2024 general election

Relatability and Envy

At the Sky News Q&A, both Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer were asked to reveal something about themselves that would show the real them. Starmer was also accused of being a robot by a voter. Sunak waffled on about his love of sugary food. Starmer basically went on autopilot.

Did it work? No. Both just looked stupid.

It was an unfortunate question really. The problem is that politicians have become obsessed with being relatable. They’ll shed their political image like a snake in order to win a few votes. It can be talking about TV shows, playing sports or just mentioning something from popular culture. They have to look like they’re one of us.

It also ties in with a politics of envy. A number of politicians who are wealthy or come from good families play down their backgrounds or hide from it. The idea that someone from a privileged background can reach the level that they do without envy or scorn is somehow unrealistic in today’s society.

It’s All About the PR

For decades, politics has been a PR game. Who would you have a drink with? Who seems nicest? Who has the best family values? Who is funniest? Policies are put aside in favour of a good photo op and a one-liner that does the rounds on social media.

We’ve seen that in this election, particularly from Sir Ed Davey. He’s had fun going paddle boarding and riding roller coasters. There is no substancing in his messaging, despite the fact that he could make gains from the two major parties collapsing. Whilst the Lib Dems do have a manifesto and probably actual policies, it’s overshadowed by Davey’s antics.

It’s not new either. Even Margaret Thatcher was not immune to it. Aides had her hold a calf for photographers, the poor thing died not long later. David Cameron hugged huskies in snow. Neil Kinnock walked down the beach with his wife. Tony Blair met with Noel Gallagher. Everyone has a gimmick.

The problem is that it is clearly not authentic. Margaret Thatcher wasn’t an animal cuddler. David Cameron isn’t a fan of huskies. Neil Kinnock probably doesn’t do long walks on the beach. Tony Blair doesn’t listen to Oasis. Voters don’t want to see their politicians being hip and cool. They want to see them tackling the issues that we elect them to do.

We all know that the Prime Minister has a job to do. They oversee wars, economic crises, terrorist attacks and natural disasters among other things. The real test of a PM is their response to said issues. Nobody cares about what their favourite book or TV show is when such issues arise. Interviewers often like to throw in a soft question, just like a backbench Member of Parliament mentions a new animal sanctuary in their constituency. It just doesn’t fit.

It also assumes that every politician is one of us. Who cares if they don’t watch much TV? Who cares if they speak Latin or Greek? Boris Johnson, a man with a great love of the classics, would often recite Ancient Greek, but he also showed an affability and relaxed nature that hid this. Meanwhile, David Cameron struggled to look authentic when he wanted to ‘hug a hoodie.’ One lasted six years in office, the other three.

Rich or Poor?

This brings me nicely to my next point. Our nation, or at least the media, seems to not particularly like politicians being open about their privilege. If a politician came from a wealthy family or went to a private school, they are expected to flex their working class credentials.

Take Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer. Sunak is the son-in-law of a billionaire and wears very expensive items, and is thus wealthy. When asked about this, he points to the fact that his father was a GP and his mother a pharmacist, two respectable middle class professions. Starmer waxes lyrical about the fact that his father was a toolmaker (cue laughter) and his mother a nurse. What he fails to mention is that his father apparently owned the factory and he attended a private school, though through a bursary.

David Cameron suffered from a similar image problem, as did Boris Johnson in some quarters. Meanwhile, Margaret Thatcher was proud of being a grocer’s daughter and John Major left school at sixteen. Clement Attlee came from a comfortable background, attending a private school and Oxford. James Callaghan came from a working class family and did not attend university. Each of them have varied reputations as politicians.

Contrast this with that of America. Whilst Americans love the idea of the American Dream and pulling yourself up by the bootstraps, they also don’t care as much about class, whether upper or lower. Donald Trump has not once hid that he’s from a rich family, and yet he does not see shame from voters over this.

I frankly do not care if a politician came from a northern council estate like Angela Rayner or was the grandson of a duke like Winston Churchill. I don’t care if they went to a comprehensive or Eton, just as I don’t begrudge a parent for wanting to send their child to a grammar or private school. If they can afford private healthcare, then good for them.

If a politician from a comfortable background is asked about this, they should not downplay it. Instead, they should simply say that their parents worked hard and that they want all people to have the same opportunity.

That is not to say that I think the country would be a perfect place if every MP went to Eton and Oxford. I don’t think it would be perfect if every MP went to a normal school and didn’t go to university. We’ve had good politicians from all backgrounds, and we’ve had bad politicians from all backgrounds.

It does not serve us well to be envious of the rich, or assume that all working class people are good ol’ folk. We should not be desperate for a politician to be a big fan of Game of Thrones or like the same sweets as we do. Politicians should not pretend to be something they are not. I’m not voting for a person’s school or their favourite beverage. I’m voting for who I think has the best ideas.

Which, to be frank, seems to be none of them. Hey, at least I know that Rishi Sunak loves Haribo.

Photo Credit.

The Impossible as Motivation

“I’m a pessimist because of intelligence, but an optimist because of will.”

