A Time for Change?

A report by the Hansard Society, the UK’s leading source of independent research and advice on Parliament and parliamentary affairs, should give everyone pause.

Interviews conducted with a representative sample of 1000 British citizens found 63% agreed that “Britain’s system of government is rigged to the advantage of the rich and powerful” and in response to the statement “Britain needs a strong ruler willing to break the rules”, 54% agreed and just 23% said no.

Only 25% of the public had any confidence in MPs’ handling of Brexit,  (see my post ‘Let’s Discuss Nationalism’) Fifty-six per cent of respondents said they believed Britain was in decline, while  47% felt they had no influence at all over the national direction.   The public feels strongly that the system of governing favours the rich and powerful and that political parties don’t care about the average person.

People are not confident that politicians act in the public interest.

When, in 2016, it was suggested a referendum concerning severance from the EU should be held, 77% of the population surveyed were in favour.  The current figure in favour of referenda has slumped to 55%.

Although many have chosen to do so, it is unfair to blame the Brexit issue for ‘breaking Democracy’ when all it has really done is shine a spotlight upon flaws that were already there.  Democracy, inasmuch as it is a recipe for governing which ‘carries out the will of the majority while having regard for the needs of the minority’ probably never existed at all.  Our much-vaunted ‘world’s oldest democracy’ was a sham from the start – Members of Parliament only started receiving an income for their services in 1912.  Prior to that, right back to 1721, the time of Sir Robert Walpole, only those of significant means could afford the honour of representing a constituency, being bought and paid for by the local landowners.

Twentieth and twenty-first century political history has no place here, although I am happy to trade blows with anyone who would vie with my observation that the Conservative and Unionist Party, or a close imitation of it, holds and has held the Golden Ticket in the UK for the best part of the last hundred years, at least.  That is too long – at least, that is too long.

Does the freedom of information the internet provides spell the death of Democracy?  The lies no longer convince – the truth is harder to hide.  Understandably, there are many who will see the proposition “Britain needs a strong ruler willing to break the rules” supported by 54% of a representative sample as dangerous. They will hold up the spectre of intervention by right-wing extremists, Marxists, anarchists, and any other ‘ists’ you care to name.  They will warn of the breakdown of law and order – little realising, perhaps, that it is their law and order, no longer the law of the people.

A strong ruler.  Maybe it is time; maybe Democracy has failed to withstand the test of truth, and maybe even dictatorship is better?  Does Churchill’s quote ‘Democracy seems a very bad system until you examine the alternatives’ hold good in 2019?  Personally, I cannot see myself casting another vote until radical changes have been made.  We are already stabbing each other in the streets; if we take no action now, when does the shooting start?

Red September

September is the party conference season in our sceptre isle, something which should not bother normal people most years.  This year, however, there are sinister political currents flowing.   We should be wary of this autumn’s neap tides.  Because for ordinary Britons everywhere they may become an inundation.

There are three political parties, three conferences.

Vince Cable

The Liberal Party Conference, which doesn’t really count because they are represented by twelve Members of Parliament and led by amiable geriatric, Vincent Cable.  It was last week, so you missed it, but don’t worry, so did everyone else.

This week, though – this week is the conference for the Labour Party, represented by 257 Members of Parliament.

Theresa May and Jeremy

‘Tis said among those whose delight is argument that the quickest way to lose your point is to bring Hitler into the conversation.  So I’m going to lose mine straight away, because to me, at least, this year’s Labour Party Conference resembles nothing so much as a 1930s rally of the Third Reich.  Leader of the party and aspiring Fuhrer is  Jeremy Corbyn; rather middle class-looking, much the sort of figure you would expect to tick you off for stepping on his flowerbeds, but do not be deceived.  He is a class A zealot who yearns to plant his red socialist standard in the Prime Minister’s parking space.

Corbyn sailed to power in his party on a tidal wave of idealistic students and far-left socialists who he encouraged to become party members so they could vote for him.  He charged them a special cheap membership fee of £3 a head.  This group persists and burgeons beneath the banner of ‘Momentum’, driving out more moderate members of their party.  I like to think of them as ‘The Momentum Youth’.

In its time the British Labour Party has had many different manifestations – this is one of the least pleasant.  Far from the centrist politics of their last Prime Minister, Tony Blair (think WMD), Corbyn’s affinities are unashamedly with the Trades Unions.  His declared intention to nationalise everything that moves is a transparent attempt to restore the Union despotism of the 1970s which brought his country to its knees.

The problem seems to be a reluctance to learn:  nobody, par exemple, who experienced the nationalised railways the first time around would want to see those dirty untended carriages or suffer those relentless strikes again.  No-one would want to buy from manufacturers ruled by their union conveners whose power could halt production lines at any time.  Yet it just might happen:  Corbyn might snatch power in a General Election soon, not because of his popularity as a potential Prime Minister but because of the inadequacy of the present one.

Next week will feature the Conservative Party Conference.  A genial bunfight in normal years, sometimes this can throw up great boiling geysers of schism and outrage, and this is potentially just such a year. The cause of such foment?

That damnable Brexit chappy!

Everybody knows a national referendum clearly showed a majority of the British people wanted to leave the European Union.  To some, however, that democratic defeat was like the proverbial red rag to a bull.  They have been trying, by fair means sometimes but mostly foul, to scare the socks off the general populace with horror stories and selective use of terms like ‘falling off the cliff’ and ‘crashing out’.  They have produced barrel-loads of ropey statistics and dubious long-term prognostications, while accusing those in favour of the decision of ‘populism’ (which is apparently some kind of offence, unlike Machiavellianism, their stock-in-trade).

