Renew's Terrance Knot investigates the demise of democracy in the UK.
The term "democracy" first appeared in ancient Greek political and philosophical thought in the city-state of Athens during classical antiquity. The word comes from demos, "common people" and kratos, "strength". Led by Cleisthenes, Athenians established what is generally considered the first democracy in 508–507 BC.
Since then, many countries have claimed to be democracies, but none more so than the United Kingdom. Indeed those who still profess to be British, and who identify, more or less, as English, Scottish, Irish or Welsh, have often taken pride in a supra-national United Kingdom: renowned worldwide for its sense of honesty, fairness and democratic decision making and rule, although in some cases harshly, but with “tough love” over countries comprising a quarter of the globe.
Nowhere was the sense of a thriving democracy more portrayed than in the coming together to support the “mother country” in the two World Wars, with thousands laying down their lives, for a concept founded on a common ideal, principle, or faith. Meanwhile one of the modern bodies of democracy was - at the same time as women got the vote - a health system, created for all. We also battled with the consequences of the national sale of assets to fund the defence of democracy – still living, believe it or not, with the abolition of the Slave Trade. Many will find it hard to come to terms with the fact that, although the UK connection with this trade officially happened in 1833-1840, throughout the British Empire, we were still paying off the money borrowed for the Slave Abolition Act in 2015!
On a lesser scale, the UK took steps to abolish child labour, to improve schooling (although the battle between so-called private and state-run schooling continues to this day) and workers were striking and marching against poverty and unemployment (Yarrow march 1936 et al.). On the back of this poverty and the feeling of frustration about the condition of the country, trade unions gained in power, especially in the fields of mining, textiles and transportation. An even-minded person would perhaps admit that the people of the country were fighting back in the only way they knew how: by denying their labour. Indeed they were “voting with their feet”, a democratic exercise of their human rights.
Before readers assume that this is a rant about human rights, let me assure you that it is not: it is simply a portrayal of some of the major steps along the way, as the British people, led by the English in 1215, gradually threw off the yoke imposed by royalty, later the “robber barons” and finally the affluent upper classes. This development of the “rights of man” (Thomas Paine in 1791, published a book, in which he linked the French Revolution with the idea that popular political revolution is permissible “when a government does not safeguard the natural rights of its people”) was a gradual process, over several centuries, but sped up as modern communications allowed ideas to be spread over the internet and similar systems.
Meanwhile the other major component countries, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, in no particular order, also showed a strong and understandable tendency to rebel and "do their own thing".
It is of note that, impoverished though she was after the Second World War, Britain (readers will forgive if I shorten Great Britain and Northern Ireland to “Britain, or the UK), played a major role, in international deliberations, post WW2. This applied, amongst other activities, to help to rebuild Europe, much of which was in ruins, both financially and in terms of assets and infrastructure. Of course, anyone with a grasp of basic history knows that this included the initial building blocks of a Free Trade Area, or Market, which grew in time, into the European Union.
This one short paragraph above disguises an enormous development, which in time has proved enormously popular, no matter how some may try to gainsay it, encompassing an amazing mixture of long-term civilisations, including a rather unsteady Greece, the so-called cradle of democracy, and many younger and smaller countries, some of which did not exist, at the end of WW2.
Again, despite sniping and protestations to the contrary, this union, as opposed to the British one, developed a democratic system of elected members from each country, a council and a mechanism for enabling each countries’ own elected senior ministers to exercise the right to contribute to - and vote for – its further development. It would be a surprise only to the most naïve, that this development, enabling seventy-five years of relative peace in Europe, has not been without its problems along the way, but try to point to a similar union which has not? Indeed compare the UK’s chequered history of sometimes vicious infighting between Irish, Scots, Welsh and English. Compare also, the “Land of the Free”, in which the American Confederacy fought against its Southern counterpart; and some in Virginia still quarrel to this day!
So, while the Continent of Europe was rebuilding itself, with initial whole-hearted input from the British, what of our own “Home of Democracy”?
We have only to say the word “Brexit”, to recall immediately the appalling schism that has developed in our union, and the negative effect this is having on our immediate international neighbours. One has only to take advantage of the Freedom of Movement that we have enjoyed for the last seventy-five years, to realise the shock and horror, the incredulity and derision, the snigger behind the hand that confronts the British, as they travel, holiday, or read the international press.
To say that we have become an international laughing stock, as the present Tory government wrangles about percentage points of approval or disapproval, is an understatement.
Yet, this wrangle, voiced in every newspaper, TV show and published article, both pre and during the pandemic, seem to make little difference to the small yet vocal group of alt-right politicians, bent on wresting political and financial advantage and lining their own pockets and those of their friends and cronies. Never mind that current polling indicates some 55-65% of the population of the UK would prefer to cancel Brexit. (Professor John Curtice, political guru, asserts that many of the young, who were unable to vote in 2016, are now “twice as likely to vote Remain and puts the Leavers on only 44-47%).
But here is the crux of the matter. Under the current “first past the post” (FPTP) electoral system, the public vote of 2016 overturned the referendum of 1975 and since then, the 2019 election, by what some regard as devious means, persuaded the great British public to return the Tories with a majority of 80 members in Parliament. This completely ignored the fact that a “proportional representation” (PR) electoral system would return a very, very different result. Yet neither the Tories, nor indeed the Labour Party, would vote for such a change, as their power base depends upon the status quo.
It does not help that the major party, in favour of PR, the Liberal Democrats, were completely out-manoeuvred and beaten, in the 2019 election: hardly a cause for confidence in the future. Other smaller parties also exist, such as the relatively new and centre of the road Renew Party, and the Green party, but again, under FPTP, the “big beasts” of politics are reluctant to switch loyalty, to more centrist policies, which lack a high profile. Except by honest and reasonable people, of which there seem to be fewer and fewer these days, most support tends to go to the headline catching extremists, rather than the outmoded concept that “the government of the people should be by the people, for the people”!
In that respect, the writer and many others, both friends and acquaintances, are amazed at the supine attitude of the average “Brit in the Streets”, compared with, for example, the French and many other significant countries in Europe, who are not slow to voice their views on poor government. Apart from two major marches, which saw not a single person arrested, the British public seems to have rolled on its back to have its tummy tickled! People outside the UK regard this as quite extraordinary and quite at odds with the battles and indeed a Civil War, fought for democratic freedom.
Meanwhile, the UK’s current government takes full example of the impact of the pandemic, to cement its grip on power and to railroad through policies and stratagems, that cannot be queried or fought on the floor of the House of Commons. It might be said that the Tories have a stranglehold on the throat of Democracy.
One other point before I close. From one who lives most of the time now, in Mainland Europe, amongst a thriving, educated, motivated group of 1.3 million British citizens, I must note that two aspects of life are paramount. We view with mounting horror, the downward slide of democratic freedoms in our mother countries of the union; and we feel embarrassed at the pity we encounter, amongst our fellow Europeans.
Is Democracy dead in the United Kingdom? Not yet, maybe, but on its last gasp.
Friend of Renew, Zach Mayford, tells us his views on leaving the EU.
On Monday 15th of June, the EU and the UK government agreed not to extend the Brexit transition period: Britain will leave the European Union on the 31st of December. In a joint statement, the first ministers of Scotland and Wales, Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford, condemned the decision thoroughly. They, like many Remainers, predict a “damaging ‘bare bones’ trade deal or - even worse - a disastrous no-deal outcome” by the end of the year.
With each of these options now mutually unavoidable, it is left to us to figure out the intricacies of this delicate, evolving situation. By keeping a close eye on proceedings as the unknown looms, we will see just how “damaging” or “disastrous” the future might be.
The Transition Period:
The current pandemic and easing lockdown make it seem a bit like we are outside of reality, in a strange calm in the eye of the storm. In many ways, the Brexit transition period runs parallel alongside such unprecedented events. Both phases are similar to what came before, but have a few key differences before an oncoming social shift.
Currently, Britain still gets the benefits from the EU, like frictionless trade and travel (pandemic notwithstanding). We also still bear the responsibilities of EU membership, in terms of funding its budget and being subject to the arbitration of its courts. However, Britain now has no say in EU votes during the transition period, and this powerlessness is driving the government to keep the transition period temporary.
However, when we leave properly, many freedoms that we hold dear will disappear. Unseen costs and hassles lurk in 2021. By “unseen”, I mean “hidden or ignored by the leave campaign”, and by “costs”, I mean “consequences of our actions”.
It’s a sign of privilege that one of the first Brexit effects that hit home for me was that I will never go interrailing. Without Brexit, I might not have gone anyway, but the sudden removal of the option left a strange sensation, like a geopolitical phantom limb. I can’t imagine the fear or uncertainty forced upon EU nationals in Britain or working Brits abroad. The leave campaign brandished Eastern European migrant workers as a vote-inducing bogeyman. In reality, working, studying, and travelling in Europe is a two-way street.
Will we have to wait in the longer “non-EU passports” queue at European airports? According to the BBC, it depends on the ongoing negotiations. Will we have to buy a visa to get on holiday in the first place? Well, if we’re travelling for less than 90 days, and not working or studying, then no. Or, not really. Apparently, the EU is introducing a visa-waiver system for certain non-EU countries, called ETIAS. ETIAS, or the European Travel Information and Authorisation System, will cost 7 euro and be valid for three years.
Not too much bad news for holidaymakers then. Honestly, I would prefer not to go through the bother, and just travel like we used to, but the voters want what the voters want. That’s the price to pay for liberation from an out-of-touch bureaucratic ruling class, which doesn’t represent the people. Thankfully, the 2016 referendum delivered us to the famously down-to-earth Conservative party. In truth, both the EU and the Tories are out of touch, and by the 31st of December, they’ll be out of time.
Work and Study:
For Brits young and old, continental trade and education are often decisive issues. In university, half of my housemates left England to study abroad through Erasmus scholarships. Several courageous friends also left the country to au pair on the mainland, an activity so continental that even its name is French. Countless Brits depend on travel and trade across EU borders for a living and a laugh. Brexit, that monumental event meant to simplify life for British people, looks set to complicate it overseas, especially in the world of work.
According to a 2019 Conservative infographic, companies and self-employees alike may need a work visa, a work permit, a residency permit, or all three to work in the EU post-Brexit. The decision still hangs in the balance, and it may vary from country to country. Workers may also have to split or double social security contributions like national insurance over two countries instead of one.
Negotiations and Accountability:
Many of the government's key Brexit concerns lie not over the channel, but across the pond. Let’s hope that the politicians who clapped for our NHS, and those politicians who pledged to return £350 million to it on the side of a bus, follow through on their promises. Leaders on the left fear that the National Health Service will be sacrificed at the altar of corporate America. If that happens, we must hold those responsible to account, in the media and in the voting booth.
While the pandemic lingers, paralysing national and international governments, there’s still time to pay attention to these pending trade decisions. I’ll be paying attention to what picture Boris paints with the art of Trump’s deal, because right now, that’s the only thing we can do. We can pay attention, and hold them to account politically for every foot they put wrong between now and 2021. Brexit awaits.
Deputy Leader James Clarke reflects on Renew's roots as we look towards the future.
Rather than talk about the current political situation, perhaps we can talk a bit about how we got here, then to the future and what we can do to help shape it.
We started Renew as a vehicle for those politically disenchanted people and groups (like us) who were no longer prepared to support failed parties in a failing system and who wanted to get involved and participate in politics more actively. We wanted to bring in fresh faces, fresh blood and harness the skills of those with real experience outside of the standard, politically ambitious classes and tribes.
But, as we know, the best political plans tend to be knocked off-course by, (in the likely apocryphal words of Harold Macmillan) "Events, dear boy, events."
Whilst Macmillan had to contend with the 'Profumo affair' (such a beautifully understated use of the word 'affair'), Renew (and the rest of the UK) had to contend with Brexzilla, as it ran rampant, transforming from a merely terrible political idea to an all-consuming national identity crisis.
Somewhere along the way, our goal of growing a challenger, start-up, grassroots political movement got swept up in the tornado, even at the same time as all our potential goodwill, publicity, donors and voters were dragged back from the centre to the extremes, as the Brexit stakes and the country's temperature got higher and higher.
At a time when faith in the two main political parties was at an all-time low, 82.3% voted for them in 2017 (and 75.7% did in 2019); politics became a game of attrition. We contested election after election where people on the doors loved and respected what we stood for and what we set out to achieve, but simply had to vote Conservative to keep that awful man Corbyn out, or vote Labour to stop those unconscionable Tories (even in seats which were not remotely marginal): "Next time, we'll vote for you.", we heard, over and again.
And then came...
The TIGgers, who came, saw and scarpered.
The Lib Dems, who got lit up then extinguished like a crap firework.
GE2019, which loomed like a dark portent and then left like a bad smell.
And now, the virus.
Half of the country on lockdown and the other half frantically working to save lives and the economy.
Events, dear boy.
So what happens next?
There has been a great deal of talk about tectonic shifts socially, a new normal, a quiet revolution, downsizing, a new capitalism (or socialism), UBI, homeworking, even a climate breakthrough. In the UK, the Government has veered from crowing about their Withdrawal Agreement and announcing lavish spending on new Tory-voting constituencies to underwriting the biggest social and financial bailout in UK history. Labour have elected a credible leader that their bitterly divided party doesn't deserve and the Lib Dems are stowed away in witness protection.
As for Renew, we must now refocus on our identity and return to our core values and our raison d'etre. As I often say, the fundamentals have not changed; the system remains broken, the parties are dysfunctional and the legions of disenchanted voters (and non-voters) haven't gone away. We need to go back to the reasons why we started a party called 'Renew' and did not simply join a campaign group or form a single issue anti-Brexit party.
We need to differentiate ourselves from both the mainstream parties and the smaller ones.
Renew was, and is, about Reform, Renewal, Inclusion, Civic Participation, Systemic Change, Electoral Reform, Modernising, Fresh Faces, Supporting Political Activity, Openness, Harnessing Technology, Transparency, Fairness, Competence and Doing Things Differently.
Renew is about Something New.
To this end, we need to talk less about policies, elections, constituencies, leaders, left, right and (forgive me) 'centrist politics' and all the terminological traps of a political game rigged to reward the incumbents, and present ourselves as what we are, a welcome place for people who want to get involved in politics without all the repellent, fusty, childish paraphernalia associated with the reds, blues, yellows, greens and other exclusive, tribal clubs.
We need to give a voice to those who have no medium, to those on the periphery, to those turned off by the politics of colours, people from all walks of life. We need to be the vehicle for those who want to get involved and Get Heard.
This is going to mean a lot of things. It will mean reaching out to like-minded groups, especially those involved in Electoral Reform, it will mean Renew people participating in local community and action groups, building credibility, giving Renewers a good reputation. It will likely mean offering our support to those who wish to stand as Independents. It will mean not giving up regardless of the odds. And it will mean developing good habits that start here, at home.
As someone once said, 'there is no us and them, there's only us'.
So, it’s decided. We’re having a December election. For the first time in almost a century.
Just another unprecedented development in the seemingly never-ending tumultuous political age of Brexit.
But, perhaps an end is in sight. There is more at stake in this election than ever before. If Johnson and his gaggle of hardline Conservatives are elected it not only legitimises his role as Prime Minister, but allows him to push through his damaging Brexit deal, which, it was announced yesterday, will cost the UK economy £70 billion per annum — roughly the size of the Welsh economy.
This is why forging and supporting a remain alliance is so important to Renew. We can oust Johnson et al and prevent a harmful Brexit majority being elected into Parliament. But we can only achieve this through tactical voting. Simply put: we are stronger together.
Renew continues to support a remain alliance — fighting alongside the Liberal Democrats, the Greens, Plaid Cymru and other remain parties. We’ve done this before. We stood aside in Brecon, helping the Lib Dems win a Conservative seat, in the European elections we supported Change UK, and in Peterborough we worked with both the Lib Dems and the Greens to select a ‘unity remain’ candidate.
This is another election that will no doubt be dominated by Brexit, and we must utilise the same tactics in order to prevent a Johnson Brexit crisis, and to continue advocating for reform and renewal of our broken system.
But, what are the incentives to tactically vote, yet again, after two elections that didn’t achieve the desired results?
Best for Britain, yesterday, launched their tactical voting site — another tactical voting site amongst the many — and with it, they released their predictions of how tactical voting might alter the result in the up-coming general election.
They stated that if just 30% of pro-Remain voters use their vote tactically, it could prevent the Conservatives from winning a majority. In this scenario, a coalition of Labour and other remain parties could win a parliamentary majority of four seats. The majority increases to 36 if 40% of pro-remain voters voted tactically. Whereas, if voters did not tactically vote, the very same coalition could win as few as 268 seats, seeing the Conservatives win a majority in Parliament.
Of course, these are turbulent times, and as we’ve seen before, polls and predictions can, and do, turn out to be wrong. But united we stand a far greater chance of stopping the Conservatives and their damaging Brexit than if we’re divided.
We at Renew have been asking the question of how to reform capitalism in the 21st century. In this opinion piece, writer and Renew supporter Jim Cowan describes how a change in consciousness might help heal a divided society.
Capitalism evolves over time. Personally, I find it helpful to see that evolution in terms of the power relationships between the state, trade, and civil society.
During the industrial revolution, trade and commerce were centre-stage, supported by the state and civil society. The dominating consciousness was the age of reason and free thought.
The end of the Second World War brought a seismic shift: welfare state Britain was born. The state became central, influencing both business and civil society. The dominating consciousness was of the power of administration and professionals to solve problems and get things done.
In the late 1970s, a whole network of free-market thinkers rebelled against this ‘slavery by the state’, leading to the country’s third evolution: market-thinking Britain. This is the Britain we are all living in. Here, markets are placed in the dominant position by government. In return, the government will be fully supported by markets to create a society in which private sector thinking rules.
Since the state championed this thinking, markets and businesses don’t have to; we could call this arrangement cosy. Civil society becomes a dumping ground for the failures and worst human indignities of a materialistic and market-oriented culture.
Does this fact warrant reform? Quite obviously, yes. And what this way of looking at power in Britain suggests is a fourth evolution: a people-centred form of capitalism in which business and the state support civil society.
History also shows us that the effort required for actual reform has to await bigger contributory factors that make the change possible. But are such factors in the offing?
The first thing needed is an evolution of human consciousness that spreads through the population, which no politician or institution can control. This might look like a Britain whose collective brains have not been taken over by market thinking. In this society, people would be freer to become the person they can be; an existential freedom given rein by companies and jobs that recognise it. This genie is already well and truly out of the bottle. For whole swathes of the population, we are no longer just products of a mass society, our inner lives matter.
The second factor is that while civil society may have become a dumping ground, it is at the same time unbelievably resilient, rich and deep. It defines Britain. It is also the very source of humanity and the repairing of the social fabric. My book, The Britain Potential, identifies 50 grassroots initiatives (and there are many, many more). Many are in civil society, but some are in business, and some even in state services. They seem to be enacting this next stage of human consciousness. They are reforming capitalism before our eyes.
This is not being created by elites. The energy driving these initiatives is coming from a recognition that market forces can sometimes lead to inhuman and dysfunctional outcomes. The downsides of the neoliberal version of capitalism seem to be stoking the fires of its self-organising reform.
After the Great Depression, national government had to take on unemployment as a key metric. In the 1970s, inflation became another.
The next key metric for the renewal of Britain and the evolution of capitalism is going to be repairing the social fabric. This is a key metric signalling a moving on from market thinking to a civil society-centred Britain. New start-up parties like Renew are best placed to lead this charge, since the old guard simply have too much baggage to provide the answers.
In this opinion piece, Renew candidate for Morecambe and Lunesdale, Emma Rome, tells us what she thinks about Labour’s Brexit policy.
Labour proposes that if you want either to leave or remain in the EU, you should vote for them, because they will offer you a referendum either way.
But Labour's position fails the credibility test. Anyone who sincerely wants to leave will prefer a party dedicated to that end. Similarly, anyone who sincerely wants to remain will vote for a party dedicated to that end.
Who is Labour's target voter?
It is clearly not anyone who strongly cares either way about whether the UK remains or leaves the EU. While there will always be a core who will vote for them regardless, those who have Brexit/remain as their main political issue have effectively been abandoned by them, as Labour has chosen not to take a stand on this position, not even to state clearly how they will campaign on such a second referendum. This makes them an unlikely candidate for election victory as they have effectively surrendered the contest on both wings of this issue which has absorbed our news for the past three years.
But suppose they were to win the much-anticipated early general election. They would then be in a position to negotiate with the EU. But the EU, knowing Labour will put any negotiated deal to a referendum, can play hardball, and it will be in their best interests to do so, as the EU wants the UK to remain a member of the EU.
Labour claims it can negotiate a deal in which the UK will leave the EU and be better off. This is a logical fallacy. There is no way that the EU would, or even could, create an option for a member state to leave and be better off. That's not how clubs that make the members better off through membership work. It has nothing to do with any supposed intent of the EU to 'punish' the UK for leaving. It's like voting to leave a cruise liner on a lifeboat, then complaining that you no longer have access to the cinema.
We're simply stronger together.
