That Malaise has Brought about the Failure to Seize the Opportunities of Brexit
Nye Bevan once aptly stated regarding the UK’s prospect of entry into the European Union (then known as the EEC) that: “The conception of the Common Market is the result of a political malaise following the failure of Socialists to use the sovereign power of their parliaments to plan their economic life”.
Regrettably, the UK disregarded Bevan’s advice and, under the Tories in 1973, joined that very union. However, it was this decision that laid the foundation for the prevailing malaise, which has permeated all mainstream political parties ever since.
Bevan’s words, spoken decades ago, still ring true today. His critique of the Common Market as a political malaise reflects the failure of not only socialists but all mainstream parties to exercise their sovereign power in shaping their own economic destiny. By relinquishing control to a supranational entity, the European Union the UK unintentionally contributed to the erosion of its own political landscape.
The consequences of this decision have far-reaching implications. Traditional values that once defined the Conservative Party, such as fiscal prudence and limited government intervention, have been overshadowed by an embrace of market fundamentalism and deregulation. Similarly, the Labour Party, once a staunch defender of working-class rights, has drifted away from its roots, adopting a centrist stance that aligns with the prevailing neoliberal consensus.
This convergence of ideologies has resulted in a narrowing of choices for voters. Political parties, once distinctive in their policy platforms, now offer little more than superficial differences. As the saying goes, “There’s not a fag paper between them all,” emphasising the minimal variation in their positions.
The root cause of this malaise lies within the political class itself. The pursuit of power and personal gain has eclipsed the responsibility to govern with integrity and a genuine desire for change. Ambitions for position and rank have supplanted the commitment to serving the needs of the people.
It is crucial to recognise that Brexit itself has not failed; rather, it is the political class that has failed to seize the opportunity presented by a sovereign country with the economic means to chart a new course.
The hyper-globalised, self-regulating market economy has led to the commodification of land, labour, and money, disrupting traditional ways of life and fueling social and environmental crises. In this system, politicians work to serve the interests of the market, while the people they should represent are relegated to being managed.
If Brexit failed so did the EU
The claims of Brexit’s failure by its detractors are nothing more than nostalgic yearnings for an imagined past. They conveniently overlook the impact of Thatcherism an ideology allowed to flourish within the EU. The economic downturns and the austerity measures imposed on all EU states with its Stability and Growth Pact (SGP) forced limited public spending to a mere 3% of 60% of GDP.
These rose-tinted glasses also obscure the continued push for NHS privatisation and the presence of UN Special Rapporteurs on extreme poverty in the UK, who expose the European Union’s neoliberal policies causing poverty throughout Europe, all these things and many many more while still a member of the EU.
Furthermore, it is fanciful to believe that the Tories would act any differently outside the EU than they did within it. In reality, Westminster is wholly shaped around the interests of a ruling class and the oligarchy the very reason the Tories took us into the EU allowing them a free market playground selling off the UK’s assets while using cheap labour to reduce the wage bill.
Beyond Brexit: Unmasking the Failure of the Political Class
Hyperglobalization, as advocated by figures like Tony Blair, promised the dissolution of national boundaries and the liberation of free trade and finance, touting it as beneficial for all. However, the reality has been a disproportional burden on workers and non-graduates, evident in today’s income disparities and economic hardships.
Additionally, this era of governance has depoliticised politics, leaving little room for meaningful debate or choice, as power is consolidated in unelected and unaccountable institutions, agencies, and so-called experts. The European Union exemplifies this democratic deficit persisting within its structure.
This supranational experiment came at significant costs, extending beyond mere economic factors. The overwhelming evidence now confirms the substantial distributional costs inflicted on workers, non-graduates, and industrial communities. Scholars like Philip McCann have highlighted the alarming inter-regional inequalities in England, underscoring how regions are as divided and unequal as entirely separate countries.
Blair and many other influential advocates of globalization have grossly underestimated the distributional costs and the profound human impact it would have.
For the working class, our entry into the European Union did not deliver the promised sunny uplands or unfettered freedom to prosper. Instead, we have witnessed the decline of our deindustrialised towns, desolate pit villages, and barren dockyards reduced to mere shells of their former selves.
Today, Britain no longer produces much of anything, and genuine jobs have been replaced with hollow, meaningless positions. Adult men find themselves cobbling three or four jobs to make ends meet. Wages for delivery drivers and sandwich packers have been suppressed by an influx of cheap labour from Eastern bloc countries.
