Suggestions from leading UK politicians that a Biden election victory could stop Brexit and signal the death of populism are utter nonsense. As Donald Trump’s election performance demonstrates, they are wildly out of touch.
For instance, he wrote last week, “The most important thing that will happen in British politics this year is next Tuesday’s American election. The end of Trump is the beginning of the end of [Boris] Johnson and [Dominic] Cummings and Brexit.”
Of all the pundits’ takeaways we are left with from the US presidential election, certainly the two daftest have to be that a win for Joe Biden would mean bye-bye to Brexit and simultaneously signals the end of populism as a global political force.
To be completely clear, neither of those claims are true.
In fact, they are so far from true that they are laughable. Because this presidential election has shown us beyond doubt that Donald Trump’s version of populism, for want of a better name, is far from finished.
Whatever the ultimate outcome of Tuesday’s vote, it remains true that Trump’s skill at upsetting the apple cart and then kicking that fruit down the road in a beautifully disruptive display of wild recklessness is something of which millions of Americans strongly approve.
His disrespect for the Washington ‘swamp’, the late-night and often madly inappropriate Twitter posts and his ability to read the national mood continue to bedazzle voters in huge numbers.
Even a Biden win won’t change that. After all, the claims of a Democrat landslide and humiliation for the commander in chief were so far off-target that even if he loses, the margins between electoral success and failure are so slim that Trump remains validated. And, good lord, that irritates those who despise him and his kind.
And what makes it even funnier is that these claims of the demise of both Brexit and populism come from two gentlemen who actually held incredibly important government roles in the UK at earlier points in their careers. Is this the kind of unicorn chasing and bubblegum tree thinking this pair of bozos brought to their roles when they were at the top of the political establishment?
Arch-Remainer Lord Adonis is a Labour peer, and a former transport secretary, education minister and head of the No 10 policy unit under Tony Blair. But he has clearly drifted off-course with some of the nonsense he peddles.
Really? That’s how he sees things?
Like all Remainers, the poor peer is in denial. A denial so strong that it has led him to a world that bears no relation to our reality. It means he sees things that are simply not there and fails to see others that are staring him in the face.
Brexit is happening. No ifs. No buts. The relationship the UK had with the European Union is over. O. V. E. R. And if you can’t get your entitled head around that, you are certainly going to wake up to a cataclysmic shock next New Year’s Day.
Lord Adonis is not the only politician to believe he has some magical insight to which us little people are not generally privy, allowing us a peep every now and then just so we can ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ in wonderment at the success of his wise predictions.
George Osborne, the former Conservative chancellor is similarly self-absorbed. Again, like Lord Adonis, he predicts the end of Boris Johnson, as the tide of populism that has surged around the world for the last five or so years recedes thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, meaning “that those who’ve been swimming naked are really exposed.” BoJo naked? Eeeugh.
From his ivory tower, Osborne declares, “The public are starting to judge this generation of politicians by their results rather than their populist promises. They expect hard work, application of science and effective government.”
That’s the word from the deeply unpopular ex-cheque-checker, who is so out of touch with the real world, with his six highly-paid jobs and huge international ambitions, that it is somewhat surprising he even deigns to pretend what “the public” really want. In all honesty, he wouldn’t have a clue.
Because what Osborne suggests is not what a study from the YouGov-Cambridge Globalism project found, just last week.
While it did discover that as the pandemic took hold, fewer people agreed with the populist sentiment that, “the power of a few special interests prevents our country from making progress.” This was largely due to the fact that populist parties and their ideas were simply given less attention during the outset of the crisis.
Commenting on the study, Dutch academic Matthijs Rooduijn said the decline in populist support was only temporary.
“Things are already changing quite rapidly with the second wave,” he said. “Conspiracy theories are rising; populations are becoming increasingly polarised over the measures governments are taking. That’s an opportunity for populists. Several populist radical right parties already seem to be recovering in the polls.”
Over the last 20 years, support for populist parties in national elections has risen from seven percent to 25 percent and despite the bleatings and yearnings from establishment figures like Lord Adonis and George Osborne, populism is one thing yet to succumb to Covid-19.
As our Dutch friend put it, “You could think of the virus like a volcano. It has hit populism hard, but it will leave behind fertile ground for the future.”
And if you need any further proof of that, you’ll find it in Donald Trump’s electoral performance, which exhibits that populism, far from needing intensive care, is very much in rude health.