Political class warfare is as British as fish and chips. It seemed to be diminishing during the Thatcher/Major/Blair era, but the election of the Etonian Posh Boy David Cameron has seen its revival. It has taken a new form, which should be very familiar to Americans: resentment towards the Oxbridge educated political class of all three big parties. It is being stoked by the surging UKIP party and its leader Nigel Farage. Like past master thespians such as Thatcher and Blair, Farage is a superb actor: he’s a wealthy former financial services type who comes off as the bloke you’d like to have a pint with down the pub. In contrast, two of the major party leaders, Labour’s Ed Miliband and the Liberal Democrats’ Nick Clegg come off as career politicians without any common touch whatsoever and Farage has cleverly played off that perception. In fact, Farage is like a respectable English version of George Wallace. I keep waiting for him to say that Weird Ed Miliband is a pointy headed intellectual who can’t park his bicycle straight…
You’re probably wondering when I’ll get around to explaining the post title. There’s no time like the present. It’s derived from the latest tempest in a Tweeter Tube involving a former member of Labour’s shadow cabinet and her panicky, insecure nebbishly leader:
Ms. Thornberry didn’t become *former* shadow Attorney General until the right wing press ran with the story and her boss-Weird Ed to me, Red Ed to the tabloids-freaked out. The picture was thought to convey a Londoner’s snobbish disdain for people in the UK’s version of the fly over zone. Miliband and his insular band of advisers turned this into a media clusterfuck by overreacting and forcing Ms. Thornberry-one of his earliest supporters-out of the shadow cabinet. It was the worst of all possible worlds for Nebbishy Ed: it reminded voters that he, not Ms. Thornberry, was out of touch with working class Brits and it sent the message to Labour MPs that their leader does not have their back. I call it lose-lose all the way.
The English flag adorning the White Van Man’s crib has long been a symbol of right wing English nationalism and bigotry, which is perhaps one reason Emily Thornberry found it interesting. Even more interesting is that she, unlike her party’s leader, grew up in council (public) housing and is known to have the common touch and people skills that Miliband lacks. But perception, not reality, is more important on Twitter and in the world of politics so she’s out and he’s in. For now. If Labour loses the 2015 election, he’s a gone pecan.
Once the Posh Boy picked up the Thornberry story and used it as a stick to beat Labour with, I immediately thought of Joe the Plumber. It’s yet another indication of the Americanization of British politics. In this instance, White Van Man seems disinterested in being part of a media circus so he may not be the next Joe what’s his name. British politics have customarily been about spending, taxes, Europe, and the National Health Service (NHS) and not about personalities or trivial incidents such as the White Van Man flap. But that’s been eroding since the dawn of the cult of Thatcher and New Labour’s spin machine. That’s one reason Miliband has been floundering: he doesn’t want to be accused of Blair/Brown era spin doctoring. He’s left it to Cameron and the Tories who are proving very adept at beating the inept, charisma free Miliband halfway to death. They’re also getting a lot of help from the pro-Tory media who have been framing him as unacceptable since he was elected leader.
Labour under Miliband has been accident prone almost from the start. In an effort to put the Blair-Brown era in the rearview mirror, he has moved away from their neo-liberal economic policies but shouldn’t have unlicensed the spin doctors as it were. Things are so dicey for Labour that the no vote in the Scottish Independence election has turned into a political disaster for them. The Scottish National Party may have lost the battle for independence but they’re winning the devolution war. The SNP appears poised to strip 20+ Scottish MPs away from Labour, which makes their prospects of forming a majority government next May rather dubious. Weird Ed cannot catch a break. It may be time to bring back the King of the dark art of spin, Alistair Campbell after whom Peter Capaldi’s character Malcolm Fucking Tucker on The Thick Of It is modeled:
Back to Nigel Farage and UKIP. His fake right wing populist party initially took most of its votes from the Tories because of its rabid Euroscepticism. But in its recent by-election victories, UKIP has taken as many votes from Labour as from the Tories. UKIP now has a realistic chance to pass the hapless Lib Dems to become the third largest party in the next parliament. Actually, the SNP has a decent chance to push Nick Clegg’s party into fifth place. That’s what happens when you go into coaltion with a party-the Conservatives-that your base loathes. The same thing happened to the Liberals the last time they were partners with the Tories during and after the Great War. The party split between pro-Asquith and pro-Lloyd George wings and was out of power until 2010.
May’s general election looks like a potential barn burner. I’d like to see one of the BBC hire Dan Rather just to throw some Ratherisms about on election eve. It might puzzle their viewership but it would delight me. Hell, Dan even amused that smug prick Brit Hume in this clip:
I’m sure I’ve missed some nuances in this post since I’m more of a buff than an expert. British politics is one of my nerdier hobbies, which I guess gives me something in common with Weird Ed Miliband. But at least I don’t resemble Gromit’s pal, Wallace: