Thursday 14 December 2017

Tidings of (modified) joy.

Well, maybe things are just taking a turn or the better.  The defeat of the Republican candidate  in the election for a senator for Alabama  shows that the US electorate might, just might, be beginning to see the light about the awfulness of President Trump's attitudes and policies.

Here in the UK the House of Commons has  defeated the May Government's arrogant attempt to force through whatever Brexit deal they achieve without any serious possibility of parliament's having any meaningful say. How the new situation will work out in practice is yet to be seen but the significance is that, at last, MPs are  beginning to flex their  muscles and make that point that "taking back control" means taking it back to parliament and not to an over-mighty executive.

The muscle-flexing is so far fairly timid, It has depended on the "left of centre" opposition - Labour, SNP, Liberal Democrats and the one Green being pretty united, with a handful of Tory MPs abstaining and only 11 having the guts to vote against the government.  However, this could be the turn of the tide - the event by which, after 18 months of timidity, MPs begin to think for themselves and do what they know to be right rather than slavishly obey their whips.

It really is astonishing that so few Conservative MPs, which their ostentatious posturing over the wonders of British institutions, traditions and values, are prepared to put the long-term interests of the country before short-term party advantage.  With our history of parliaments gradually wresting power from a mighty executive, (we even fought a civil war on it) how can they be so supine as to be willing to hand it back again?

I wonder how the events of the last two years or so would have played with our press and public opinion if a left-wing party in power had been hijacked by a handful of extremists and:

  • called a referendum on an issue which was dear to their own  ideology but not high on the priorities of most of the electorate;
  • failed to take any precautions to ensure a fair and honest debate;
  • declared a narrow result in their favour to be sacrosanct, in spite of the facts that the referendum was advisory only, many of the key facts on which they had argued were phoney and there were suspicions of illicit finance along with foreign interference in support of their case;
  • tried desperately to avoid parliament having any say in the implementation of the result;
  • fought the issue in court when objectors tried to invoke the "sovereignty of parliament;"
  • abused  the judges as "enemies of the people" when the courts decided against them;
  • took advantage of a supine opposition, terrified of press, to force the decision though parliament;
  • ploughed on regardless of the fact that  almost all informed opinion regarded their policy as hugely damaging to the future status of the country and welfare of its people:
  • used every device in their power, including blackening any opponents in their own party as well as in he opposition, as traitors and mutineers.
  • continued to make every attempt to avoid giving  parliament any meaningful say in the outcome of their policy.
There would be hell to play.

For example, way back in 1968, when Lord King, a press baron, decided that the country was dangerously "out of control" under Harold Wilson's Labour government, he called a secret meeting to plan to overthrow him and it and appoint Lord Mountbatten as the necessary "strong man."  The plan flopped when Mountbatten, who was present at the meeting, walked away as  he realised that what was being proposed amounted to treason.

What a difference a supine press makes

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