Monday 15 February 2016

Further Tory contempt for democracy.

When I first started studying politics way back in the 1950s I was taught that, whereas in many wicked foreign systems opposition to the government was forbidden, sometimes on pain of torture or death, here in enlightened Britain opposition was not only permitted, but opponents  were actually  paid to do it.  "Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition "was a part of our wonderful, though unwritten, constitution, and its leader was paid a salary out of public funds.

Clearly this concept that freedom to oppose is an essential part of a healthy democracy does not form part of the Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE) course which David Cameron studied at Oxford, or if it does, then Cameron wasn't listening when they came to that bit of it.

Step by step this government is seeking to choke off opposition.

In the last parliament a bill which purported to regulate the activities of all lobbyists effectively only reduced the ability of charities to campaign during elections. Privileged access of private companies and interests such as the betting lobby to ministers and government departments remains unhindered. Google, for example, had umpteen conversations with ministers before their mouse of a tax deal with HMRC was revealed.

Charities which receive funding from the government are to be forbidden to use that money for any campaigning at all.

The "Short Money", which for 40 years has funded political parties other than the official opposition, has been cut, and the ability of the trade unions to contribute to the Labour Party is to be greatly reduced by the substitution of "contracting in" for "contracting out."  There is  no similar restriction to require share-holders to "contract in" to, or vote for, the massive contributions their companies make to the Conservative Party.

Today the Independent newspaper reveals plans for the latest outrage.

"Local councils, public bodies and even some university unions are to be banned by law from boycotting "unethical" companies. . . .Under the [government's] plan all publicly funded institutions will lose the right to refuse to buy gods and services from companies involved in the arms trade, fossil fuels, tobacco products or Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank."

Beyond the sphere of funding, "freedom of assembly" (ie to demonstrate) has become increasingly difficult, and the ability of public service unions to strike is to be made almost impossible.

Daily under this government we move closer to the (slightly adapted) conclusion of the Marriott Edgar poem popularised by Stanley Holloway:

And it's through that there Magna Charter
As were signed by the Barons of old,
That in England today we can think what we like,
So long as we think what we're told.


  1. Does this contempt for criticism stem from the PPE course our rulers take? It seems to be a mish-mash of A level economics, a trip throught the 'great minds' and a smattering of modern history - taught by non-specialists and encouraging superficial opinion. Censorship is ignored except when the Bullingdon Club is criticised, and first seem to be handed out ad lib and old Etonians think they are destined for power whatever their prejudices.

  2. Yes, this combination of Eton plus Oxbridge appears to create a sense of entitlement, of being "born to rule." Once upon a time this was tempered by an equivalent sense of nobless oblige but this aspect of the endowment, which I think was understood by such as Jim Prior, Francis Pym and Harold Macmillan, seems now to have been lost (squashed by Mrs Thatcher and and her view that there is "no such thing as society"?) and replaced by a kleptocratic attitude more normally associated with African dictators.

    Owen Jones has an article in today's (18/02/16) Guardian which covers much the same material as the above post, though in more detail. Worth a read: