Trying to Understand Populism!
Posted on January 27, 2020
I have been trying to fully understand populism recently; it is a fascinating ideology. However, it is hard to be defined fully, as examples of it are often confused. Populism can also affect both the far right and far left of the political spectrum.
For example, Boris Johnson’s new government is often described as right-wing populist. Whilst this may well be the case, there are many contradictions. Right Wing Populism is supposedly a rage against elitism and international trade, choosing instead, isolation and protectionism. If that is the case, some of this doesn’t add up.
Populism & its Contradictions
Brexit has appealed to populists because we are free from the tie of being a member of a Union and the responsibilities that come with it. That is a populist ideology, for sure. However, we know that the UK is desperate to embark on international trade deals with whoever will offer them. That is not populism, or not as I read it to be.
The person (Boris Johnson) leading the UK may offer a host of offensive, populist quotes, but he stands at the very heart of the elite. Having been to Eton with a silver spoon in his mouth and onto Oxford, how can he rage against the elite? So, if the conservatives are populists, there are many neoliberal contradictions.
It does make you wonder if Johnson is not really a populist at all but has gone along with it just to get power. It’s hard to tell because he has never really told the truth.
What is certain is that populism is a great way to get attention and indeed, a stint at PM. Look at all the C list actors, piss poor journalists and back bench MP’s who have propelled themselves into public focus by playing at being populists.
Recently, we had an actor who came from an elitist background joining in the fun. Not many people had heard of him, so he seized an opportunity by playing a game with racism. He shut down a mixed-race woman by telling her that she didn’t know what it was like to be mixed race and that, in fact, she was the racist.
Bingo. Suddenly, all the ‘I’m not racist but…’ folk championed him as the man who knew the truth and was standing right behind them. A posh kid with no perception of hardship or racism was suddenly loved by angry men with EDL twitter feeds. Men with a desire for the good old days when you could call a black man sooty. Does this person who comes from a background of elitist thespian nepotism, really want to be in the company of these people? I doubt it but at least everyone knows who he is now.
The same can be said of that awful blonde woman from the Apprentice. And the other one with a double-barrelled name who has a shit radio show on Talk Radio. Utter diatribe where people call in still seething about their Brexit vote despite the fact it is happening. These two women wouldn’t be seen dead with the mad fuckers who retweet them but are more than happy to encourage and goad them along.
Their belief in populism is probably quite tepid but they have realised they can monetize it. The same can be said with the former leader of UKIP and the Brexit Party. People have paid him big money to be their populist. This is so the rules can be smashed and they can be free to deregulate and not pay tax.
Johnson’s Route to Power
Johnson, it would appear, has seen it as a route to power and the ability to smash up the EU rule book we adhere to with regards to food, health & safety, the environment and workers/civil rights. I am not sure if that is how he wanted to become PM, but he has made that choice now. His problems will start when the people who bought into conservative populism and are not multimillionaires, realise it is not working for them.
Sadly, that is when it all starts getting dangerous. Populism is an easy route to power because it offers simplistic answers to complex questions. It plays a tune to people who operate with impulsive, knee jerk reactions. However, when things start to get real, bad shit can start unfolding.
Populism has similarities to fascism in that it refuses to acknowledge an opposition it sees as operating against ‘the people ‘. Political opposition is accused of conspiracy, lack of patriotism and undemocratic processes.
These political opponents are regarded as enemies of the state by a populist government, but this only happens rhetorically. However, once imposed, populism can move swiftly from rhetoric to enemy identification and persecution. It then becomes fascism.
This has happened in the past of course. The question is, could it happen again? It is very unlikely but should never be ruled out. On the 75th anniversary of Auschwitz being discovered; we should be concerned by UK populism and the political journey we are embarking on.
Because the danger is that the one thing we learn from history is…we never learn from history.
*I didn’t name all the populist actors, politicians and journalists because the more their names appear on the interenet, the more they like it. It’s my own, largely futile stand against these fuckwitts.