Look at recent Daily Bits in the Website: Hanged for a sheep, Big Time Writing
The first thing to be said about Britain’s new prime minister, Boris Johnson, and the cabinet of hard-line Brexiters he has appointed, is that they cannot, in any meaningful sense of the term be regarded as conservatives.
The members of the Conservative and Unionist Party (to give it its full name) who recently elected Johnson to replace Theresa May as their leader and as Prime Minister, may be described much more accurately as hard right English nationalists. With one or two exceptions Johnson’s cabinet comprises people who accurately reflect the political views of those who elected him.
And who were they? The Conservative party has an estimated membership of about 160,000. In the leadership election in July, 139,000 voted. 92,000(66%) voted for Johnson and 47,000 for his competitor, Jeremy Hunt. Both Johnson and Hunt declared their firm commitment to take Britain out of the E.U on the 31 st October “with or without a deal.” Johnson was elected by 0.13 per cent of the UK’s population.
The party and government that he leads has little or nothing in common with the political philosophy associated with Edmund Burke, regarded as the founding father of modern conservatism. It is likewise estranged from those of his followers such as Sir Robert Peel, who in 1834 committed the Tory party to “conserve rather than reform”, changing its name to “ Conservative”; or from Disraeli who is always invoked as the progenitor of “one nation” Conservatism.
Now, the average age of the party’s active membership has been estimated at 71/72. They are overwhelmingly white and male and most of them live in the south of the UK, in the eight largely affluent south-eastern English counties close to London. Prior to Johnson’s “election” a YouGov poll found that 84 per cent of party members would support a leader prepared to take Britain out of the EU without a deal, and 61 per cent held to this view even if it were to entail serious damage to the economy.
Astonishingly, for a party calling itself “Unionist”, as it has since 1909, 63 per cent would be happy if Brexit led to Scotland leaving the U.K. 59 per cent were prepared to accept the loss of Northern Ireland too. These are the sentiments of the most extreme “Little Englanders”. (Their Europhobia, hostility to immigrants and general cultural racism makes them indistinguishable from members of UKIP. Indistinguishable from the Brexit party recently launched by Nigel Farage, which has just returned 29 of the UK’s 73 MEPs to the European Parliament.)
Tim Bale, professor of politics at Queen Mary University of London points out that this is the first time since the days of “rotten boroughs” prior to the Reform Act of 1832 that such a small electorate has had such a great influence on the British parliament and government. It is now widely accepted in the UK that the course of the Brexit farrago since the 2016 referendum has developed into a full-blown political and constitutional crisis. Possibly the only precedents are the crises over Irish independence in 1910 – 1914 and that facing the country in 1940. Needless to say, for anyone with a modicum of historical knowledge, these dates have an ominous ring. Of course, the crisis is not recognized as such by those who have precipitated it and seem set upon taking Britain over the precipice by the 31 st October, “come what may.”
Prior to the 2016 referendum there was never a serious, informed debate about the pros and cons of leaving the EU. Calling the referendum was an opportunistic ploy by Prime Minister Cameron in what turned out to be a mistaken belief that those voting for “remain” would win a majority in a simple binary choice with “leave.” He hoped thereby to silence once and for all the noisy Tory back-benchers and backwoods rank and file members who had plagued him and his predecessors for decades.
The level of debate, on both sides was abysmal. The pro-EU protagonists made no attempt to discuss and argue a serious case for membership which addressed legitimate concerns about the democratic deficit in EU decision-making procedures. Nor was there any serious discussion about the EU’s dominant neo-liberal economic policy and its consequences. On the pro-Brexit side the deficiency was far worse. The campaign was led from the start by the hard right. There was dark money and astro-turf campaigning behind much of it. The role of such dubious characters as Aron Banks and Dominic Cummings (who is now in Johnson’s cabinet as his chief advisor) has understandably caused serious concern. One of the tenets of most liberal commentary on the “conventions” of Britain’s uncodified constitution, holds that although prime ministers enjoy great political power, they all strive to achieve a degree of “balance” in appointing members of the cabinet in order avoid unnecessarily alienating any one section of their parliamentary support base. Johnson has thrown this convention overboard. His cabinet is composed of ardent Brexiters, all of whom, as a condition of appointment, have in effect sworn their unconditional allegiance to his declared aim of taking Britain out of the EU, with or without a deal, “Do or Die”.
Thus he has appointed a coterie of sycophants composed of ideological zealots who relish the prospect of crashing out of the EU with no deal, and a minority of unashamed opportunists who have shelved whatever principles they may have had for ministerial office. To give a flavour of the components of this unsavoury bunch, prominent among them are:
- Dominic Raab, the new Foreign Secretary. An extreme right-winger and true believer, who, when Brexit secretary in 2018 said that he hadn’t understood how important the Dover-Calais Channel crossing was to Britain’s trade!
- Gavin Williamson, Education Secretary. As defence secretary he demonstrated his diplomatic skills by telling the Russians to “Go Home and Shut Up.” He was fired by Theresa May, who in 2018, suspected him of leaking information from a meeting of the National Security Council.
- Sajid Javid. Chancellor of the Exchequer. A former home secretary. For the moment I’ll mention only that he is an admirer of Ayn Rand. Twice a year he purportedly reads to his friends the courtroom scene from The Fountainhead. One wonders about their reaction.
- Priti Patel. Home Secretary. An uncritical supporter of Johnson. Fired by Theresa May in 2017 for holding undeclared meetings with the Israeli government. Has in the past declared her support for the death penalty and in her first interview as home secretary said she wanted criminals to “literally feel terror”.
Boris Johnson himself. Nothing in Johnson’s past career in journalism or as mayor of London provides any shred of evidence that he is fit for office as Prime Minister. One could elaborate on his manifold deficiencies – his mendacity, duplicity, overweening bombast and ambition, his thinly disguised racism, his narcissistic egoism. All these characteristics are well known and have been so for many years. His elevation to the premiership and the manner it was achieved, marks a new nadir in the already debased state of British politics. There now seems to be a real possibility that he and those he has appointed, under the malign tutelage of the unelected “First Secretary of State” Dominic Cummings, are prepared to crash Britain out of the EU without a deal on Halloween even if it means proroguing parliament or ignoring a vote of no confidence in the government. All of this despite the fact that the government has a one-seat majority in the House of Commons! There is no certainty that the opposition parties and the sizeable minority of anti-Brexit Conservatives will be able to overcome their differences to agree to a united front capable of defeating the government.
Time is short.
Thank you readers. Today’s Letter is written by and, therefore, is from Mike Faulkner. Mike is writing from Cricklewood, London, England. I invite other readers to submit writings. Charlie Allenson, another reader, reminds us of the Annual New Youk City edition of the Concert Across America to End Gun Violence – October 2 at the Bitter End. Tickers are $25.
2019 Elections are imminent
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