Freedom News

Five times in 2022 when British politics (almost) provided hope, only for it to be quickly replaced by despair

As 2022 comes to an end I reflect on some of the major events. Every so often there was a glimmer of hope in among all the horror. Hope doesn’t hang around for long in UK politics and in any case, as anarchists, we are a long way off a desired set of institutions or economic conditions. So with that caveat, here is my list of almost hopeful events and what they led on to.

  1. Boris Johnson was kicked out of office (but he was replaced by Liz Truss)

    Boris Johnson had taken over the reins of government from one of the worst prime ministers ever, in Theresa May. He took no time in proving he was worse. The 2019 Tory manifesto is full of unpleasant policies. From amending the Human Rights Act, to curtailing the Supreme Court powers, to continuing extremely hostile practices towards refugees. On top of the policies were the lies and let’s not forget the fatalities. When Covid came along, much of that manifesto was put on hold as Johnson enacted policies that would exacerbate the spread of the disease, particularly in care homes. All the time he was ignoring his own lockdown rules and guidance. It should have been this that caused his downfall but his fellow Tories didn’t seem to care too much. They finally ditched him when they got fed up of being told to go on TV and the radio and lie for him. It was the Chris Pincher scandal that finally forced the issue. He had claimed to not know about allegations surrounding the Tory MP regarding sexual assault. When it turned out he knew all along, his cabinet turned on him.

    Johnson is horrific and good riddance (beware of the rumours that speak of a comeback). Unfortunately, the summer leadership election resulted in a victory for Liz Truss.

  2. Liz Truss didn’t last long (but we will pay the price of her trashing the economy)

    She was prime minister for just a few weeks, a few weeks ago. It will seem like an odd blip in British history in the future. At the time it was day after day of turmoil. There was the terrible mini budget which caused the pound to fall against the US dollar. There was her decision to U-turn on some of it just before the Chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, went out to do his Tory conference speech. There was her decision to replace him with Jeremy Hunt. There were reported scuffles in the voting lobby of the Commons when Labour forced a vote on banning fracking. Such a ban is part of the 2019 Tory manifesto but Truss had overturned that so Labour was, very cleverly, inviting Tories to either back their manifesto or back their new leader. It caused pandemonium and the next day Truss announced her resignation. Throughout her time in office she avoided scrutiny as much as possible. Was she hiding under a desk, someone actually asked in parliament. At one point she held a press conference which lasted a handful of minutes, including the questions from journalists. She had even fewer of the skills expected of a prime minister than Johnson, and he was lacking most of them.

    Rishi Sunak took over and immediately announced that the 2019 manifesto was his priority. He kept Jeremy Hunt as chancellor and they delivered an Autumn Statement that would leave most of us worse off.

  3. The Tory policy of flying refugees to Rwanda was stopped (but they are determined to make it happen)

    Successive Tory home secretaries have talked tough in immigration and it’s become a bit of a competition in how nasty they can be. This one is so horrible it is breath-taking. To provide no safe route for refugees to reach the UK without documentation is one thing. To declare everyone who takes the only route available (the very unsafe route of crossing the channel in small boats) as illegal and therefore undeserving, is just evil. It’s worth bearing in mind that the people on these boats often prove their case for refugee status. The plan to remove them to a foreign country for processing is so obviously wrong, morally, it shows just how bad British discussions on immigration have become. That the first plane failed to set off after legal rulings, is encouraging. The people waiting to find out if they will be on the next flight should be considered to be going through torture, not knowing their status and not having their claims dealt with correctly.

    The recent High Court ruling that declared the Rwanda policy as lawful is a kick in the teeth. It will take more months yet for the legal wranglings to be concluded but the Tories are making a concerted effort to be as nasty as they can. They may even go so far as to remove the UK from European Convention on Human Rights.

  4. The Scottish Parliament voted to provide trans people with the right to self-identification (but the rumours are that the Tories in Westminster will block it)

    Trans rights are human rights. There is no debate to be had on that. The Scottish Parliament has, at least, set that out. I suspect that the motives are not entirely honourable though. They are testing the waters to see what the UK Parliament will do. I hope they are not just using the issue as a political football for a wider debate on Scottish independence.

    In any case, this move may result in the Tories using their majority in Westminster to make the Scottish Parliament back down on the issue. At the heart of the debate will be whether this is a devolved issue or whether the UK parliament has sovereignty over it. In theory, that’s an easy question to answer: the Westminster Parliament is sovereign over everything ultimately and can enforce its superiority. In reality, it may be politically difficult for it to do so.

  5. Labour wants to abolish the unelected House of Lords and replace it with an elected second chamber (but they plan to make the Commons even more powerful)

    The House of Lords is obviously a ridiculous hangover from our pre-democracy days. It still contains 92 hereditary peers, 26 Church of England Bishops and Arch-bishops plus an array of Lords hand picked by successive prime ministers just for giving the Tory Party lots of money. It is a disgusting waste of space, even taking into account the experts who may occasionally amend terrible legislation to make it slightly less awful. It also contains over 800 of these various unelected specimens, an eye watering number compared to most second chambers around the world. Getting rid is a no-brainer.

    Labour’s plans are in their infancy but the 155 page report issued by a Commission set up by Labour leader, Keir Starmer, and headed by former Labour prime minister, Gordon Brown, is very clear on one thing: the elected replacement will not be able to challenge the authority of the Commons. Obviously, Starmer’s commitment to democracy only extends so far. Does he really think the Commons wouldn’t benefit from reform? Or is he just looking forward to having the power that the two party system occasionally grants Labour leaders (provided they agree to manage capitalism nicely)? The report does not make radical suggestions and by the time the next election comes along Labour will have diluted them further. What will remain may well be an elected second chamber but the authority of the Commons, and with it that of the prime minister, will have been increased. Labour doesn’t just want power; they want to increase it and the hierarchies supporting it.

Jon Bigger

Image: Guy Smallman

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