According to LYNN HENDERSON, We need system-wide answers to the current crisis of democracy in Britain, where the masses are ready to support a demagogue.
YOU don’t have to look far to see that — 200 years since the first big battles for the vote — our democracy is in trouble.
Dissatisfaction with our political system is rife. A recent Hansard study found that over half of people think that what the country needs is a “strong leader who is willing to break the rules.” In the eyes of many of his supporters, Johnson, who has so far in his career shown scant regard for rules, conventions and accountability, is filling that space.
Despite being cut from the same establishment cloth as the wider political elite, he’s pitched himself as the man to take on the “vested interests” and restore faith in democracy by delivering Brexit.
But while the need to restore our faith in democracy is real — just 4 per cent of people feel properly able to influence decisions at Westminster according to polling for the Electoral Reform Society — Johnson’s agenda represents a full-throated assault on our democracy that must be challenged head on.
When Johnson launched his leadership campaign back in June he did so with a press conference that had decidedly Trumpian undertones. It’s not hard to draw parallels between the two men: where Trump uses anger Johnson uses humour to whip up the audience and dodge scrutiny.
He blustered his way through the press conference, dodging topics he didn’t want to engage and deflecting difficult questions. When Sky News’ Beth Rigby attempted to ask a question on concerns about Johnson’s character and his previous Islamophobic remarks comparing veiled Muslim women to “letterboxes,” his assembled supporters booed — to them a legitimate response when presented with uncomfortable facts.
Even in the short time since he arrived in Downing Street Johnson has shown his characteristic disregard for political norms and democratic process.
His appointment of Dominic Cummings as his chief strategist, a man who was previously found in contempt of Parliament for refusing to answer questions from MPs, has attracted much criticism.
This is the same Cummings who was behind news last week that Johnson could defy a vote of no-confidence from MPs and instead refuse to resign as the clock ticks down until a general election is triggered, forcing through an extreme Brexit.
Labour have rightly called this “an abuse of power” and cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill is thought to agree. But under Britain’s uncodified constitution, there appear to be few routes available to properly check his unwarranted power. So what next?
Democracy isn’t static — and the (limited) one we have today was won through struggle and sacrifice. This week marks two hundred years since the Peterloo Massacre, when 60,000 working people gathered in St Peter’s Field in Manchester in support of the campaign for parliamentary reform with the simple demand of political representation.
Historians recognise the tragedy — with 18 being killed by government forces — as a key movement in the history of the suffrage movement. While they did not win at first, it was the beginning of a long process for democratic reform.
It’s clear that this battle is not over. Later this month, campaigners, trade unionists and politicians will unite to set out that vision for “real democracy” at a major conference in Manchester marking the 200th anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre.
“This is What Democracy Looks Like” — hosted by the Politics for the Many campaign and backed by PCS and TSSA — will bring hundreds together to argue the struggle for a better democracy must continue today.
Featuring journalists like Paul Mason and Dawn Foster to Jon Trickett MP and Julie Ward MEP, it will gather the democratic left to say: we must not only stop Boris Johnson, and the most extreme British government of our time, but also reform the structures of politics so that they work for the many.
Only by fighting for real democracy today can we celebrate the legacy of those who did so 200 years ago.
In the face of a chaotic constitution, we need system-wide answers to the current crisis, not just manoeuvres behind closed doors. So let’s do what we do best: build a movement for change — one which can’t be ignored. Book today for ‘This is What Democracy Looks Like’ to guarantee your place: : https://politicsforthemany.co.uk.
Lynn Henderson chairs the Politics for the Many campaign and is PCS national officer. (Source: Morning Star)
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