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Event Summaries
February 21, 2018

Event Summary: WTF – What the F*** Happened and What Happens Next?”

Henry Jackson Society

By Mirko Giordani

On the 8th of February 2018, The Henry Jackson Society was delighted to welcome  Robert Peston, author of the book “WTF: What the F*** Happened and What Happens Next?”. In his book, Mr Peston brilliantly evokes the distance between the political mainstream and the silent majority of the people. Peston believes that this fact was clear for the forgotten people, who mainly supported Brexit, Le Pen and Trump, but unclear to the actual Western elite. Mr Peston, in fact, believes that mainstream politics has ignored the silent majority for so long that, in the end, the latter kicked out at the former. Brexit was the best opportunity, Mr Peston believes, to send a clear message to the establishment: “enough is enough”. Although in UK the gap between the lower and middle class and the richest one is more acute than most, this phenomenon has also hit other Western countries.

Mr Peston highlighted how much the pro-Brexit electoral base was multifaceted. On the one hand, there were the older and wealthier people, living in the countryside, which were driven by the dream of sovereignty. They would have voted for Brexit at any time since the UK joined the EU. On the other hand, Mr Peston took in consideration the people that voted for Brexit just to show their grievances to a political mainstream that never cared about their demands: poorer people with unstable and unsecure life. The majority of poor people around UK voted for Brexit. Mr Peston, in fact, said that there was a strong correlation between the people’s wealth and the tendency to vote “leave”: the poorer, the more likely you voted for “leave”. For Mr Peston, if the democratic system can’t translate those voices of protest into action, then democracy itself gets challenged.

The political class, as Dr. Alan Mendoza said, “is not capable anymore to meet the aspirations of the people”. This isn’t only a British phenomenon, but is spreading around Europe and the Western world. How is it possible to fix this problem? In order to answer, Mr Peston departed from the challenging concepts of globalisation and capitalism. These two phenomenon, Peston argues, lifted millions of people in the developing countries out of poverty, but they are not having the same effect in the Western world. The major example of this trend, Mr Peston argued, is the Rust Belt in the US. Moreover, what Mr Peston did not understand is the reason why the Conservatives are keeping up with the incensed rhetoric on capitalism. After this, Conservative leaders must not be surprised that a large proportion of the young generation are turning to Corbyn’s socialist ideas. Conservatives must acknowledge this fact and change their message. According to Mr Peston, the only way to fix a wounded country is to implement practical solutions that can tackle the future challenges of the new industrial revolution.

The Henry Jackson Society would like to thank everyone who could attend the event, and especially thank Robert Peston for giving such an interesting and insightful talk.