The "No Vote" Party has a considerable following in the US as well. About 138 million in the last national election cycle.
by Michael Roberts
I don’t usually comment on straight politics on this blog and
hardly ever on local elections. But of course we know that politics and
economics are not divorced from each other, as mainstream ‘positivist’
economics thinks. It’s ‘political economy’, after all. So I cannot
resist a few words on the results of the seemingly obscure UK local
elections in some councils and districts in England.
The UK media has gone berserk in telling us the the anti-EU,
anti-immigration, right-wing UK Independence Party (UKIP) had a huge
surge from nowhere in its vote. All the talk was that UKIP was about to
win the biggest share of the vote and seats in the European Parliament
when the results come out on Monday. It was now a ‘major threat’ to the
centre-right coalition government and could even replace Labour as the
main opposition and so on……
Actually, the local election results do not bear out that conclusion
at all. It was Labour that polled the biggest share of those who voted
in these minor elections, albeit only 29%. The ruling Conservatives
also polled more than UKIP at 25%. UKIP was third at 23-24%, a leap up
from last time, but hardly a victory.
Indeed, this ‘Poujadist’ party will have no more than one-tenth of
the council seats won by the two main parties, Labour and Conservative.
And nearly all UKIP’s seats will be concentrated in rural areas,
particularly the better-off south-east and east of England (Scotland and
Wales did not vote and UKIP is non-existent there). In London, UKIP
Actually the real winners, as usual, were the NO-VOTE party. The
turnout for these elections was not more than 40%, so most people
eligible to vote did not bother. Translating the share of votes into
shares of eligible voters, we find that the winners of these local
elections, Labour, got no more than one in eight potential voters to
support them and the ruling Conservatives managed only one in ten
eligible to vote.
The government has been crowing about the return of fast economic
growth that the UK economy is now experiencing under its policies. And
there was apparently more good news in the this week’s retail sales
figures, which showed a big surge.
But it seems that the British electorate does not agree that all is
rosy. And we can see why when the latest data continue to show that
average real incomes are falling as inflation outstrips wage increases
(see my post,
Even now, Britain’s real GDP has not yet returned to pre-crisis
levels, and with employment in badly-paid jobs and self-employment
rising, the overall productivity of British capitalism has declined.
Indeed, Britons are working harder and longer for less money.
UK business investment was up 8.7% in the first quarter of this year
compared with a year ago. That sounds good – until you see that
investment is still some 18% below where it was in 2008 and this is
The latest data show that the top 10% of British households own 44%
of all household wealth (to use Thomas Piketty’s definition) – they are
not feeling the depression, only the ‘boom’. And it’s their sentiments
that the government expresses.
The reality is that there is increasing disillusionment with the
mainstream political parties as we shall see when the EU parliamentary
elections are announced and I have commented before on the decline in
voter turnout for elections in the major capitalist economies – Japan,
the US, Germany and the UK.
In the UK, the combined Conservative and Labour vote in general
elections has fallen to 60% from 80-90% in the 1960s, while separatist
and other parties have risen from nothing to 12%. In this little local
election, the combined vote of the top two parties was 54%. Voter
turnout has plummeted from 75% in the 1980s to about 60% now, as
politicians become increasingly divorced from their voters. Back in the
1960s, as much as 15% of MPs were manual workers, now it is less than
5% while those MPs who have never had a proper job and are just ‘career
politicians’ is now 15%. The rest had jobs in the ‘professions’ and
business and finance etc, with many millionaires among them.
The ‘surge’ of support for parties like UKIP is a frustrated
expression of people despairing at the main parties of capitalist
democracy ever doing anything to improve their lot or even stop it
getting worse. We’ll see that sentiment expressed in the EU election
results on Monday. I’ll comment on the state of Europe’s economies
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