The former Chancellor Alistair Darling has warned that disillusioned voters who backed Brexit could flock to a populist nationalist movement headed by a Donald Trump-like figure as they turn against Theresa May’s Government.
The Labour peer said this week’s Autumn Statement would do nothing for the people who felt “left behind” by globalisation, even though Mrs May promised to champion working class families on becoming Prime Minister in July.
Lord Darling doubted that his own party would benefit from the anger of voters who see their living standards decline over the next few years. In a damning verdict on Jeremy Corbyn, he said there was “no effective opposition” to the Conservatives.
The former Cabinet minister told a discussion on the Autumn Statement hosted by the Resolution Foundation think tank: “The question, politically, is where do they [the ‘left behind’] go after this? We have seen what happened across the Atlantic and my guess is, especially in this country, where there is no effective opposition, the alternatives are not the conventional ones. Because there is no political alternative being offered at the moment and that worries me greatly.”
What experts have said about Brexit
What experts have said about Brexit
1/11 Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond
The Chancellor claims London can still be a world financial hub despite Brexit “One of Britain’s great strengths is the ability to offer and aggregate all of the services the global financial services industry needs” “This has not changed as a result of the EU referendum and I will do everything I can to ensure the City of London retains its position as the world’s leading international financial centre.”
2/11 Yanis Varoufakis
Greece's former finance minister compared the UK relations with the EU bloc with a well-known song by the Eagles: “You can check out any time you like, as the Hotel California song says, but you can't really leave. The proof is Theresa May has not even dared to trigger Article 50. It's like Harrison Ford going into Indiana Jones' castle and the path behind him fragmenting. You can get in, but getting out is not at all clear”
3/11 Michael O’Leary
Ryanair boss says UK will be ‘screwed’ by EU in Brexit trade deals: “I have no faith in the politicians in London going on about how ‘the world will want to trade with us’. The world will want to screw you – that's what happens in trade talks,” he said. “They have no interest in giving the UK a deal on trade”
4/11 Tim Martin
JD Wetherspoon's chairman has said claims that the UK would see serious economic consequences from a Brexit vote were "lurid" and wrong: “We were told it would be Armageddon from the OECD, from the IMF, David Cameron, the chancellor and President Obama who were predicting locusts in the fields and tidal waves in the North Sea"
5/11 Mark Carney
Governor of Bank of England is 'serene' about Bank of England's Brexit stance: “I am absolutely serene about the … judgments made both by the MPC and the FPC”
6/11 Christine Lagarde
IMF chief urges quick Brexit to reduce economic uncertainty: “We want to see clarity sooner rather than later because we think that a lack of clarity feeds uncertainty, which itself undermines investment appetites and decision making”
7/11 Inga Beale
Lloyd’s chief executive says Brexit is a major issue: "Clearly the UK's referendum on its EU membership is a major issue for us to deal with and we are now focusing our attention on having in place the plans that will ensure Lloyd's continues trading across Europe”
8/11 Colm Kelleher
President of US bank Morgan Stanley says City of London ‘will suffer’ as result of the EU referendum: “I do believe, and I said prior to the referendum, that the City of London will suffer as result of Brexit. The issue is how much”
9/11 Richard Branson
Virgin founder believes we've lost a THIRD of our value because of Brexit and cancelled a deal worth 3,000 jobs: We're not any worse than anybody else, but I suspect we've lost a third of our value which is dreadful for people in the workplace.' He continued: "We were about to do a very big deal, we cancelled that deal, that would have involved 3,000 jobs, and that’s happening all over the country"
10/11 Barack Obama
US President believes Britain was wrong to vote to leave the EU: "It is absolutely true that I believed pre-Brexit vote and continue to believe post-Brexit vote that the world benefited enormously from the United Kingdom's participation in the EU. We are fully supportive of a process that is as little disruptive as possible so that people around the world can continue to benefit from economic growth"
11/11 Kristin Forbes
American economist and an external member of the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England argues that the economy had been “less stormy than many expected” following the shock referendum result: “For now…the economy is experiencing some chop, but no tsunami. The adverse winds could quickly pick up – and merit a stronger policy response. But recently they have shifted to a more favourable direction”
He added: “A lot of people we are talking about voted for Brexit ... because they are fed up and rightly felt they were at the wrong end of austerity and they won’t feel any better as a result of this Autumn Statement.”
Lord Darling suggested that Ukip or a similar movement could reap the benefit, reflecting fears among Mr Corbyn’s Labour critics that the party leader is not appealing to its party’s traditional working class supporters. “You can see what’s happened with the rise of Ukip. The orthodox wisdom at the time Ukip came on the scene was it was colonels who read The Daily Telegraph, but where they have been making big gains is up the east coast of England, the North-east and the North,” said Lord Darling.
He told the meeting: “A few months ago if we said Trump would be the next US president, most people would have laughed and said there was no chance. It’s not difficult to see he’s hoovering up exactly the same vote and that populist nationalism has an appeal that established political parties are fast losing.”
Paul Nuttall, the front-runner to be elected Ukip leader on Monday, has vowed to target Labour voters in the North as Ukip seeks a new mission after the vote for Brexit. Arron Banks, the millionaire businessman and former Ukip donor who founded the Leave.EU campaign in the referendum, may launch a new cross-party movement in the New Year to take on the political establishment. He is a close ally of Nigel Farage, who will stand down as interim Ukip leader after his fourth spell in the job and could emerge at the head of the new movement.
Mr Banks, who accompanied Mr Farage when he visited President-elect Trump in New York, has said he wants to “drain the swamp” by fielding independent candidates against “bad MPs”. If they won, his candidates would vote to reduce the 650-strong House of Commons to 300 MPs.
On Wednesday Mr Farage said that the Brexit vote was not the “total revolution” of Mr Trump’s victory because the UK is still run by the “career professional political class”, but predicted another “seismic shock” at the next general election.
Lord Darling is the second former Labour Cabinet minister to warn that Britain could experience a “Trump effect”. Last week Alan Milburn, the Government’s social mobility watchdog, urged mainstream political leaders to act to stop the rise of extremist and populist movements. He said: “We know from the history of our own continent that when people feel that they are losing out unfairly, while a few are gaining unfairly, the mood can turn ugly.“
The Social Mobility Commission, which he chairs, found that only three of the 65 parts of the country with the worst education and employment prospects voted Remain in the referendum.