Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

The Resistible Rise of the National Populist Brexit Party.

with 5 comments

Nigel Farage, the Brexit Party and National Populism.

Last week Lewis Goodhall published a widely read piece,  Brexit: The conditions are ripe for the biggest backlash imaginable. The “referendum itself might be considered as mere prologue to the main populist act” the Sky political correspondent observed, “ultimately, the referendum will be best understood as the apotheosis of a eurosceptic battle, not as the populist war itself.” Attending a public meeting of the Brexit Party he observed, “I’ve never been to a Trump rally – but I imagine, from everything I’ve seen and heard – that what I experienced on the Fylde wasn’t a million miles away.”

Today opinion polls put the party that is standing in the European elections on the ‘simple’ programme of leaving the European Union with no withdrawal agreement is outperforming Labour and Conservatives combined.

The Observer reports today,

The Opinium survey for the Observer places the Brexit party on 34%, when people were asked how they intended to vote on 23 May, with Labour slipping to 21% and the Conservatives collapsing to just 11%. Ominously for Theresa May, support for the Tories at the European elections is now less than a third of that for Farage’s party, and below that for the Liberal Democrats, who are on 12%.

The Brexit Party was formally launched on the 12th of April. It is now standing candidates across the country for the 23rd of May contest and intends to run in the next General Election. Apart from the support from former Conservative Minister Anne Widdecombe and Annunziata Rees-Mogg the sister of leading Tory Brexiteer, Jacob Rees Mogg, the party attracted attention for the candidacies of former Revolutionary Communist Party members, Claire Fox, Alka Sehgal Cuthbert, James Heartfield and Stuart Waiton now contributors to the Trump admiring libertarian Spiked. George Galloway, former leader of the ‘socialist’ Respect, endorsed the list. A microscopic group the Communist Party of Great Britain-Marxist Leninist, has joined in, calling for support and the hardest Brexit possible.

Matthew Goodwin, the author with Roger Eatwell of National Populism (2018) considers that the Brexit Party indicates that Farage’s party shows that in Britain  “political de-alignment’ is underway. With some echoes of Trump’s support, the Brexit Party is part of the rise in Europe national populist parties. There are conflicts over “values”, “Brexit is certainly one of them but there are many others such as immigration, terrorism, refugees, climate change, minority rights and the steady advance of social liberalism.” Goodwin concludes that this “is also coinciding with a breakdown of tribal loyalty to the main parties, which is making it easier for new populists and other challengers to break through.” (1)

In 2014 Christophe Gilley (Le Crépuscule de la France d’en haut) developed a similar theme. The tribune of la France “périphérique”, the ‘left behind” zones away from the globalised metropolises, asserted that political disaffection led to the “marronage” (on the model of the runaway slaves called ‘maroons’ who established their own free communities in the Caribbean) of the “popular” classes from traditional political parties. For the author voting for (what was then) the Front National indicated defiance of the “modèle mondialisé” (2)

National Populism.

National Populism is a sketch of these populist parties, largely centred on Europe. From UKIP, the French Front National (now Rassemblement National) – never in government – to President Trump, Orban’s Hungary, Matteo Slavini’s  Lega in Italy, the Freedom parties in the Netherlands and Austria.

To explain their growth the book begins with some reasonable sounding phrases, concern at  “rapid ethnic change” a fear of relative deprivation, under the effects of  “neoliberal globalisation” (whose economics are not explored). It continues with the perceived threat of  “ethnic destruction” as the springboard for the National Populist demand for “national independence and identity”. The book ends with this claim, “We do not think the term “racism” should be applied solely because people seek to retain the broad parameters of the ethnic base of country and its national identity, even though this can involve discriminating against outside groups.” (3)

Goodwin’s earlier study of UKIP (with Robert Ford) described Farage’s old party as appealing to “the ageing, shrinking and left behind white working class” which Labour had ignored in its “modernising” years under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. This continues to another sweeping generalisation, “White working class voters no longer saw Labour as a party sensitive to their concerns but as part of the problem.” (4)

It is too early to map the sociology of the Brexit Party. Or to indicate to what degree ‘ethnic’ issues motivate its supporters. But perhaps Goodhall offers a clue. In an outline of the pro-Brexit forces from an after the Referendums, he states, “It was not so much people versus elites but a clear coalition of wealthy and poor, connected and isolated, northern and southern. Far from an outsider clique, its campaign leaders were senior cabinet minister The Brexit Party’s message is simple and familiar: they took your country from you, now they’ve taken your democracy too. And “they” are the elites, those who hate the culture of the people, the values of the people, the democracy of the people.”

