Apologies if you thought this was going to be about the Steven Wilson live album of the same name. I don’t usually have much to say about the UK, a country I left seven years ago, but the June 2017 General Election in which we’ve seen the schisms in society widen, is by far the most interesting political moment for a long time, enough to keep me glued to the radio all night.
In a modern Western country close to my heart, which has supposedly become a beacon of “progressive” politics, human rights, and tolerance, a large section of the general public voted for a Labour Party led by, Jeremy Corbyn, the most successful Marxist most of us have ever seen in the UK. Somewhat-related to his extremist views, he’s a good and unabashed1 friend and supporter of some of the most murderous, totalitarian, terrorist regimes on the planet.
I could have picked many examples, but one that sticks out in my mind is his love affair with Chavez2? Seriously? Venezuela must be one of the saddest stories on the planet in recent times.
But at least he came across as believing in something. At the end of the day, people like a strong leader. Simple slogans influence us, we don’t have the time, energy, or desire to process the genuine complexity of most political and social issues, and we are not as rational as we like to think we are.
Take Tony Blair as an example. He derived great success from taking the most extreme parts out of Labour, picking up the so-called “centre” ground, and building one of the most dominant UK Governments in history. But he was up against a succession of Conservative nobodies: John Major, William Hague, and Michael Howard, a group of old-fashioned suits with little obvious connection to the average punter, and even less charisma.
This time around, the Conservatives3 lost their bottle and attempted to abandon many conservative4 values5 in order to sweep up the “centre”. However, this insincerity turned off many of their natural voters, and those who were floating but were looking for real leadership, not to mention the large percentage of people who’d “vote for those poncy rich Tories over my dead body” anyway. They came up against a person with a personality and a party with a manifesto, neither of whom had anything to lose6.
If Theresa May had a sincere, ambitious manifesto, she’d have taken it by a mile. If Corbyn hadn’t been an extremist, openly hostile to the values that made and make Britain a player on the world stage, he’d have taken it by a mile.
Ultimately, the strong survive, prosper, and rise to the top. Perhaps there are biological / evolutionary hunter-gatherer reasons for prioritizing strength over substance, but either way, history is unarguably full of strong leaders with questionable-at-best principles.
Even in an electoral district democracy7, people get the leader and the government that they deserve. Ironically if nobody has strong-enough charisma and policy to convince the public to put ego aside and pull together, the result is likely to leave most people unsatisfied.
(Header image: Jeremy Corbyn and a doctored slogan.)
Either his recent “I never really liked them” or “I was taken out of context” protestations were enough to sway many voters, or the voters are fine with that anyway. Neither option is great. ↩
I think about Venezuela because our office cleaner is from there. When he told me what had happened there, being a typical bubble Westerner, not genuinely knowing much about world affairs, I thought he must have been exaggerating. I did my own research and the results were conclusive and shocking. ↩
Big c. ↩
Small c. ↩
I’m talking about modern, libertarian values such as individual and market freedom, and an end to political correctness and reverse racism and sexism, not Enoch Powell “kick ‘em out” slogans. ↩
Always a dangerous situation, desperate times call for desperate measures. ↩
One of the least democratic ways to approach democracy. ↩