Will 2017 be remembered as the year of the Establishment fightback?

Presidential Candidate Emmanuel Macron Hosts A Meeting At Parc Des Expositions In Paris
Macron is expected to keep the populist Le Pen at bay (Source: Getty)

Mark Littlewood, director-general of the Institute of Economic Affairs, says Yes.

If 2016 was a year for insurgency, 2017 will no doubt be the year the Establishment, like the Empire, strikes back.

Mark Rutte’s victory in the Netherlands and Emmanuel Macron’s first round victory in France are clear reverses for two insurgent populist parties – and there is a clear interest among continuity Remainers, most of whom are archetypal British Establishment figures, to re-litigate the European referendum by proxy during the General Election campaign.

However, although the political elite can be expected to fight back this year, it doesn’t follow that they will succeed. Donald Trump is now ensconced in the Oval Office and may yet radically alter America. In Britain, even a noisy pro-EU campaigning effort over the next six weeks is still monumentally unlikely to stop – or even alter – the terms of a hard Brexit.

Sadly, the political elite, like the poor, may always be with us. But the paradigm has shifted, and this fightback, like the Empire’s efforts in Star Wars, will eventually be doomed to failure.

Denis MacShane, the UK’s former minister of Europe and author of Brexit: How Britain Left Europe, says No.

The Establishment is now utterly split.

Five of its richest members bankrolled the Brexit campaign against the Cameron-Osborne establishment. The old party establishment in France is out of the game for some years, as is the UK’s left-liberal establishment. The win for Emmanuel Macron has happened outside the political establishment. In America, the military establishment has made its peace with Donald Trump at the expense of the East Coast liberal Republican-Democratic establishment.

When Henry Fairlie coined the term The Establishment in 1955 it made sense. Now, it’s moved from singular to plural. The pro-Brexit establishment, for example, is strong in the City, the media and in the Tory and to some extent the Labour Party. The deep state and diplomatic establishment is worried about isolating Britain from Europe. The business establishment does not want to challenge the political establishment on Brexit.

The idea of a single establishment coming back to life is not going to happen.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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