During World War 2, the Red Army perfected the art of the strategic encirclement and entrapment of the mighty German Wehrmacht, resulting in the eventual destruction of the Third Reich. The Soviets baited the Germans into driving forward, encircled them and proceeded to starve the invaders into surrender. The Germans had a name for this, falle, meaning “trap”.
The British Prime Minister Theresa May, in her speech to the Conservative party conference, was a well crafted strategic encirclement operation against the Labour Party, which is in danger of getting trapped in May’s own political falle. Theresa May articulated a vision of a country that managed and regulated migration, used the state to protect the “left-behind” of a globalized economy and took on the vested interests of a wealthy City of London dominated establishment. It was a master class of the new centre-right populism where elections are now won.
Of course, the only reason why Theresa May is now occupying 10 Downing Street was the Leave victory during the Brexit referendum. The Brexit result had many causes, but one of the principal factors was the legitimate concerns of the British public about the economic and cultural implications of mass migration into the United Kingdom.
The consequences of European Union (EU) migration has predominately been an economic one, with low-skilled but hard working East European migrants taking jobs which might otherwise have been taken by the indigenous working class. The influx of Polish plumbers, for example, has inevitably had an impact on British born plumber’s wages, which has stagnated as a result. On a broader level, East Europeans broadly share similar attitudes to British people on many issues, and the high number of marriages between British and Polish citizens is a good example of how well EU migrants have integrated into British society.
There is no doubt that concerns over the mass immigration of EU migrants into the country, and their impact of wages and public services, impacted the referendum result. However, I would argue that it was the collapse of the external borders of the EU, and the mass influx of predominately Muslim refugees, that drove the average voter to vote out on 23 June 2016.
It is well known that the Muslim communities of Britain have struggled to integrate into the wider British society and opinion polls reflect the very different attitudes to woman’s rights, homosexuality and the role of religion in society. The boycott by sections of the Muslim community of the government’s Prevent programme illustrates these tensions. The Prevent programme was created to encourage citizens to report any potential terrorist cases to the police, but has been widely condemned by Islamists as a stigmatisation of the Muslim community.
Muslim critics have been very loud in their criticisms of Prevent, but little effort has been invested, in constructive proposals on how to deal with the growing extremism problem among the younger Muslim population. Question marks about the underlying loyalty of the Muslim population are a below-the-radar concern for broad layers of the British public.
The influx of Muslim refugees, many from deeply conservative countries, into the heart of the European Continent in 2015 transformed the nature of the EU migration debate in the minds of the average voter. The prospect that these refugees would at some point become European citizens and be free to move en masse to the UK was an intolerable prospect for many British people. It is now becoming clear that an unknown number of the hundreds of thousands of migrants are ISIS sleeper terrorists, sent to wreak death and destruction in the West.
The majority of the British public concluded that re-gaining control of Britain’s borders was a vital economic and security matter over and above the potential economic damage of exiting the EU.
The Labour Party is currently having an internal debate on whether to campaign on remaining in the single market or taking a “hard Brexit” approach, similar to the Conservative Party. The re-elected Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is ideologically committed to an open borders policy and has indicated that he will campaign to stay in the single market. Should Labour go into the next general election on a platform of prioritising membership of the single market over controls over migration, it will be slaughtered in the ballot box. This is the Theresa May falle.
The Conservative Party is slowly but systematically pinching the economic programme of Corbynism, modifying and adopting it as government policy. May has promised a crackdown on corporate tax evasion, the “fat cat” culture of the City and the cultivation of an “industrial strategy” designed to build up Britain’s industrial base. This platform is music to the ears of traditional Labour voters. The Conservative Party is moving to bring on-board Labour voters, just as Donald Trump is doing with blue-collar Democratic voters, in the United States. You may hear a lot more in the coming years of the May Labourites and how they will bring an electoral landslide for the Tories at the next general election.
The Conservative Party is the most successful political party in history because of its ruthless and instinctive drive to seize and maintain power. The Telegraph’s writer Ambrose Evans-Pritchard has written eloquently on the demise of the globalised neo-liberal world order and notes that the Tories, with their instinctive lust for power, are the first to adapt to the new era of state interventionism, protectionism and the return of the nation-state.