Thursday, May 23, 2024
HomeDemocracy in DecayDemocracy in Decay: Twilight of the Tories

Democracy in Decay: Twilight of the Tories


SOME good news for a change. According to Sherelle Jacobs in the Telegraph, in the wake of their catastrophic local election results the Tories are on the verge of an existential defeat. We have heard it all before, of course, and no one should underestimate the Tories’ ferocious instincts for survival at any cost, but this time it may be true.

If so, Direct Democracy will have much to do with it. Ultimately, the Tories have been defenestrated by the 2016 Brexit referendum and its aftermath. This is because the referendum crystallised the state of national democracy and the health of the political parties tasked with upholding it on a simple binary question, cutting through the fog and phantasmagoria of normal politics.

In a purely Representative model of democracy, parties can usually successfully hide their true intention behind the verbiage of their manifestos. If you look closely at the fine print (and very ever few do) you may find, buried at the back, some vague reference to their most radical pledges, namely those that either through ideology or selfishness they want to enact but fear the wrath the of electorate if they spell things out in too much detail.

The 2019 election, fought by the Tories on the simple slogan of ‘Get Brexit Done’, is a useful case study in this regard. Although the campaign headlines were all about Brexit, buried deep within the Tory manifesto was a commitment to Net Zero and climate change. Sure enough, once they took office Boris Johnson reneged on the spirit of his election promises and pursued a heavily green/liberal agenda much closer to his own metropolitan leanings.

In normal times, he may have got clean away with it, but the spectre of the Referendum still loomed large: what the people had voted for was quite clear. Once the betrayal was set in train, it cast its shadow like Banquo’s ghost over Johnson’s Macbeth. People expected Brexit to be honoured in full, in spirit as well as in letter. Well before cake-gate, his betrayal of Brexit saw his poll ratings drop precipitously, leaving him vulnerable to the ejection that was duly enacted. The decline has only accelerated ever since.

Johnnson and his party should have heeded the warnings, because his was by no means the first political scalp that Brexit had claimed: the fall of the Red Wall, those seats that had been Labour since the beginning of time, was also a direct consequence of Labour’s betrayal of its heartlands in the aftermath of the 2016 referendum vote. Admittedly this is a process that had been under way since at least the 1990s, when Labour completed its transition from a working-class industrial party to a middle-class public sector one, but Brexit crystallised it in a way that no normal election would have done.

In short, anti-democratic elites who treat politics as their own private game, and elections as an irksome pantomime of lies and deceptions they have to go through, simply can’t get away with it in a Swiss-style Direct Democratic model: Swiss elites are no better than ours in their anti-democratic, technocratic inclinations, but their designs to drag Switzerland either fully into the EU or in binding relationships have been frustrated time and again, and seem highly likely to fail yet again. 

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Andrew Cadman
Andrew Cadman
IT Consultant who works and lives in the UK. He is @Andrewccadman on Parler.

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