WELL, what a damp squib all that was. The publication of the Sue Gray ‘report’ leaves everything unresolved, and yet another chattering class frenzy comes to naught: partygate, cakegate, gategate, blah, blah, blah. As always, the Westminster commentariat cannot see the wood for the trees. Its endless obsession with court politics – who’s up, who’s down, who’s eating cake, spectacularly misses the point.
All right, to an extent it does matter. Johnson has proved himself to be everything and more that his detractors always said he was. He plainly needs to go, and who replaces him will matter a great deal for the future direction of this country. But what matters far more is that we, the British people, are powerless onlookers in the whole process: outside general elections, there is no direct mechanism for us to remove governments, change legislation or boot out unsavoury individuals from Parliament.
We all put our faith in wrong ’uns in our lives now and then; the problem with politics is that we are powerless for up to five years to do anything about it, a considerably longer time than it takes to get divorced (something our embattled PM knows about). To state that politics and power has always attracted bad people is hardly a shattering insight, but is it any wonder that it does when there is so little accountability? Yes, Owen Paterson eventually walked the plank, but only because he chose to do so, whereas Barry Gardiner, Claudia Webbe and our dear Prime Minister are, shamelessly, still very much around. Between elections we, their ultimate employers, don’t get a say.
If the problem is serious with individuals, it is vastly more so when it comes to matters of policy. Look back at every government since at least the Blair years, and think of the most radical, society-changing policies they have enacted. New Labour was responsible for mass immigration, Cameron and Clegg introduced gay marriage, Theresa May’s sorry time in office saw both the attempted betrayal of the 2016 referendum vote and the introduction of Net Zero, a policy that Johnson has since doubled down on. Moreover, his government shows no sign of getting to grips with immigration, illegal or otherwise, and is even said to be toying with the idea of an amnesty for illegals.
All these policies have three things in common: all are radical elitist policies, none of them was a major plank of an election manifesto and all would have been thought fantastical until they happened. Most were or are strongly opposed by the public. That doesn’t matter, because ultimately the people are not deemed to matter. Perhaps it was ever thus: looking further back, the radical liberalism of Roy Jenkins in the 1960s legalised homosexuality and abolished the death penalty. The early 70s saw Edward Heath join the then European Community under false pretences. Whether you agree or disagree with each of these measures is not the point – they were imposed by the elites who concealed their true intentions from the people.
The truth is that Britain is a Potemkin democracy. For most of our lifetimes, we have been living in a radical liberal elite hegemony; the daily sound and fury of party politics is largely background noise. Nor is it necessary to disappear down the rabbit hole of New World Order conspiracy theories to see that much of the elite agenda was meticulously planned: the steady construction of the EU and the lies that concealed the intention being the most notorious example.
Whether Johnson stays or goes, the track record of the past 50 years suggests more radical, anti-democratic projects will be imposed against the wishes of the people, the scope and audacity of which we can only guess at. Moreover, not only has Parliament provided the vehicle for endless anti-democratic elite initiatives, it has proved deeply reluctant to debate many of the big issues, such as immigration and Islam, of concern to most people. It showed its unfitness as a guardian of our rights yet again during the Covid pandemic, largely failing to hold the government and its outrageous suspensions of our freedoms to account. Infantilised as it is in both a metaphorical and literal sense, now that it seems that babies will be allowed into the chamber. It plainly doesn’t take its role seriously and nor should we. The age of pure representative democracy is over. A change to a more directly accountable model of democracy must be made.