If you though Brexit was bad, what about a Trump presidency?
Trump may be the ultimate political maverick but then so, in their different ways, were Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Nigel Farage in the Brexit campaign.
What else do the two phenomena have in common?
The pollsters got it wrong again, proving that people don’t always say what they think or how they’re likely to vote, particularly when it’s anti-establishment. A gambler with nerves of steel could have a fortune recently betting against the polls. Trump was eight to one against with some bookies in the UK two days ago.
It shows that people on both sides of the Atlantic are disenchanted with the political establishment and that, these days, also means the business establishment. They can see big the people running big companies becoming stupendously rich while laying off people and (in the UK anyway) cutting their pensions. Free trade has been the mantra of the West for decades now and Trump’s opposition to it was probably the clincher in the US election.
Will tearing up trade agreements bring thousands of jobs back to America’s ‘rust belt?’ Nothing else seems to so people are obviously prepared to give it a whirl. In the UK opposition to the EU appears to share some of this although overseas investment creates more UK jobs than the home-grown version.
The stock of British business has rarely been lower, at least in the eyes of people on the outside of the cosy club. There’s the reviled Philip Green of course and Sir Martin Sorrell’s £70m a year probably doesn’t help either. Even people who are doing reasonably financially, like the agency employees in a recent survey from Campaign US, aren’t happy: feeling insecure and citing a lack of leadership.
Nobody knows (especially the highly paid supposed leaders in the public and private sectors) how either country is going to pay burgeoning healthcare bills or provide pensions for people who are living longer.
The Trump camp and the Brexiteers are both hostile to immigrants although these are the people who serve you in cafes and restaurants, clean the streets and, perhaps, your house. At the other end of the scale they staff the creative and tech businesses where we still have a (reducing) advantage over what we used to call the developing world. Rich foreign students keep the university system working. They’re not going to go somewhere to be educated if they can’t get a job.
But lots of Trump voters and Brexit supporters (outside London especially) see their communities changing far more radically than they’d like. Sod the money is their view.
Meanwhile the dollar is falling against some other currencies in the immediate aftermath of Trump’s victory and stock markets are heading south. Big companies, who would far sooner launch share buy-backs to boost their bonuses than invest in plant, machinery and people, will become even more cautious.
Maybe Trump will be the catalyst for a new and fairer kind of growth, which is what he’s promised.
Let’s hope so. Something had to be done about these problems, democracy depends on it. But will the medicine kill the patient?