A central feature of the Brexit Party itself has yet to be examined. It is, in the mould of a number of new European populist parties, not just Leader dominated but entirely the property of one Nigel Farage. It is, he says, “a company not a political party“. This is in many senses a trait not just of right wing populists. Farage’s rival French President Emmanuel Macron’s La République en Marche, was created like a business ‘start up’ and has only a gestural internal life. La France insoumise of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, is a “movement” a “un lieu de Rassemblement” that is a rallying point, with no competing internal platforms. Policies are decided on-high and then approved by E-Mail. As quickly as anybody who displeases the owner of the Brexit Party critics of Mélenchon discover that they are out on a limb. (5)

Farage’s outfit is everything but the creation of the ‘left behind’ the peripheral regions, the downtrodden working class. It has nothing in common with the British labour movement, created by workers themselves. It is the spin of ponces working in offices on the model of Trump and his alt-right communication specialists – a milieu Farage, along with finance capital, is intimately linked with. It is, and in this we agree with Goodwin, if nothing else, it is national populist, putting their idea of the nation above everything else, against the “non-people”, the rootless cosmopolitan internationalists. That is, it is against the left, the labour movement, and democratic politics.

Betrayal

The Brexit Party has one main story, that of ‘Betrayal”. Apart from the hard-right media, such as the Express, this is promoted by the former leftists of Spiked,  “This betrayal narrative” states Chris Gilligan “that Spiked share with Farage, George Batten (UKIP’s new leader) and Tommy Robinson (former figurehead of the far-right English Defence League (EDL), and currently an ‘adviser’ to UKIP), is a recurring theme in Spiked commentary on Brexit.” Spiked itself boils it down to demanding democracy against the willful manipulations of pro-EU politicians. (6)

This portrayal of the Brexit issue as a conflict between the “democracy of the people” and the treacherous ‘Oligarchy’ may be hard to shape by advocates of Left-wing populism. Chantal Mouffe has spoken of how all demands for democracy could be taken up by the left, may find hard to reshape in their own image. The Brexit Party has, if nothing else, a “strong libidinal investment” in its national “form of identification”. Jean-Luc Mélenchon declares in an interview with El pais this week, that he continues to consider himself not in terms of left and right but in relation to ” “El pueblo y la oligarquía” , the people (against) the oligarchy Jean-Luc Mélenchon ( “Los tratados de la UE niegan a Francia sus necesidades”). But only under 10% of French voters identify with his rally as part of the People. (7)

The difficulty becomes all the more acute in that a large part of the British left, inside or outside the Labour Party has not stood up for the democracy of the peoples, a project to work with the rest of the European left to transform the European Union. There have been feeble attempts to ignore the need to confront Farage, and describe the British divisions over Brexit as a conflict between “two” rival nationalisms. Rhetoric about ‘elites’ may not have reached the paranoiac delirium of Jaun Banco’s recent Crépuscule and its attack on the “imperium” of the “oligarchie parisienne”. But we have seen in the Full Brexit (which brings together Communist Party of Britain members and Spiked writers, including the Brexit Party candidate James Heartfield), and in the writing of New Left review contributor, Wolfgang Streeck, a willingness to indulge the fantasies of the hard-right about a European Empire.  (8)

Is it any wonder that the Weekly Worker prints this last Friday,

The second important motion debated concerned LAW’s attitude to the European elections – especially in view of George Galloway’s call to support the right wing Brexit Party on May 23. Perhaps surprisingly, this had been met with various degrees of approval from some Lexiteers, including comrades on LAW’s unofficial Facebook group.

Can the Labour Party’s European election campaign “unite” both sides of the Brexit debate? Given the issues discussed here, nothing is less probable. The Brexit Party is more than a virtual ballot box and Net operation: it has tapped into public opinion. Only a sustained effort to uproot them, to face them down with an internationalist pro-European stand, and work to expose their hard right, anti-popular politics, can build the electoral coalition to defeat them. If need be street action against the Brexit Bullies may be called for.

Today,

Nigel Farage has meltdown on Andrew Marr accusing him of ‘worst interview ever’.

Nigel Farage flew into a rage at Andrew Marr during a heated exchange, accusing the BBC presenter of ‘the most ridiculous interview ever’. Farage grew increasingly incensed throughout the interview after Marr repeatedly brought up a series of controversial comments the Brexit Party leader had said in the past. He was asked whether he still supported ‘replacing the NHS with a private insurance based system’ and also whether he still believed global warming was the ‘stupidest thing in human history’. The Brexit Party leader also appeared to forget he had advocated a second referendum on membership of the EU, after telling Marr that conducting one would be ‘the ultimate betrayal’. Marr proceeded to play a clip from January 2018, where Farage said ‘we should have a second referendum’. Growing increasingly frustrated, he told Marr: ‘Do you want to discuss these European elections or not?

