The Brexit disruptors: beyond left and right | FT


You disrupted the
leadership campaign. You’re disrupting
the mayoral campaign. You should be the
next prime minister. You’re very sweet. They’ve left the centre. The parties have been captured. They’re not coming back. How can two parties
possibly do justice to what modern Britain is? That sort of sense of
people wanting a disruption is palpable, I think. I’ve seen outsiders
go up in flames because they haven’t
had a clue how the political system and
politics actually work. As an entrepreneur,
when I started out I got nothing but nice
things happen to me. Politics is
completely different. I can’t say anything
nice about it. It is literally a viper’s nest. Political disruptors
are tempting voters away from the UK’s
two big main parties. Competition is fierce with
would-be radical options on the nationalist right and
even on the centre ground. Britain’s politics
is being shaken up. And the result of
December’s general election has never been so uncertain. The 2016 Brexit vote exploded
the usual left-right alignment. There are now at least four
parties battling it out. One of the insurgents,
the Brexit party, is led by Nigel Farage, whose
lifelong dream for the UK to quit the EU may be
about to come true. There will be no Brexit
without the Brexit party. Of that, I’m certain. Brexit’s thrown it all up
in the air because that went beyond left and right. And the political
parties haven’t known how to react to a
major political decision that didn’t fall under party lines. The other challengers
want to stop Brexit. But they also hope to
capitalise on the upheaval. Some form of tumult was probably
inevitable in British politics because whenever you go
through big societal change, you see tumult. Professor Jane Green, of
the British Election Study, maps and measures the UK’s
changing voting patterns. We went to Oxford asked how
Britain went from this to this? From the 1960s through to
today we see more people switching their vote between
general elections over time. So a much more fluid
volatile picture. So does this volatility
mean that it’s kind of fertile territory? That there are
opportunities there for the political disruptors? You’ve got a very
available electorate. You’ve got opportunities
for the political parties. What you’ve also got is
loads of uncertainty. You can see there’s a
disruption going on, and we don’t know where
it’s going to land. Claire Fox, a Libertarian from
the left was elected as an MEP for the Brexit party earlier
this year as voters deserted both Labour and the Tories. Of course, change is always
unpredictable, isn’t it? Makes it scary. So is democracy. But to argue against
disruption on the basis of ‘things worked’ completely
misunderstands that for many people, they didn’t. So we’ve talked a bit about
things being more up for grabs. Yeah. I’m going to try and
ask you to explain where the voters might be. So you think about one dimension
of politics from left to right. And within that
kind of left-right, bread and butter economic kind
of way of seeing the world, lots of people have
left of centre views. Lots people have
right of centre views, but the majority of people
would be in the middle. And therefore, it makes politics
very much about that kind of centre ground, about
competing for the majority of voters. Britain has always been about
understatement, compromise, pragmatism. And I think that’s
where the energy is. I think it resonates deeply. Rory Stewart is
leaving parliament. He’s left the
Conservative party. He wants to reinvent
moderate politics by standing as an independent
candidate for London mayor. I think actually
the UK’s traditions are much more consensual,
much more designed for centre-ground politics than
almost anywhere in the world. That dimension is still very
important to voter choice now. But of course, we’ve all started
seeing the world predominately through the lens of Brexit. And Brexit isn’t about bread
and butter left-right issues on the whole, it’s about
this different dimension that cross cuts the
left-right dimension. It’s divided the party, and
it’s divided the voters. A lot of people who thought
of themselves at centre ground in the old politics, in the new
politics are far from centre ground. Chuka Umunna walked out of
Labour earlier this year, attempted to start a new
anti-Brexit centre party, Change UK, but is now trying
to redefine opposition politics from within the pro-European
Liberal Democrats. Those guys are no
longer centre ground. They are firmly on the liberal,
internationalist, open, anti-authoritarian side
of the new dichotomy. So when people say to me I want
a return to good centre ground policies, I’m kind of like, but
you’re no longer centre ground. You are actually
firmly in one camp. Political scientists
like you are used to thinking about
voters in this rather more complicated way. In the past, we think
about it in terms of people that had more socially
conservative views and more socially liberal views. But also we’re now
thinking much more about people that have
anti-immigration views and also pro-immigration views
and also anti-European or Brexit-supporting, Leave-voting
views or more pro-European, Remain-supporting views. And so we have the
impression that politics has become much more polarised. Both the Brexit party
and the radical Remainers are betting that politics
is now about values. There’s different fault
lines, aren’t there? So what’s happened is rather
than saying the big decision in British politics today
is whether we nationalise the railways it’s
actually our attitude to popular sovereignty. So you asked me the
question, where is the space? Yeah, where’s the opportunity? So on the one hand, we talked
about kind of important. So if this issue
becomes less important, then we might worry
about left-right again. But what if this
issue, dimension, doesn’t become less important? But at the current
time, it feels and looks in terms
of the evidence that people are pretty divided. If you look at some
of the people who’ve been running our country,
some of the decisions we’ve made in the last
decade or so, you go, how is such a brilliant
country in this mess? Simon Franks, once a
committed Labour party backer, is dismayed by
this polarisation. He’s been spending time
