All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances….
Shakespeare – As You Like It.
I have enormous respect for politicians. After all I once wanted to be one. They have a difficult and often thankless task. Those in the media and the general public who regard our political leaders as worthy only of satire and contempt have done a great deal of harm in undermining our democracy. Being critical is one thing – being contemptuous another. But in the UK at this time it is hard to exaggerate the contempt in which the majority of politicians are held – largely because of the contempt they have shown for the electorate. It is a depressing and dangerous situation. How has this come about?
This article from Vernon Bogdanor professor of government at King’s College London and a constitutional expert is the best thing I have read in terms of explaining the mess we are in.
Looking at the sorry performance of the House of Commons elected in 2017, it is difficult to avoid remembering Winston Churchill’s condemnation of the parliaments of the 1930s as being “decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all-powerful to be impotent”. Parliament has shown itself not to be the solution to Brexit but the problem.
Stop the Coup
As the date for Brexit gets nearer the gloves really have come off, and the hysteria is being worked up into an alarming pitch. First we had the notion being put around that Boris Johnson by proroguing parliament was creating a coup. The facts that prorogation happens every year, and that only three days debating time would be lost for parliament were largely ignored. Why? Because facts have nothing to do with what is happening. The attempt is always to create a climate of fear.
They don’t want to ‘stop the coup’ – there is no coup, at least not in the sense they are talking about – they want to prevent democracy. (As usual Spiked nails it in this article.)
Stop the Election
Now ‘Stop the Coup’ has become ‘Stop the Election’. When you have a parliament that has taken over from the government and refuses to allow the government to enact its policies it is normal to have a general election so that the people can choose a new government. But because of the ‘Fixed Term Parliaments’ Act, (yet another foolish legacy left us by Cameron and Clegg), Boris Johnson is not able to hold an election and is in effect being held prisoner by his opponents. The spurious argument used is that this is necessary to prevent Johnson taking the UK out of the EU on the 31st of October anyway. Why is that spurious? Because if the election is held on October the 15th then the new government could cancel Brexit…if it were Labour/SNP and the Lib-Dems. So why are they not prepared to have an election? Because they can read the opinion polls and they know it is likely that Johnson would be returned with a substantial majority.
Boris – 46%, Corbyn – 26%
Political class best serving best interests of country – N0 – 75%, Yes 13%
Should there be an early election: Yes 48%, No 31%
Corbyn PM v. No Deal – Corbyn – 31% No Deal 52%
I think that there has been a coup. But it is not Johnson’s – it is Bercow’s. The Speaker of the House of Commons sees himself as some kind of political supremo who will prevent Brexit. He should be the ringmaster, keeping order. Instead he sees himself as the ring leader – creating disorder in order to prevent Brexit. With the aid of the majority of Labour MPs, the SNP, the Lib Dems, the Remainer Tories and the EU he is ensuring that the UK will not leave the EU on the 31st of October.
Johnson is in a bind. He has promised that we will leave on the 31st and if that does not happen because he is forced to go to ask the EU for an extension, then he will lose the upcoming General Election. If he refuses then he will be disobeying the law passed by parliament and has even threatened with jail! If he resigns then there is no telling what will happen and which of the Remainers will take over.
There has been a coup. But it is a coup of MPs against the government and the electorate. They refuse to pass what 80% of them had promised to pass – and they refuse to let the electorate decide. When the Prime Minister is being threatened with jail by those who have taken over the parliament, it’s clear who has created the coup.
In all of this the chutzpah, deceit and arrogant of so many politicians is breathtaking.
The Government: Although I have some sympathy with the Prime Minister, (because of the vicious attacks he is facing and the bind that has been placed upon him), I struggle to trust him and doubt whether he will be able to deliver what he has promised. I am sure that many of his fellow Conservatives think the game is up, they will abandon him anyway. Tories are not exactly the model of loyalty when it comes to party leaders.
