Monday, 24 April 2017

On Politics and Principles.

The upcoming British General Election is primarily a contest between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn, two people with very different approaches to the business of getting elected.

Corbyn talks principles. He’s a radical who talks about challenging the Establishment and addressing the wealth gap between rich and poor, thus making Britain a fairer place for the population as a whole. He talks about the need to change the system that runs the show in Britain.

The problem with this is that principles are already entrenched in the minds of the committed righties and lefties, but it isn’t they who determine the outcome of elections. The floating voters do, and floating voters are generally not interested in principles however laudable they might be. Floating voters want to be told that they will be a little more prosperous, that their children will be able to go to ‘better schools’, and to be encouraged in their belief that Britain is still a major world power.

May is anything but a radical, and when she talks of principles they’re the nice comfy sort which fence sitters want to believe in. So May does the classic, low grade Thatcher thespian act and talks about things like not increasing taxes, thus appealing to the middle ground who are the ones who make the difference.

This all paints a picture of Corbyn as a mostly honest and honourable man who genuinely has the cause of egalitarianism at heart. And such would be true whether you agree with him or not. May, on the other hand, is the classic opportunist – the rat in human clothing, the sort who goes for the easiest target, the type of politician who gets elected by appealing to fence sitters who fear any wind, good or bad, that might rock the boat.

And that’s why I don’t think Jeremy has much of a chance on June 8th. I think it’s a shame, but I think it’s true.

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The other big election taking place in Europe at the moment is the one for the French presidency. I admit to knowing very little about the French political system, but I was intrigued by something M Macron said after taking the lead in the first ballot. He said he wanted to appeal to ‘patriots, not nationalists.’

Although we have to consider the matter of translation here, the statement still raises an interesting question of semantics. In some contexts, and to people of a certain mindset, the two concepts are effectively synonymous. So why did he say it?

I suspect this is another political ploy, although I would say that it is cleverer and subtler than most political ploys. I should think that it was intended to defuse far right fervour by placing doubt in the minds of those of such persuasion. As such, I think it might be described as a kind of sophistry, but probably an acceptable kind given its evident transparency.

And M Macron’s victory has produced one surprising result: Marine le Pen has turned her back on her background, which I suspect will work to her disadvantage. This suggests to me that Mlle le Pen is more desperate than M Macron, and probably not as clever.

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