Has the NHS gone downhill?

Victim of their own success


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June 23, 2016 was undoubtedly a triumph for the party. The two decades long struggle to leave the hated EU was over and won, the right-wing populists finally achieved their goal. From now on things could only go downhill, and Ukip did not disappoint: In the local elections of May 2017, it lost 145 of its 146 seats. In the Norfolk Regional Parliament, the party lost all of its twelve seats, including that of Peter Fitzgerald, who had represented the center of Great Yarmouth. One month later Ukip repeated their defeat in the general election: In the constituency of Great Yarmouth their share of the vote shrank from over 23 percent to 6.3, they were far behind the Tories and the second-placed Labor party. The collapse was nationwide: overall, less than 2 percent of the British voted for Ukip. The wave crashed even faster than it had piled up in previous years. "We are victims of our own success," says Fitzgerald. “We won the Brexit vote and are out of the EU. Now the population is wondering who will best implement the exit 52 percent (Brexit voters) are standing. "

If you look at the election results, this assessment seems to be more or less correct: In the regional elections Ukip lost almost all of its seats in Great Yarmouth to the Conservatives, while Labor barely benefited from the collapse of the right-wing populists. At the end of October 2017, things got even worse for Fitzgerald and his colleagues: Seven of the twelve Ukip city councilors joined the Conservatives, who have since had a majority in Great Yarmouth. This shift from Ukip to the Tories took place in most areas on the English east coast, i.e. the former core area of ​​the Independence Party. With a conservative prime minister who was committed to the tough exit from the EU, a vote for the ruling party seemed the safest way to keep the country on Brexit course. After Farage resigned as party leader shortly after the referendum won, Ukip also lost her one politician, who thanks to his charisma and popularity was able to hold the divided wings of the party together. The party is back to where it started in the 1990s: internal strife and irrelevance.

Let us return to the question asked at the beginning, namely what the Leave- Great Yarmouth voters expect Brexit. Long for the freedom to deregulate and cut government spending like journalists did telegraph claim? There are no indications of this. In dozens of conversations with locals, including retirees, students, business owners, croupiers, and the unemployed, there was no mention of taxes, regulations, or free trade. On the contrary: People want houses, jobs and a functioning health service. These are the topics that are raised again and again. And if you follow up and ask the residents for their opinion on privatization and the dismantling of labor regulations, they usually respond negatively. Such Vox-Pop interviews are admittedly not representative of Brexit voters, but they do coincide with academic surveys: Political scientists Matthew Goodwin and Caitlin Milazzo have found that Nigel Farage's supporters are much more similar to Labor voters with regard to their economic stance are as the Tories: According to surveys, most feel that entrepreneurs are trying to exploit their employees, that the privatization of state-owned companies and the savings in the NHS have gone too far, and that big business is taking advantage of ordinary consumers. However, they are far less progressive in their views on social issues such as patriotism, tradition and authoritarianism - which explains why the Tories have so far benefited more from the collapse of the Ukip than Labor.

"Let's get control back"

However, many Brexit voters also have the impression - and this is crucial - that their opinion on political, economic or any other issues does not matter at all: a feeling of powerlessness has become increasingly widespread among Britons on low incomes in recent years. In a new study, 51 percent of respondents said they had no influence on politics - 7 percent more than three years earlier. This belief is strongest among Britons in the second lowest income group. Nancy Kelley, director of research at the National Institute for Social Research, which authored the study, said, "(Poor people) feel like they are completely irrelevant to politicians. Between that stance and that LeaveVote is closely related. "This is why Matthew Elliott and his Brexit supporters' strategy of putting the question of control at the center of the referendum debate was so clever: With the slogan"Take back control"(" Let's get control back ") they addressed not only the old imperialists who long for independence from Brussels, but also those people on the fringes of society for whom control means being able to determine their own lives - them hope to regain their tradability and initiative, in order to break out of poverty and participate in society.

Peter Stäuber

moved from Switzerland to London in 2010 and has been writing about British politics, economy and culture ever since. He studied English and history in Zurich, Vienna and Aberdeen. This report is an excerpt from his current book "Dead End Brexit".

This feeling of loss of control is particularly strong when it comes to the question of immigration: 89 percent of people with the lowest incomes say that they have no way of influencing the level of immigration. This brings us back to the crucial issue of the Brexit vote. Numerous surveys show that the rejection of immigration, which was perceived as too high, played a decisive role in the EU referendum. However, as the visit to Great Yarmouth demonstrated, the matter is more complicated than it may seem at first glance. The presence of a right-wing party that goes on endlessly about the alleged consequences of immigration in an economically troubled region has the inevitable consequence that the debate is steered in a certain direction: the question of the causes of social hardship and falling living standards has one simple answer - immigrants - and more complex explanations get lost in the xenophobic slapstick. The arrival of a relatively large number of migrants in an area that has historically seen relatively low levels of immigration simplifies the work of the populists, who can point to seemingly incontestable evidence for their claims. This means that the dissatisfaction is articulated in a certain way, namely by rejecting immigration, although in many cases the problems are completely different. Of course, that does not mean that the Brexit and Ukip voters in Great Yarmouth themselves do not know what they actually think: If you say you want less immigration, you have to believe that you want less immigration.

But with regard to the lessons to be learned from Brexit - and to post-exit politics - there is an important consequence: Restricting immigration will not make anyone happy if it does not lead to an improvement in living conditions.