The British right sees an opportunity in the chaos of Brexit to remake Britain in its image, just as Margeret Thatcher once did.

On the eve of the suspension of the UK parliament, John Bercow the flamboyant, and seen by some as controversial, speaker of parliament announced his resignation. 

Labour members of parliament stood up to applaud Bercow, while much of the Conservative benches remained seated, many have openly resented the speaker for his perceived pro-remain views on Europe. 

His dramatic departure seemed to compound the increasingly turbulent times faced in Westminister. 

Adding to the sense of chaos, a Supreme Court decision in Scotland has now also ruled that the government's suspension of parliament is illegal - an extraordinary turn of events.  

The Brexit process in Britain has more than anything exposed deep divisions in society and the political class, previous political norms and ways of conducting politics, as a result, have started to break down or fraying. 

The Conservative Party announced that it would stand a candidate for John Bercow’s parliamentary seat breaking the convention that usually the seat held by the speaker of parliament is not contested by any party. The idea being is that the speaker of parliament should be above party politics. 

The new speaker of parliament will now be judged by one barometer alone: their vote on Brexit and whether they voted on the withdrawal agreement or not. There is no sitting MP in the UK parliament that has not been tainted by this process. 

A consensus candidate will be hard to find, and the process will likely be bitter and divisive. 

The Brexit process has also muddied the British political kaleidoscope. 

First the British political parties

Recently, 21 Conservative MPs were kicked out of their party for voting against the government on Brexit. Since 2017 with the election of Theresa May as Prime Minister, 73 MPs have left their respective parties, joined a new party or become independents. 

This is an indication that the old “centrist” consensus is breaking apart with MPs increasingly becoming politically homeless or realising that their politics are no longer that of their constituents.

 

The British political system post-Thatcher has seen the Conservative Party and the Labour Party achieve a consensus, with increased privatisation and an acceptance of neo-liberalism. 

This consensus saw immigration as a good thing and liberal internationalism as the politics of the future. The ideological battles of the past were seen as largely over or contained in the fringes of British politics. 

Nigel Farage, previously the leader of the UK Independence Party and now of the Brexit Party, and one such “fringe” character is one of the main protagonists driving Brexit. 

His triumph in two consecutive European Union parliamentary elections has panicked Conservative party ranks with his party capturing millions of voters that feel abandoned by the two main political parties.  

A similar outlier was Jeremy Corbyn, now the leader of the Labour Party, his policies of nationalisation of vital public services and tackling inequality have been popular but largely ignored under previous Labour governments.  

Corbyn and Farage are examples that issues surrounding national identity, nationalisation of the railways, more public investments, and less immigration are issues that are still important to millions of people across the UK. Issues that the political class has ignored at their peril over the last three decades and attempted to confine to margins.

These popular policies have yet to be reflected in parliamentary representation. For instance, while 52 percent of the population voted for Brexit, 72 percent of members of Parliament voted to remain

A lack of representation exists at the heart of British politics between what people want and what MPs want - a primary function of any healthy and working democracy.

Earlier this year a new political party was created in Britain which included disenfranchised members from the Labour and Conservative Party who represent Remain. Their defection was seen as part of a painful process of realignment in British politics.  

When the new party, Change UK, was announced with great fanfare it projected itself as what Britain needed. 

The centrist, politically correct, movement felt that they could occupy a space in British politics that had been vacated by mainstream political parties due to the Brexit process. 

In their first electoral test, they achieved 3.4 percent of the vote in European parliamentary elections, and it has mostly faded into obscurity.

Brexit has not created a movement or a sentiment for more migration and a need for more foreign rule, i.e. from Brussels. Quite the opposite. 

Remaking Britain 

British politics, and in particular, political parties have become ideological husks. Under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, ideology has once again become a feature of that party which has resulted in significant growth in membership. 

The Conservative party on the other hand for more than two decades has seen the grim reaper take many conservative voters without any sign of replacement. 

There is also a growing realisation on both sides of the political divide between Jeremy Corbyn, Nigel Farage and now Boris Johnson as the new prime minister that an opportunity to reboot Britain exists. Brexit is the means to redraw party lines ideologically.

The political right, due to their proximity to power, sees the opportunity offered by Brexit as a form of shock doctrine capitalism. A break from the EU is an opportunity to remake Britain as the celebrated Margeret Thatcher once did. 

That means more privatisation, more government deregulation and cuts to social spending. 

But in addition to that, some in Britain’s political class also hark back to a golden age of Empire, where the countries sense of purpose and standing in the world seemed more clear cut than it is now. This sense of certainty is being employed to soothe the social angst in a changing Britain.

The left under Jeremy Corbyn sees an opportunity to move away from the neoliberal structures of the EU and to roll back the Thatcher consensus that had prevailed in British politics.     

As the Brexit crises continue and with the Conservative Party in an informal alliance with Nigel Farage there is a sense that Britain is moving in a far more right-wing trajectory than could have previously imagined with unforeseen consequences for British society and Europe at large.      

Source: TRT World