In the year 2009 Brexiteers, after 15 years of unsuccessful campaigning, discovered the topic of immigration. It might seem farcical now to think that Brexiteers, faced with unlimited immigration from Europe, were not using this issue to bolster their case for leave the European Union, or as a weapon to use against the Left – but that’s really what was going on. It was only when the British National Party started gaining in the polls in the late 2000s that Nigel Farage began talking about the subject of immigration.
Unbeknownst to many outside Britain, before 2009, Nigel Farage was identified accurately, even by many in the dissident right, as an ideological autist obsessed with Brussels and the European Commission. However in 2009, in order to gain an advantage over the British National Party, and cement his claim as the main political figure of the British dissident right, he latched on and became master of the anti-immigration argument. From that point on he never looked back – and his great victory came 7 years later in the EU referendum of June 2016.
Meanwhile back in 2005, when he assumed the leadership of the Conservative Party, David Cameron sought to modernise the party because of a social change that he correctly sensed, but wrongly identified. He thought the culture was shifting in favour of champagne socialism, when in reality this was only a factor in his own bourgeois social circles. The wider social change that was actually occurring was amongst the biggest demographic in the land – the White working class. From a left-wing perspective they supported the welfare state and had also maintained a patriotic identity, but they were also developing right-wing perspectives on certain specific issues: the European Union, mass immigration, and foreign aid. It would take until the EU referendum of 2016 and the general election of 2019 for this White working class shift to have an impact, and before 2016 British politics was a complicated mix of different factors.
The major battlegrounds between 1992 and 2016 were always decided by certain factors. Scotland was always an open contest between the Liberal Democrats, Labour, the SNP and the Conservatives, whilst Northern Ireland was always fought between Unionists and Republicans. England and Wales, meanwhile, consisted of areas where the Conservatives and Labour had their safe seats, and also the battleground swing seats in between each others’ safe seat territory. On top of that, you also had the rather bizarre phenomenon of university towns like Canterbury, Winchester, Exeter, Bath, Cambridge, Brighton, Peterborough, Norwich and Oxford. Despite being deep inside Conservative safe seat territory, these could change hands between the Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats and even the Greens depending on how many students were studying in the town and how many turned out to vote. Putting all of this information together, you can begin to understand why British general elections are so nerve racking.
The most interesting, and perhaps most counter-intuitive, reality from all this though is that, despite the White British population in Britain falling from around 95% to 79% over the last 25 years, the White British majority population still holds the key to electoral victory in most areas.
This is because of the parliamentary constituency seat map of Britain. Most of the non-White demographic is densely packed into Labour Party safe seats in the major cities, rather than the crucial swing seats that decide elections. So although immigration increases the number of Labour Party voters within Labour safe seats, all this results in is increased Labour majorities in seats they always win anyway (a la deep blue US cities sucking in immigrants and America’s electoral college). Some second and third generation immigrants have moved out and away from these areas into provincial towns, but despite the social problems that this has caused, statistically speaking their numbers are on a limited scale and so they have had very little electoral impact.
The liberal-Left dominated broadcasting media in Britain has also for this same reason been very ineffective in turning its 24/7 activist journalism into political capital and victories. All television in Britain is of course dominated by liberal themes and the two British news channels, BBC news and Sky news, are left-wing. Indeed, Britain’s broadcasting media is so tightly regulated that Fox News was actually banned in the country on the day of the 2017 general election, when Theresa May lost her parliamentary majority. Quite tellingly however, CNN was allowed to broadcast in Britain throughout the election day, which gives you an idea of the totalitarian nature of European social democracies.
Despite having a domestic broadcasting monopoly though, the Left are having a limited effect on influencing the political thoughts of the nation. Although on paper they are more powerful because they have no centre-right broadcasters as competitors (Rupert Murdoch pulled Fox News from Britain in late 2017 because of abysmal ratings), they have less effect from a practical perspective. This is because, as I explained above, the potentially game changing non-White demographic that could in theory correlate with their left-wing journalism to produce a political shift is concentrated in Labour safe seats, rather than in battleground swing seats. In effect, the liberal-left broadcasters’ shock troops are trapped in their own territory, with the lands of political conquest out of reach.
This has meant that the ‘import the voters’ strategy started by Tony Blair in 1997 has not yet paid off in any statistically significant degree – and this is why Brexiteers were able to win the 2016 EU referendum, and why Boris Johnson was able to win a 2019 general election landslide on a populist manifesto.
The White working class’s swing to the political right was pivotal in both of these victories, and whether they are aware of this or not, they have caused the greatest political shift in Britain since Clement Atlee’s victory in July 1945, which lead to the creation of the welfare state and the end of Empire. The greatest legacy of this though is not only that Brexit has won, but also that other issues on Johnson’s agenda like voter ID, a points based immigration system, the reintroduction of bursaries for domestically trained health workers, de-politicisation of the Supreme Court, and restrictions on the criminal activities of gypsies have arrived on the agenda. For perspective, these issues were unthinkable in Westminster just five years ago, and represent a nationwide sea change in political and cultural discourse. This isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but if first steps are needed, then this is the first step that fate has granted.
Britain’s great political shift over the last decade or so was not solely caused by Nigel Farage’s decision to take up the cause of the anti-immigration argument in order to create momentum for his anti-EU crusade, or by the White working class’s move to the Right on the issues of Europe, foreign aid and immigration. In reality, it was a combination of both these factors combined that produced such a dramatic effect. The situation now, of course, is that the non-ideological opportunist Boris Johnson has carried both these factors into government and the halls of power – an irony that his critics are unlikely to ignore.