and money trying to use his start-up skills to shake
up centre ground politics. The mission was to
scope out initially, is it possible to create a
new political party that could win in one electoral cycle? Can you, in politics, do
something that kind of maps entrepreneurialism
onto party politics? Yes, you can but,
not in the centre. If you’re on the wings
of British politics, or in fact, any politics,
and you have a cause, you can mobilise people
incredibly quickly to bring about a
change because people are so desperate for
that change or believe so strongly in that cause. In the centre it’s much harder
to do because, by definition, you should be more
balanced, more reasonable. You understand that
no one issue is going to make our country
completely better or completely worse. Josef Lentsch believes in
the power of the middle. This Austrian academic helped
start a successful new party and has written a book
on how to make it work. It’s bloody hard. It’s bloody hard
for politicians. These days, the political
itch to be scratched is that many people feel
not represented anymore. And too many of them
then decide to vote for populists and nationalists. But I think many of
them would actually like to have a choice
to vote for something different and constructive. The primary reason why Change
UK didn’t succeed in the way that we would have liked
it to is, as you said, I’m not sure people were looking
for disruption in as much as they were looking
for their politics to be properly represented. But they weren’t necessarily
precious about the vehicle through which you do that. And to try and
create something new in a non-presidential system
is nigh on impossible. In a sense you, can’t just
compete on one dimension. People want to know
where you stand. So if you’re competing
on this dimension, but you’re divided
on this dimension because you’ve got
parties from the left, parties from the right,
then essentially, OK fine. So you’ve got this
bit sorted out. But are you over
here on the left? Or are you here on
the right in terms of where your voters
are likely to be? I think the most important
thing is if you want to build a centrist alternative, that
you’re actually early on are starting to talk to the voters
and start to interlink what I call, ‘islands of discontent.’ Most political
start-ups will fail. I think that’s not a problem. I think actually many, many
need to try for some of them to succeed. Once you’ve broken the
habits of a lifetime – at the European election,
obviously everything got thrown in the air – then
you’re not quite that, we always vote
Labour in our family. We always vote
Tory in our family. Anything can happen. It’s like when MPs rebel
against a whip, right? Once they get the taste for
it, it becomes possible again. Even those people who are
saying: let’s get Brexit done, their argument is,
let’s get Brexit done so we can go back to normal. And I think they underestimate
the appetite for a much more fundamental shift. Nothing’s ever going
to go back, ever. The problem is that the
government of the centre has always seemed terribly sort
of bureaucratic and inert. It doesn’t really
seem to listen. It doesn’t seem to
engage, which gives people the idea that maybe
there’s a silver bullet, maybe there’s some
fantastic thing. And it’s some character. An ideology. Yeah, an ideology. Or a person. Or a person. Like a hand grenade you
can chuck at the system, and the whole thing’s
going to blow up. And suddenly, it’s all
going to be much better. So there’s no messiah coming. No, there can’t be a messiah. I mean, I think I’m also… Not you. No, definitely not me. We’ve had conspicuous
examples of success on both the left and the right. I’m thinking of Nigel
Farage on one side, probably Labour’s
Momentum on the other. But there’s this whole space
in the centre with lots of plotting, lots of activity. But it’s really hard to
make something happen. It’s a much easier message. So Nigel Farage, who I think
is a brilliant communicator and I don’t have this
disregard for him as so many people seem to have. I think he speaks
for a large community of our country about issues
that no one else will talk to. I think the same on the left. Jeremy Corbyn gets on
the stage and says, capitalists are bad people. The reason why your life
isn’t as good as you’d like it is because of that
bunch over there. And some people, they go,
the messiah’s arrived. No one’s got a
monopoly on grievance. In the wake of the crash,
in the wake of austerity, in the wake of
globalisation, taking away the securities that
people took for granted, the question is, what
you do about that? We’ve completely failed to
produce a product that’s really exciting. I mean, none of these
third-party centre party leaders have actually worked out
how to produce something that really makes the public think,
woo, well, OK, all right, actually, I’m not going to vote
the way that my parents voted. This election is not the end. And I think the most
important thing to note is this election’s been called
in very peculiar circumstances. But I personally think that
the genie’s out the bottle. And that what we are likely
to see in the next five years is a very disruptive
political scene. In the first winter
election for decades, established parties are being
buffeted from all sides. There are wide open spaces
in the political landscape and enormous potential
for storms to come. Jane, if you had
to put money on it, would you bet on political
insurgents, either a smaller party or a new party
trying to replace or split one of the two main parties? If the two mainstream parties
adapt their positions, working out kind
of where can they attract the majority of voters,
then it’s very difficult, it’s still very difficult for
minor parties to break through. In normal times, I
would say that it’s impossible to actually get a
new party in the UK parliament. But we are not in normal times. We’re past normal times. And I think, therefore,
don’t give up hope. That there might be
something on the way. We can probably do better
if we think about it, redesign our political system,
reinvigorate our parties, maybe create some
new ones, maybe look at our voting system, look
the way we select MPs, look at the way treat MPs Anyone who believes that
everything goes back to normal is kidding themselves.

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

  1. Very refreshing to hear the future politics is likely less like the past. Minority Govs are common in many places. I hope hard wing left and right are cut down to their small roles inhuman thinking, I think current Labour and Tory are out of touch.

  2. It's so WONDERFUL to see how British politics is as messed up as the American one !!🐚

    Or is it not ??? 😨😨😨

  3. Not voting conservative or lib dems for their austerity disaster and bringing the irresponsible brexit campaign out. Lib dems are responsible for propping up Conservatives into the norm.

    Lib dems are more interested in power than stopping brexit with their divisiveness. They didn't even support no confidence because they didn't want Corbyn to become more popular by being in a pm position and succeeding.

  4. No real shake up is ever going to come from the right or the centre, just re-branding and gimmicks – there's only one real change Jeremy Corbyn!

  5. jesus christ. these numbnuts are really equating nationalist populism with civic/economic populism.
    if u really think immigration is the problem, then ur dumbass has been brainwashed by millionaires and billionaires to blame people who have even less power than u.
    punch up. fight the real power. vote labour

  6. Over analysing and incredibly out of touch. These people are in their own bubble. They care more about thier personal agenda that the people's agenda thats whybChangr UK failed. As s Londoner, I suggest these people get out of London and explore the country as a whole.

    Lim dems will eventually implode with thier power by any means, take on any random Joe as long as they support Remain approach. As soon as the election is over they will loose the core of their support.

  7. very funny lib dem centre lol… try far left.
    shut the greens down….. bring jobs back.
    need a few years as no immigration.

  8. You can be as electorally volatile as you like; the fact is that you’re stifled by the stupid, unfair first past the post system in which one a handful of people can make a difference anyway

  9. I'd like to see the full unedited conversations with each of those contributors. Clipping them together like that is fun but less insightful, IMHO. Thanks for the upload!

  10. The Labour party took away the security of 5 million people by letting bosses use Polish migrants to cut wages. Now the Tories want a point based system even though the Lords report on Migration in 2008, said it will cut the wages of 9 million skilled people. They also said they don't bring any benefits, but the government shelved the report as they don't want to burst the bubble, as business and the NHS still think large migrant numbers is best. The evidence shows thats not the case and is the majority opinion in the country.
    The reason Change UK never succeeded was because Chuka, Anna Soubry, Heidi Allen, Joan Ryan, and Berger was in it. Who could ever vote for any of them.

