Wednesday 27 December 2023

Parliament IS sovereign - but . . .

The "perception management" branch of the UK's right-wing has developed the technique of reducing complex issues to a three-word slogan, and then hammering away at it until enough people are convinced that this is an expression of the "popular will."  

This certainly worked for Prime Minister Johnson with "Get Brexit Done."  Rishi Sunak is attempting the same trick with "Stop the Boats," the chosen method of achieving it being the deportation to Rwanda of those unfortunates  (just 3.8% of the total of would-be  immigrants) who are reduced to attempting to enter Britain  by crossing the Chanel in small boats.

Given that the courts have declared  that this  threat is  illegal since Rwanda is not a safe place for them to be sent to, Parliament is now instructed to pass a law saying the it is safe.  The accompanying three word slogan is that "Parliament IS sovereign," -  so how dare the courts (enemies of the people?) try to frustrate the truly expressed ill (oops - will: Freudian slip) of the people as determined  by our sovereign parliament?

In the first of this year's very listenable Reith Lectures,  ( Professor Ben Ansell explains that democracy is sustained by a "a spider's web" of strands.  There is nothing new in this: it is what was explained to me a Mr Chekanovski (that may not be the correct spelling) in my first formal studies of politics way back in the 1950s.  To expand the Ansell lecture sightly, and with thanks to Mr Chekanovski and his many successors, in addition to a law-making  parliament the "strands" required for democracy to operate successfully include:

1. respect for the rule of law;

2.  the separation of powers (especially an independent Judiciary);

3.  freedom of assembly;

4. freedom of expression (especially an independent and balanced media);

5.  regular, free and fair elections;

6. respect for minorities;

7.  what Mr Chekanovski called "the British sense of fair play" and what historian Peter Henessy has more recently described as "the "good chaps" theory of government.

It beggars belief (that phrase again ) that Britain's democracy has become so debased  that our government can even propose the absurdity that Rwanda can be made a safe place simply by Britain's parliament saying that it is.

 Those with even the most cursory interest in the UK's politics can see  that our present government is blatantly chipping way at each one of the above strands.

 A government minister has argued that one of its  proposals did break the  law "but only in a specific and limited way; rather than being respected  the judicial system is regularly caricatured as being at the mercy of "lefty lawyers;" our right to assemble and protest is circumvented on various whims; the independent BBC is bullied and the bulk of the media are in the pay of the rich; measures  to  make elections fairer a ripped up and restrictions imposed on the right to vote; minorities (eg we"remainers") are dismissed "unpatriotic;" and any sense of fair play long since went out of the window.

Our liberal democracy is in crisis.  Rather than just relying of "good chaps" one restraint on abuse by the temporary minority that happens to hold the reins of power has so far been the realisation that "the other lot" might gain power and do the same to them.  That too has gone out of the window.

Rather than take revenge, I hope that, if and when the "other lot" (preferably including Liberal Democrats) do win a parliament majority we hall take steps to restore and improve  all the strands essential to a democracy, of which  I was taught to be proud.

Tuesday 12 December 2023

Party Game

 In Sunday's Observer (10th September) columnist Andrew Rawnsley suggests that, if we want to liven up we Christmas parties we might try listing the Tory "screw-ups" of the past 13 years in order of seriousness.

To start the ball rolling, here is my suggestion:

                     1.     The calling and conduct of the Brexit Referendum.

2.    The “Hard Brexit” settlement.

3.    The “Austerity “ policy in central government spending.

4.     Cuts to the financing and powers of local government.

5.    Failure to heed the recommendations of the Cygnus Exercise of 2016 on preparedness for a pandemic.

6.    The lateness of the lockdowns  in the Covid emergency.

7.    The discharge of hospital patients to non-ring-fenced care homes.

8.    The VIP line for medial procurement - PPE etc.

9.    The scandal of “partygate,” along with repeated lies on this and other matters,(not least the Brexit referendum) reducing trust in and respect for government

10. Cuts in the Overseas Aid Budget

11.Contempt for domestic law – the illegal proroguing of parliament.

12. Contempt for international law.

13.The “Hostile Environment” for immigrants – leading to the humiliating Rwanda policy.

14. The botched withdrawal from Afghanistan.

15. The privatisation of the Probation Service.

16.The Lansley “ reforms” in the health service.

17. Gove’s education ”reforms,” squeezing "the Arts" from education; OFSTED bullying; the Academisation of schools.

18.  Regressive moves in the operation of democracy.  (eg Voter ID, abolition of the second preference vote in “directly elected “ mayoral elections)

19. Contempt for the civil service.

20. The scandal of Grenfell Tower.


Suggestions for additional items (eg putting more people in prison for longer but neglecting the estate) and changes in the order are welcome.