The real battle for control of the UK

Meme by the author

The battle in the UK is not the traditional competition between parties, but a much more dangerous struggle between a small number of billionaires and the bulk of the UK population.

On 5 May, much of the country went to the polls: most for local and mayoral elections, and Northern Ireland for the Assembly. The results are now in, and we can see the commentary.

What conclusions should we draw?

The real battle in the UK is not the traditional competition between parties, but a much more dangerous struggle between a small number of billionaires (not all UK-based) and the bulk of the UK population:

  • A small number of billionaires – including most of the media-owners – support (and largely control) this government;
  • The population as a whole does not;
  • We need to ensure that the UK population wins.

A Few Billionaires Support this Government

The day after the polls closed, when it was already clear that the Conservatives – a party led by a man convicted of breaking his own COVID laws and with the worst track record of any Prime Minister in modern British history – had lost badly, this was how the UK press chose to report the results.

Where you might have expected headlines talking of a collapse in support, calls for Johnson to step down and speculation about his successor, most of the press chose either to declare the results a success, to attack the opposition leader for a supposed breach of the law for which he has already been investigated and acquitted, or to ignore the results altogether.

This is a stark contrast with the headlines abroad. The New York Times reported Boris Johnson and his party Suffer Setbacks in Local Voting in Britain. The French newspaper, Le Monde, said Premier revers électoral pour les conservateurs britanniques après le « partygate » — First electoral setback for the Conservatives since partygate. And Bloomberg said Boris Johnson Blamed as Tories Lose Seats in U.K. Council Elections.

What accounts for the difference? The ownership of the UK press is highly concentrated.

More than 60 per cent of total readers in the UK are consuming media owned by one of four off-shore, tax-avoiding billionaires with a very strong vested interest in this government remaining in power. And to a surprising extent, the broadcast media follow the lead set by the press. As a result, most people have little idea of the risks the government poses to our wealth, our health and our democratic rights.

And while media owners are a key part of the problem in the UK, they do not account for all of it. Money from wealthy donors increasingly determines government policy – we are moving de facto from a one-person, one-vote system towards a one-dollar, one-vote system.

One third of UK billionaires have donated to the Conservatives. That is a group of fewer than 50 people who, between them, now have vastly disproportionate influence on government policy. While they might like to see the UK implement market fundamentalism in the UK, it would be a disaster for most of the population.

The Population as a Whole Does Not

Despite the shortcomings of most of the UK media, the election results were unequivocal: the Conservative party lost almost 500 seats and now has fewer than half as many councillors as Labour and controls fewer than half as many Councils.

If these results were translated into a general election, we could expect to see Labour as the largest single party, but still short of an overall majority. That would enable a shift in policy away from the hugely destructive path this government has set us on. And that would be very good news for the vast majority of the UK population.

We Need to Ensure that the UK Population Wins

But that is a statistical analysis based on the latest results. A lot can change between now and the next General Election. The Conservatives could change leader and blame Johnson for all the mistakes of the past. With the uncritical support of much of the press, a new leader might have a honeymoon long enough to weather the damage caused by the cost-of-living crisis and secure a win. (Johnson shows no intention of going quietly, however, so this might not be easy for them to engineer. And none of the most likely successors looks appealing).

So the next election is far from certain. Two things are clear: first that the narrative will – if we let it – be shaped by a handful of billionaires whose interests bear no relation to those of ordinary UK citizens; and secondly that the Conservatives remain too strong for there to be any room for complacency.

We can therefore do two things:

  1. Do all we can to make as many people as possible aware of the reality of this government’s track record – support new media like Byline TimesDouble Down News and National World, and of course share the messages from 99% and get your friends to read the book;
  2. Support a progressive alliance and vote tactically to ensure a change of government.

If you think you might like to help or just to keep informed, please do sign-up and join the 99% Organisation.