British politics has never really been considered sexy. When you think about politics, over-privileged old men in matching navy suits comes to mind. These men, also known as wanky toffs – ahem, I mean politicians – spend their days debating societal matters of which they have absolutely no experience and therefore comprehend in terms of political ideologies that are as far removed from the issues as astronomical physics, which they studied at Eton and Oxbridge, of course.
Class stereotyping aside and political rant over, I think we can all agree that politics has never really been a part of ‘popular culture’. That is until the past decade, or the past thirteen years I should say, in which British socialism suddenly titivated itself and injected a certain element of sex appeal into its image. I bet even Margaret Thatcher took a second glance.
We all know what revamping I am talking about. It was the revival of the Labour party, under a certain, rather stylish Tony Blair. It was groundbreaking. It was mind-blowing. It was completely out of this political world.
In 1997, socialism got sexy. It changed its name to New Labour. It became media savvy. It reduced the power of the trade unions. In other words, it abandoned traditional socialism.
The Blairite government introduced the ‘Third Way’, in which it created policies by mediating the ideologies of the right and the left. We saw liberal policies like the introduction of a national minimum wage and more funding for state schools executed with the magnetism of a shampoo advert. No one can forget Blair’s three policies for his first term as PM: “education, education, education”, like something off an iPod advert. It was inescapable and undeniably convincing. And he didn’t forget the Tories. Blair kept Conservative England happy by not increasing income tax for high earners and introduced the marketisation of education, including those niggling university tuition fees. New Labour was on fire, and had the voters of Britain in the palm of their hand.
After thirteen years under the New Labour government, voters, MPs and the media have become increasingly disillusioned by the superpower stance New Labour have to governing. The economic meltdown has been the last straw, in which the merging of socialistic high public spending and uncontrolled capitalism has resulted in a ruin. We saw through the ‘let’s give everyone a better standard of living, and look cool while doing it’, and saw a Machiavellian politician manipulating voters to keep him in power, while providing nothing much in return. We began to see the hypocrisy and the destruction of Champagne Socialism.
Currently, New Labour is looking like it is in trouble. Gordon Brown is still vocalising the ‘Third Way’ sound bites, despite the little, or negative, effect that it has on the people that bother to listen. David Cameron, meanwhile, is pushing his luck with his introduction of New Toryism. All of which is taking place while sceptical voters shake their heads in disbelief that Cameron has chosen to jump on the sinking ship of converging the left and the right, while grumbling about the predictability and staidness of British politics.
What can be seen at the microcosmic level of Facebook political status profiling is that people are going back to the ideological roots of socialism and capitalism. They have realised that neither pure communism or capitalism works, but merging the two ends in utter disaster. So, on the one hand, there are the ‘Very Conservatives’, who would vote for Cameron if he was being the transparent Conservative sting ray that he most likely is. These are the people uttering Thatcher and Churchill quotes, and debating whether Cameron is a Stalinist or Leninist, to the non-Conservative’s confusion.
On the other hand, we have the communists; they may at a push vote for Labour, if they really have to. They are reading books like Das Kapital, The Conditions of the Working Class in England in 1844, and their own bible, also known as The Communist Manifesto. They fantasise about growing a Karl Marx beard, and wear those cheap t-shirts with the Che Guevara print in varying non-ethical colours of ink, all proceeds from which go to a fat cat capitalist.
The wheel has come full circle. Political ideologies are the new ‘Third Way’. The far right and real socialism has revitalised their minority popularities, flaunting the sex appeal of extremism, leaving centrist politics looking unadventurous. Yes, it may be contradictory. It may be confusing; it may be at times as hypocritical as the Champagne Socialism of Blair. But you cannot doubt the passion of its supporters, and passion is what we need in a time of societal and economic depression.