One resignation doesn’t make a Summer

I’m sitting here in my shorts at barely 9am, fully suncreamed up. This, I can assure you, is an extremely rare state of affairs for Scotland, even at the height of Summer. It is also serendipitous that our warmest day of the year so far coincides with no Lib Dem meetings or other such commitments. So a day in the garden with books it is for me. And I need to take advantage because it is due to rain tomorrow.

To brighten my mood further, yesterday, two unpleasant right wing narcissists went at least some way to getting the come-uppance they deserved. The full details of Trump’s indictment are shocking. I’m sorry but nobody needs to keep nuclear secrets in their loo.

If Boris Johnson had stuck to the rules he imposed on the rest of us and not told Parliament things which were obviously untrue, then he wouldn’t be in the mess he is in.

But both men play to their bases with self-indulgent claims of victimisation. I don’t believe for a second Boris actually believes that the Privileges Committee outcome delivered to him on Thursday is a conspiracy between that wing of the Conservative Party that hates him, Harriet Harman and remainers, but he’s going to make himself sound like the victim. Unfortunately, too many will believe him. The chances of him being able to revive something of a political career out of raising a sense of grievance may seem slim, but I wouldn’t write him off completely. Give him a platform and a lot of someone else’s money and who knows where he will end up.

Trump similarly has a go at the Department of Justice, cynically changing position from the days when he encouraged his supporters to chant “Lock her up” at Hillary.

But Boris quitting Parliament and Trump facing the sharp end of the judicial system, good though they might make us feel, are not a sign that we’ve beaten populism. Trump’s arguably more dangerous rival Ron De Santis is already in there with claims of “weaponisation of law enforcement’ to appeal to his base.

In some ways it is easier for the Democrats to fight against the Make America Great Again movement. They just need to get young women to vote for them, and we have seen that when they do, in statewide elections where the districts haven’t been gerrymandered in the Republicans’ favour.  The much better than expected Midterm elections last year, and the Democrat victory in the Wisconsin Supreme Court election earlier this year show how young women are prepared to fight for their bodily autonomy and right to seek healthcare. That said, the Democrats can’t rely on that alone. They need to show how they will make their country fairer. Unfortunately they can’t deliver without getting control of both houses of Congress and that is difficult.

In this country, ravaged by populism and culture wars for too long, we are further down the learning curve. The Conservatives have only just started with the sort of voter suppression tactics that we see in the US. They can’t gerrymander the boundaries in the same way but the first past the post system works very much in their favour. Boris Johnson leaves behind a Conservative parliamentary party hell bent on targeting the vulnerable in place of governing for all.  Donald Trump’s caravan is Rishi Sunak’s and Suella Braverman’s crusade against small boats.

What is needed, both in the US and the UK, is someone to actually stand up to these bullies, to make the positive case for immigration, for a strong social security system, for a much fairer society where people can get the education, healthcare, housing and support that they need to fulfil their potential. What could be a more noble aim of Government than to ensure that everyone has somewhere decent to live, enough to eat and a realistic shot at making the best of themselves? We shouldn’t see that as ambitious. It’s a core function of the state.

It is deeply disappointing to see Labour basically lean in to the populism. On immigration they are a few flights to Rwanda short of the Tories’ harmful policies. They are at the point of fuelling the culture war stuff too because they are too timid.

We are a bit better, but still not doing enough to speak up against the damage that the Tories are doing to this country on Brexit, immigration, social security, ripping up the social contract.

The best way to deal with populism on a long term basis is to stand up to it, loudly, in the short term.  That is the best insurance against a resurgent Boris Johnson or, shudder to think, Nigel Farage.

We are best placed to very reasonably chip away at the nastiness, to persuade people that building houses, not division, is the way to a country that is much fairer and more prosperous. Timidity won’t cut it. We can’t wait much longer for the compelling narrative and message that we have been talking about for way too long.

That way we can bring about a much more sunny future for the country.

 

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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5 Comments

  • George Thomas 10th Jun '23 - 11:41am

    While the Tories cannot gerrymander the boundaries in the same way they can (as “most successful political party of all time”) choose where majority of the investment goes which in turns leads to migration to these areas and greater chances of families starting in these areas, which in turn will lead to the Boundary Commission changing the boundaries to reflect this. See Rishi Sunak boast in that famous garden party clip. it’s, usually, more subtle than in the USA but similar things are going on.

    There will be natural objection to the Rwanda plan – because it is truly awful – but at the moment the law says that there are people arriving in the UK without a right to be here, and these people need to go somewhere. Labour’s big own goal recently was suggesting they care more about fiscal responsibility than the climate emergency.

    There are an increasing number of voters looking for a new party to vote for and tired of the gameplaying within Westminster. It’s a massive opportunity for the LD’s.

  • Simon McGrath 10th Jun '23 - 1:06pm

    “While the Tories cannot gerrymander the boundaries in the same way they can (as “most successful political party of all time”) choose where majority of the investment goes which in turns leads to migration to these areas and greater chances of families starting in these areas, which in turn will lead to the Boundary Commission changing the boundaries to reflect this.”
    This is nonsense. How would this lead to the Tories doing well electorally ?

  • Nick Collins 10th Jun '23 - 4:11pm

    It’s three resignations now. How many does it take to make a summer – or a winter of discontent for Rishi?

  • Carol Vorderman has been giving standing up to populism a good go on her twitter account https://twitter.com/carolvorders/

  • The electorate is the one body that can be trusted, if in need of some political education and motivation. Anyone entering public life gives up a portion of their personal ambition to serve it. A constitution would help to strengthen that commmitment.

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