I was in Bristol recently, one of my favourite cities in Britain. A city in many parts of which I have lived, done extensive psychogeography, and where I continue to visit often. Like London, indeed like many urban centres in Britain, Bristol has a rich and delightful mix of cultures, styles, ethnic groups and more. The same cannot be said for northern Devon where I now reside and where, at this time of an imminent general election, the signs of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) and the Conservative Party appear in the fields and hedgerows.
Historically, support for the right-wing Conservatives, and now for the (similarly right-wing) UKIPs is predominantly located in more rural regions of England. That’s not to say that support for right-wing approaches is limited to those resident outside cities. I recall, somewhat to my surprise, Pete Carroll proffering me a flyer promoting what I now recognise as a nascent UKIP while we were in a Bristolian pub many years ago. Seems that the intervening 20 or so years haven’t significantly changed Pete’s party political views (as you can read here. Though, he does declare himself as a Conservative voter this time round).
The current election slogan of the Conservative Party is ‘For a Better, More Secure Future’ and this for me summarises the attitude of what we might broadly understand as the left vs right-wing political approaches. Generally right-wing attitudes tend towards maintaining the status quo (as understood by those who are economically successful: those with inherited wealth, landowners and petty bourgeoisie). This conservativism seeks to keep things as they are; in the words of the Conservative Party to make the future more ‘secure’.
Right-wing ideologies may well be rooted in a neurological style. (Also see here for more on the construct of binary divisions in society, esp ‘them/us’. NW). Sometimes we need quick, clear, simple solutions (though we should be mindful of this). When we are being attacked by a tiger we need to fight or run, and we need to make this decision quickly and definitely. Meanwhile left-wing approaches are good for when we are dealing with more nuanced, complex situations, where the issue isn’t so much about making a grand decision as it is about understanding (and trying to subtly influence) things. A good example of this is the progress made against racism, which has, broadly speaking, emerged as a project from left-wing discourses. While some older people, and those in reactive right-wing mode, are prepared to embrace racist beliefs, for most younger people the idea that black humans are not as good as white humans has been successfully challenged and changed in many environments in Britain (such as schools, employment law, media etc).
Groups such as the UKIP, and indeed the Conservative vision of a ‘more secure’ future, generate a series of scary bogeymen in order to justify their swift, decisive, right-wing style policies; the hoards of Islamic militants in the UK intend on instituting Sharia Law; the ceaseless march of wind turbines across the country, ruining the ‘traditional’ landscape of Britain (the beauty of enclosed monoculture fields and electricity pylons…); a supposedly homogenous (and of course ahistoric) British culture being destroyed by the rapacious money-grabbing activities of immigrants; and more especially (in the case of the bogeyman set-up by the UKIP) an undemocratic European Union bent on taking away British sovereignty, turning our island into a hell of legal aliens and metric measurements.
In practice, the fear driven reactive policies of groups such as the UKIP appeal to folk who believe they have something to lose, and this concern is typically the shadow of the normal ‘clanning instinct‘ that humans possess. Yet even in rural regions this instinct is taking some fascinating forms in the current general election. In a constituency near me while the UKIPs seem to be doing better in the polls than the Conservatives, 37% of the electorate who plan to vote are, as yet, undecided about who they will choose.
Such uncertainty in the polls has drawn the usual words of worry from the mainstream parties. We are assured that a ‘coalition of chaos’ will be the outcome if the British public fails to return a clear majority for the Tories. I wonder if perhaps this situation might actually create a diverse and interesting hybrid government, where deals and negotiation will of necessity replace the tyranny of the parliamentary majority?
In any case it looks like a number of parties are moving towards constitutional changes for Britain. They include proposals to lower the voting age, to finally sort out the House of Lords (though it’s unlikely to be restructured using my favourite model) and to abandon the first-past-the-post system appear in a number of manifestos. Previous ‘majority’ governments have often been chosen by a relatively small percentage of the electorate.
Perhaps this uncertainty about who will control Britain is actually a good thing? While voting isn’t by any means the only political process we can engage with it is, in my view, an important one. Many people, including my own cultural ancestors, campaigned for enfranchisement and, as is often pointed out, some people will certainly be using their right to vote, and inaction can allow all kinds of nasties to get into government.
Finally, perhaps magicians of all political stripes might want to experiment with the following banishing ritual. The technique presented below may be combined with dance bodywork (using the track below for instance). Maybe this election is an opportunity for us to go beyond our fears and into a political landscape that unseats the limiting duality of two party politics into something richer, stranger and, who knows, maybe better?
Suggested banishing ritual for the British general election:
1. Touch the forehead say, ‘Green Party Above Me!’
2. Touch the base of the sternum say, ‘UKIP Below Me!’
3. Touch the left side of the chest say, ‘Labour to the Left of Me!’
4. Touch the right side of the chest say, ‘Conservatives to the Right of Me!’
5. Hold the arms out wide, as though greeting (or surrendering) say, ‘Liberal Democrats Behind Me!’
6. Make a triangle with the hands, palms facing outward (one point uppermost in the manner of the Illuminati), arms reach forward, say, ‘Chaos Before Me!’
Obviously many variations of this technique exist; for example, a powerful visualisation may be included of that Wrathful Dakini Nicola Sturgeon arising from the triangle of arte formed in step 6.