The UK has a bullish prime minister with a strong majority in parliament. The levers of official power, granted to the Tories in the 2019 election mean that legislation should be relatively easy to pass. Sections of the population opposed to Conservative power have spent the last few weeks preparing themselves for the onslaught that is coming. Just this week we saw a glimpse of some of their plans on tougher sentencing and tighter controls of protests.
The macho posturing and probable matching action that the government will take is also something of a smokescreen. The British establishment is actually weakened right now and there are fractures available which will open avenues for direct action and community fightback. An understanding of the weaknesses is useful.
The UK has gone through a period of political instability because of Brexit. The idea that the EU referendum result was only about the UKs membership of that organisation is wide of the mark. The desire from many to give the establishment a kicking in the ballots during that referendum is fairly obvious. It isn’t clear whether leaving the EU will ultimately satisfy the 17 million people who voted for it. What will they think when they realise that immigration doesn’t simply stop? What about other issues that contributed to the result? I would include a range of matters that really haven’t been resolved by either the referendum or the two general elections since.
Austerity has ripped through our communities and continues to do so. The money saved from being able to leave the EU will continue to haunt government. Whether we want that to fund healthcare or provide local libraries or end the destruction of universal credit. The recovery from the financial crash of 2008 seems to have missed the UK. It won’t be long before people are angry about why their communities and their lives are not recovering.
Meanwhile two scandals rocked politics in the last decade and very little action was taken to make amends. The first was the expenses scandal which showed our elected representatives on the make and on the take. They still are, despite new rules which were brought in to prevent them from being so blatant about their greed. The other was the Panama tax haven scandal in which our politicians and business leaders were once again using the system to help themselves, this time to lower tax bills. Many will consider the last parliament to have been a daily scandal of blocking Brexit but over time that will be added to the other two. There is a sense that politics in the UK is broken.
The flip side of the current bullish mood of the prime minister is the plight of the Opposition party. The system works on having two antagonistic parties working against each other with the Opposition effectively being a government in waiting. Labour is not a government in waiting. Even some Conservative commentators have lamented the length of time it is taking for Labour to replace Jeremy Corbyn. Some people can foresee the party splintering while others acknowledge that it will probably not win the next election. Meanwhile the useless idiot is still the leader, hell bent on trying every trick in the book to ensure that his faction controls the reins of the party. Ironically the state of the Labour Party isn’t good news for the establishment. It is a vital part of the functioning of parliament and without an effective Opposition the actions of the Executive will be poorer, their decisions lacking sufficient scrutiny. It is a weakness for the state.
These issues can also lead to a government thinking it can do practically what it likes. The attack on the BBC and the suggestion that it could become a subscription service has been couple with lobby journalists being banned from Downing Street and key prime ministerial speeches. The prime minister and his head advisor Dominic Cummings are overreaching. They forgot they were supposed to end free speech before attacking the press.
The British economy is fragile, the pound all over the place and Brexit uncertainty remains. The people may have given Johnson a big majority but they won’t give him a free ride. Overreaching further, the prime minister has even criticised the CBI (the umbrella body that promotes British big business) for opposing Brexit. So we have a government and a business class that are not in harmony.
After a couple of good decades for the monarchy Princes Andrew and Harry have ensured that the very top of the British establishment is in peril. To see one hounded out of the country by the head of the household for daring to suggest the monarchy could become more modern was startling. It was made all the more stark considering that prince Andrew is keeping his title while refusing to cooperate over investigations into his friendship with a convicted paedophile in the USA. It shines a light on the values of the monarch herself and both matters will come back to haunt her. In the case of her grandson, Harry, it will come through press reports every time he does anything in life. In the case of Andrew it will come from her having to cope with her favourite son effectively living in the attic for the rest of his days, unable to have a public life for fear of bad publicity.
As Brexit progresses the position of Britain in the world is set to diminish. There are already plans to extend the number of permanent places on the UN Security Council, diluting the influence of the UK in global governance. The EU has already altered its position on Gibraltar, siding now with Spain’s claims for the stick of rock. The last few decades has seen a decline in Britain’s influence around the world and anyone who thought leaving the EU would make the UK more powerful is misguided. Great Britain is a tiny island that once built an empire. It has largely gone, it wasn’t good and it’s best left rotting.
Britain is an idea in retreat from the world and the British establishment is in a perilous position. No wonder there’s talk of tougher sentences and tighter controls on protest. These measures are related to the fears the establishment is feeling. And the fightback against the Tory government has already begun. From blockades of Whitehall in solidarity with people being deported to the continuing and varied actions relating to climate change, people are stirring.
The weaknesses of the state are there to be exploited. Whatever it does to boost its power it will be done because of the fears of those in charge. The thing that they fear the most is us, the people.
Picture: Guy Smallman