My more enthusiastic friends tell me that 2014 will be an exciting year politically. Scotland shall have its referendum, and the outcome could alter the international map. Should Scotland-since residency is the single requirement for participation I refrain from using ‘the Scottish’-answer in the negative to Mr Salmond’s proposal the Prime Minister’s promise of a revised devolutionary settlement means that the United Kingdom will change whatever the outcome. As there seems as yet no new appetite, at least in Westminster, for English representation out with Parliament it appears that the component parts of the Kingdom (England, Wales, Northern Ireland, London and the Overseas Territories) are condemned to a constitutional fudge in which no-one has quite the same relationship to the centre as anyone else. In this writer’s mind this situation is vaguely reminiscent of the doomed Austro-Hungarian Empire during the last years of the dual monarchy. The image is ominous if nothing else.
The Euro elections are another event which I should be excited about, apparently. The May vote will test the resolve of the dissidents who switched to UKIP at the last English council elections: will they actually be mad enough to vote for UKIP in a half-way important election? A strong showing could encourage more defections-there is a wide spread belief that madness dissipates if the mad are in large enough numbers-which would have consequences for the Conservatives in 2015 as UKIP tends to fish in the same pool as the Tories in terms of voter base.
Of course, 2014 will prove to be the last full year of the Coalition prior to the General Election, and so the propaganda war which precedes any election will become more intense as all sides attempt to dirty everyone else. Exiting stuff, then. Yet I remain utterly unenthused. I cannot help feel that this is because our political class long ago gave up being anything other than cheerleaders for the Corporatist Consensus which has been in place since the collapse of the USSR. They have become various shades of the same ideology: in all but name the UK, and much of the rest of the Western world, has become a single party state.
Case in point: in a speech on capitalism in 2012 Ed Miliband declared that ‘we as a Labour Party are determined to be champions of the consumer’. The Leader of the Left in this country has bought (no pun intended) in completely to the Corporatist Consensus that consumption is the ultimate good. This is an ideological position which is so ingrained within British culture in the second decade of the third millennium that even the Leader of the Left has become a ‘champion’ for capitalistic consumption. If anyone was uncertain about the existence of this consensus then they merely have to turn on their TV at Christmas: advertisements regularly portray consumption as a form of ‘retail therapy’, and the purchase of products as a method of ensuring familial harmony. As such capitalism and consumption stands in for family values while those parents unable or unwilling to buy are opposed to this socially adhesive force: greed is good hence those who cannot participate in the orgy of capitalistic consumption are bad.
The continual prattling about the ‘squeezed middle’ by our political class is tied to the concept of the good consumer. The middle class are, in capitalistic terms, moral as they can consume quite safely while the ‘crushed bottom’-who, evidently, are not worth talking about-cannot both be good capitalists and heat their homes. However, changing economic circumstances mean that the ‘squeezed middle’ can no longer buy quite the same level of products. They are, then, placed in a perilous moral situation and so, heroically, Mr Miliband rides to their rescue as their champion. Note that the Leader of the Left is not the champion of the poor, or even the people, but specifically the consumer. In the eyes of the Labour Leader the only problem with the system is the fact that some of those who once loyal capitalists are being placed in the situation in which they can no longer demonstrate that loyalty through ‘retail therapy’.
The Leader of the Left is why I am deeply pessimistic about the year to come. His presence within the Labour Party personifies the fact that there is no ideological alternative within the UK, or, as far as I am aware, in the West, to the corporate-capitalistic consensus. While a Labour government will tinker around the edges of the current system, they have become only a different faction within our one party state. Until an alternative appears I shall remain pessimistic.