British ‘democracy’ in action

What will Brexit mean, both short and long-term?  Could it lead to more countries’ rank and file voters deciding to take back control from the elitists who denigrate the hoi polloi?  Or will the elitist establishment continue trampling on democracy?

Scroll down to see previous articles

Britain’s parliamentary dictatorship, this zombie parliament is holding the nation to ransom

Britain’s parliamentary dictatorship  By Brendan O’Neill, Spiked Online, 26 October 2019

‘Super Saturday’, they called it. Which is ironic because the events in parliament on Saturday demonstrated just how pathetic and exhausted our parliament has become. Once again parliamentarians were presented with a Brexit deal, and once again they dithered and dodged and shirked their democratic duties. In backing the Letwin amendment, which says Boris’s Brexit deal cannot be approved until implementing legislation has been passed, MPs signalled their desire to continue frustrating Brexit, and to continue using parliament as a weapon against the people’s will.

This parliament is not simply out of touch with public sentiment – something we already knew from the fact that 70 per cent of MPs, and a staggering 95 per cent of Labour MPs, voted Remain, while 52 per cent of the electorate voted Leave. No, it feels increasingly illegitimate, too. It lacks all political and moral authority. It is a zombie parliament. It has no real democratic mandate to govern. ‘But we voted for these MPs just two years ago!’, Remainer apologists for the zombie parliament will cry. True, but 80 per cent of those MPs were elected on manifestos that promised to take the UK fully out of the EU. And vast numbers of them are now reneging on those manifestos. They are tearing apart their contract with voters and in the process obliterating their own right to govern.

We have a Remainer parliament defying the wishes of a Brexit electorate. Numerous parliamentary devices have been deployed to the end of frustrating the people’s will. From the speaker John Bercow’s cynical manipulation of parliamentary processes to sideline the enactment of Brexit and boost the cause of Remain, to the anti-democratic Benn Bill that has now come into force and legally cajoled Boris to ask the EU for another extension, parliamentarians are using their power and their mechanisms not to enact the will of people, but to fetter it and block it. This is why they get so angry if anyone says the key divide in Britain today is between parliament and the people – because they know it’s true. And somewhere deep in the recesses of their anaemic moral consciences, that truth still stings.

‘Super Saturday’ continued this foul process of using parliamentary devices to stymie progress on Brexit. This isn’t about whether you back Boris’s treaty or are sceptical of it (as spiked is). The important thing is that in triggering the Benn Act and forcing an unwilling PM to plead with the EU for a further extension, our Remainer parliament has once again put off the fulfilment of the people’s will. The wild cheering among the reactionary middle classes of the ‘People’s Vote’ lobby who were gathered outside parliament as the Letwin amendment was passed made it clear to the entire nation what was happening here. This was not about giving MPs more time to pore over Boris’s deal, as they ridiculously tried to convince us it was. No, it was yet another underhand Remainer assault on the people’s democratic desire to break from the EU.

MPs are now doing things in parliament that they explicitly told voters in the General Election of 2017 they would not do. The two main parties promised they would not prevent the enactment of the 2016 referendum result. Candidate after candidate in the General Election said they would not seek a second referendum. Millions upon millions of people voted for them on this basis. Now, numerous MPs are betraying – yes, betraying – those voters by doing the very things they said they wouldn’t. They’re blocking Brexit. They’re campaigning for a second referendum. Many MPs are no longer even in the parties they stood for in 2017. They’ve switched to parties whose political positions, especially on Brexit, are entirely contrary to the outlook of their voters. This parliament, in the words of the attorney-general Geoffrey Cox, is a disgrace.

 

And yet it stays. It cannot be moved. Why? Because, not content with frustrating the democratic will of 2016, these parliamentarians are also blocking a General Election today. The shamelessness is quite staggering. They plot ceaselessly against the people’s democratic wishes and then they cushion themselves from our judgement by continually blocking a General Election. The end result is something like a parliamentary dictatorship. We now live under a parliament that is acting against the democratic interests of the people and which is preventing us from protesting about this fact at the ballot box. Such is their determination to stop Brexit that they have turned parliament into an entirely anti-democratic institution, into a tool of the elites against the public.

And then they say they are defending parliamentary sovereignty. This is a lie, and they know it is. In truth they are doing grave harm to parliamentary sovereignty. Parliamentary sovereignty derives from the will of the people. Where else could it derive from? And yet this parliament explicitly agitates against the will of the people, to the end of continuing to sacrifice this country’s sovereignty and to outsource its law-making power to the foreign technocracy in Brussels. To sideline the British people and cling to the interfering technocracy of the EU is to trash the history and meaning of parliament, its sovereignty, and its relationship with the people.

