Wednesday, 5 December 2018

A Contemptuous and Contemptible Government

A Contemptuous and Contemptible Government 

So, Theresa May's government has been found guilty of holding parliament in contempt. Having been put in the dock, the Attorney General, Geoffrey Cox QC, channelling John Falstaff, appeared, literally, as the government's attorney, to defend the indefensible. At least, his amateur dramatic performance, with stentorian voice, flailing arms, thumping of the dispatch box, and rhetorical flourish, was more polished than that of May herself, whose wholly fake performances give the impression merely of someone who is a Thatcher wannabe, who continually appears to be suffering from sucking on a very bitter lemon, and who has not even been able to convince herself of anything she is saying, let alone anyone else, which is one reason she never answers a question that has been posed to her, but simply responds with pre-scripted statements, and why on her “tours” of Britain, she has to be kept away from real people, and closeted away in tightly controlled encounters. The real question is why it has taken so long for this bunch to be found to be holding parliament in contempt, because they have done so from the beginning, just as they hold the people of the country in contempt, despite their claims to be “respecting the will” of those people. 

To be fair that contempt does not go back just to the start of the May government. It was also a feature of Blair's government, which was riddled with parliamentary intrigues, whose machinations were placed above any wider political principles. The difference in Blair's government was that those parliamentary intrigues were about personal ambitions, whereas, at least, in respect of the Tories, the intrigues revolve around different political ideologies and interests, between the Brextremist wing of the party, and its conservative, social-democratic wing. Those divisions in the Tory party go back, at least to the 1990's, and as I have described elsewhere are grounded in the contradictory nature of the Tory Party itself, as on the one hand, a bourgeois party that aspires to government, and so has to accept the nature of the modern state a a social-democratic state, founded upon the interests of large-scale, socialised capital, and on the other, as a party whose membership, and core vote is comprised of the small private capitalists, and its attendant social layers, whose interests are antagonistic to the former. 

The more the Tories set their sail according to the interests of the latter, the more they are forced to steer a course, heading backwards in history, and against the interests of British capitalism, and because, so long as capitalism exists, the interests of capital are inseparable from the interests of the state, the more, therefore, the Tories set themselves against the interests of the British state. The Tories, therefore, in pursuing Brexit, have set themselves on a course to oppose the interests of the dominant section of British capital, and of the British people, simply to promote the interests of that plethora of “Del Boys”, who comprise that 5 million of small British private capitalists. John Major faced down that wing of Brexit “bastards” in the party, in the 90's, but Cameron, accommodated them. He led the Tories out of the EPP in the European Parliament, and lined them up with all of the proto-fascist, rag bag, that has more in common with Nigel Farage, and certainly now, with UKIP, as it courts the BNP, and those like Tommy Robinson, as its true nature as a racist party is made even clearer to all. 

In order to appease the reactionary nationalists within the Tory Party, Cameron also joined in with all of the bash Brussels brigade at every opportunity, as a means of blaming foreigners for the problems of British capitalism, and to divert attention away from the fact, that all of the problems facing the British people after 2010, were attributable to his quite deliberate, and economically unnecessary policies of austerity, whose real purpose was to restrict economic growth, so as to keep interest rates near zero, thereby inflating all of those asset prices that represent the form of wealth of the global top 1%. Labour is guilty of the same thing.  Instead of confronting racism and bigotry, it appeases it, seen clearly in the actions of former Home Secretaries, and those current Labour MP's who want to appease it by going along with Brexit, and restrictions on free movement.  As the EU pointed out to Cameron, you cannot attack the EU every day from Monday to Saturday, and then expect people to follow your advice on a Sunday to back it. Yet again, it was an indication of the way these politicians whose whole career has been based upon playing these superficial political games, hold the people in contempt.  

And, of course they are generally able to do so, because the vast majority of the people are kept isolated from the political process. The Labour Party has half a million members, the other parties maybe two hundred thousand between them. In total, less than a million people, actively – and many of them in reality not so actively – mobilised in the democratic process, out of a population of nearly 70 million, and an electorate of around 50 million. In other words, less than 2% of the population in any way mobilised as part of the democratic process. And, this population is indoctrinated in the belief that anyone who does get involved in that democratic process is somehow odd, or else is “like all politicians” out for themselves. The idea that you should be interested in politics, in the processes, and procedures, that determine your very life, and that of your friends and family, is as alien to the majority of society, as the idea that you should have no interest, in “retail therapy”, spending money on things you do not need. The model of the perfect citizen, is not as the Chartists would have had it, as they struggled for the right to vote, that the people should be permanently mobilised in the democratic process, constantly keeping their representatives in check, via annual parliaments, but is rather Brenda from Bristol, who thinks that it is just too much for people in a democratic society to have to trouble their heads with thinking about politics for more than a couple of weeks, every five years, before making the supreme effort of sticking a cross on a ballot paper! 

