Brian Monteith: Here’s why the populist wave is not over yet

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Are the state institutions joining politicians to thwart the will of the people on both sides of the Atlantic, asks Brian Monteith.

Only a year ago Theresa May and Donald Trump had set out their intentions about how “Brexit means Brexit” and how to “Make America great again”. Now we are beginning to learn of how the institutions of each state have been working against them and the wishes of their respective electorates.
In the case of the Prime Minister, May delivered her Lancaster House speech which set out the approach she would take, defining Brexit as meaning the UK would be taking back control of setting our own taxes, deciding our own laws, controlling our own borders and managing our own fisheries, agriculture and trade policies.

In the case of the 45th US President, Trump promised to start removing regulations that were holding back business, cut taxes, put America back to work and tighten the policing of illegal immigration.

Whatever one may think of these policies they were the direct result of choices made through the democratic process of both countries; the UK had voted by the largest number ever in any election or referendum for Brexit - while the USA had elected Trump as President. It was the will of each country’s people that change should come about, and momentous change at that.

It has been branded and dismissed by each country’s respective establishments as a regrettable submission to “populism”, by which is really meant vulgarity. For the establishment knows better, and having failed to prevent “Brexit” and “Making America great again” is now seeking to subvert their delivery until such time as normal service can be resumed.

And so a year later and we find that while progress is being made by May and Trump towards their original goals the entirely to be expected and legitimate political opposition is not just coming from traditional adversaries but from within the corridors of the state itself, what is being termed the “deep state”, the forces of the state that will not face responsibility or allow accountability for their failures of the past and thus loose grip of power.

Her Majesty’s Treasury is, I believe, just the most visible of a number of British institutions busy at work seeking to outwit and neutralise elected representatives. It was the Treasury that said there would be an immediate recession following a Leave vote but it never materialised. It said that exports would be down 0.5% but they are up 8.3%, that business investment would be down 2.0% but it is up 1.7%, and that housing investment would be down 4.75% when it has risen by 5.0%.

It is from such ignoramuses that a new draft study, not even commissioned by minister or seen by them before it was leaked to media, warns of new woe unless the UK remains in the EU’s Custom’s Union. Professor of economics Patrick Minford is right, the Treasury model is flawed and thus worthless, for it will neither take account of the many positive opportunities beyond its comprehension that will come from Brexit (such as operating freeports across the UK, which the EU currently bans) nor the changes in laws such as banning the export of live animals for slaughter abroad, or the benefits that could stem from unilaterally cutting tariffs to zero which Minford reckons would reduce household grocery bills by 20%.

Let us remember that both the Conservative and Labour parties promised to deliver Brexit in the most recent general election. While Labour wriggles uncomfortably like a worm on a fisherman’s hook voting for invoking Article 50 only to vote against the legal changes that will allow it to happen, the Conservatives are riven with division following May’s disastrous election campaign not knowing if she can deliver an acceptable Brexit after all. Should they replace her now (in a long drawn-out process that must impact on the negotiations) or take the risk of sticking with May only for her to concede so much ground that they will be punished at the next general election by an outraged electorate.

Over in the United States the perfidy of members of the FBI is now being raised as evidence emerges of how Hillary Clinton’s campaign paid for a very dodgy dossier to be compiled on Trump, how that was used by the FBI and President Obama’s White House to seek and gain surveillance warrants on a Trump campaign worker as a means to bring down Trump’s campaign before it got started. The break-in at the Watergate Centre in President Nixon’s name back in the seventies appears small beer by comparison. Can it honestly be said that Clinton, Obama and a variety of Democratic Party, White House appointees and FBI agents did not collude to subvert a presidential election?

For all the allegations of Trump’s campaign being involved with agents of Russia, wittingly or unwittingly, to gain an electoral advantage it looks more and more that such conspiracy theories have been little more than an elaborate attempt to distract and deflect attention from what the Clinton campaign was doing - in league with institutions of the state that go right to the top.

Meanwhile President Trump has now given his inaugural State of the Union address to widespread acceptance, including a majority approval amongst independent-minded voters. Unlike Theresa May, Donald Trump remains in the ascendency, he is slashing regulation, he has cut taxes and he has offered a formula for some groups of illegal immigrants to gain citizenship in return for funding for his border wall. More dangerously for the Democratic Party the unemployment rate for coloured people and Hispanics has fallen to its lowest level for a decade and economic growth is on the up.

What the two episodes on either side of the Atlantic demonstrate is how difficult it is to effect change in Western democracies when the establishment manning the state institutions is lined up against the people. President Trump may be a billionaire but he was never part of the Washington establishment. Likewise, Brexiteers may have had significant positions in the Conservatives - but have always been on the periphery of British establishment and influence. Both have been seen as uncouth and undiplomatic - but it is that very dismissiveness and condescension from the supposed betters that has finally resulted in the people striking out by backing changes that might give them back a say.

The populist wave is not yet over, in less than two months the Italians vote in general elections and the harbingers of change can be see there too.

Brian Monteith is a director of Global Britain.