It’s been four weeks since I last posted to this blog. Events in the world of politics have moved so fast, and with such horror, you could say I have been lost for words.
My original aim was for the blog content to be reflective, rather than a running commentary on events as they occur. The past four years have been so extraordinary that many – perhaps too many – of the posts have been on the subject of politics. I never for a moment expected matters to take such a dark turn as they have done in the six weeks. By this I mean since our current Prime minister was selected from a shortlist of two by some of the most reactionary people in our land. These are the Tory Party members, representing 0.2% of the electorate, 0.13% of the population, but highly unrepresentative of our views.
It is tempting at this time to point out how the UK’s ramshackle, Heath-Robinson, cobbled-together “constitution” is not fit for purpose. I came to the view quite a while ago that some form of Public Enquiry to inform constitutional reform was needed. The damage to Britain’s international reputation is crumbling fast and is on the brink of being destroyed. A priority for later, but not too much later. We can’t keep kicking this can down the road.
For now, it suffices to quote from a leader article in today’s Financial Times, which says all that needs to be said in commendably few words:
The FT’s “until now” could not be clearer. The clear and present danger is our “unscrupulous leader”, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson. He needs to be removed from office as quickly as possible, ideally before he can do more harm. But it is important that all reasonable methods, in line with those ramshackle constitutional conventions, are followed, if at all possible.
From where I sit, the only body in a position to carry this out is our Parliament, imperfect creature that it is.
The Immediate Task
The immediate task is to stop a No Deal exit from the EU dead in its tracks. There is just about time for that to happen next week: we can only hold our breath and hope. Those opposed to Johnson’s tricks seem reasonably united around using legislative means to pass primary legislation to block No Deal, a catastrophic course of action opposed by around three-quarters of the UK population.
All those who care about the future of this country and who are in a position to effect a change of course must focus unrelentingly on this task.
And if this fails?
There are two routes to a possible General Election, one via Johnson and one via Jeremy Corbyn. Both are risky, as only a fool would predict the outcome in these frenzied times. Johnson may call an election himself, thinking a mixture of populist (and unbudgeted) spending plans, together with the lottery that is our first-past-the post voting system may win enough English seats to give him victory. The other route, via Corbyn, involves a successful vote of no confidence in the Commons, which, frankly, is looking far from assured.
We can be reassured that the Scots won’t put up with Johnson’s antics and, especially with Ruth Davidson gone, we could hope that the number of Tory MPs in Scotland will drop from 13 to a figure close to zero (ideally, equal to zero). This should enhance the chances of the Tories being unable to form a government after an election. But, with 80% of the press rabidly rooting for him, Johnson may fool enough English voters to get him over the line. I really hope not. As a bonus, perhaps the DUP archbigots may lose some seats to more rational, and less hate-filled, politicians in Northern Ireland.
Johnson’s No Deal plans are so risky and egregious that there has even been talk of divided loyalty in the Civil Service, raised by its former chief back in the less troubled times in March: “The civil service have a loyalty to the government of the day but they are also servants of the crown and the country. Normally there isn’t a conflict because you expect the government to act on behalf of the country but in the situation we are now in, where the interests of the Conservative Party are not necessarily the same as the interests of the country and the consequences are so grave, I do feel that their responsibility to crown and country needs to play in.” Yesterday, he had hardened his position: “We are reaching the point where the civil service must consider putting its stewardship of the country ahead of service to the government of the day.” Alas, tactically, this would likely play into Johnson’s “people v. elites” gambit. We are indeed in unprecedented times.
If all else fails, there is a case to be made for civil unrest. Not of the “beat-’em-up” type advocated by the thuggish wing of the Leave supporters. I’m referring rather to a whole variety of creative ways of making the country ungovernable.
A striking feature of the various pro- and anti-Leave marches (apart from the violence of the former and its absence in the latter) was the wit and imagination that went in to some of the hand-made pro-EU posters. Compare this with the sterile flag-waving and twattish phrases for the Leavers. It’s surely not beyond the wit of us to devise clever ways to frustrate government policies and actions without unduly inconveniencing others. Perhaps it can be done in some cases without breaking the law: a last resort option with an honourable history (Chartists, Peterloo, Suffragettes, etc.)
So, anyway… Think up some ideas whilst those who have the power focus on the immediate task in hand. To stop No Deal. Dead. The rest can wait, for now.