But first, let’s hear from the 1980s.
Enjoy? Good. (It’s a great song, by the way, and if you play it on C tuned guitars and slow it down then it sounds like awesomely evil grind core, and that’s a good thing too.)
So whilst everyone’s hot taking on the #EURREF, I have a little, probably unprovable thing that I want to run by both of you. It’s about the 80s, the 80s left, what the 80s left did next, and why that’s come back to haunt us. Here goes.
Back in the 1980s a significant fraction of the 80s left despaired of the fact that despite the obvious correctness of their views, the public kept voting for Thatch. This was very disappointing to them, because they were obviously correct. Unfortunately, they could not do a Brecht and vote in a new populace.
What was then to be done? Some stayed with the parliamentary approach, and kept faith even when the populace, unaccountably, voted in Major. They eventually came to accept that Labour had to change, and by accident of a) death of John Smith and b) the man being in the right place at the right time, came to be the New Labour party of Tony Blair’s movement.
But they weren’t the only important faction. Another faction decided that party politics was for losers and went into the NGO world, to become ‘shapers’ of civil society. They became the pressure groups and lobbies that influenced the party.
The third arm entered various public sector positions – Local government, academia, NHS, civil service etcetera. There, they gradually, probably even unintentionally in some ways, shifted arguments towards the territory followed by the second group.
The second group had significant contacts with both first and third. They drove arguments towards various campaign positions – on single issue by single issue fights. They were very successful in doing so establishing a broad consensus™ on many of those issues.
Along the way, however, those positions slowly began to alienate people who weren’t members of the Society of People Holding Appropriate Views. Sometimes this was because they supported some of the views but not others, sometimes because they disagreed entirely over priorities or over needs or values, and sometimes because they never supported anything like that agenda, and became disillusioned because there was now Cross Party Agreement™ on that sort of thing and therefore they didn’t even get to signal their disapproval at elections.
The outsiders therefore did what they could. They revolted successively at elections. And yet, because there was Cross Party Agreement™ about those sorts of things, they couldn’t shift the government to one more of their liking. When the Great European Question of Referendum was therefore put to them in 2016, they spotted a chance to give the broad consensus™ a bloody nose, and did.
Result, the Cruel Summer of 2016, when Calamity Reigned over the Body Politic and the Dead Came Back to Life and Squirrels Lay down with Pigeons.
Simplistic, yes. Unprovable, yes – though I suspect that there are very strong elements here behind the rise of UKIP and the fracturing of the party system. The whole explanation? I don’t doubt that it’s only a part of it, but at some stage you have to say that it’s likely to be like the Murder on the Orient Express (Spoiler Warning They all did it. ) and this is one of the suspects.