So, it is generally the case that this ill-informed, generally uninterested, demobilised electorate can be shaped and kept within the bounds of the Overton window, by the combined forces of “common-sense”, as it is transmuted to them, by their experience of daily life, under capitalism, and of the bourgeois media, which only presents them with the narrowest of ranges of ideas, within which to shape their beliefs. It was no wonder that Cameron believed that he could appease the Brextremists in his party by calling the referendum, and that he could win it, despite his constant attacks on the EU in the preceding period, and despite his scapegoating of immigrants, as the source of Britain's problems. But, the contradictions of capitalism often produce ironical results. The Tory media, for years, in search of TV ratings, and newspaper sales, had pandered to the worst elements in society, and given platforms to demagogic representatives of those ideas. 

The BBC had given a platform to Nick Griffin, on Question Time, and despite claiming that it had thereby exposed his ideas, all it did was to expose them to those who already despised those ideas! For millions, it simply acted to legitimise and reinforce their own bigotry, long suppressed, by a series of Equalities laws, and quangos that attempted to hide those views from public view, to make them illegal, whilst, thereby avoiding any real confrontation with those views themselves. Many of those millions who held those bigoted views, and watched Griffin on Question Time, are the same millions, who having their views legitimised, went out to vote for Brexit in 2016. Similarly, the BBC for many years, became almost synonymous with Nigel Farage. It was like his own personal propaganda unit. Not many days went by that Farage was not on The Daily Politics, or Question Time, or some other means by which he got his face forced on to our screens. The reason was simple, he was a means of attracting viewers. 

The BBC still do it. Its only necessary to look at how many times someone like Suzanne Evans appears on one of these programmes. Yet Evans, even less than Farage, is not an MP, and has no significant standing in society as to justify such perennial attention from the media, and even less so now that she, like Farage, has resigned even from UKIP, as it lurches into the depths of far-right proto-fascism. Of course, the Tory media in providing these elements with a platform, do not limit themselves purely to that. The Farages and Evans provide a bit of spice to the meal, to increase the ratings, and to give the impression of a range of views being presented, but the requirement to remain within the Overton window, also means that even now, more than three years after Corbyn became Leader of the party, we still see old Blair-right, spin doctors invited on to these same programmes to pontificate, as though they in any way spoke for today's Labour Party, which means that, on the odd occasion, when a Chris Williamson, or the like, is invited to speak, they can more easily be presented as some kind of lunatic speaking from the fringes, rather than as the voice of the mainstream Labour Party. 

So, it's no wonder that the Tories have felt that they can treat parliament and the people with contempt. And, to be honest, it has to be said that its not only the electorate that is largely removed from involvement in the democratic process, and is ill-informed as a consequence. The reality is that the same is true of many politicians themselves. Many MP's, it has to be said, are really just not very good. Many have simply chosen politics as a career rather than as a calling. If we look back to the Iraq War, was it really beyond the comprehension of a moderately well-educated, well informed person, let alone an MP, to have realised that what was being claimed as a basis for war simply did not add up? 

It was interesting that Theresa May, yesterday, therefore, in her comments proposing her Brexit deal, opposed the idea of a second referendum by basically saying this. The 2016 referendum, she said, had led to many people voting in it, who had not voted for decades. A second referendum, she argued would mean that their votes were, thereby, being disrespected, which would lead them to again be disenchanted with the democratic process, leading them not to bother voting again for decades. This is a bit like where a football team has a good cup run, and having got into the final, thousands of people who had never had any interest in the team, suddenly decide that they are avid fans after all, as they try to get tickets. And, on the basis of this new found enthusiasm, insist on overriding all of the fans that had stuck with the team through thick and thin, and insist on changing the manager, and so on. 

In fact, May is quite right. As I pointed out at the time, and I had written about the same phenomenon in earlier posts, the reason that Leave was likely to win, was precisely because, by limiting the vote to this one issue, it would facilitate the mobilisation of all of those backward, reactionary sections of society to go out and vote on this one issue, no matter how detrimental its success would be to the general well-being of society. It was precisely the same phenomenon that allowed the racists of the BNP and UKIP to win seats in limited local polls for Council seats, or in the low polls for the election of MEP's, even though, in General Elections, those parties could rarely get above 5% of the vote. 

