A Disgruntled Class | Sarah Stook
Politicians are probably the most hated career group in the country, even above lawyers and tax collectors. To the masses, they are a group who suddenly become the elite upon election, who thrive in murky backwater deals, secrets and backstabbing. Your local councillor may be ok, you may like your MP, but politicians as a group are basically the spawn of the devil. Some may particularly support a particular MP or two, but those who are seen as part of the elite or those who go against the people’s interests are immediately rejected.
Political division is as old as democracy itself, but it seems as though Brexit has really brought it out of the woodwork. The old two party system has turned into tatters, as minor parties spring up and steal the support of the voters. Those who are traditionally one party voters shave begun to find themselves questioning their allegiances, their mind going towards somewhere different. In previous years, UKIP built a party on old Labour voters, those on the conservative right and those with a nationalist view point. Change UK (formerly the Independent Group) has built upon moderate Labour supporters, centrists and anti-Corbynites. The new Brexit Party are seen as UKIP lite, though they are hoping to get a broader range of support from Eurosceptics of all persuasions.
The credibility of politicians has been low for as long as they have existed, but Brexit has really angered people. Though it’s arguable that the true anger stems from the infamous 2009 parliamentary expenses scandal, it seems that Brexit is the one that has caused many a voter to become fed up with the political process.
If we start with Brexiters, it’s a simple argument. Though Brexiters have a range of views on the deal that we should have gone with, most will have wanted us to leave on or by March 29th 2019. Theresa May’s deal was never credible, due to the sheer lack of support for it regarding one key issue- the Irish backstop and whether we will be forced to remain in it, even if the European Union breaks its own rules. Even if the ERG voted for the deal, there would not be a majority for it. The DUP will vote against pretty much anything regarding the backstop; Labour wants a softer deal whilst the remaining parties tend to go towards a second referendum. Theresa May continues to stand up in Parliament and promise that we will leave, but the ball keeps being kicked further down the field. As prominent MPs such as Chancellor Philip Hammond make comments that show how much he hates Brexit, the anger grows. Scores of people, including MPs such as Mark Francois, have accused the government of betraying the people. On the Labour side, MPs such as Yvette Cooper and Hilary Benn have come under fire, especially the former due to her active legislation in favour of extending the deadline and against a no-deal.
It’s similar for remainers. Those in both major parties who support remain have shown dissatisfaction towards the leadership. In the Conservative Party, those angling for a second referendum have been vocal in the Eurosceptic stance of the grassroots and the power of the ERG in the PCP. The FBPE types who are traditionally Labour do not believe that Jeremy Corbyn has done enough to advocate for remain or a softer Brexit. It’s not entirely unbelievable, due to Corbyn’s traditionally Eurosceptic views from a socialist standpoint. Corbyn may be more popular in his membership, but he does have an increasing number of critics. May formally dominated the ‘who do you want as PM polls?’ but it now flailing.
Is it understandable that everyone is rather hacked off?
Oh yes, very much so.
When it comes to Brexit, Eurosceptics are just incredibly angry that no one seems to agree and that we may be waiting as far as Halloween (ironic, right?). When we think that we have a deal or some leeway, there is another blockage, either from the EU or from the government. These politicians believe that they can advocate for one thing over another, say one thing then another but still gain the trust of their constituents. Among all politicians of all political persuasions, there seems to be an arrogance that no one can quite best. Theresa May has clung to power like a child clings to a beloved stuffed toy, weathering complete anger and political stupidity to stay in as PM and Conservative leader. That is why people turn to the alternatives- Nigel Farage is still part of the political elite, even though many see him as a man of the people. That is not to say that he is not genuine in some ways, but he still corresponds to what people expect of their political figures. Anna Soubry and Chuka Umunna may be seen as brave for jumping ship, but they are still stalwart politicians. Brexiters will vote for the Brexit Party and remainers will vote for Change UK.
There also just seems to be little change.
Even if we take leaving the EU to one side, politicians seem to have done little outside of Brexit, with policy keeping to its effects. People are still losing their jobs, black teenage boys are still being murdered with knives and the mentally ill are still waiting months for care. People will vote on Brexit, but there are other issues that others seem to have forgotten about. When you hear about politicians not admitting expenses, getting embroiled in sex scandals and getting into rows on Twitter, it makes your blood boil. Politicians have gotten past caring about things that don’t allow them to cuddle a baby, get a great sound bite in and show off in a social media worthy photo shoot.
Some care, yes, even if they have a funny way of showing it. When people care desperately, they will not forgive those who ignore their passions. Brexit shows this- whether you are Ready for Rees-Mogg or Crazy for Clegg, it makes sense that Brexit should go through simply because of the 2016 referendum. A second referendum could help make a decision on what kind of Brexit, but the idea of revoking Article 50 sets a bad precedent for democracy. After Brexit is done and dusted, politicians will have to actually have views that don’t relate to the EU. Unfortunately, that seems to have gone.
We don’t have a direct democracy, but a representative one. Your MP is not bound by law to deliver what 51% of his or her constituents think. A Remain MP in a strongly leave seat is allowed to want to revoke A50, though many would consider that unwise. If we are to have Brexit, it really should have been finished last month. We are wasting tax payers’ money by holding European Elections when we will be hopefully leaving a few months later, though we don’t want to be without a voice in those weeks. That money going towards that, at the risk of sounding like a big red bus, could have gone somewhere else.
As Brexiters wait to leave and some Remainers dream of a sudden U-turn, it is up to the politicians to do their job properly. They are not deserving of abuse, but they are deserving of derision. Beyond Brexit, we have seen them fail to improve people’s lives. As they go against the vote and ignore other real issues, then they will continue to face an angry populace. The council elections will likely be an all time low with the traditional parties seeing a heavy loss.
The voting class is disgruntled as the political class are emboldened- that has to change.