The British political and media class is today poring over the entrails of yesterday’s by-elections. The Tories won an unprecedented victory in Copeland, while Labour defeated the UKIP leader in Stoke. The discussion is over whether Labour’s hapless far-left leader Jeremy Corbyn is finished or will use the victory in Stoke to stagger on, and whether the useless UKIP leader Paul Nuttall made a strategic error in targeting Labour rather than Conservative voters.
This all misses the point. The by-elections point to something rather bigger that is now taking place. The Conservative party is in the process of destroying any electorally viable alternative to itself.
This is because it has turned itself into the champion of the things that are of overwhelming importance to the British working class. These are stopping mass and unsustainable rates of immigration, restoring control over national self-government and working to make Britain once again a prosperous global trading nation, restoring in the process patriotic pride in national identity and in values such people recognise, identify with and share.
The Labour party currently stands for the opposite of all this. It is therefore unelectable whoever becomes its leader, because it is dominated by metropolitan progressive universalists who despise the (always) conservatively-minded working class.
UKIP supports that traditionalist working-class agenda but is demonstrably incapable of running a whelk-stall let alone a government. The Tories have now appropriated UKIP’s platform. Margaret Thatcher’s most famous aphorism, “There is no alternative” to conservatism, has therefore become a reality under Britain’s canny Prime Minister (and former Remainer) Theresa May.
In the US, President Trump is doing exactly the same in attracting the support of millions of working-class Americans. He’s done this by promising to restore jobs and defend the US against radical Islamism, thus giving ordinary Americans hope again in the future and in the idea that their country itself has a recognisable future.
Far from his leftist caricature as another Mussolini in the making, he is actually restoring constitutionality and the rule of law – in contrast to the Obama administration which undermined both. Trump is enforcing the law against illegal immigrants, for example; and when the courts made their dubious rulings against his own admittedly dubious order suspending immigration from states designated as a danger to US security, he didn’t ignore the courts but tore up his order and drafted a new one.
Amongst the public, people are getting the measure of this most unusual President and are coming to understand the distinction between his style and substance. While his loose-lipped way of speaking is far from ideal, because language matters and the US President should be careful to be accurate in what he says, people understand what he actually means – which by and large they find to be sensible and true. They discount the careless or coarse way he talks because that’s the way many of them talk too. What matters to them is not what he sounds like but what he actually does.
As we know, those who voted for both Trump and Brexit were repudiating the progressive consensus. The continuing reaction by those progressives not only confirms everything these who voted for Trump and Brexit thought. It is likely also to drive into their camp many who didn’t vote Trump or Brexit or who have serious reservations about either or both.
Whatever their concerns, they are looking now in horror at the opposition and recoiling from their sheer irrationality, obsessive hatred and contempt for democracy and the people. They understand that those shrieking daily that both Brexit and Trump are about to usher in a dark age of tyranny embody in themselves the greatest threat to freedom, reason and decency.
In Britain Gina Miller, the lead claimant in the court case brought to require Parliamentary approval for the triggering of the Brexit process, has now started a campaign to demand that Parliament is given a full vote on the terms of Britain’s departure that will be agreed with the EU.
“In the face of no opposition, whoever feels the need to be the voice of reason needs to speak up now,” she says. “Currently MPs are too weak to do that — so we must do it for them.”
Got that? If elected MPs decide not to demand such a vote, they must be brushed aside by Gina Miller on the grounds that she has a superior mandate simply because she disagrees!
In the Guardian today, Polly Toynbee accuses Theresa May of a “preposterous seizure of absolute power over the country’s most important decision” in exiting the EU. Mrs May’s “absolute shocker” is apparently to refuse “to give Parliament a meaningful vote on whatever deal, or no deal, she emerges with in two years’ time or to accept any of the Lords’ amendments”.
Hang on! The House of Commons voted overwhelmingly to trigger Brexit following the decision of the people in last June’s EU referendum. At the end of Britain’s Brexit negotiations with the EU, Parliament will be given the opportunity to accept or reject that deal. So where’s Mrs May’s “absolute power”?
The House of Lords is merely a revising chamber. It cannot insist on its proposed amendments because, since the Brexit bill consists merely of the go-ahead to trigger the departure process, there is nothing to amend. The Lords’ amendments are therefore nothing of the kind but rather a sneaky attempt to fetter the Government in negotiating Brexit as now mandated by the Commons.
The Lords are perfectly well aware of their absolute requirement not to behave unconstitutionally. But Toynbee writes:
“Parliament itself is in the process of abrogating its rights by allowing the prime minister to refuse all amendments.”
So in Remainerverse, it seems, it isn’t possible for Parliament to reach a legitimate democratic decision if this doesn’t serve the Remainers’ purpose. The constitution is only of value when it delivers what they want.
In the US, the Trumpophobes display a similar contempt for democracy, truth and balance.
The New York Post recently fired a sportswriter for a tweet likening Trump’s inauguration to the Pearl Harbour and 9/11 attacks. Before that a Politico contributing writer tweeted out a suggestion the president might be having an incestuous relationship with his daughter Ivanka.
In the New York Times, Nicholas Kristof ruminated: “We’re just a month into the Trump presidency, and already so many are wondering: How can we end it?” Pondering how this might be done, he identified the main problem: “Trump still has significant political support, so the obstacles are gargantuan.” Hmmn, yes, democracy is such a nuisance, isn’t it.
In the New Yorker, George Packer writes longingly of Section 4 of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, which allows for the removal of a President who can no longer discharge his duties. Packer writes: “After a month in office, Donald Trump has already proved himself unable to discharge his duties. The disability isn’t laziness or inattention. It expresses itself in paranoid rants, non-stop feuds carried out in public, and impulsive acts that can only damage his government and himself. Last week, at a White House press conference, the President behaved like the unhinged leader of an unstable and barely democratic republic.”
In fact, that press conference was loudly cheered by millions of Americans who were delighted that the President was giving the despised media such a public kicking. Asked whether they relied more upon the President or the media to tell the truth, the public favoured Donald Trump by 45 per cent to 42 per cent.
So how much insight or contrition does the media display in the face of such public disdain? None. Kristof asked: “And what does it say about a presidency that, just one month into it, we’re already discussing whether it can be ended early?” Nothing. It says everything instead about himself and the rest of the media witch-hunt.
In the New Yorker, Packer concludes: “An authoritarian and erratic leader, a chaotic Presidency, a supine legislature, a resistant permanent bureaucracy, street demonstrations, fear abroad: this is what illiberal regimes look like. If Trump were more rational and more competent, he might have a chance of destroying our democracy.”
The words “living”, “different” and “planet” spring irresistibly to mind. As Michael Barone writes in the Washington Examiner, in just five weeks Trump has already delivered on his promises to a very high degree:
“The Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines are now headed for approval, and the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan and Waters of the United States mega-regulations are on the way out.” Some of Trump’s appointments, such as Judge Neil Gorsuch, Defence Secretary James Mattis and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster have been clearly first-rate. And Trump has had amicable and constructive meetings with the elected leaders of Britain, Japan, Canada and Israel.
The Washington Post has put up on its masthead just below the title the rubric “Democracy dies in darkness”. A newspaper that not only defines its entire existence in opposition to the democratically elected US President but misrepresents all available evidence to state falsely that he is destroying democracy is no longer to be taken seriously as a newspaper.
The left doesn’t realise it but it is staring at its own electoral demise.