Opinion – Populism: The corrupting of democracy – via the Economist

Here’s an excellent, albeit highly depressing article in the Economist.

Whilst I broadly agree with the central thrust of the argument, some of the observations are not entirely in the context. Also the Economist implies that Populism is a phenomenon of the Far-Right.

Firstly, let’s look at the context. In a practical sense, in any large or moderately complex country in a democracy, the people elect their parliamentary representatives, often because of their perceived expertise and their political values. This is representative democracy and the aspiration is to preserve the sovereignty of parliament and effectively hold the executive branch of government to account. However, in the post WWII era, the boundaries have become blurred. Enormous bureaucracies have been established, a very long way removed from representative, examples include the UN agencies, the EU bureaucracy in Brussels, the IMF and the World Bank. Towards the end of my career, I was a special advisor to the head of a UN agency. It’s important to understand that these are essentially political organizations, with executive and professional appointments exclusively decided by national governments. Even clerical appointments are driven by nationality, trying to enforce representation of less powerful countries. Over the years, there has been enormous evidence of corruption, political bias and absence of good management, like for example providing audit certification of the institution’s accounts, especially in the EU. Another example is with the Arab League’s infiltration of many United Nations’ organizations – for further evidence open this link,.

In international agencies, funds are received typically from national governments and deployed in an enormous number of donor programmes – unfortunately, corruption often prevails, bringing into question the central purpose of the agency. This is often done with institutional political bias that ignores the reality of poverty, absence of education and democracy in many of the countries appealing for aid. This context is important because it has been consistently ignored angering an increasing number of voters in established democracies who want greater accountability and a return to representative democracy. These voters are angered by the liberal elites who have preserved the power of international agencies. Shrewd politicians have capitalized on this anger and we have the modern political force of populism.

My second issue with the Economist’s argument is the implication that populism is the exclusive preserve of the Far-Right. I would argue that populism is just as much a tool for the Far-left. For example, the leader of the Uk’s Labour Party has a history of Far-Left protest politics, highly dubious associations, institutional bias etc. I could imagine a Far-Left Labour government in the UK, quickly turning to Trotskyist dogma of permanent revolution, dismantling great and historic institutions.

So for me, both the Far-Right and the Far-Left would probably quickly turn from representative democracy, with their leaders arguing that the end justifies the means.

Many who have turned to populist leaders are angered by the status quo of the elitism of the liberal order and the international bureaucracies that they have spawned since 1945. Of course, the populist leaders will protect their own interests, plus those of their families and cronies.

The Economist article’s title blames populism for corrupting democracy. Surely, it was already corrupted by the elitist Liberal order, their cronies and the international bureaucracies?

Opinion – World Views on the Brexit Failure – John Gelmini

Dr Alf, refreshed and reinvigorated by the clear air and magnificent scenery in Peru, has had a good opportunity to review the current state of play vis-a-vis Brexit.

On current form, I can see the UK remaining in the EU, as that was what was planned all along.

I tend to think we will have to have an extension to our time, as there will not be time to agree a new deal, even if the 27 European member states were to agree it. Following that extension, we will remain in the EU until it splits into two halves in about 18 to 22 months time, based on its own tensions and the incompatibility of member states economic cycles. The main half, based on “Greater Germany”, Austria, Sweden, France, Holland, Belgium and Finland will be juxtaposed against the Southern half, based on Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece, plus the Balkan states. The UK would probably do best in EFTA, which will fall outside these blocs, as the Southern bloc would be too limiting and the main half would mean falling under German control. The Germans have already planned for this scenario by bringing back a lot of their gold reserves from America but I see no proper planning here in the UK.

The UK’s ills stem from a disgruntled proletariat, which feels hard done by, unrepresented and has little money. It is made worse by gross inequality, which manifests itself in massively inflated executive pay, wasteful local authorities and a political class bludgeoning expenses on a bigger scale than the scandal exposed by the Daily Telegraph a few years ago. These factors, too few exports, too little productivity, and over expensive public services, plus indifference to the need for reform and efficiency measures for the police, civil service and the NHS, have led to falling living standards amongst the many, and rapidly rising ones for the few in fhe know. his rather than Brexit, is driving the incessant demonstrations and aggressive behaviour although the very stupid want to scapegoat migrants for their plight even though these migrants are doing work which the indigenous proletariat refuse to do or see as “beneath them”.

Mrs May is indifferent to these realities – to the failure to build houses, use systems building and reform the police so that they can fight crime and the need to reintroduce National Service to inculcate discipline in the young population in a country which is now out of control. She must be removed and her tired Cabinet of ‘also-rans’ replaced with younger more telegenic people who get it.

What passes for an Opposition is run by an ageing Trotskyite, who condones institutional anti-Semitism, with a history as a political troublemaker,  historically has  some highly suspicious associates and most critically no effective leadership qualities. Left-wing activists cite Jeremy Corbyn’s policies but he must be measured by his actions and failures, most noticeably Brexit and anti-Semitism.

Concern about Brexit masks a deeper malaise in the UK, in which deference is gone, and the ruling class seen as venal shysters, freeloaders, parasites and scoundrels. Rather too many of them are seen in this light and not as well-minded people “,trying to do their best”. Politicians of an earlier generation tried to serve their country – now this is seen as quaint, with the Far-Left and the Far-Right actively promoting chaos and revolution.

An element of tangible contrition and behavioural change is needed, and needed fast, otherwise, the UK is in for a very rough ride – politically, economically and socially. I am far less confident than Dr Alf that the UK Government, Parliament and the EU will reach a last-minute compromise to avoid disaster.

John Gelmini