While I lived in Argentina, I saw what a decade of populism did. Now I'm watching Britain go the same way
To those clamouring for a populist government built on economic nationalism, deceit and anger as the answer to our current political mess, my experience from living abroad suggests you should be very careful what you wish for.
Four years ago, we moved back to the UK after living in Argentina. I felt the UK was a better place to build a life for my family despite knowing what a wrench it would be for them to move. Looking at the state of politics in the UK now, it feels like life has gone full circle. There are worrying parallels between the hard left Argentine government of that time and the attitude of politicians in this country now, at both ends of the political spectrum.
The first thing they all have in common is the dismissive and even hostile attitude to business combined with an economic illiteracy. Argentina, when we arrived, had been ruined by a decade of leftish populism. Inflation was running at 30 per cent and the country was an economic pariah having been shut out of the worldâs capital markets due to its previous default in 2001. Import restrictions were put up to stem a currency crisis and a parallel black market existed to buy US dollars. The peso slumped, leading to shortages of medicines and at one point even womenâs sanitary products.
Here, we are about to walk away from the single biggest trading bloc in the world and Leave supporting politicians continue to peddle the myth that no deal is a viable option for our economy. If we choose to walk away with no deal and refuse to pay the Brexit bill as some Brexiteers advocate, we will also end up with a reputation as being untrustworthy and certainly not a country to do trade deals with.
The former business minister of Argentina was renowned for sitting in meetings with multinational companies and threatening them if they did not limit price increases. Here we have Boris Johnson, a potent ial Tory prime minister saying âf*** businessâ and Iain Duncan Smithâs attempting to link the CBIâs predecessor and WW2 Germany in order to make a point about their stance to Brexit.
Another parallel is the anger in society towards the other, fostered by populist politicians. The government in Argentina would use the Falklands as a distraction from the countryâs economic problems and whip up hostility towards the UK. Here it is about blaming Brussels when Brexit talks go sour or EU nationals when the NHS waiting lists grow. I have seen the consequences of this anger first hand. A good friend was beaten up and told to âf*** off back to Franceâ just a few months after the referendum. At a funeral last year, I was told there were âtoo many Europeansâ here; this after just telling the person concerned that my wife had a European passport.
There is also the corruption and deceit in our politics. In Argentina, ex-minister after ex-minister is going to jail for things they did in office. Only last week the former vice president was handed a 5 year prison sentence for corruption â" the former Transport secretary is also behind bars. Here we have Vote Leave being referred to the police for breaking electoral law â" a campaign that was endorsed and run with the full support of current senior cabinet ministers.
When we first arrived home in 2014, I felt excited about the way the UK was moving forward. As a life-long Lib Dem voter, the Coalition felt like a breath of fresh air. The economy was growing strongly and some of the mes s left behind by Labour was being cleared up. Now, four years on, I havenât ever felt so depressed about where this country is headed.
I wake up many days and think whether this is the right place to bring up our children.
But I am not giving up and I will choose fight over flight. I just keep hoping and praying that this populist nightmare will one day be over.
Source: Google News Argentina | Netizen 24 Argentina
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