In a sense, the events of the past few days – and of the past three years – have been valuable. They have made it clear that the greatest block to democracy in the UK is right here in the UK itself. It is our own out-of-touch and morally emaciated elites who represent the greatest threat to democratic life in this country. To use a radical old slogan: the enemy is at home.

Brendan O’Neill is editor of spiked and host of the spiked podcast, The Brendan O’Neill Show. Subscribe to the podcast here. And find Brendan on Instagram: @burntoakboy

=================

Brexit, just like your right to know, is about our fundamental liberties

Brexit, just like your right to know, is about our fundamental liberties  By Janet Albrechtsen, The Australian, 23 October 2019

 Brexit is evidence that a values divide is harder to resolve than socio-economic debates.

A year ago, when British historian Robert Tombs was in Australia to speak about the unfolding story of Western civilisation, one that includes the ravaging of continents, the burning of heretics, the atomic bomb and the Reformation, the Enlightenment, democracy, human rights and capitalism, he asked me in that soft, polite English way, why on earth are Australians so damn interested in Brexit? No matter where he went, he noticed that people here had a curious fascination with a vote by 17.4 million Brits to leave the EU.

MORE: Boris loses crucial vote on deal timetable

My answer to the question was simple: our fascination then and now is with freedom.

When the most fundamental freedom in a democracy, the sovereign right to determine your own laws, comes up for grabs, which is what Brexit is, why wouldn’t Australians be interested? More than just a fascination, Brexit became a rare celebration because, these days, right across the West, a win for freedom is as rare as a conservative ABC host in Ultimo or Southbank.

Brexit matters because we are in the midst of writing our own chapter to the long story of Western civilisation. Sure, many of our politicians talk about liberal values — meaning our liberty — but seriously, which federal politician can lay claim to a serious win for liberal values in the past decade?

For example, in Australia right now, the media has united to fight for your right to know important things that the Morrison government doesn’t want you to know. We want to inform you about details of abuses in aged care, Australian Taxation Office bullies and a government plan to spy on its own people. Less than a decade ago, we were fighting Labor’s thinly veiled attempt to regulate media critics.

We will keep fighting for freedom of the press because we are not just in the media business, we are in the democracy business: our role, as a newspaper, is to educate the public because a free and democratic society depends on an educated people.

Just as others are watching this battle for greater press freedom in this country, we, as Australians, should be deeply invested in the future of other liberties across the West.

That is why Brexit matters here. Brexit tells a story of democracy in crisis, crumbling governance and a deepening chasm between different groups of people. More than three years after the British people voted to leave the EU, Westminster remains paralysed.

Demonstrators outside the Houses of Parliament.

Last weekend’s much-touted Super Saturday, when the House of Commons sat for the first time on the weekend since uniting over the Falklands War in 1982, fizzed into yet another shameful opportunity to deliberately thwart the 2016 referendum result. And yesterday Speaker John Bercow signalled he would refuse another vote because “it would be repetitive and disorderly to do so”. Is this man’s swan song an audition for one of JK Rowling’s Dementors?

Westminster’s repetitive snubbing of the people’s vote confirms why Brexit happened. A noisy, confident and dominant political class, people who are the daily practitioners of democracy, are increasingly removed from the values, interests and experiences of a large swath of grassroots constituents of democracy. British commentator and author David Goodhart calls this last group the hidden majority. Scott Morrison calls them the “quiet Australians”.

The divide, similar in both countries, is between what Goodhart calls a group of people called the “Anywheres” and another group called the “Somewheres”.

The Anywhere people are well-educated, mostly professional people whose sense of self comes from their own achievements. Theirs is mostly a portable individualistic identity, not rooted to place or people; this group of roughly 20-25 per cent of the population sees the world from anywhere.

By contrast, people whom Goodhart calls Somewheres have an identity ascribed by place and people, with matching values of familiarity, security and stability. Though there is a wide spectrum from achieved identity to ascribed identity, most in this latter group see the world from somewhere, and the places they live and work are changing fast in the face of globalisation, tech explosions and immigration.

Brexit happened because politics today means a cabinet table that is largely a homogenous group of Anywheres, no longer a broader range of people, with varied lived experiences and values to match, mostly university graduates claiming to know better what other people want.

