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Brexit as identity politics… April 19, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

I noted this in comments recently, where IEL made what I think is a crucial point about Brexit in the UK. He noted that UKIP and the Tories would love Brexit to become the framing device through which all British (by which we mean, of course, English and to an extent Welsh and NI) political activity  is seen. In other words that it would supplant economic and class as issues – however marginal those two appear to be sometimes.

And I think this is both a natural goal for those parties of the right and far-right and something that spells real danger for the left. Because this is an echo, albeit in a very English way, of the dynamics in US politics – and indeed to a lesser extent our own, where identity and cultural issues have taken a greater prominence than is healthy for the polity.

Consider how wedge issues such as abortion and church and state have played in consolidating (at times) the Republican base in the US. When one considers the complaints about gender and race gaining a prominence in the US political discourse it is remarkable how quickly forgotten the role of abortion etc prior to that (not that abortion isn’t gender-inflected but from a conservative viewpoint it is bound up in a number of different aspects – religion being one). And not entirely dissimilarly in our polity abortion, contraception, divorce and later LGBTQ rights were all points of significant contention, and abortion remaining so to this very day.
Moreover they provided a diversion for the right – constraining class issues even amongst its own base. Granted the current era suggests that that dynamic could only persist so long – but short termism in political activity is understandably popular.

As noted too recently, the very process of Brexit was an appalling weapon to be used against the British Labour Party – already reeling from the loss of Scotland. I have said it before, but I cannot help but think there’s been a curious aversion on the part of many as to the implications of that loss. It is a fundamental game changer in relation to the future electability of the BLP.

And now an election which sees the BLP critically underprepared for – to put it at its mildest – and playing on terrain that is that mapped out by the Tories (with an asset from UKIP). In this instance we are talking damage limitation.


1. FergusD - April 21, 2017

No comments? I read a blog a while back, forget which one but leftist, which argued that for many Brexit was an identity issue. “We aren’t no stinking Europeans, we are BRITISH (which means English)”. I think there is a strong element of this.


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