Saturday, December 14, 2019

Two elections, one lesson, guv'nor?

By Isabel Archer
London Correspondent 
with A.J. Liebling
Meta-Content Generator

You may have heard that on December 12, the United Kingdom held an election and the Conservative Party won. It didn't get a majority of the votes, but there as here the election system contrives to give the party that got less than half the vote a working majority of the government.

In the Queen's English, this is a “mandate.” (Source: BBC)
It seems tolerably clear that the election was decided on two issues peculiar to the UK: (1) the continuing battle over whether to remain a member of the European Union, a powerful transnational authority with no analogue in the United States and (2) the personal unpopularity of the Labour candidate, who propounded clear old-fashioned Socialist solutions for every issue, with the exception of the one that mattered (Brexit), where he offered a straddle whilst holding a pail of mush.

In the end, pro-Brexit parties got 45.6% of the popular vote; anti-Brexit parties got 50.2%.  Given the first-past-the-post system used to fill 650 small district seats, the result was a thumping majority for the Conservatives and the UK will finally leave the European Union.

The ambiguity of these results as you might imagine hasn't stopped the usual gang of white male gasbags on the New York Times Op-Ed page and elsewhere from declaring that this outcome boded ill for, you guessed it, the Democrats.  (This represents a break from the Democrats-in-Disarray trope, which will resume next week.)

Here's one Roger Cohen, who having spent as much time in London as I have, purports to be an authority on all matters Anglo-American:
The clear rejection of Labour’s big-government socialism also looks ominous for Democrats who believe the party can lurch left and win. The British working class did not buy nationalized railways, electricity distribution and water utilities when they could stick it to some faceless bureaucrat in Brussels and — in that phrase as immortal as it is meaningless — take back their country.
If the British wouldn't buy nationalized water utilities why would anyone think American voters would?  By the way, when you turn on the taps in the New York Times building on Eighth Avenue, who supplies the water?  Amazon?  Last we looked it was the City of New York Board of Water Supply, and the City of New York had not yet been sold off to the highest bidder, possibly because Michael Bloomberg has decided to blow his fortune elsewhere.

I suppose it would be rubbing it in to ask who owns and operates the railways that take the legions of scribblers at the Times back home to their palatial estates in Tarrytown (Metro-North), Wantagh (LIRR), and Short Hills (NJ Transit).  Mr. Cohen might also enjoy reading each issue of Britain's wicked Private Eye to learn just how well the complex British public/private railway system is working (short version: it sucks).

And just on the facing page who should crawl out but Bretbug, gloating about the “ominous portent” for Democrats?  We don't consume his entirely predictable porridge any more but today, let's guess what's on his mind: rubbishing the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, which according to the Bugmeister is indistinguishable from the disgraced Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn:
His [Corbyn's] campaign promised free college, dramatic increases in health spending, a hike in the minimum wage, massive infrastructure spending, new taxes on the rich, and a “new green deal.”
Sound familiar? It’s the Warren-Sanders manifesto, only with £ rather than $ signs attached.
(They use a different currency in the UK which you, poor slob that you are, were unaware of until Bret reminded you.) 

Democrats should not seek to spend more money on health care because Corbyn supported it?  We sent our intern Louise to find out more about health care spending in the UK and the US and she came back almost 0.005 seconds later with the following: 

Spending on health care as % of GDP 2019

US              16.9%
UK               9.8%

Source: OECD.

So if Jeremy Corbyn proposed increasing UK health care spending by 50%, he'd still be proposing to spend less than the US?  Wow pretty radical. 

Also can you tell us where Bretbug learned that Warren and Sanders said they proposed to increase health care spending as a percentage of GDP?  They have proposed to finance health care from taxes rather than premiums and holding heart-rending online charity fundraisers, but they claim that total spending would fall.  And why wouldn't it if you take all the profiting grifters out of the system?

Speaking of health care, Bretbug seemed to think there were miles of blue water or black ink or pink gin between the Warren/Sanders approach to health care and the UK Conservative Party's.  

Were there?

Again, after milliseconds of digging, Louise found the Conservative Party Manifesto, and here's what it had to say about their plans for the NHS, the single-payer single-provider health care system in the UK:

More money for a single-payer tax-funded system?  So the difference between the winning Conservative health care platform and the Warren/Sanders approach is what, Bret?  We'll take our answer offline. 

In fact, touching the NHS has been regarded as the one third rail of British politics (maybe one of two, if you include the British breakfast or three if you add the right to puke in the streets after closing time), because all these new and old Tory voters know that single-payer health care works.

Oh and what about Bretbug's sneer at fighting climate change?  Surely the Tories up with that will not put.  From the same f***in' Conservative Manifesto:

Now we hold no brief for the Tories, who are a loathsome lot of condescending sex offenders using racism and white privilege to hide their pro-rich policies.  In that they can be compared to the Trumpublicans.

But to conclude that the UK election spells doom for progressive efforts to fight climate change and provide health care for all don't seem to accord with those pesky facts, which means that facile comparisons will continue to be emitted by every white male gasbag on every newspaper and television news gabfest.

To be fair to Roger Cohen, he didn't pull his entire column out of his blowhole.  He sought the counsel of thoughtful seasoned political commentators with vast experience in the differing political worlds of the US and the UK.

Nahhh, we're just sh***** you:
“Brexit and Trump were inextricably linked in 2016, and they are inextricably linked today,” Steve Bannon told me. “Johnson foreshadows a big Trump win.” 
When you're reduced to quoting a homeless crack-ravaged hatemonger who will speak for pancakes, you're really down to the dregs of the Scotch bottle.  As far as we can tell the only inextricable linkage that the Democrats have to contend with in 2020 is the one between middle-aged white male columnists and absolute twaddle.

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