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The Johnson partygate saga shows the validity of anarchism

The British Conservative Party is now being observed closely to see how it deals with its lying, disgraced leader. The public can do nothing within the system to change matters. Labour can do little. We are helpless, as we watch in anticipation day after weary day to see if things will change.

We are, as a society, obsessed with the Conservative Party. We have to be by dint of the fact that it is so often in power and when it is in power it can last decades. The Thatcher and Major governments lasted a combined 18 years. By the end of that period in office, the British public had to be transfixed by the divisions it had over Europe. Such issues returned when the current government began under the reigns of David Cameron. He had a plan to solve those divisions and shut the Eurosceptics up forever. A referendum on whether the UK should leave or remain in the European Union would do the trick.

When that plan backfired and Theresa May took over, we became obsessed with the divisions again. This time the divide wasn’t simply based around Euroscepticism. New terms had developed, emphasising the divisions: Brexiteers and Remainers dominated our politics. May could not control her party but waiting in the wings was a man who many thought could. Boris Johnson took over in July 2019 and started to purge the Remainers. He transformed his party to ensure that candidates in the 2019 general election signed up to his Brexit plan.

With an election win and an 80 seat majority, it looked like plain sailing ahead for the Tories and they looked towards the second decade of continuous rule. Those who had taken just a summary glance at Boris Johnson knew that it would be harder than that. A serial liar, whose closest friends and family know not to trust him, Johnson would not be short of controversy in power. Nobody banked on a global pandemic though. Indeed, the Tory government decided not to prepare for one, despite repeated warnings over the years. It has exposed Johnson as a man who doesn’t seem to care about whether the rules apply to him. He has been dogged in recent months over allegations of breaking his own lockdown rules.

I have written before that one of the most important factors in politics in the UK is a sense of fairness. If a party can present a policy as fair, then they have a good chance of it being accepted by the public. Suggestions of unfairness that stick will harm any British politician. The unfairness of Johnson’s rule-breaking really hits home precisely because we can all relate to it. We were all suffering the restrictions placed upon us by the powerful. We have all suffered from the unfairness.

And yet here we are waiting for the Conservative Party to decide if it has the wisdom to act. And here we are watching the news and PMQs and the BBC Parliament Channel in higher numbers than normal. Our one-party state has us hooked on every twist and turn. This isn’t a criticism of the public. I’m hooked too. In the last few days, I’ve been horrified by the amount of live news I’ve watched on the off chance that something might happen. Often it has. There has been so much in the way of political shenanigans. There has been a minister resigning at the dispatch box in the Lords, the Met Police cackhandedly getting involved with an investigation into Downing Street parties, high Tories like David Davis telling Johnson to resign, the update from senior civil servant Sue Gray. We wait though for the Conservative Party to act.

Johnson is banking on winning any possible vote of no confidence among his MPs. Those MPs are currently deciding whether to submit letters requesting such a vote. It is their choice. Not ours, not the Labour Party, not anyone but them. We often hear about how ruthless the Conservative Party is when it comes to failing leaders. I think that cliche needs ripping up. I wasn’t planning on relying on their ruthlessness in any case but it’s an idea that has run its course. If they were ruthless, they would have ditched Johnson months ago.

The more I think about it, the more I feel vindicated in my anarchism. This system stinks. It is rotten. My starting point here is that the problem isn’t simply Johnson. There are some calling for better standards, that Johnson has sullied the office of prime minister etc etc. The truth is that so much in politics rests on a sense of fair play. It rests on having leaders who abide by the rules. A Johnson figure would always come along at some point if the conditions were right. They have and here we are. The answer isn’t a better leader. The answer is a better political system.

The only way to prevent anything like this from happening again is to build a system that allows everybody a stake and say in the decisions that affect them. We should resist the call for hierarchical answers to this current crisis. It is a crisis in hierarchy itself and we should challenge the notion. We should build collective organisations to share power, nationally, in the workplace, in our communities. In short, we should be brimming with confidence that we have the answers and that we welcome people to join us in planning those solutions. The answers to the current problems in the UK are not a better leader. We won’t find lasting solutions in the current parliamentary Conservative Party or in hoping for a Labour election victory. We, the people, are the answer and anarchism is the means.

Jon Bigger

Image: Number 10.

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