This blog is mainly apolitical, and this post is not intended to be politically biased. With that in mind I’ll start this post with a statement:
Boris Johnson will not lead the UK to growth through Brexit.
How did I come to this conclusion?
I’ve been reading a lot of posts through the Way Back Machine on Slate Star Codex (1). I’m late to the SSC party (many thanks Indeedably for the pointer), but there are a lot of parallels of thought. Relevant to this point, is the 2014 essay ‘I can tolerate anything except the outgroup’ (2). It’s particularly pertinent with the current Black Lives Matter movement.
Scott Alexander essentially makes the point that we define ourselves as part of a tribe. Those definitions are often built upon stereotypes. Those stereotypes, that definition, and that tribe provoke more intense feelings than race, ethnicity, gender or sexuality alone. The concept that you are more likely to have intense negative feelings towards someone outside of your, essentially political, tribe has been validated again more recently. A 2017 Stanford study found that political identity is that which we hold most dear (3).
Boris Johnson built his current political success through a combination of his previous irreverent populist persona and alignment with the Brexit campaign. Cummings further drove that campaign and the subsequent political party direction towards populism. Defining themes included that Westminster and the political elite were not hearing the ‘man on the street’, ‘taking back control’ and investing in UK-centric policy (4, 5).
In doing so they created a new political schism. The ‘outgroup’ were centrist and included the existing ‘political elite’. The new division was Leave/Stay, and BoJo was a strong enough persona to unite people behind him. Corbyn, for all the positives he may have, was indecisive on the a difficult question, but one through which people began to define their tribe.
Johnson and Cummings won their battle. They created a large enough tribe with a strong enough identity to not only result in Brexit, but also in the 2019 election win.
But a telltale sign of the future comes from that 2019 election win. Boris Johnson’s manifesto was essentially a bit of everything, sort of business as usual, and without any great rallying points (6). If the great defining point of their tribe up until now has been Brexit, taking back control, railing against the political system and instigating policies for the UK people, where was the definition in this manifesto. Or even currently?
The current cabinet core rose to power through defining themselves as an in-group. Mostly by defining an out-group, and then denigrating them. Lots of ‘they aren’t listening to you’, ‘they didn’t do this’, ‘yes but, no but’. Those defining characteristics are becoming irrelevant. They have reached the top, and now the reasons for the tribe are gone.
Boris Johnson’s response to COVID-19 has been good evidence of this. At times he has been statesmanlike. At others he has been nowhere to be seen. The UK’s outcomes and conduct in fighting COVID-19 will be reviewed in the future, likely with lots of inquiries that result in bugger-all.
Ultimately when the current government has tried to unify the country, in my opinion, he has lacked a methodology. BoJo’s MO is to divide, deny, distract and with Cummings, define a foe.
There are no more internal foes.
Good political leaders are defined by their ability to unite people behind a cause. The greatest, by their ability to unite without criticism or negative connotation. JFK (and to a less public but more politic extent LBJ), Thatcher, Obama… all could bring people together who previously would not have stood so.
The current government has brought people together, but there was no further plan, and the methodology to bring those people together was negative, not positive.
Either we see a re-invention of the Conservative party, into a new political tribe built upon Johnson’s foundation. Or the tribe splinters, to the next strong unifier.
Have a great week,
- Andrew Bailey had a piece in Bloomberg this week, where he outlined that the BoE balance sheet is going to need to reduce (7)
- Which is also covered in the Telegraph. Emphasis on end to QE before any interest rate rise (8)
- House sales fell by 50% in May (9)
- The IMF reckons global growth is worse than forecast (10)
- As it also warns that there is a strong disconnect between asset prices on the market and the state of the economy (11)
- The US treasury managed to give $1.4 billion to dead residents (12)
- Zopa has been granted a provisional banking licence (13)
- Really interesting thread on Reddit’s UK Personal Finance – How can you keep your investments if cryogenically frozen upon death? (14)
- The Spectator considers whether we are headed for inflation or deflation (15)
- And an interesting article in Vice about whether COVID-19 should trigger wide-sweeping change in the economy towards green alternatives (16)
- The IT Investor looks at European Opportunities Trust, who have taken a big hit with Wirecard (17)
- The Young Money Blog covers research that shows around half of 18-34 year olds have used debt to pay for daily living during COVID-19 (18)
- John the UKVI covers how to find companies producing strong and sustainable growth (19)
- Dr Fire considers a career change (20)
- SparkleBee has a net worth update (21)
- Indeedably, on the things we ignore, and what happens to them (22)
- Fire Lifestyle is having garden success (23)
- Mrs Fu Mon Chu finds a reason to say FU (24)
- The ermine is after (sea)weed (25)
- Life After the Daily Grind is looking for meaning and memories (26)
- Monevators weekend reading is around comparisons we make with others, focusing on ISA usage (27)
- While The Accumulator asks how much will you lose if bond prices fall (28)
- While Lars Kroijer provides a collaborative youtube video answering COVID-19 questions (29)
- TEA airs his opinion on the state of the pandemic (30)
- Where eagles fear to perch is in the garden again (31)
- GFF goes for a walk, and a metaphor (32)
- Hustle Escape covers one of my favourite psychological concepts – Hanlon’s Razor (33) – It gets me through life
- The Frugal Cottage is holding an investing workshop (34)
- MedFI looks at sustainable investing (35)
- And the Banker on Fire has a busy week, covering life expectancy, time and the journey (36)
- Covering things to think about when your money makes more than you (37)
- And low risk corporate bonds (38)