This cosy environment makes groupthink and confirmation bias inevitable among Anywheres. This political order, as Goodhart says, has lost its purchase on the fundamental challenge today of bridging the values gap between Anywheres and Somewheres. Hence, Westminster’s risible refusal to come together to deliver Brexit.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson reacting during the debate on the Brexit withdrawal agreement bill in the House of Commons in London this morning.

Brexit transcends the tabled issue of EU membership. It is a warning shot across the bows that Western politics, and therefore democracy, is shifting on its axis.

During a recent podcast interview with former deputy prime minister John Anderson, Goodhart, the founder and former editor of the left-liberal Prospect magazine, explained the new divide. He said that while traditional socio-economic issues about state versus market, the level of public spending, how to divide the public pie and who pays for it, remain the bread and butter of politics, “they’ve been joined by, and even overshadowed … by … sociocultural issues, value issues, issues to do with security and identity, and borders and boundaries, who we are, issues of belonging, and meaning”.

Brexit is the democratic marker for values of national sovereignty and democratic rule rather than subservience to the commanding heights of transnationalism. It is the rightful, inevitable push back by people who do not have the resources to avoid the social challenges of high immigration, people who are sceptical of some social changes. Brexit is a democratic assertion of national borders over open-slather immigration, and a reminder that a base level of shared values is necessary for cohesion.

Goodhart pointed to family policies as just one of many examples of the rift between Anywheres and Somewheres. Most family policies are aimed at making it as easy as possible for both parents to spend as little time in the family as possible. “But most people want it made easier for one parent, usually but not always the mother, to spend time at home when children are very young and for the tax system to make it possible to do that,” he said.

Instead of respecting different choices, the shallow liberalism of Anywheres seeks to enforce a particular Anywhere world view.

This cultural divide presages a governance challenge that is set to become worse in modern democracies such as Australia.

Goodhart points to the massive explosion in university education — a place that pumps out Anywheres — while apprenticeships and vocational training have been neglected.

“You would expect a society with a much larger proportion of graduates to produce a society that is more intelligent, more tolerant and more liberal-minded,” Goodhart said.

“But over the last generation we have become less tolerant, and less generous, much quicker to judge … The expansion of higher education, far from making us a more tolerant society, seems to have made us a much harder society to govern.”

Brexit is evidence that a values divide is harder to resolve than socio-economic debates. While the centre-right has moved left on economics, the left will not budge an inch on its rigid cultural agenda. Hence, at the time of writing, Westminster has still failed to deliver Brexit to the hidden majority who voted to leave the EU.

Even if the House of Commons passes the withdrawal agreement this week, the long tedious road to Brexit remains a powerful reminder that, as Goodhart said, we need a new generation of politicians able to mend the divisions between the Somewheres vs Anywheres.

JANET ALBRECHTSEN

COLUMNIST

Janet Albrechtsen is an opinion columnist with The Australian. She has worked as a solicitor in commercial law, and attained a Doctorate of Juridical Studies from the University of Sydney. She has written for n… Read more

=================

Brexit Spiked, and British Democracy RIP

Brexit Spiked, and British Democracy RIP  By Paul Craig Roberts, 25 September 2019

When the British people voted to exit the European Union I said in many interviews, and I suppose also in written columns, that I doubted it would ever happen.  It has been three years, and it has not.

Some hosts wondered why I doubted the British government’s willingness to comply with a majority vote, but it was obvious to me that pressures from special interests inside and outside the UK, especially the pressure from Washington, would prove to be more influential with the British government than a majority vote of the British people.

Washington expressed its view to the UK government that it was not in Washington’s interest for the UK to exit the EU.  Various special interest groups, including pro-immigrant organizations, began the propaganda campaign that the UK would end up a backwater excluded from European trade.  The same predictions of doom used when populations of countries rejected joining the EU were resurrected.  Instead of obeying the vote, the populations were subjected to propaganda that staying out of the EU is a death sentence.  After the populations were worn down and lost confidence, they are made to vote again, and were congratulated when “good sense” prevailed.

In other words, the elites prevailed over democracy.

This has been going on for three years in the UK while PM May “negotiated” an exit. The deal was a disaster.  It requires the British to pay 60 billion pounds sterling to buy its way out, to continue to accept third world immigrants, and to continue to accept the supremacy of EU law over UK law.  In other words, it was exit in name only.

