May's careful balancing act has swallowed the UKIP vote—but to be sustainable, she needs bolder policy solutions.by Sam Hall / May 26, 2017 / Leave a comment
Many have celebrated Emmanuel Macron’s election to the French presidency as the moment the populist march across the west was halted. Right-wing populism finally flunked an electoral test—so the narrative runs—after a string of successes in 2016 encompassing Brexit, Trump and a rejection of Italy’s constitutional reforms.
But was Brexit really a populist moment like Trump’s victory? Vote Leave’s rhetoric certainly featured some of the same dominant themes: cultural anxiety about uncontrolled immigration; dissatisfaction with the behaviour of political and corporate elites; and a feeling of insecurity because of globalisation.
But also running through the campaign were more conventional narratives, like traditional British Euroscepticism, which draws on the failures of the eurozone and unpopular judgements from the European Court of Justice, a return to national sovereignty, and increased spending on the NHS.
Theresa May’s interpretation of the Brexit mandate has also fallen short of full-blooded populism. She has instead sought to occupy a middle ground between populism and globalism, championing the economic and security successes of globalisation, but seeking to assuage people’s economic and cultural concerns, particularly in relation to immigration.