The gaping chasm between the affluent and the impoverished has widened further, impervious to any attempts at bridging. This remains the stark reality for the majority outside the metropolis—a dismal fate for those left stranded on the road to Wigan Pier.
It is no coincidence that unions now find themselves in stronger bargaining positions, while Tory MPs advocate for increased migration to alleviate pressure on employers, thereby avoiding the need to offer better wages and working conditions to attract workers.
Reshaping the Future: Breaking Free from the Political Malaise Post-Brexit
The benefits of Brexit for the vast majority have yet to be realised. The much-touted “levelling up” has failed to materialise, and the industrial strategy has become mired in Tory infighting. People are once again left abandoned, with nothing but a bitter taste of broken promises. The political class remains content to be beholden to the market, smoothing the way for globalization while disregarding the interests of the people.
To restore faith in the political system and break free from this malaise, a reinvigoration of genuine ideological diversity is necessary. Political parties must return to their core principles, championing the interests of their constituents and offering distinct policy alternatives. By embracing a politics of responsibility, accountability, and transformative change, the path towards a more vibrant and responsive democracy can be forged.
This starts with radical change and true vision. Something neither Starmer nor Sunak possesses. Both leaders are aiming for power at all costs yet they offer nothing but the continuation of the status quote and at this point, they don’t even offer anything different from each other.
The UK needs to invest in a radical building program from infrastructure to social housing and if the government of whatever colour are sincere in building a better Britain it should start in the abandoned north and forgotten Wales. It should invest in Northern Ireland and work with a devolved Scotland.
There is a real manifesto of hope to be had but not while the malaise that has set root in Westminster continues to spread not while our representatives work for the markets and not the people. Brexit has not failed, our politicians have…
The Perilous Chasm: The Elites’ Horizontal Power Structure and the Struggle for Democratic Representation
In the aftermath of Brexit, the winds of change have blown through our globalized world, revealing a dramatic shift in the power dynamics between elites and politicians. No longer do they rely on vertical connections with the masses; instead, they establish their legitimacy through horizontal alliances with like-minded individuals across global cities and countries. This paradigm of horizontal power has cast a long shadow on democratic participation and representation, leaving ordinary citizens, especially those from the working class and marginalised groups, grappling with a prevailing sense of powerlessness.
Brexit may have changed little, but the disconnection between ruling elites and the concerns of ordinary citizens has only deepened. This disheartening reality resonates particularly strongly among the working-class majority, often residing far from the corridors of power in major cities and university towns.
It is a resounding sentiment: ‘people like me’ have been sidelined, left with little influence over the decisions that shape our lives. Such a stark reality demands an unflinching examination of the power dynamics that pervade our society.
But this sense of powerlessness extends far beyond the realm of politics; it seeps into the very fabric of cultural power structures. Institutions that shape the narrative, dictate cultural norms, and influence our collective consciousness—be it the creative industries, cultural institutions, museums, galleries, publishing houses, or schools—are complicit in perpetuating the marginalisation of the working class and marginalised groups. Their voices are dismissed or stigmatised as morally and educationally inferior, further fueling frustration and exacerbating the powerlessness that haunts them.
And let us not forget the media landscape, a formidable force in shaping public opinion. From marketing to advertisements, even within segments of mainstream media like the BBC, the marginalisation of working-class individuals persists. Derogatory labels and stereotypes, from ‘chavs’ to ‘far-right idiots’ or ‘maniacs,’ continue to be hurled at them, effectively muting their voices. Yet, history shows that even socialist stalwarts from Bevan to Benn have issued warnings against the EU, a plea that goes unheard. The plight of the abandoned industrial heartlands is cast aside and forgotten.
Amidst this climate of disenfranchisement, it becomes evident that the people are yearning for a new kind of representation—one that transcends the traditional power structures that have confined them for far too long. The call for a third party, an authentic champion of the people, by the people, reverberates with increasing intensity. It is a call to dismantle the entrenched power dynamics that perpetuate this suffocating powerlessness and forge a future where the voices of all are heard and heeded.
In the quest for representation, let us remember the timeless ideal: a government by the people, for the people, must be restored.
The first job is to cure the malaise of Westminster and crash the system…