So far, these tactics have been so transparently redolent of self-interest they have only succeeded in hardening attitudes in the country at large, but they prosper in the belly of the Conservative Party.  To Prime Minister Theresa May has fallen the odious task of reaching a ‘negotiated settlement’ with the disdainful bureaucrats of Brussels.  Her inability to come up with a recipe that is satisfactory to everybody has proved her undoing, and she is nobody’s favourite at the moment, espoused by neither the gun-toting-bring-back-the-navy-and-blockade-the-English-Channel ‘hard Brexiteers’, nor the hand-wringing ‘Remoaners’ who don’t want us to leave the EU at all.

The Conservatives at Conference have a recipe for crises such as these.  They deny any possibility of a ‘split’, they swear fealty to their Glorious Leader, and they stand in rapturous applause for the stirring words of her rallying call, while those whose work it is are eyeing her back for the exact position to deliver the knife-thrust.  Meanwhile, in a well-attended fringe meeting, her successor in title makes his pitch…

Conference Season in the UK is not always so entertaining, or disturbing, as the closing weeks of this September promise to be.   There is a real risk that the established political parties will be rent asunder by internal strife, delivering the UK back into the clutches of the Federal Republic of Europe against common consent.  If that happens there will certainly be hell to pay, and possibly even revolution.

In a parallel universe, Jeremy Corbyn may grasp the reins, plunging the country into a dark neo-communist age.  That would be a real ‘crash out’.  On balance, I think not.  The Momentum movement seems unable to shake off the taint of anti-Semitism, and in this country no-one likes racial prejudice.

Perhaps, after all, it is a matter of a few ripples in the lapsang souchong and there are halcyon days ahead.  Perhaps it is time for revolution, because none of the principal political parties represent the people anymore.  At my age, why should I care?  I can sit back and watch, popping my pills and drawing my pension as the political world passes by, and nothing is likely to cause me direct harm from all this, is it?  Yet somehow I do care.  Could that be because I have seen it all before, and what distresses me is our tragic inability to learn?

UKIP – RIP?

diane-james

The resignation of Diane James from leadership of the UK Independence Party, whilst perhaps not entirely surprising, is unfortunate.   Her reign of only 18 days must be something of a record for a political leader of any party, indicative perhaps of the struggles that seethe beneath the surface of UKIP’s emergent force.

I raise my tiny voice in concern because UKIP is important.  In a political Britain infected by the soporific sluggishness of the European Union it is a vital force for dynamic change – the change is happening, despite the doleful voices of the London Bubble – and the ability of Government to reflect that change at Westminster must keep pace.    The pace will be fast.

Theresa May’s approach to ‘Brexit’  (am I the only one becoming tired of that word?) is refreshingly bullish.  Her refusal to respond to the sententious attitude of Brussels that clearly casts the UK as a naughty schoolchild is gratifying and assures me for the present, at least, that the Article 50 negotiations are in good hands – for now.

jeremy-corbynAt home, though, the auguries are less clear.   Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the opposition has redefined the Labour Party as an extreme left-wing socialist group unlikely to interest the greater part of the UK population.   Corbyn’s cabal is clearly determined to de-select unsympathetic centre-left MPs in favour of a more neo-Marxist trades union dominated parliamentary party, thus undoing what was possibly Tony Blair’s only beneficial contribution to Labour politics.   As a party Labour was unelectable before Blair came, and it is bent upon becoming unelectable once more.

The great majority of the British public do not want a rampantly socialist government.   It never will. Yet a credible opposition is needed, otherwise Theresa May’s Conservatives have carte blanche.   Effectively unopposed within the chamber of government  they can behave pretty much as they want, and the temptation to offer sops to more extreme right-wing factions within their party will be great.  At this moment the only opposition in play is provided by the Scottish Nationalists, a scattering of Irish MPs, and the doughty rear guard of a failed Liberal Party that was so misguidedly digested by coalition in the last Conservative period of office.

Who better, therefore, to occupy this newly created space?   UKIP mobilised the British population behind a cause and brought them out to vote as never before.  It presented a simple message to the voters that found sympathy – it had an ear to the real drift of public opinion and gave them a voice.   That initial dynamism focussed upon one issue and around one man; Nigel Farage.  And therein, maybe, lies the problem.farage

Not the only problem.   The massive task of gaining enough candidates to contest every seat at the last General Election rushed UKIP into assembly of a rag-bag of politically ambitious figures all interested in becoming MPs and glad to sign up for the first opportunity.  The only issue they had in common, however, was ‘Brexit’ and many had different visions of that.  Now that the figurehead of their party has stepped down those differing visions can have free play, and instead of grasping a golden opportunity their executive are squabbling amongst themselves.  Between now and Theresa May’s declared date for the next General election (2020) they have the chance to supplant Labour as the major opposition party.    The Liberals certainly won’t do it, and the Nationalist parties have their own agendas.

The UKIP aims as stated in their orchestrated campaign to take Britain out of Europe spoke to the Labour voter.   A sleeping giant was wakened, addressed in a language it could understand, and provided with the sort of common sense British politics has lacked for generations.  As a result the giant voted, and will vote again, for those same common sense arguments in a manifesto for the future of the Britain we have now.   The only problem is the lack of a Farage to lead them.  (Figurehead needed: please apply)

Believe it or not, I am not a convinced UKIP voter now, although I voted resoundingly for leaving the EU and I’m proud to see my country’s innovative and positive reaction to the referendum result.  I love to see the establishment confounded and I have always believed the European Federalist dream was just that:  a very expensive dream.   I might vote for a future UKIP;  I certainly will not vote for Jeremy Corbyn’s version of Labour.    I think there are many like me.

What do you think?