The UK's New Conservative Prime Minister
Audio highlights from The David Feldman Show
The UK's new Conservative prime minister is Rishi Sunak.
How different will he be from Liz Truss?
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I am a Texan with a keen interest in foreign politics, including British politics, as what is going on in the world is never that far removed from what is going on here. Thus, it’s interesting to hear David’s take on British politics. I’ll offer my take here. This will be long, but hopefully it’ll be worthwhile for anyone who takes the time to read it.
There is much madness going on in the UK right now. While many attribute this to Brexit, the reality is that Brexit is emblematic of the problems and isn’t the problem itself. It should be noted that Brexit was not really a Conservative Party idea…not completely at least. Conservative Party PM David Cameron, an austerity-loving neoliberal who would be quite indistinguishable from US Democrats if he was American, was a supporter of staying in the EU, but he allowed the Brexit referendum to happen in an apparent misjudgment of what the result would be. Brexit support came from the likes of Nigel Farage and the UK Independence Party. After the Brexit result, the Conservative Party mostly supported Brexit to varying degrees.
The EU would have no interest in kicking out the UK if the UK didn’t leave on their own. The EU was built upon the ideology of the UK and the other largest members of the EU such as France and Germany. These three share common economic values: austerity, deficit reduction, corporate deregulation, wage suppression, globalization, and general neoliberal policies whether they be from the likes of Mitterrand from France or Thatcher and Blair from the UK. The EU very much had a British flavor and there was little ideological disagreement between Brussels and London.
The breakdown is not one involving politicians, but rather the breakdown is with the citizenry. After years of neoliberalism from Thatcher/Major, Blair/Brown, and Cameron, the citizens of the UK suffered from the pains of neoliberal-induced poverty. A country which (correctly) maintained their sovereign currency was told there was no money to keep public infrastructure public which led to price gouging and infrastructure decay under privatization. Education lagged. Wages and employment were suppressed while the financial sector in London blossomed…and then collapsed…and was then saved again while citizens were told there was no money for public services.
While people may think of the glamor of London when they think of the UK, the reality is that much of the UK isn’t that much different from the American Midwest in many ways. The same anger from the public we see in the US from government failing these people was (and is) evident in the UK and that led to the results we saw in the Brexit referendum.
Brexit alone will not solve the UK’s problem. Remember the EU was reflective of the UK’s economic ideology and the UK still has the same neoliberal economic ideology. Nonetheless, large number of British people wanted to do something and so they did something. Better results did not come after Brexit and that partially explains the PM musical chairs, but it should also be remembered that better economic results would not have happened if the UK never left the EU. Stable governments or not, the citizens of EU members are having major economic difficulties right now and it’s the same caustic results of decades of neoliberalism.
The path forward for the UK, as I see it, is the same path forward that should be implemented in the US. This is to recognize that a country such as the UK is not bound by budgetary constraints that, say, a family or business would have. Milton Friedman, Thatcher, Tony Blair, Boris Johnson, Liz Truss, and Rishi Sunak might/might have argue/argued otherwise in order to fulfill the wishes of London’s banking industry, but that is not the accurate view of the situation.
Obviously, the Conservative Party has no interest in breaking from neoliberal ideology. Tragically, the main opposition party, Labour, is stuck believing the same neoliberal ideology. Even to this day, Keir Starmer of the Labour Party talks incessantly about ‘fiscal responsibility’. This is to say austerity. The Labour Party is desperate to prove they are as conservative as Thatcher and other conservatives who have dominated British politics since the 1970s. They are merchants of poor economic and foreign policy similarly to Tony Blair’s New Labour Party who was oh-so-friendly with George W. Bush’s administration. Remember that disaster?
Unlike in the US where at least some Democrats can and do speak against the party’s neoliberal majority to push for progressive policy, this is not so much the case in the Labour Party right now. Those with progressive ideas such as Jeremy Corbyn are threatened to be kicked out of the party, no matter how popular they are, simply because they don’t agree with party leadership. Party membership in the UK is much more tenuous than it is here in the US and that limits opposition in ways that are less common here in the US.
The problem for the Conservatives, and Labour if they should come into power in the near future, is that they continue to make claims that austerity is needed to ‘pay’ for the energy price caps imposed in order to make the UK’s very high energy prices slightly less high. This is complete nonsense, but this is what their politicians say. Expect public services to continue to degrade in the UK while income inequality grows. Expect wages and employment to degrade as the economy becomes more of a McJob/’Gig’ job economy. Expect general despair. Musical chair PMs will not solve anything without a very different economic approach. The situation is not so different here in the US.