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.
As a company with its headquarters in what is currently Western Europe’s most besieged metropolis, Mediolana is well-placed to proffer comment on the continuing rioting that has spread across London since 6th August 2011. While acres of news coverage have been dedicated to such developments as the ransacking of Wood Green and the deployment of thousands of extra police officers on the streets of the capital of the United Kingdom, there has been little convincing analysis of what has engendered the city-wide public disorder. Commentators and politicians – mainly on the left – have pointed to stringent government cuts as the source of the disaffection; those on the political right have cited a ‘broken and detached‘ Britain wracked by gang violence.
However, we at Mediolana think that the August 2011 London riots can be explained better within the following context:
1. The Destruction of Value. The United Kingdom is a country which, during the past decade, has seen its economy suffer severe destruction of capital value at the hands of an often feral financial sector. This culminated in the central government bailing out former fiscal behemoths, a process that is still ongoing and which has cost the taxpayer a sum in the trillions of pounds. Given that such world-class gouging has occurred within the same cityscape – unpunished – we should perhaps not be surprised at members from less fortunate demographic groups echoing a similar ‘winning’ logic in their actions.
2. A Hyperreal Cult of Adrenalin. A generation which has been raised in a virtual environment – often bereft of parental love or even presence – is now coming to fruition. Making the connection between their actions and the concomitant consequences may not be the simple task – on either a neurological or ethical level – that previous eras held it to be.
3. Moral Neutrality. In a culture where moral relativism is the norm and where countries can be invaded by lawyers via remote control, both private property and public space are mere aggregates to be subjected to power. The cultivation of virtue and the preservation of dignity are stripped bare from society like so many mobile telephones from a Carphone Warehouse wall.