A tense dance is underway in Italy this week as the political right and left make moves towards populist leader Beppe Grillo while he skips out of their grasp and jangles the keys to the kingdom over their heads.
The result of Sunday’s election was a predictably muddled affair. Although Pier Luigi Bersani’s left wing challenger Democratic Party (PD) won control of the lower house, its failure to secure the Senate has forced it to grovel at the feet of Grillo’s Five Star Movement which won an amazing 25 per cent of the vote despite only forming three and a half years ago.
The movement prides itself on its anti-establishment mishmash of policies, which include include anti austerity measures, a free internet and mild Euroskepticism. It has refused to negotiate with any of the major parties, predicting fresh elections within the year.
This election has widely been treated as a victory for the little man and protest fringe parties across Europe like UKIP are taking note. But what has Grillo really achieved by bringing Italy to a standstill?
The bizarre populist glee of the Five Star Movement doesn’t seem to account for the stress it puts on the lives of ordinary people. The ‘that’ll learn attitude’ to the news Italy’s position in world markets stuttering and making it harder to get cheap credit doesn’t seem to recognise it has a knock on effect down the chain.
Yes, a fat cat will suffer a fall in his stock but a small business owner will find it harder to invest or even maintain the investments he already has.
Politicians across the world are awful. They are corrupt (especially in Italy), nepotistic, distant and far too concerned with their image than their voters. But protest voting won’t help.
The rise of movements like UKIP and the Five Star Movement demonstrate how politics now exists in a warped reality where people don’t understand the unavoidable unfairness of power. People think they are sending a message but all they are doing is perpetuating the Daily Mail politics which have got the modern political establishment in such a muddle in the first place.
UKIP and the Five Star Movement tell people what they want to hear, they create crowd pleasing policies that appeal to emotion rather than reason. At least the major parties make a stab at both even if they are mostly unsuccessful.
Have you ever read a UKIP manifesto? Its nonsensical. They promote conflicting policies and campaign on a social issues platform that went out of fashion twenty years ago. When challenged on this points they resort to bluster or blaming the EU.
For instance, in leaflets distributed by UKIP candidate for the Eastleigh byelection, Dianne James claimed four million Bulgarians planned to come to the UK in January 2014. In the Channel 4 hustings for the election, Kristan Guru Murphy pointed out there are only seven and half million Bulgarians in Bulgaria.
If UKIP really thought they had a ‘realistic chance of winning’, they would have put Farage in the hot seat.
Similarly, visit the comment pages of the Times, the Telegraph and Conservative Home, they seize even the flimsiest excuse to play the ‘Emperor’s New Followers’, pretending they are the voice of the majority when they just shout the loudest.
Or maybe they represent the majority of people with nothing better to do than spend all day online making snarky comments on the internet.
There is one fundamental rule of the internet, Godwin’s law; the longer an internet conservation goes on the probability of someone mentioning the Nazis reaches one.
Maybe its time that rule was amended so the probability of someone mentioning the EU becomes one. We could call it ‘Farage’s law’.
And whoever says ‘Vote UKIP’ immediately loses the argument. Especially if they do it in ALL CAPS.
They lie as much as any other politicians. The only reason they look humbler than any other political party is because they have less money and less political skill. Incompetence and bluster do not good rulers make.
Neither does a one line economic policy. Economics is a broad church; there are so many differing opinions out there all worshiping at the altars of Hayek, Keynes, Freedman, Marx etc. Modern, high profile and highly respected economists tend to pick sides. Some support Labour, some support the Conservatives, some advocate EU withdrawal, some do not.
But name me one high profile economist who agrees with UKIP. You can’t. Even if any existed, they would not dare admit it for fear of being laughed out of their departments.
Economics is an ugly, finicky, complicated business much like politics and there are no right answers or simple solutions. UKIP are not representing the people properly, they are probably disrespecting the electorate more than anyone else with their callous treatment of reason.
UKIP policy is an assault on reason. There is nothing wrong with ordinary people entering parliament, in fact it should be encouraged, but not because their overwhelming quality is their ordinariness. UKIP suffers from an inverted snobbery which pushes their candidates to the opposite end of the spectrum than the current roster of the three main parties.
Debate is binary, decisions are knee jerk, solutions are simplistic. They do not understand the unfair nature of political power is eternal and the problems of representation will probably never be solved, especially not by stamping your feet.
Their interpretation of ‘rule by the people’ is to sneer at intellectuals for being out of touch as if the lifetime long study of market forces is less of a qualifier to decide fiscal policy than ‘man down the pub’ logic.
Intellectualism is not any more of a disqualification for rule than ordinariness. UKIP criticise politicians for telling people to think in a certain way then tell them to think in a different way.
Whatever happen to thinking for yourself? It’s these different ideas and a place for everyone to share them is what we need. Not a new party line to follow.
They attack, they don’t challenge. They whine, they don’t debate. They are more interested in what people want to be the right answer, not what it actually is.
The rise of UKIP has exposed the holes in the modern political system. But they do not provide the solution.