A man (gender specific?) achieves high office on the basis of a low turnout, bigotry and downright lies. He promises the earth in the full knowledge that he neither can nor wishes to deliver on his “commitments”. A self-regarding media gets it all hopelessly wrong whilst pumping this ego- on-legs the oxygen of publicity. His party tacks backwards and forwards to profit from his political fortunes. Meanwhile, a gaggle of sycophants from all sides seek to hitch a ride on his bandwagon, to further their own personal agendas.
Sound familiar? A man like Trump – or anyone else you know? Can it happen here? Has it happened here already? What does it say about the state of politics today, and about the attitudes of various electorates? Most importantly, what lessons ought to be learnt, and what changes need to be made, to pre-empt an eventual repeat somewhere, of last Tuesday’s American farce?
Here, on Merseyside, we can safely assume that, sooner or later, reliance on entrenched party loyalty could wear thin as it did in many parts of blue-collar America. Already, turnout at elections in many areas is dangerously low. Our local media – devoid of any real political impact – is superseded by social media in the dissemination of what passes for news and opinion. Labour’s civil war – locally evident in the Wallasey and Liverpool Riverside constituencies – is extremely damaging to its local hegemony, whilst the national split between the elected leadership and the parliamentary party exacerbates Labour pains.
We will see a possible outcome soon enough, with elections in May – a mere six months away. Will a high profile celebrity – say, someone like Phil Redmond – stand for metromayor on an anti-establishment ticket? On Merseyside, the political establishment is Labour. Will Mayor Anderson persist with his risible, and costly, proposal for a referendum on a 10% council tax increase? We can only speculate as to what other potential pitfalls lie ahead in the run-up to May.
The general assumption is that Steve Rotheram will be favourite for metromayor. I share that view; yet the spirit of the times runs against establishment wishes and candidates. The danger is that Labour continues to take its traditional support for granted, as Clinton and the Democrats did in the rust belt seats of middle America. The Labour cause is not helped by the increasing perception that Labour leaders like Mayor Anderson are doing the Tories’ dirty work for them, notwithstanding the Tory cuts. Perhaps a council-tax referendum in Liverpool (a costly exercise in every sense) would have had a better reception if the Mayor and councillors had offered to take a 10% cut in their own council-tax funded emoluments at the same time!
The simple fact is that both here and in the USA, large numbers of people are alienated from politics and politicians at every level. Politicians talking to other politicians is no substitute for talking to constituents. After all, it is the views and priorities of the latter which count at the ballot box. All it takes is for a credible conman to act as the cheerleader of the disaffected, and Labour could face even more serious problems than those which currently bedevil it. Consultants and pollsters will be of no help with their sterile advice. The only way forward is strict adherence to Labour values and priorities, and vigorous campaigning to communicate them.