The Conservatives seem intent on fighting an election on the basis of People versus Parliament, which has echoes of previous left-wing ideas. The Brexiteers have always seen their victory as a peasants’ revolt against the Westminster clique but this goes much further. As for the judiciary the prime minister has subverted it in an extraordinary way with his reaction to the judgement …. Writes Mihir Bose
Brexit is supposed to have changed everything but not even the most diehard leaver could have anticipated how topsy-turvy our political world would become. The Conservative party is behaving as the rabble-rousing left was often accused of behaving while the many on the left come over as moderate, sensible, people who could very easily fit into the old one nation Tory party.
Traditionally, the Conservatives were the party that wanted to preserve and cherish our institutions like parliament, the judiciary, monarchy, a free press. It was the left that threatened them with their radical ideas for reform if not revolution calling for the House of Lord’s to be abolished or for Britain to become a republic while launching attacks on the press for its slavish support for the Tory party.
Yet under Boris Johnson it is the Conservatives who appear to have taken on this hitherto left-wing mantle. So, he with the active assistance from his consigliere Dominic Cummings, has done a fair job of demonising Parliament. The Conservatives seem intent on fighting an election on the basis of people versus parliament, which has echoes of previous left-wing ideas.
This steady drip, drip, attack on our institutions, which could prove very corrosive, has been made worse by the language being used. So, the Irish backstop is always called undemocratic when all it is a measure that an elected government of this country agreed with the EU
The Brexiteers have always seen their victory as a peasants’ revolt against the Westminster clique but this goes much further. As for the judiciary Johnson has subverted it in an extraordinary way with his reaction to the judgement of the Supreme Court that ruled it was unlawful for him to prorogue Parliament.
Just consider his reaction. This is a judgement from the highest court in the land. Since the case could not have gone to the European Court of Justice, Johnson appealing to the European court would have been the final irony, Johnson had no way of appealing the judgement. Yet the way he spoke immediately after the judgement suggested he was making a big concession in accepting the judgement. The fact is he had no choice. But then he said he disagreed with the judgement. Coming from a Prime Minister nothing could be more subversive of our judiciary.
One of the pillars of our judicial system is that a person charged with a crime is not guilty until the court rules he or she is. But once the court has ruled a person is guilty not only must the person accept the verdict but must show contrition for his misdemeanour. So, a robber sent to jail for his crime will not easily get parole if he goes on insisting the court has wrongly convicted him and he shows no remorse for his action. Yet Johnson not only showed no contrition but his attorney general, Geoffrey Cox, far from accepting that his legal advice was wrong turned on the parliament in a rant that was both undignified and worrying.
This steady drip, drip, attack on our institutions, which could prove very corrosive, has been made worse by the language being used. So, the Irish backstop is always called undemocratic when all it is a measure that an elected government of this country agreed with the EU. How does that make it undemocratic? Is it seriously being suggested Theresa May’s election was undemocratic? Or take the language used by Michael Gove when he referred to opponents of the government giving in to dictation by the EU. Yet he was a minister in the Theresa May government which agreed to a deal with EU the which parliament rejected. By his logic he accepted EU dictation. So, should he not congratulate parliament for thrice refusing to accept this EU dictated deal?
Now, of course, politicians on all sides use extreme language which when challenged they pass off as the sort of thing that happens in the hurly burly of politics. Johnson and the Conservatives are not fascist as the left has taken to call them and to demand their beheading, as some of their opponents are doing, is inflammatory.
What is different is that in the past robust language did not mean political opponents could not when required come together. But now Johnson and the Conservatives seem to be embarked on taking an uncharted road, more like the highway that American politics under Trump has travelled with such disastrous consequences. And like Trump Johnson also seems to have questions being raised about his personal life as far as women are concerned. In the case of Trump, it did not affect his standing with American women. Johnson denies any wrongdoing. It remains to be seen whether British women will be so forgiving of Johnson should the charges stick.
However, in that sense British politics has not changed. It always used to be said Labour’s scandals are about money, Conservative ones about sex, such as the Profumo affair of the 60s. So, if Johnson’s private life does cause him problems it could be said he is keeping up with great Conservative traditions of having a sexual scandal.
(@mihirbose – Mihir Bose is former sports editor of BBC)