Phillip Hammond, May’s chancellor, has admitted taking legal advice from the EU on his efforts to thwart Brexit in alleged comments to Boris Johnson. The 21 Tory Remainer MPs have also admitted that they consulted with the EU BEFORE they voted against the government. This astonishing article demonstrates that the leaders of the 21 Tory rebels met with EU officials before the vote last week. It is almost beyond irony that they complain about alleged (and unproven) foreign (Russian) interference in the referendum, whilst they are negotiating with a foreign power in order to overturn the vote of the UK electorate.
The Labour Party is in a farcical mess. If Boris Johnson is being held prisoner by parliament, it seems as though Jeremy Corbyn, a life long EU sceptic, is being held prisoner by his own party establishment. Watch this short clip from Questiontime – and remember that Emily Thornberry is in line to become the next foreign secretary of the United Kingdom.
The Labour party policy is to go to the EU and negotiate a new deal for leaving. Then to put their new deal to the people in a referendum where the Labour party will then campaign against its own deal! Disturbing as it is that this is Labour party policy (confirmed yesterday by John McConnell) there is worse. Because Labour will not allow ‘no deal’ to be on the referendum paper. We will have a referendum where one option will be something we already rejected, and the other will be something that the proposers reject!
The Lib Dems – are so fanatically pro-EU that Jo Swinson said that even if the people voted in a second referendum she would not accept it if there is a second referendum which votes to leave the EU, they will not accept that. This is a position that is taken by many of the more fanatical Remainers – eg watch this fascinating video right through to the end to see just how far we have gone down the rabbit hole!
The Greens – campaign for 10,000 lorries per day to travel through Dover whilst campaigning against ordinary people being able to fly to Europe for their holidays.
The SNP – continue with their disingenuous policy of campaigning to leave one union whilst also campaigning to stay in an even larger one. They claim they are working with the Unionist parties because they want to spare the UK the economic misery of leaving its biggest market, whilst at the same time campaigning for Scotland to leave its biggest market – a market which is vastly more important to the Scottish economy than the EU.
Not all SNP politicians though have bought into the narrative. This excellent letter from Jim Sillars was in the Times this weekend. He states succinctly where the real coup is.
SIR – The schedule of the Bill being passed this week instructs the Prime Minister to sign and send a letter surrendering his government and its foreign policy to a foreign power, the EU.
What we have witnessed is not democracy but the first Vichy Parliament in British history.
Watching Iain Blackford on the same Question time programme referred to above was depressing – he came across as a boorish bully. And that brings up another issue.
The Language and Tone of our Politicians is ‘unStatesmanlike’
For example this tweet from the Labour MP David Lammy is sadly not unique.
I wrote a post explaining the prorogation of Parliament as I understood it. Mike Russell, a Scottish Government minister, weighed in with a rather sneering remark about my being in Australia affecting my judgement. He then followed that up by mentioning that I am a minister of religion. Why does that matter? Because my Twitter feed soon filled with bile, hatred and anti-religious bigotry. Mike is not stupid. He knows that bringing up religion will result in some Cybernats getting stuck in….its what we call in the trade a ‘dog whistle’….(in the same way as for example Trump might mention ‘Mexicans’ or Muslims)’. The SNP publicly distance themselves from some of their more extreme Cybernats….but they are still not averse to using them to silence and attack opposition…
And this goes way beyond yours truly. Twitter is filled with bile – none more so that Philp Pullman’s suggestion that someone would hang Boris Johnson. It happens on all sides…but those who are senior politicians, or ‘celebrities’ should not be stirring up hatred online – whether they are from the Right or Left.
Or if you want to see the standard of debate have a look at this rather juvenile exchange.
The BBC has tried to be impartial but in the past week, all pretence of impartiality has gone. Likewise with Sky News, ITV and other broadcast media outlets. Let me just give one example…I heard Radio 4 news give a government minister a torrid time, which I suppose is fair enough. After all is the idea not to ask the difficult questions and push for answers? Except the item immediately following was an interview with an EU spokesperson – it could hardly have been more mild and sycophantic. I cannot recall one single time that the EU has been questioned with any degree of throughness by a BBC journalist.