– Antonio Gramsci

Like all disaffected individuals who supported the Conservatives in 2019, I too find solace in the work of a certain Italian Marxist philosopher and his insights. The simplicity of that quote often speaks to a dormant impulse in the human condition, the belief that things really can change; that, when everything is said and done, we will win. We must, as President Trump once said: “…treat the word ‘impossible’ as motivation.”

In the history of Great Britain, this nation has faced many challenges and many dark days. Those dark days still lay ahead, for that can be assured. Those obstacles within our national politics seem numerous: civil servants, fifth columnists, various media establishments and even entire political parties which claim to represent the interests of the country. Out of this election, it is plain as day. Labour will win, through sheer dullness and the fact that Sunak has clearly given up and not even attempted to try during this race for his own premiership. The reason why people do not like Sunak is because, at his core, he represents ultimately why people do not like Conservatives or politicians in general. They are mostly losers who want to be liked and be seen as important by others; they want to be winner but have never fought truly for anything in their lives. It is for this reason, they are not worthy of any votes or seats. It is not because they have fought and failed, it is that they have never even tried or put up a fight.

From this, the only cure that needs to be given is that of Zero Votes and Zero Seats. Vote Reform now, Cummings later. This can be summarised as voting Reform now to give the Conservatives zero seats, thus ending them (at least, as much as possible) as a political force within Great Britain. Out of this, we should unite around a different right-wing party, one that genuinely seeks to change the direction of the country and prepared to ask and answer the questions that matter. Why are we having these problems? Why are people struggling to buy a house? Why is this country declining?

Following on from this, it is clear that Farage is here to stay and can become a massive nuisance for the administrative state, the state that is allergic to change and remains prestige-orientated. As such, Farage is not the man who will do these things; he is a media personality, not someone who is interested in the nitty gritty of continuing (starting with Brexit) a decade-long (if not century-long) process of fixing the foundational issues of this country. Farage is an Einstein in an Oppenheimer world, it would seem.

Farage understands the need for generating a new excitement around a political issue, he understands that nothing is impossible, even that the mere usage of the word should be taken as motivation. Indeed, his lifelong struggle to get Britain to leave the EU is one such endeavour which, even at the best of times, felt like an ultimately impossible task until it wasn’t. This is not dissimilar to Trump, a figure who isn’t sensitive to the nuance of details, but fundamentally understands the broad picture, why things needs to change, and how to go about doing it.

As such, one hopes that if Reform becomes akin to UKIP, they can become a political force that asks the big questions that the majority of the population want asked. Additionally, Reform should be able to shift the Overton window on a series of issues, bringing them to the forefront of politics from outside of the mainstream political parties. These should range from immigration, the economy, the housing crisis, and the need to dismantle the administrative state.

This being said, like UKIP and the Brexit Party before, when Reform has kicked through the door, it should again vanish. By the end of the decade, Reform should be as important as UKIP is in 2024. Reform should not be here to stay in the long term. Now that it seems possible that Reform will replace the Conservatives, just as the Labour replaced the Liberals throughout the 1920s, allowing them to fully turn their guns on Labour, exposing them as being no better. Of course, Labour is not up to the task of governing and will almost certainly do damage to Britain. Given that Starmer is a wet lettuce of a man, unlikely to last long in post, they’ll have plenty of material to work with.

From this, Reform can generate space for something to be built for the 21st Century, something with real long term vision and purpose. Insert “assorted weirdos” reference here. Indeed, it is rather fitting that the two individuals that are attempting to offer real alternatives to the current issues facing this country are the same two which brought Brexit home (twice if you count the 2019 general election). Now we could realistically see this occur again. Farage’s media personality pushing the core issues into the forefront of British political life, while Cummings dominates the nitty gritty of how to get from ‘A’ to ‘B’ and securing the real victories. Additionally, both men want the complete destruction of the gate keeping Conservatives and are radically anti-establishment and Westminster, something the vast majority of the electorate share.

Although Cummings has modelled his work on Singapore’s People’s Action Party (I would encourage all to read ‘From Third World to First: The Singapore Story: 1965-2000’), and its stewardship under Lee Kuan Yew, it is another Southeast Asian leader that he should also look at too. Ho Chi Minh (hear me out), and his leadership of North Vietnam, can be summarised as that of revolutionary self-belief and determination. The clinical and principled nature of Singapore, combined with the zealous optimism of Vietnam, would propel the country back into a forward-thinking, functioning 21st Century nation state. It should be hoped that, when Cumming’s Party is ready and the door has been blown open by Farage’s Reform, it too should move into place. A tech-focused, big tent, anti-establishment party that seeks to radically fix the core issues within the country. Radically reduce immigration, tackle the wealth disparity and tax avoidance, and dismantle the permanent administrative state.

In conclusion, Politics is Never Over. Things have returned to being interesting – we could witness another realignment in our national discourse. This should be motivating for people like Farage and Cummings. We can smell blood right now on both Starmer and Sunak, so we must take this chance to end the declinist duopoly once and for all, and scramble to build something in its place thereafter. As Farage stated in a mere four words: “We’re just getting started.”

Photo Credit.

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