British election answers nagging questions — and sends message across Atlantic

British election answers nagging questions — and sends message across Atlantic
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For the second time in three and a half years, British voters have produced a seismic election result that reverberates across the Western World. The Conservative Party landslide has shattered debilitating tensions and answered nagging questions that have haunted Britain and Europe since the first Brexit vote in 2016. The result also sends messages that will resonate loudly in many countries on both sides of the Atlantic, and retrospectively will be seen as a decisive turning point in acrimonious and polarizing political debates that have plagued the West for too many years.

Boris Johnson once was mockingly predicted to become Britain’s “shortest-serving prime minister” — bumbling, buffoonish, erratic and unstable. But the electoral result has transformed him into a masterful politician who boldly gambled and won his bet that the British people were fed up with “dithering politicians” and yearned to “get Brexit done,” end Parliamentary chaos and see their country pointed in clearer and better directions under strong leadership.

For Jeremy Corbyn, who gave his country a master class in extreme yet indecisive leadership and disastrous campaign strategy, last week’s election will forever mark him as the worst Labour Party leader in history and the author of the party’s most calamitous defeat since the 1980s, if not the 1930s. Significantly, the collapse of the Labour vote mirrors a European trend that has seen once dominant socialist parties across the continent become the principal losers in the ideological restructuring that is reshaping politics in country after country.

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For the European Union (EU), the British election is a monumental and embarrassing defeat, but also a relief from the angst-ridden obsession with Brexit that will enable the EU to give full attention to the mounting political and economic problems they are facing.

The British voters’ rejection of membership in the EU — not once, but twice — symbolizes the larger narrative underscored by this election. The British people have decisively conveyed that their sense of themselves as a nation is more important to them than any affiliation with a problematic and ever shifting supra-national entity.

At the time of the initial Brexit vote, former Prime Minister David Cameron’s justice secretary, Michael Gove, currently an ally of Johnson, stressed that 60 percent of the laws passed in Britain were simply mandatory affirmations of regulations that “we did not want, promulgated by Brussels bureaucrats we did not know, did not elect and could not turn out of office.” He concluded: “The independence of our Parliamentary democracy built over centuries was rapidly disappearing before our very eyes.”

In affirming their preference for British sovereignty, voters  in effect were rejecting globalization and its tendency to exacerbate "income inequality." This latter defect was central to the thesis of France’s Christophe Guilluy in his groundbreaking book, “Twilight of the Elites: Prosperity, the Periphery, and the Future of France.” Guilluy posited that globalization has created a new chasm in society, dividing those who are winners in the new economic order and those who are losers, and thus “replacing a society founded on egalitarian ideals with a polarized society seething with tensions of every sort beneath a placid surface.”

As the New York Times has pointed out, the forces that propel the revolt of “peripheral” France are at work in most other Western countries, not least Britain and the United States.

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Guilluy’s assertions find powerful resonance in the work of Dr. Dani Rodrik, currently Ford Foundation Professor of International Political Economy at the Harvard Kennedy School. Through more than two decades of research and writing — including the books “Has Globalization Gone Too Far?” (1997) and “The Globalization Paradox” (2011) —  Rodrik has advanced the once controversial but now increasingly mainstream idea that “excessive globalization had done serious damage not just to the principle of sovereignty but to national economies worldwide, most especially in poorer nations.”

In the wake of the U.K.’s election result, the pound sterling made its best gain against the dollar since 2017, signaling business confidence and relief at the prospect of stable government for the next five years. However, politically we are seeing the expected outbreak of finger pointing, excuse making, and predictions of dire consequences from those who were losers in this historic election.

All across Europe and America, new calculations now must be made.

William Moloney is Fellow in Conservative Thought at Colorado Christian University’s Centennial Institute who studied at Oxford and the University of London. He is a former Colorado education commissioner. Follow on Twitter @CentennialCCU.