Johnson’s shut down of parliament is the tip of the democratic crisis iceberg
On Wednesday we learnt that Boris Johnson intends to shut down Parliament for five weeks in order to force through a disastrous no-deal Brexit.
This week opposition parties met to try and think of ways to avert it. But without a unified political message, the left are desperately looking to litigation and other far-fetched avenues to block what is a deeply political outcome.
Only the day before we heard that the PM may try and pack the House of Lords with hard-Brexiteer figures – including several big Vote Leave donors. It came hot off the heels of revelations that hereditary peers have claimed £4m in expenses in the past two years alone. Our Parliament is looking more like a private members’ club by the day – with people effectively paying for entry then benefiting from the huge privileges they secure.
The irony will not be lost on voters that a government ostensibly determined to remove control from an ‘unelected elite’ is trying to give more power to…their own unelected elite.
Seats in Parliament should not be used as a hand-out for big political donors and campaign apparatchiks – but that is apparently the plan.
The fact that Johnson would have to appoint a huge number to significantly ‘rebalance’ the Lords shows the absurdity of the current set up: each new PM tries to pack it with cronies in order to tip the scales in their favour.
Let’s not forget that long after Brexit is over, these peers will be claiming expenses and deciding on our laws for the rest of their lives, if they choose to.
We are in the midst of a democratic calamity because we have a constitution built on arbitrary power and arcane conventions – ones that are only as good as the paper they’re not written on.
This month marked 200 years since the Peterloo Massacre, which saw 18 killed and many more injured in an early battle for the vote. 200 years on, the Westminster system is ragged and wrecked.
Millions are left on the political margins, while governments can skew the rules of the game in their favour (we should not forget that the Tories are still apparently determined to impose mandatory voter ID – potentially disenfranchising millions more). It’s time for progressives to step up to the plate and demand real democracy.
Hundreds will gather – including many Greens, Labour figures, and trade unionists – to set out a vision for a properly accountable political system on August 31st, at a conference in Manchester marking 200 years since Peterloo.
Featuring speakers like Paul Mason, Hilary Wainwright, Pauline Bryan and more, Politics for the Many’s “This is What Democracy Looks Like” conference is the first step in building a much-needed movement for real reform. It might be parliamentary recess, but this is a pivotal time in our country’s history. We cannot let attacks on our already-limited democracy stand.
It’s time to revive a radical campaign for democratic reform. To resist the attacks on political equality and to stand up for a politics for the many.
This is the battle of our time. Like the dodgy donations that steer our political debate, it is even bigger than the Brexit project.
Sign up to Politics for the Many and demand a real democracy: politicsforthemany.co.uk
Header image credit: Estonian Presidency