To me it looked like a deal designed to block exit and to create a situation in which means could be employed to overturn Brexit.  That has now happened.  The 11 judges on the British Supreme Court have stepped in and blocked the temporary suspension of Parliament by Prime Minister Johnson and the Queen, a legal procedure used for centuries that the court ruled “unlawful.”

In other words, the court made a political intervention in favor of the opponents of Brexit.

The minority opposed to the UK exiting the EU are trying to use the court’s decision to force Johnson to resign.  Opponents are trying to conflate the court’s ruling that the 5-week suspension of Parliament is unlawful with the argument that Brexit itself is unlawful.

The British website, www.spiked-online.com, sees the ruling this way:

“Today’s Supreme Court ruling is a vile assault on the democratic order. In finding that Boris Johnson’s proroguing of parliament was unlawful, and that parliament is not prorogued, the 11 justices have made an explicitly political decision in favour of the Remainer elite. They have taken sides. Ignore the utterly unconvincing pleas of the Remainer fanatics who brought this case, all of whom robotically insist that this is not a political decision, just a legal, constitutional one. No one is buying that. This was a decisively political act by 11 unelected judges who have taken sides against the government of the day, and this opens up a new, dark era in British political life.

“This judgement is a disaster for law and for politics. It’s bad for law because it will convince many more people that the law has become a political instrument, wielded by the wealthy to achieve openly political ends that they failed to achieve in the public, democratic sphere. And it is bad for politics because it points to the formation of a new politicised but untouchable elite which has power over the entire nation and everyone in it. That should terrify anyone who believes in real democracy. When the Daily Mail accused judges of behaving like enemies of the people, the Remainer elites went into meltdown. Our message to them today is clear: if you don’t want to be called an enemy of the people, stop behaving like one. https://www.spiked-online.com/2019/09/24/a-tyranny-of-judges/

A collection of BBC commentary can be found here: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-49810261

Legal authorities will disagree as to whether the court saved democracy or destroyed it.

I would say the court destroyed democracy, because the court consciously ruled against the majority of the people who voted to exit the EU.  And most certainly, the court asserted its authority to be higher than that of Parliament.  I am not an expert on this matter, but from what I do know, however much or little it is, the function of the British Supreme Court is to rule on the constitutionality or lawfulness of laws that Parliament passes, not on the lawfulness of Parliamentary procedures.

I would not be surprised if former PM May was well paid by Washington to stall Brexit for three years, and I would not be surprised if Johnson’s suspension of Parliament was an orchestration designed to sink Brexit.  British prime ministers are well rewarded for serving Washington’s interest rather than the interest of the British people.  Consider Tony Blair who enabled Washington’s invasion of Iraq, for example, whose current net worth is $76 million.

Courts are unrepresentative and unaccountable. If Parliament allows the court’s ruling to stand, which is likely in view of the fight over Brexit, Parliament will have ceded the political domain to the court’s authority, just as the US Congress sacrificed the US Constitution to the “war on terror.”

Perhaps this was only to be expected.  When legislative bodies sacrifice the interests of the people to the interests of organized lobbies, they undermine their own authority and open themselves to the despoliation of their powers by other elements of government.

====================

More articles concerning British ‘democracy’

About Peter Senior

I'm a very experienced and pragmatic management consultant. I've reviewed and led the restructuring of many organisations - large and small corporations and Government Departments, much of the time as President of the New Zealand Institute of Management Consultants. Before that I was General Manager of a major NZ newspaper; earlier, an analyst for IBM UK. I gained an honours degree in engineering at London University, and studied management at Cambridge University. This wide range of experience has left me frustrated: I continue to see too many examples of really bad management. Sometimes small easily fixed issues; sometimes fundamental faults; and sometimes really tricky problems. Mostly these issues can be fixed using a mixture of common sense, 'management 101' and applying lessons from years of management experience. Unfortunately, all too often, politics, bureaucracy and daft government regulations get in the way; internal factors such as poor culture and out-of-date strategies are often evident. So what's gone wrong, and why, and most importantly, how to fix 'it'? I hope there are like-minded people 'out there' who will share their thoughts enabling 'us' to improve some significant management failures that affect the general public. If you just accept bad management and do nothing about it, you don't have the right to complain! The really tricky part is, what can you do about it that is likely to be effective? If you'd like to share thoughts on any aspects of management, send me an email to petersenior42@gmail.com .
This entry was posted in Brexit: a world-changing event?. Bookmark the permalink.