleagues to be persuaded. Two cabinet ministers, Andrea Leadsom and Liam Fox, have questioned the patriotism of people who raise doubts about Brexit. The Daily Mail dubbed three High Court judges “enemies of the people” after they ruled against the government in a Brexit-related case. Internet trolls have suggested that Blairites in the Labour Party (some of whom happen to be Jewish) should be subjected to “the final solution”.

Two things are strengthening the poison. The first is the existence of sharp divisions within each of Britain’s main political parties. The Tories’ long civil war over Europe has entered an almost surreal phase. Rival factions brief against each other in the newspapers, talk about releasing scandalous personal tittle-tattle and even threaten to kick each other “in the balls”. Labour is enduring a soft coup. Emboldened by Jeremy Corbyn’s better-than-expected performance in the general election, the hard-left is threatening to deselect moderate MPs such as Luciana Berger, the member for Liverpool Wavertree, who has been subjected to a co-ordinated campaign of anti-Semitic and misogynistic abuse.

The second is the internet. Social media provide platforms for monomaniacs who previously raged in the privacy of their bedsits. People who might hesitate to berate their fellow citizens in person show no such qualms when it comes to sounding off against virtual targets. Bad-tempered tweets, dashed off in seconds, elicit bad-tempered responses, creating a culture of vitriol.

Days of rage
Nastiness can be found at both ends of Britain’s political spectrum. But there is little doubt that the co-ordinated attacks are worse on the left. The Alt-Left is to Britain what the Alt-Right is to America. “As someone on the centre-left, there’s a huge difference between the abuse I get from right and left,” the New Statesman’s Helen Lewis tweets. “The right doesn’t put the hours in.” The left is more likely to use nastiness as a political tool. Mr Corbyn’s faction of Labour seems happy to work with the sort of people who carry banners displaying Mrs May’s severed head. John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, urged people to take part in a “day of rage” against the result of a general election in which his party won 55 fewer seats than the Tories. He has also repeatedly used the word “murder” to describe the Grenfell Tower disaster.

The great achievement of parliamentary democracy is that it takes potentially violent political conflicts and civilises them. That achievement is now threatened—not just by foam-flecked maniacs in bedsits, but by some of the highest in the land.

 

Advertisements

Kommentar verfassen

Bitte logge dich mit einer dieser Methoden ein, um deinen Kommentar zu veröffentlichen:

WordPress.com-Logo

Du kommentierst mit Deinem WordPress.com-Konto. Abmelden / Ändern )

Twitter-Bild

Du kommentierst mit Deinem Twitter-Konto. Abmelden / Ändern )

Facebook-Foto

Du kommentierst mit Deinem Facebook-Konto. Abmelden / Ändern )

Google+ Foto

Du kommentierst mit Deinem Google+-Konto. Abmelden / Ändern )

Verbinde mit %s

 
%d Bloggern gefällt das: