20th March 2016
“The British public are trying (and succeeding) to have a £200 million boat named Boaty McBoatface.” (A viral tweet)
This is not a party-political blog – there is good and bad, and liberal and illiberal, in all main UK parties.
But domestic politics, especially in Westminster, seem to be in a state of chaos. The Conservative Government, in the days after Duncan Smith resigned, is imploding; Labour provides no effective Opposition; and the post-Coalition Liberal Democrats are a discredited irrelevance.
One may well sneer at American Trumpery – but we can’t be that far off having a similar ‘anti-politics’ mood here.
It would then just take a charismatic genius to start a populist, say, Boaty McBoatface Party and our political class would be buggered.
The usual barriers to populist extremism in UK politics – the parliamentary system and first-past-the-post voting – are not absolute protections. It is not inevitable that populists will somehow always be kept away from power.
Ultimately, democratic politics is about legitimacy – particular politicians exercise power when it is legitimate for them do so, and those politicians in turn obtain (and lose) power within a wider system which has its own legitimacy.
But legitimacy – like any other form of belief – can disappear when minds change.
Unless the main parties get their respective acts together, then there is no inherent reason they will be the parties which the greater number of voters will vote for.
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