May is basically following the same approach as those who piss off existing customers of businesses, by offering incentives and other perks to new customers, but not to their existing loyal customers. What she is saying is look, here are millions of people who generally have no interest in the democratic process, pay no heed to political discussion, and don't generally vote, but because this referendum gave them the opportunity to vent their spleen, on this one issue, we should privilege their vote over that of all of those many more millions of citizens, who do make at least the very modest effort to go and vote every five years. Because, how disrespectful is it to all those voters who do regularly vote, and for whom the prospect of voting again, in another referendum is, therefore, nothing unusual, so as to confirm their current intentions, to deny them a right to vote today, on the issue? That is particularly the case given that the electorate today is not at all the same electorate as it was in 2016. Getting on for 2 million elderly voters, who voted 80% in favour of Leave, have died. Getting on for 2 million young voters, who were ineligible to vote in 2016, are now entitled to vote, and these younger voters divide approximately 80% in favour of Remain. So, not only does May's position privilege generally disinterested voters – who may simply go back to not voting and apathy, after Brexit happens, or else simply double down on their bigotry, as its effects manifest themselves – but, it also privileges the votes of the dead over the living, even setting aside the question of whether 16 year olds should have had the right to vote in 2016 anyway. 

The Tories arguments over Brexit have all along been contemptuous of parliament and of the British people, in pursuit of resolving their own internal divisions, and for the Brextremists within the party of pursuing the interests of that small section of society they represent. Despite all of the talk about restoring the sovereignty of parliament, the Tory government has sought to exclude parliament from any real say throughout the entire proceedings. Its attempt to deny a meaningful vote over its proposed deal, and its attempt to deny the expressed wish of parliament over the AG's advice are merely the latest manifestation of that contemptuous attitude. The contempt is apparent in the obvious paucity of the arguments they present. Cox, for example, argued that he could not disclose his full advice to the government, because it would be “against the national interest”, for him to do so, by which he suggested that, in providing this information, it would give ammunition to EU negotiators in future trade talks. This is just another version of what the government has said previously about not being able to set out its negotiating stance for fear of providing the EU with bargaining chips. 

That, is nonsense. The EU has many economists, accountants and lawyers, and trade negotiators. The reason the UK got nothing out of the Brexit negotiations, and May had to concede all of her red lines, was that Britain thought it was playing poker, when, in fact, it was playing Solo Whist, having declared Misere Ouvert. Britain had no cards up its sleeve, precisely because the EU knew what the strengths and weaknesses of the UK economy were, already. The only people the government were keeping information from was the UK parliament and UK electorate. And the same is true with Cox's advice. He was too clever by half in his oratory. On several occasions, he claimed that there was “nothing to see here”, and that there was nothing in his advice to the government, in relation to the legal implications of the deal that any competent lawyer would not also have been able to provide, from a reading of the text. But, in that case, how could publishing his advice in any way be detrimental to Britain's future negotiating position? If any lawyer could have provided the self-same advice from simply reading the 550 page text, is it not obviously the case that the EU's many lawyers, and trade negotiators would thereby have provided to the EU that self-same advice, so that the EU would know exactly what legal pitfalls and traps Britain had enmeshed itself in, and how that could be used as leverage against the UK in future negotiations? 

This is a government that is both contemptuous of parliament and of the people, because it believes that it can say and do anything without being held to account, and whenever attempts are made to hold it to account, it attempts to close down those channels of accountability, aided by sections of the Tory media. That is what it did in unleashing a tide of attacks on Remain supporting Tory MP's, in the attacks on the judiciary, and so on. Cameron had set the trajectory in place, when he aligned himself in Europe with the assorted proto-fascist parties, as a means of appeasing similar elements in his own party being drawn to the pole of UKIP. We have seen the extent of the links between some of those elements in the Tory party, and their feting of Russian oligarchs, alongside their connections to Trump and Bannon, and the myriad of golden threads that connect these forces to the FN in France, Wilders in the Netherlands and so on. It was no coincidence that May's election programme was based around the theme of “strong and stable leadership”, forever the battle cry of the Bonapartist, the nationalist demagogue and future dictator. Its no wonder that they have associated themselves internationally with such elements, be it Liam Fox's comments to the butcher Duterte about their “shared values”, or May's cringing before Trump, their fawning to the Saudi feudal butchers, and their ties to the corrupt Bonapartist regime of Netanyahu in Israel. 

This is a government that has failed to win the arguments, and thereby increasingly whose power rests solely upon force, manifest only presently via its use of its official power. May's resilience in office, is not something to be commended, but is nothing more than the actions of a punch drunk boxer, staggering around the ring aimlessly, whilst more sinister forces wait to replace her. The clinging to power is merely a reflection of the extent they are prepared to go to do so, even with a majority of parliament and of society against them. It is time for them to go, or we can expect further authoritarianism to come, as they seek to preserve themselves in office. It's time for parliament to demand a General Election, and its time for Labour to come out clearly to say that it will fight that election on the basis of a commitment to scrap Brexit. 

No comments: