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Can Political Theatrics Deliver the Globalised New Britannia?

By Denis Bright  

The leadership transition to Boris Johnson (b.1964 in New York to cosmopolitan British Parents) offers confusing polling trends. Only the wisdom of Nostradamus could predict the precise outcomes of fractured national morale across the UK and the consequences of tensions between Westminster and independence trends from Scotland and Wales.

Boris is a polarising political figure who is quite adept at political theatre as noted by Stewart Lee in a breezy article in the Guardian (28 July 2019).

Although compared to Donald Trump for his skills in political theatre, Boris is a much more complex figure from an elitist and cosmopolitan family background whose public persona has been tempered by years of university studies, experience as a political columnist, two terms as Mayor of London as an interim between volatile terms in the House of Commons. Boris’ commitment to libertarianism is always combined with support for a pragmatic variant of neoliberalism with strong rapport to London’s globalised financial sector and much of the now conventional centre-right consensus on the far-right drift in US foreign policy.

Expect dramatic U-turns on some specific issues, but do not underestimate Boris’ campaigning skills.

Polling trends are still uncertain about the trendlines in domestic politics across the UK. It is very difficult to encode all the trends from regional variations in Scotland, Ulster, Wales, the Industrial Midlands, London and the remainder of England. There are added variables from optional voting and the absence of preferential voting which ensures that the votes from significant minority parties like the Brexit Party and the Liberal Democrats will always be under-represented in the House of Commons.

Polling Trends

Despite these variations in polling results, the Conservatives with Boris Johnson as leader have been ahead in all recent polls (David Connett in the Guardian 28 July 2019):

Polling error ensures that the variation in the lead on primary votes ranges from 1 per cent in the ComRes Poll in the Sunday Express to 10 per cent in the YouGov Poll in the Sunday Times. All these contradictory trends cannot encode the diversity of political realities.

The latest Deltapoll in The Mail on Sunday offers a 5 per cent lead to the Conservatives from fieldwork completed on a sample of approximately 2,000 people who intended to vote in the next elections.

The Delta Polling picks up the variation in voting patterns across the age divides. The pro-Labour age group is from voters under 25 years of age. Their contribution to the overall result is diluted by the conservatism of voters over 55 years of age.

 

The variations in regional voting patterns are picked up in the Deltapoll. However, the small sample of voters in London lowers the credibility of this data and completely changes the results evident in other polls.

Apart from the trends from younger voters, there is little endorsement of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership style in the new Boris Johnson era outside of Labour heartland households.

More disadvantaged parts of Metro London will probably warm to the populism of Boris Johnson who represents the fairly safe constituency of Uxbridge and South Ruislip, not too far from both Heathrow and Windsor.

Boris Johnson’s capacity to bring disaffected conservative voters back into the fold from the Brexit Party can change the political geography of Metro London which gave such a welcome mandate to Jeremy Corbyn in 2017.

Boris Johnson has a strident plan to get re-elected rather than a vision for the future. A No-Deal Brexit can challenge the current polling trends and negotiators from the EU can afford to be uncompromising in future negotiations.

Boris’ Nebulous Agenda

In the event of a No-Deal exit from the EU, Boris Johnson offers the nebulous prospects of new free-trading agreements with a New Britannia Network from Trump’s America to Canada, Australia, New Zealand as well as a series on important emerging economies. Both sides of British politics have been keen on new trading and financial ties with countries like India, China and Japan.

US Intelligence services will continue to cheer on Boris Johnson to cement stronger strategic and financial ties with Wall Street and the Pentagon. A British government without the moderating effects of ties with the EU makes US foreign policy easier to manage as the UK is one of the most pro-NATO Western European countries.

Even if President Trump is defeated in 2020, the emergent secondary role of the City of London in global finance will gather momentum as a new bastion of questionable financial practices as noted in a German online business magazine.

Immediate Prospects for the UK Economy

As with the recent Australian election, a populist campaign can generate hopes of immediate relief from presenting economic and social problems through a softer approach to neoliberalism with pragmatic short-term spending on entrenched disadvantage and infrastructure failures under the Conservative administrations since 2013.

The historical trend lines for UK’s GDP Growth shows that neoliberalism under Thatcherism and Beyond did not make the economy recession-proof during the GFC.

Despite minor downturns under John Major’s conservative government in the early 1990s, it was the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) which produced the first really significant recession since the election of Margaret Thatcher in 1979. Tony Blair had just resigned as Prime Minister in 2007 to enable Gordon Brown to become leader during the worst years of the GFC period.

Despite the high global financial profile of the City of London, Gross Fixed Capital Formation has plateaued since the Brexit referendum. The Brexit debate has brought a pragmatic distraction from the underlying causes of the problem with attempts to sever Britain from more interventionist and successful economic models in Scandinavia and Germany.

Debate over Brexit has produced uncertainty in financial markets to end rising capital expenditure in the second term of David Cameron’s Government (2015-17):

United Kingdom Gross Fixed Capital Formation Gross Capital Expenditure Levels are Shown in Pounds (Quarter)

Rebuilding the Conservative Consensus

As a distant cousin of Queen Elizabeth, Boris also has considerable rapport with the Royal Households. Too many ties with the EU tarnish the authority of the British Crown.

In a time of public austerity, the BBC offers fair coverage of the cost of maintaining Royal Households, including Frogmore Cottage at Windsor Frogmore Cottage in Windsor.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s home was renovated with £2.4m of taxpayer-funded costs, royal accounts show. Frogmore Cottage in Windsor was turned into a single property for Prince Harry and Meghan, from five separate homes.

The couple, who moved from Kensington Palace in April before the birth of their son Archie, paid for fittings.

The Queen’s Sovereign Grant from the Treasury was £82m in 2018-19, with £33m set aside for maintenance, including major work on Buckingham Palace.

The Sovereign Grant is funded by profits from the Crown Estate.

The estate is the Royal Family’s commercial property arm and owns land and buildings in prime central London locations and across the UK. It is managed by an independent organisation, with any profit paid to the Treasury for the benefit of all UK taxpayers.

Separate accounts show the Crown Estate provided a record £343.5m to the Treasury in 2018-19, up 4.3% on last year.

A second household in Los Angeles is also on the cards so that the family can spend more time with Grandma Doris. The Georgian style of Frogmore Cottage is certainly a reminder of the common heritage of the world’s two major Anglo Societies.

The residents of this royal household are clearly in support of fence-mending between the UK and the USA with encouragement from both President Trump and Boris Johnson. Future British leaders are clearly eager to make up for the mistakes and insanity of King George III (1738-1830).

Meantime life in the Royal Households goes on as usual with members joining with the public to celebrate major events and then retreating into splendid surroundings.

Image: SBS News and AAP 3 February 2019 Queen’s Birthday Parade

Image: ABC News at Frogmore Cottage Windsor in the Safe Conservative Electorate of Windsor and Maidenhead by the Thames where Labour Scored 7.6 per cent of the Primary Vote in 2017

From the splendour of pictorial news coverage of the Royal Households, there is always the prospect of a New Britannia with an even stronger rapport with the Pentagon and the Wall Street Financial system.

The ire of disadvantaged youth and aggrieved opinion in Scotland, Wales and Ireland could be unsettling factors for the theatrics of Boris Johnson. These trends might gain momentum in the event of a No-Deal Brexit.

Denis Bright has a background from post-retirement studies in journalism, public policy and international relations. He is committed to citizens’ journalism to raise issues for critical discussion. Having visited Britain only once in 1977, I welcome comments from readers with Insider Perceptions on the important issues raised in this article.

 

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18 comments

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  1. stuart lawrence

    AUstralia is not really interested in trade agreement as it is with its relationship with china and japan etc

  2. Karen Kyle

    I don’t know about Boris and his close rapport to royalty. He discovered as an adult that he is a distant cousin to the queen, many times removed, and from the wrong side of the blanket. He is also distantly related to two other European Royal families. I would be a bit surprised if the Windsors wecomed him as a long lost cousin. No doubt there are a few royal rellies from the wrong side of the blanket. And no doubt they are kept firmly at arms length.

  3. Leila

    Expect a visit from Boris Johnson and a member of the Royal Household to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Captain Cooks landings in 2020

  4. Katie

    The rise of New Britannia as a client state of the USA may heal the old disputes from George III’s day but it is a real threat to Australian sovereignty.

  5. Paul

    Royal ties between Britain and Australia are threatened in the long-term by high profile of the European community: Thanks for this interpretation of the New Britannia in Denis’ article

  6. Patrick for an Independent Australia

    The New Britannia Update: Better than the coverage of the Gossip Magazines at the Hair Stylist as it is about the Politics of Us and not the Elites who can visit Frogmore Cottage and Windsor Castle without being arrested

  7. Stella

    Denis, thanks for an interesting article on the new leadership in Britain and it’s implications.

  8. Chris

    Boris Johnson will be talking up ties between the five English-speaking countries that steer the Five Eyes Movement

  9. Paddy

    Establishment Britain is not comfortable with ties to Continental Europe through the EU and Euro bloc currency

  10. Aortic

    Undoubtedly US/ UK relations would have been enhanced when Trump referred to the Prince of Whales. Or perhaps it may have been the presidents surreptitious way of objecting to Japanese whaling. Or weeping whaling and gnashing of teeth, as we know how devoutly religious he is. Although he is a stable genius obviously indicating his equine leanings as well. What a complex character, little wonder the erudite people, particularly of his southern base voted for him and continue to be awestruck with his global knowledge, particularly that of Nambia I think it was.

  11. rubio@coast

    Completely agree with Aortic: Leaving the EU means re-opening the centuries old divide between Continental Europe and the Maritime Powers now strengthened by ties with the USA and Japan: Watch out World. Our government in Australia is always Pro-Maritime. Cheers to the IPAN Conference in Darwin which commences tomorrow to promote peace in the Indo-Pacific Basin

  12. Wam

    Thanks, denis, we can be comforted by the thought that should trump win or lose in 2020, Boris has the birthright for 2024. That would restart the tea party???

  13. New England Cocky

    With the possible collapse of Britain leaving the EU, there remains the very real possibility that once and for all the little island of Eire will be re-united according to local wishes rather than English imperialism and royal favour. Then the Scots may also take an independent stand. But the Australians under the Monarchists will keep the foreign queen as Head of State despite Constitution s44(1).

  14. Denis Bright in Brisbane

    Thanks for comments on the Boris Johnson article. There have been some developments since the article was submitted on 1 August 2019 which do not challenge the themes presented.

    A No-Deal Brexit fits into the Trump Administration’s plans to make American Great again by cultivating a new UK client state with closer integration to the demands of Wall Street and the Pentagon in both financial and strategic policies.

    However, the possibility of a No-Deal Brexit is a high risk strategy for Boris Johnson.

    The Conservatives lost the Welsh constituency of Breton Radnorshire in Thursday’s by-election to the pro-remain Liberal Democrats. Peterborough was lost to Labour on 6 June 2019.

    However, the conflicting trends are difficult to anticipate with polls taken in late-July showing both a Labour lead by 1 per cent in the ComRes Poll and a Conservative lead of 10 per cent in the Ipsos Mori Poll on the same polling dates.

    UK public opinion in now less decisively in favour of Brexit and opposes the chaos perceived to be associated with a No-Deal Brexit.

    Outside the 18-24 aged demography, Jeremy Corbyn is not popular with the electorate. He has even less appeal to voters over 55 years of age.

    Financial markets in Europe and Britain are concerned about a No-Deal Brexit with major market corrections on Friday that extended to -3.57 per cent in Germany and -3.11 per cent in France.The correction on Wall Street yesterday was a mere 0.37 per cent as a No-Deal Brexit is highly compatible with Make America Great rhetoric.

    The ascendancy of Boris Johnson will be assisted by any Soft Brexit negotiations as the Conservatives return to the House of Commons in autumn as a minority government with an even more slender working majority. 311 Conservative votes in the House of Commons is well short of the majority needed in a House of Commons with 650 members.

    The break-up of the EU through Brexit is an issue of immense importance. I cannot predict which way negotiations are going to proceed after the summer break.

    Reforming a globalised New Britannia with even closer ties to the Trump Administration is indeed re-writing the American Revolution of 1776. The once mad King George III must be elated again in his grave, apparently at Frogmore Mausoleum where his remains were transferred by order of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1861. How consoling to the youthful residents of the adjacent Frogmore Cottage which is referred to in my article.

  15. Andrew

    Interesting article, although it seems we are all looking at these issues with a globalist progressive blind-spot focussing on recent neoliberal/libertarian history to explain the populist conservative resurgence and perhaps not really noticing the rising nationalism trends behind new conservative leaders. It’s not an easy discussion, but nevertheless it’s worth considering, the part played by progressive open border ideology, and the associated opportunistic corporatist profiteering, that has pushed the modern mass economic migration models and generated a sort of thrashing social backlash with a nationalist character.

    Brexit is nationalism politics, but it’s feeding off the negatives of open border mass migration. The positives of population growth, diverse communities and freedom of movement are well documented, however political demand for GDP growth and associated corporate pressures for high volume growth appear to have pushed past the limits of the benefits, introducing real and evidenced negatives such as infrastructure overloading, environmental degradation, urban amenity decline, overdevelopment, wage suppression etc. In other words, very high population growth (extreme population growth) is progressive ideology but corporatist/neoliberal in effect, in substance monetising established community and personal amenity as the policies needed to manage it (infrastructure improvement, environmental regulation, welfare improvement, regional employment opportunities etc) never arrive and the profits are banked by global capital.

    Post Brexit, UK employment is solid and wages are rising. Wealthy globalist, corporatist FIRE (finance, insurance and real estate) workers may feel aggrieved that their opportunities for further wealth are in decline, but the productive economy and low wage workers appear to be under much less pressure as the currency falls and wage suppression pressures ease. These trends will reinforce feedback to conservative populist leaders talking a nationalist tone, and explain why working class voters continue to abandon the mainstream labour parties. Interestingly, recent rising wages in the UK have sparked an intensified business calls for increased population, tacitly acknowledging population growth as a key wage suppression tool.

    Preferences from nationalist political parties and politicians tend to fall towards conservative leaders. In Australia’s recent election both Labor and Liberal primary votes were in decline. Nationalist parties were the key beneficiaries of this trend, and preferences fell back to the mainstream conservative parties.

  16. Tessa_M

    Noone is really sure of the attitude of the Royal Households in Britain to Brexit. The Crown heads keeps its opinions closely guarded. This issue needs further investigation.

  17. James Robo

    Jeremy Corbyn made extraordinary gains at the 2017 election which was supposed to be a wipe-out for Labour. No wonder president Trump is a keen supported of Boris Johnson. Here’s hoping for a No-Brexit Deal to revive Jeremy’s fortunes.

  18. rubio@coast

    This topic is still very relevant. Boris’ strategy is now to take Britain out of Europe on 31 October during an election campaign over a likely no-confidence vote. If No-Deal Brexit is existing government policy, this can perhaps be implemented by a new minority government or a government in election mode. Meanwhile, the British economy has contracted by -0.2 per cent in the latest quarter.

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