When the Prime Minister threatens democratic norms of behaviour

Where do we go from here? One might now be urgently asking the question, where is our democracy heading now? While the Tories are conferencing this week in Manchester, the city of Peterloo, one might reflect on the irony of their choice of city in the bicentenary year of the Massacre by the local yeomanry of peaceful Mancunian citizens who did not have the vote and who had turned out in their Sunday best with families to hear “Orator” Hunt demand Parliamentary reform and the extension of the franchise. The achievement of democracy in Britain, admittedly within the limitations revealed this week, was hard fought in the 109 or so years that followed, and in 1819 the landed aristocrat-led government was clamping down on such radicals, seen as “Jacobins”, for fear of revolution. One might legitimately wonder what version of … Read more

Johnson is acting as a populist demogogue for Brexit and against democracy

Last night the UK’s populist demogogue Prime Minister returned to face the music after his defeat at the hands of the Supreme Court judges over his prorogation of Parliament, not with contrition but with aggressive defiance. In so doing, he confirmed in many people’s minds that this man is determined on his strategy to force a General Election over his push for Brexit as a “People versus the Politicians” election. A populist demogogue This is the behaviour of a dangerous populist demogogue with, it appears, potentially “strongman” authoritarian leanings and democracy as we know it is in danger in pursuit of both Brexit and a neoliberal hidden agenda behind Brexit. Their approach is that the end justifies the means, as No. 10 chief advisor Cummings has said, “Brexit by any means necessary”. Far from respecting the verdict of the judges … Read more

A profound political gap underlies the Brexit storm and the right-wing shift

For some time there has been a profound political gap between the excitement of the UK politically engaged and the indifference or rejection “out there” beyond the Westminster bubble. For those willing to take a closer look, the attitude of the latter towards the Brexit crisis, and its origins, goes a long way to explain why the crisis is evolving as it is now. This detachment from, and in some parts of the country an outright rejection of, liberal democracy, can help explain Johnson’s current belligerent and almost anti-democratic tactics. Johnson is firing up his base To many in the Westminster bubble and the politically active sections of society, there is a massive struggle going on over Brexit, in which Johnson has recently prorogued Parliament to, it is assumed, limit debate and reduce the chances of Parliament obstructing his strategy … Read more

How charismatic populism is a threat to the survival of democracy in Britain

Today the UK Parliament enters upon an extended period of suspension, of prorogation, in the midst of one of the biggest crises the British state has encountered since the crises of the Stuart era in the 17th century. Such is the evolution of the current crisis over Brexit that we now have a struggle for power between the executive and legislature as happened in that earlier era. What has stood out recently is how the act of prorogation has been another measure of what an observer has called “executive exceptionalism” in the name of popular sovereignty against that of representative democracy, but also one where a charismatic authoritarianism risks being allowed at the expense of the requirements of elective democratic consent to the actions of the executive. What is so dangerous is that these actions are teaching people a lesson … Read more

How Johnson’s prorogation tactic threatens democracy itself

Why has Johnson’s prorogation of Parliament shortly before Brexit caused such outrage? Non-UK readers might be puzzled but to many observers within the UK, in the midst of the struggle over Brexit that has fractured the nation, it is already being called a “coup”, an “attack on democracy”, and an “authoritarian” action from the leader of the Vote Leave movement who campaigned in the name of democracy. More thoughtful observers say that within reactionary nationalist populism in many countries there is an authoritarian undercurrent, and this is arguably its British manifestation. Democratic outrage Prime Minister Johnson’s announcement of the prorogation of Parliament until shortly before Britain is due to leave the EU has stunned and outraged many democrats. The Speaker of the House of Commons has called it a “constitutional outrage”. Observers should by now be under no illusion that … Read more

A constitutional crisis is now in full swing with the attempt to impose Brexit

According to news reports today, the Johnson regime in the UK is risking a “full blown constitutional crisis” by asserting that the UK will leave the European Union on 31 October “whatever the circumstances”. Parliamentarians fear that he intends to do this despite the expressed wish by the democratically-elected Parliament against a No Deal Brexit. This blog has been warning of this threat to the constitution and representative democracy for a long time, that populists would exploit the questionable claim to a mandate from the 2016 referendum to impose Brexit on the UK. Expressions of outrage This latest twist to the Brexit crisis has occurred because Johnson’s “dark arts” advisor Cummings has said that Parliament can now no longer stop Brexit happening on 31 October. A No. 10 spokesperson also stated “The UK will be leaving the EU on 31 … Read more

Forcing through a No Deal Brexit and a “People versus Politicians” election

It was disturbing to read reports over the weekend that under the advice of the master of the dark arts SPAD* Dominic Cummings at No. 10, the Johnson regime is planning to allow a No Deal Brexit to occur under the default principle inherent in the Article 50 process and to hold a “People versus the Politicians” general election soon after to secure a majority and elective legitimacy for his regime. In so doing, Johnson is playing fast and loose with the principles of the British constitution and revealing an arbitrariness that is dangerous. Thus is the mandate allegedly secured for Brexit in the referendum of 2016 allowed to override Parliamentary democracy as populists suggest and despite failing to win the 2017 general election to carry Brexit through to completion. Britain is facing a grim crisis that could tear it … Read more

Democracy itself is in danger over Brexit and reactionary populism

Across the world, democracy is in crisis or has or is being eroded and replaced by authoritarian systems. It seems that revisioning politics is becoming a right wing project. The question should be asked as to whether it is safe to leave a democracy crisis in the hands of reactionary, nationalist populists. After all, we all know where the last project in extreme nationalism ended, or we should do. The conflict over Brexit poses just such questions. It goes right to the heart of democracy. Brexit is a reactionary populist project, dominated by Farage, an unelected but very influential politician. It is the fear of the threat posed by Farage that has driven the Tory party to the right and to embrace the extreme medicine of a No Deal Brexit. Is Brexit the right medicine for the national malaise? Brexit … Read more

Electoral law is being undermined and this is a risk for democracy

An important sign that a democracy is less than healthy must surely be when people cease to follow the rules which sustain it. Today has revealed yet more evidence that the Leave campaigns in the 2016 UK referendum broke electoral law. It is crucial to democratic elections that they observe the law, that there is no undue influence exerted at any stage, and that money is correctly spent. The risk in today’s febrile climate is that if the law has been broken, especially as in this case where the result was so narrow, people will start to question the legitimacy of the result. Thus faith in the system can be undermined and in a very severe crisis resort be made to further illicit activity. In the case of the UK referendum, the evidence is that spending limits were breached by … Read more

Are Trump and Brexit two sides of a hard-right anti-democratic take-over bid?

Are Trump and Brexit two sides of a hard-right anti-democratic take-over bid? One has to ask the question, since in the pursuit of power and influence both groups seem to be using questionable techniques that could lead one to wonder quite where this is going. In the US there is an ongoing probe by the FBI-appointed special prosecutor Mueller into whether the Trump campaign indulged in illegal activities in collaboration with a hostile foreign power, Russia, to swing the 2016 Presidential election in Trump’s favour. In the UK, the Information Commissioner is examining the Brexit campaign’s exploitation of personal data potentially at the risk of data protection laws, while the Electoral Commission is looking into the possible by-passing of strict spending limits and whether there was interference in the campaign by Russian troll farms through social media. Some commentators are … Read more

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