*****

  1. Are these the last gasps of our old political order? Matthew Goodwin. Unherd. 5th of May.  See also his: The end of trust in our political class

  2. Page 174. Christophe Gilley Le Crépuscule de la France d‘en haut 2017 (2014)

  3. Page 75 National Populism. The Revolt Against Liberal Democracy. Roger Eatwell and Matthew Goodwin. 2018.

  4. Page 133. Revolt on the Right. Explaining Support for the radical Right in Britain.  Robert Ford and Matthew Goodwin. 2014.
  5. À propos du mouvement «La France insoumise». Mélenchon. “ les processus de « démocratie interne » sont également à l’œuvre. Mais dans le mouvement, on s’efforce de ne jamais en faire un sujet de conflictualité interne. Il n’y a donc pas de « majorité », de « minorités », pas de plateformes concurrentes, pas d’orientation générale opposée les unes aux autres. Autrement dit : le mouvement se soucie d’abord d’être inclusif et collectif davantage que formellement « démocratique », sachant à quelles violences et dérives conduisent les soi-disant pratiques « démocratiques » organisées par les règlements intérieur des partis traditionnels. Le mouvement n’a qu’une référence idéologique commune a tous ses membres : le programme.
  6. Brexit and ‘left’ cover for Farage and UKIP by Chris Gilligan
  7. Page 71. For a Left Populism. Chantal Mouffe. Verso. 2018.
  8. Wolfgang Streeck – The European Union is a liberal empire, and it is about to fall

Advertisements

5 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. The fault lies entirely with the left which abandoned the white working class several decades ago opting for the middle classes, immigrants and the youth vote. This process accelerated under Blair and New Labour and is totally embedded in the DNA of the party.

    Dave Roberts

    May 12, 2019 at 6:00 pm

  2. Typically fascistic nonsense from “Dave Roberts”. You mention “immigrants and Youth” as if they are not an integral part of the modern British working class. To you “working class” are solely White geezers who prop up the bar at the local boozer and drop their H’s when in fact it is multi racial, multi religious, male and female and multi generational. Time to drop your skewed BNP/SpikedOnline analysis of what is the working class “Dave”.

    IainF

    May 13, 2019 at 3:26 am

  3. Exactly Iain, it’s what people like the French writer I cite above ,Christophe Gilley, say all the same, with a salty tear in their eyes, to regretfully justify the vote for Marine Le Pen (whose party indeed has the largest working class vote in France).

    Oh for the old days,

    Last week down our alley came a toff
    Nice old geezer with a nasty cough.
    Sees my missus, takes his topper off
    In a very gentlemanly way!
    “Ma’am” says he, “I ‘ave some news to tell,
    Your rich uncle Tom of Camberwell,
    Popp’d off recent, which it ain’t a sell,
    Leaving you ‘is little donkey shay.”

    Refrain:
    “Wot cher!” all the neighbours cried,
    “Who yer gonna meet, Bill
    Have yer bought the street, Bill?”
    Laugh! I thought I should ‘ave died
    Knock’d ’em in the Old Kent Road!
    Some says nasty things about the moke,
    One cove thinks ‘is leg is really broke.
    That’s his envy cos we’re carriage folk,
    Like the toffs as rides in Rotten Row!
    Straight! it woke the alley up a bit,
    Thought our lodger would ‘ave ‘ad a fit,
    When my missus who’s a real wit
    Says “I ‘ates a Bus because it’s low!”

    Refrain

    When we starts the blessed donkey stops
    He won’t move, so out I quickly ‘ops
    Pals start whackin’ ‘m, when down ‘e drops
    Someone says ‘e wasn’t made to go.
    Lor, it might have been a four-in-‘and,
    My old Dutch knows ‘ow to do the grand
    First she bows, and then she waves ‘er ‘and,
    Callin’ out “We’re goin’ for a blow!”

    Refrain

    Ev’ry evenin’ at the stroke of five
    Me and the missus takes a little drive.
    You’d say, “Wonderful they’re still alive”
    If you saw that little donkey go.
    I soon showed ‘im that ‘ed ‘ave to do
    Just whatever ‘e was wanted to,
    Still I sha’nt forget that rowdy crew,
    ‘Ollerin’ “Woa! steady! Neddy woa!”

    Wot Cher! Knocked ’em in the Old Kent Road

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wot_Cher!_Knocked_%27em_in_the_Old_Kent_Road

    Andrew Coates

    May 13, 2019 at 12:17 pm

  4. This is interesting,

    “There are plenty of other Brexit party candidates with a range of unsavoury views in the mix: from Claire Fox’s refusal to disavow the Revolutionary Communist party’s support for IRA bombing campaigns that killed innocent children (she was a senior activist at the time), to Ann Widdecombe’s shameful invoking of the sacrifice of those who died fighting in the Second World War to set in context the costs of a no-deal Brexit.”

    The Observer view on the European elections and Nigel Farage’s malign message
    Observer editorial.
    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/may/12/the-observer-view-on-european-elections-nigel-farage

    This is where that information on Claire Fox came from:

    Andrew Coates

    May 13, 2019 at 12:33 pm

  5. I am impressed with the volume and diversity of output Europeans suddenly display to conceal the standoff between religious national socialism and lay international socialism–while avoiding the word libertarian at all hazards. Nazi this, communist the other, left this, extreme right that… Austria would still be in the Reich if today’s antidemocrats had the power to meddle in the Auxit of 1945.

    oiltranslator

    May 13, 2019 at 5:05 pm


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: