As regular readers of this blog will by now doubtless be aware of, while we at Mediolana devote a fair amount of space to covering political developments across the globe, we tend to confine ourselves to observations on the bigger picture: the global financial crisis; the Arab Spring; the rise of China, the BRICS/BRICIS and the emerging markets – in short, the macro trends which matter. We do not usually take too much notice of ‘routine’ elections in relatively stable European democracies unless there is something about them which is truly worthy of comment – and this year’s parliamentary contest in the United Kingdom is exactly that, and not for the reasons that you might imagine.
Forests have been felled in noting the sharp demarcation between the two main parties – Conservative and Labour – and their respective leaders, Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn; moreover, this observation is indubitably accurate. Voters are being offered a choice between a low(ish) tax pseudo police state with seemingly sub-sexual sadist tendencies and a high(er) tax ‘retro’ social democracy with shades of the Second Coming – and given the general public’s recent proclivity for engendering erratic electoral outcomes, all bets are off as to what they might end up choosing.
But after some contemplation, we think that there are three deeper reasons why this particular election is worth analysing:
- Austerity question marks. The electoral discourse has revealed a profound disillusionment with the austerity status quo – and frankly, this is understandable. The 2007- global financial crisis was an historic opportunity to transition advanced economies to a more sustainable financial and ecological architecture by increasing the price of money and reallocating the many trillions of dollars spent on counterproductive wars to social spending and sovereign wealth funds. Instead, indiscriminate, cruel and in fact literally fatal squeezes on essential public services have been imposed with no sign at all of any concomitant debt reduction; this is now in the process of being rejected in the UK.
- Establishment disenchantment. The sheer cynicism and lack of deference – at least on the part of the broader public – towards such institutions as the ruling party, the prime minister and even so-called ‘deep state’ entities has been extremely apparent; interestingly, the two bizarre and tragic terrorist episodes that have happened during the election campaign seem only to have intensified this distancing when precisely the opposite effect would have been observed in decades past. And one of the few things that could remedy this – a decisive economic upturn which is felt by the majority of the citizenry – does not appear to be on the cards anytime soon.
- Professional angst. The eerily unequal and arguably inequitable British economy seems to have stung public sector workers into a level of political awareness and organisation not seen thus far in the twenty-first century: teachers, nurses, doctors and university lecturers have suddenly (re)discovered a sense of class consciousness, with a stunning 54% of the final group expressing a preference for the Labour Party in a recent Times Educational Supplement poll. Again, if they do not see a significant improvement in their slice of the fiscal pie, this kind of discontent has the power to shift the electoral – and ultimately the societal – landscape far beyond what might or might not happen later today.