The UK General Election is but a few weeks away. It is one of the most closely run elections in living memory, but the conclusions are all too clear. The changing nature of the electorate, the configuration of political ideologies that converge on the centre, a disaffected population who distrust their politicians, a media machinery that is fixated on personality, and the endless hubris of political leaders driven by idealism, self-interest and the conviction of their own deluded egos are the hallmarks of what is being witnessed in 2015.
All manifestoes are in the public domain now, but there are still no clear policy directives that can inform the potential voter about choices that they need to make. This is the case because there are no well-defined policy goals. There are only general remarks and soundbites about issues that the voting population are thought to regard as most significant. The latter is calculated using dubious methodologies that normalise the individual. But politics is about diversity and difference coming together under unique umbrellas. In the world of focus groups all of this seems to have been lost. This is why there are often wide variations between different polls and surveys on a systematic basis. People are variable, their opinions change, while some are still undecided. The two main political parties seem to think that they have a clear chance of winning outright. In the red corner, the Labour Party, led by an academic, wishes to empower the workers to generate the wealth of the nation and the backbone of society. In the blue corner, the Conservative Party, led by a former PR guru, wishes to empower big business so that the good they do trickles down into wider society. These are merely instruments that have one goal, which is to polarise the electorate into an ideological battle between light and dark, good and bad, left and right, but it is out of date and somewhat irrelevant. While this may be the case, both corners think that they will win.
Ukip effectively stand for two issues: immigration and the European Union question. The Liberal Democrats feel that they can stay in the game as they could realistically form alliances with either of the two big parties. Then there is the SNP, which could be a player in Westminster given the political mood among the people and their leaders in Scotland. But in all instances, there is little or nothing said about the real issues that affect people in their daily lives. While a great deal of discussion is about the need to remove the national debt burden during the next parliament, in reality this is almost impossible to achieve given the scale and depth of the debt. There is no real discussion about the details of economic, education, business, taxes, health, welfare or defence policy. Nothing is said about what really matters. Each of the main party leaders are afraid of saying the wrong thing in case the undecided decide against them. If anything, the outcome of the 2015 general election is pre-determined by the undecided, but that in itself suggests that it will be a Labour-led coalition, with only the Conservatives as the main opposition. But it could mean their further marginalisation, unless they return back to the centre. After all, the Tories have not won a General Election outright since 1992. In the end, as Tariq Ali stats in his lucid book, only the Extreme Centre wins. Labour are desperately pulling in those who were pushed to the margins by the Tories, and the Tories are trying to hold on those they have been benefiting – namely, the middle classes and the high-income earners in the south of the country. Labour will do poorly in the rest of the union but well in the North and the Midlands of England.
The ideas of the Extreme Centre thesis are literally that there is no real choice in politics any more. What was choice has now been replaced by a narrow focus on a range of centre left and centre right policies that champion business of the people, and that place the interests of the financial sector ahead of all other sectors of the economy. This is because the basis of the economy has shifted from manufacturing to commerce to finance. Sadly, Britain doesn’t really make anything anymore of any world quality status, a little bit like the rest of Western Europe, apart from Germany, which has engineering and automotive industries that continue to remain globally competitive. France makes excellent wine and cheese, but this is hardly going to sustain the economy on their own. Spain has remained one of the weaker nations of old Western Europe for quite some time, and its population is rapidly dwindling relative to others. Italy’s debt burden cripples it domestically and internationally. The EU has expanded to include a significant proportion of Middle Europe, but these countries have very little by way of competitive markets. In all instances, most Western and middle Europe countries do not make anything anymore, if they ever did. What many can do is to work with the money that is made by others, the coming financial centres. In that respect, London is streets ahead and wishes to remain so. But it means that politics in Britain will be led by the interests of the city of London. This is something that began under Thatcherism through the policies of monetarism and supply-side economics. Nothing has changed since then. Rather the situation has been intensified.
The choice in 2015 is no real choice.