It used to be so simple. Politicians represented distinct political visions, in distinct political parties. And then there were only two parties to choose from anyway. A simple binary choice.
But no longer; everything seems to have become a bit… confused. Politics is no longer Male or Female. It is bigender, cisgender, pangender, even gender fluid.
2016, the year of Brexit and Trump, has seen the remarkable transfer of political roles, both in these two events, as well as beyond.
Let’s first look at Brexit and Trump. Both ‘victories’ occurred because a certain type of voter was mobilised; the white working class. In Britain, this could be your stereotypical white van man Labour voter. Many of whose vote for UKIP in the general election was a prerequisite for sticking their X in Leave. Political cross-dressing, when Labour’s stance was strictly pro EU. Then there is Labour itself, led by Corbyn. Who we thought was a thorough-bred Socialist… But recently stated that Labour will block the UK’s exit from the EU unless access to the single market is guaranteed – what a capitalist move!
And in the US, not only did traditional Republicans vote Trump, despite his anti-free trade stance and isolationist and protectionist policies being at odds with the party’s ideology, but so too did a high percentage of the public who normally stay at home on election day. This is a huge mix-up of the political status quo.
Meanwhile, Progressives in the UK can’t quite decide what they are. Some were Remainers for the sake of businesses and corporations – right wing without the racism? Some were Remainers because of a European ideal they only just discovered. Some were pure lefties but enjoyed the guise of being a Progressive. Soon after Brexit, this same Left-wing Progressive tribe was found championing the Democrats, despite the fact that a) the party isn’t far removed from the Tories and b) it is lead by Hillary Clinton – the ultimate corporate brown-noser.
Then there is Theresa May, who, despite the comparisons with the Iron Lady, hints at a bigger state, as the government becomes a ‘force for good’ addressing ‘ burning injustices’ and leaving the very single market which Mrs Thatcher championed. Hello state intervention, government spending and a break in tradition of the Conservative love affair with European free trade deals! Maggie would turn in her grave.
Labour has always been a broad church but the resignation of Tristram Hunt and others demonstrates that the party can only stretch so far. The disparity of views between Labour’s front bench and the rest of the PLP and between the party membership and their traditional vote base is unprecedented. Come election time which Labour Party is one voting for?
The people of Stoke certainly don’t seem to know. UKIP and the Lib Dems are cleverly attempting to make hay while the sun shines. They have recognised the political disorientation and are targeting seats previously thought to be far beyond their demographic. As is happening in Stoke, when before would it have been conceivable that a hard right candidate could competitively contest a town that is literally and metaphorically built on mining?
Where Labour are confused, the Lib Dems are braindead. Pursuing a flagship policy of a second EU referendum is mindboggling. The Liberal Democrats are quite literally defying democracy.
It used to be so simple. Politicians represented distinct political visions, in distinct political parties. Now we have parties within parties, contradictory views held simultaneously and populism led policy.