The People Rule Britain Again

June 1st, 2017 | M. Menuck
uk people
In a few days, the voters of Great Britain will be facing a choice as they go to the polls to vote in a new government. At this time it does not appear that the outcome shall be in much doubt. While the Labour Party has risen somewhat from the absolute doldrums of despair they had plunged to in the immediate dropping of the writ, Theresa May's Tories have continued to hold a commanding lead. If the polls are true (something that can never be taken for granted these days) the Conservative Party will be returned to government likely with a substantially increased majority. 

Part of this can certainly be credited to the hapless Jeremy Corbyn, who has shown himself to be manifestly unfit for the role of Prime Minister since he assumed the role of Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition. A good deal of credit should also be given to Prime Minister May, however. Beyond projecting an aura of steely confidence, she has also managed to assert a substantive vision for the kind of post-Brexit Britain she wishes to see emerge, one that most importantly is directly responsive to the concerns of voters themselves.

The modern day peasants revolt that has been subsuming Western politics in recent years has many causes, both economic and social. One unifying thread that can be found going through them, however, is a sense among a large section of the electorate that their concerns and desires no longer seem to count for much with the political class. For quite some time their governments seem to no longer be concerned with representing the people, or even with persuading them of the virtues of their agendas, but instead have acted as if the voters are simply some obstacle to be bypassed lest they slow down the inevitable march of progress.

Look no further than the recent history of the European Union, where nothing has been allowed to hamper the progression of an ever more integrated and powerful EU superstate. When referendums have not gone their way, they have been held again or simply ignored altogether. Nothing so plebian as popular will or democracy is to stand in the way of an ever closer union. As Rousseau would put it, we must force our brothers to be free.

In would be an accurate observation that for the last few decades our politics has reached an unspoken understanding among its main actors. The left won the culture wars and the right the great economic ones. Liberalism, both socially and economically, had triumphed. The right got their tax cuts and free trade deals, the left their ever greater social freedoms, and neither side made more than a half-hearted attempt to undo the victories of the other. Everyone seemed satisfied with the arrangement.

Everyone except the voters themselves it seems, especially those who had lost out under the new consensus, and as the good times of the 90s and early 2000s became an ever fading memory their anger at this neglect began to mount. Mass migration, precarious employment, the hollowing out of the West's industrial base, the decline of the family, and the sneering dismissal of traditional values all became just the latest thing that no one had ever bothered to ask their opinion of. 

Theresa May, despite being a (quiet) Remainer, seems to have grasped this point, and has drafted an election manifesto that is squarely aimed at actually addressing these issues. Britain is coming out of the European Union and fully reclaiming its sovereignty from Brussels. Immigration will be brought down to the tens of thousands. A new industrial strategy will be introduced. The top priority of her government will be the concerns of those "Just About Managing" to borrow her own words. You can disagree with any of these proposals on their merits, but it cannot be argued that they are not directly responsive to what a very large of the electoral have said are their actual concerns.

Democracy is ultimately the principle of government by the people for the people. It is the idea that the government exists to enact the will of its constituents. By remembering this, Theresa May may well be rewarded with a mandate of historic proportions on election day. Others concerned with the rise of populist politics may do well to do the same.