And they should be. One group of politicians we have not looked at is the EU. William Shawcross in The Spectator provides us with the following quotes from EU leaders.
After a meeting at No. 10, Verhofstadt says to a colleague: ‘They’re going nowhere. They are stuck.’ On another occasion the two are seen drinking a toast to each other, and joyfully concluding: ‘We are together for two years — yeah. And then the transition period for another three years. At least!’
In one scene of the BBC documentary we hear two of the EU team laughing about the British people: ‘We got rid of them. We kicked them out. We finally turned them into a colony, and that was our plan from the first moment.’
Where is the scrutiny of the EU leaders? They are always presented as brilliant tacticians and people who just want the best for everyone.
But again I think it is the language that the media use which is troubling…it’s often not just hyperbolic but superficial and silly. Take this from Sky News – When you have a major news channel regarding this as somehow major ‘breaking news’ you know that we are well beyond normal rational discourse in this country.
I have written about this here – What can the Church do about Brexit?
But let me give this one example…
This is quite simply the weaponisation of prayer. And it is wrong. I don’t pray for Brexit to happen because I try to pray in accord with the will of God and I don’t know what God’s will is on this. I pray for peace and justice and for all our political leaders – but not just for the outcome that I think is right. Because I could be wrong.
It’s not just the media – it’s the whole political and civil establishment. Whether its’ police chief Superintendents, University principals or C of E bishops – they constantly drum home how evil Brexit is and keep presenting us with ever-increasing disaster scenarios. I think the frustration with this is best illustrated by this letter which was I think in The Times…
And this is where the real danger lies. There is clearly an economic danger with Brexit (although some would argue that the economic danger is just as great with staying in the EU), but the political danger from our politicians cancelling Brexit is far, far greater. I think the most likely outcome is that the Establishment will get their way and Brexit will be either cancelled or watered down to the point of BINO (Brexit In Name Only). Although the combination of the threat of the Brexit party, Dominic Cummings being Johnson’s chief advisor, and the EU’s intransigence and arrogance, means that there is a slight possibility that Brexit might actually happen. Time will tell.
Thomas Kremer, a Hungarian Jew, is cited in Shawcross’s article –
‘The British people,’ he wrote, ‘are being asked by their own political leaders to weaken, or even surrender, those very rights, decision-making powers, institutions, laws, self governing habits that alone can guarantee a degree of individual freedom enjoyed by very few other nations in the world.’
The majority of our politicians are, knowingly or inadvertently, selling out our democracy and our freedom to govern ourselves. The fact that they do so in the name of democracy is no more relevant than some authoritarian regime stating that they are making war in the name of peace.
Some of our politicians are arrogant, thinking they are far smarter than the people they are supposed to represent. Some are not actually that intelligent and genuinely believe that they are saving the world by keeping the UK in the EU. Others are quite simply cowards – looking to do whatever they can to further or keep their own careers. And sadly, all too many are just out and out deceitful liars (a charge that could be made for some on all sides!). There are also those who have a genuine sense of public duty and are basically honest and decent – even if they have different views.
It is a profoundly depressing situation – and one that would make me despair and get angry if it were not for my faith in Christ. And by that I do not mean that Jesus will bring us Brexit…or keep us in the EU. I mean that he can, and does, work all things for the good of those who love him. It may be that he says to the UK politicians – go your own way – and watches as they destroy themselves and us. Perhaps it is only that which will turn us back in repentance and faith. But my prayer is that he will have mercy on us – if not then I’m afraid the UK is finished. It really is that serious…
Footnote: After writing this Bercow has resigned today…he will stay until his work of keeping us in the EU is done (until October the 31st). But in a fascinating demonstration of the truth of this article (and of how the EU works by rewarding its servants who do their bidding) see this reaction from Verhofstadt towards our ‘neutral’ Speaker…