  11. The ballot box is not gonna work anymore, WAR is what you need, destroy the traitors and take back your country by force, it's the only way!!!

  12. Voters are not driven anymore by what they'd want, but by what they'd fear. They are voting against what they'd fear most.
    It's a cynical drive, without hope, without positivity and it works disorienting. Because every party available represents a certain perceived threat to be pursued.
    As with depressed people, it paralyses voters into not being able to choose or into avoiding to think about making hard choices.
    The voters who are still able to rationalise somewhat, prioritise the different threats.
    Political parties have no way to make themselves attractive in such a fearfilled environment. All they can do is make themselves look to be the least threatening party, by clearly taking position against which threats specifically they stand. Or lie like there's no tomorrow, promise utter deliverance from anything bad, offer a messiah to lead the blinded pack into salvation and assign an easily recognisable scapegoat to exclude and sacrifice by holy war.
    In this environment, media such as the FT could help significantly by presenting political parties where they effectively stand versus the threats (e.g. overspending, brexit, climate change, reversal of individual rights, instability) instead of by what they promise to achieve.

  13. Well, when you go against the democratic vote you portray as a dictatorship. Two parties that have each lead the UK to a Brexit vote over decades and then utterly refused to do as instructed? Of course the people are looking elsewhere and there will be plenty looking to stick their nose in the trough and take full advantage of the shift. The worrying thing, of course, is that while they claim to be "new" and "enlightened" parties its just the same people, funded by the same backers, re-branded. You can put new makeup on but a pig is still a pig.

  14. I have a lot of time for Rory Stewart. When he speaks, I listen. He’s so eloquent and puts his points across in the most intelligent but easy to understand way.

  15. typical that the FT fails to see that the big schism came before Brexit with the GFC. That destroyed people's faith in the "centre ground", ie the system. That has led to moves left and right. Chuka Umuna is desperately trying to deny he advocates the status quo, hence naming his erstwhile party, Change UK. It believed in austerity: no change; EU;: no change; military and defence: no change. He is fake

  16. I don't quite see how that academic woman can dare to describe the Brexit Party & Tories as "authoritarian", when you have the Labour Party run by confirmed, property-grabbing Marxists, and the Illiberal Undemocrats wishing to can a democratic vote!

  17. MAGNITUDE 6:66 – near satanic swamp 🇺🇸 2020-11-02. 17:17:45 (UTC) crater swallows satan worshipers 666 miles depth~ USGS.

    Trump successfully drains swamp 🏆

  18. The rotten to the core 2 Party system along with 80 % of the UK Media and the the house of snakes its all over for their Orwellian, Deep State, Illuminate agenda and their reprehensible philosophy, its like watching a snakes that have swallowed their own poison/venom, they writhe and twist before the inevitable..Vote BREXIT Party at the next GE…. DRAIN THE SWAMP. sorry for any inconvenience this may cause the FT.

  19. I really don't understand the middle argument sometimes. Sometimes compromise isn't the logical answer, compromise makes sense when it's a matter of opinion and taste not always.

  20. Stunning Work, its so cool!, check my guitar(solo)+vocals cover of 'i feel fine',channel link www.youtube.com/channel/UCv_x5rlxirO-WKjLIyk6okQ?sub_confirmation=1, if you like to 🙂

  21. Globalist lefty idiots who betray democracy supported by a elites living in a bubble. They are a bunch of woke, offended at everything, authoritarian scum. Who have ZERO self awareness and therefore cannot understand 75% of voters.

  22. I enjoy these videos but it really is like watching the news about a foreign country from here in Edinburgh. Both LibDems & Labour are polling about the same as "Other" in Scotland.

    You make no mention at all of the 3rd largest party in the UK (by MPs and membership) – the SNP – who may well hold the balance of power by Christmas. Which also happens to be very centrist if you can get past the drive for independence and look at their policies. In fact the majority of the Scottish indy movement is people wanting to live in a liberal, middle of the road European democracy and seeing the only way to get there is by leaving rUK behind.

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