But let’s suppose the EU is willing to consider playing hardball. They have a vested interest in doing so, because the harder the form of Brexit offered up in Labour's referendum, the more likely it is that waverers will choose to remain rather than accept Corbyn's deal. They don't even need to shift much from their current position.
For all the musical chairs of UK politics, the EU position since May has remained the same: the Brexit options are the withdrawal deal negotiated by Theresa May (with purely cosmetic alterations) or a no deal, no plan Brexit. They simply aren't interested in renegotiating again after the UK spent over three years faffing around on the issue.
Finally, the idea that they would campaign against their own negotiated deal during a referendum campaign is also somewhat ridiculous. If they campaign against their Labour-negotiated Brexit (the so-called "Lexit") and for Remain, they would be in the position of discrediting their own negotiators, which at this level would necessarily include would-be Prime Minister Corbyn himself. The political cost of tearing down their own party leader for a policy that the party has been decidedly non-committal on seems improbable. Especially when considering that the alternative boost to his credibility would strengthen the party were they in such a position.
No, there is no referendum in this scenario in which Labour could campaign for Remain without discrediting themselves. The whole ‘fence-sitting’ or ‘broad church’ exercise of the past few years has been little more than an exercise in persuading Remain voters to support a party that hasn't left itself in a position where it can credibly campaign for Remain. If you want the UK to remain a member of the European Union, you should vote for a party that will unequivocally campaign for Remain.
That’s why I will be voting for Renew.
Renew Candidate for Lewes, Paul Gerken, invites us to play a game with him: the great Despot Bingo.
There is a classic set of requirements to be a certified despot in today’s modern world. Like many others, I thought our chances of being lucky enough to have our very own British tyrannical leader (a Brit-pot, if you will) were so remote as to be laughable. Yet here we are – achingly close! Here is what I have ticked off so far:
The despot loves a big and bold statement of engineering capacity, and horrendous waste of public resource, for the sake of their own ego being attached to it. Boris Johnson not only has a host of these in his back catalogue (I’m looking at you, that monstrous helter skelter thing next to the Olympic Stadium), but he is brimming with ideas for the future. Building a f**k-off bridge to Ireland from Scotland was one of Boris’ most recent mind farts to hit the news.
Incitement of Hatred
No point in uniting people when you’ll need one half to imprison the other half in detention centres, am I right? So the despot will naturally want to incite as much anger and hatred in people as possible. How about calling a piece of legislation a ‘surrender bill’ and inexcusably make people think that the Brexit negotiations are akin to losing a war? Circle your cards, we’re angry.
Chuck out Dissenters
Loyalty trumps all else when you’re running a dictatorship. For MPs, their opinion is a ‘thanks but no thanks’, and the information they will receive is strictly ‘need to know’ only. Heads up; you don’t need to know anything, guys. Be loyal, don’t question, fall into line. Bozza’s move to chuck out 21 MPs from the party within a heartbeat of starting his job proves his intention to literally take no shit from no-one. Which takes us to…
Complete Closure of the Legislature
If he can’t be arsed to listen to the crap from his own side, what makes you think he’ll take it from Labour and some bleeding heart liberals? This is one I thought I would have to wait a while to cross off my card, but old BoJo didn’t waste any time with his attempt at the complete removal of democratic scrutiny. If you’re a despot, the last thing you want is elected representatives drilling you over what it is you’re doing. Go rogue and prorogue! Tick!
Power comes from the masses, so it’s easy pickings to kick someone who is a little bit different. Piccninny-letterboxed, watermelon-smiling bum-boys take note; you’re in for a rough ride under the sweaty ham-fist of this soon-to-be despot.
Undermine the Judiciary
Judges can be a pain, can’t they? Especially when they are so detached from the ‘Will of the People’! It’s like they don’t even consider the People’s whims and fancies in their rulings at all. They just seem to rely on process, precedent and rationality. BoJo shares in the People’s frustration; he’s a man of the People. Best just to declare publicly when they get it wrong, for short-term gain, as nothing could ever go wrong from undermining confidence in our legal system.
Have an Evil Mastermind Sidekick
Less a requirement to be a despot, and more a villain for comedic relief in a Disney film, having an Evil Mastermind Sidekick is a fun one to mark off your Despot Bingo card. Whilst many a sidekick huddle in the shadows, Boris’ right hand man, the infamous DC, loves nothing than to be pap-snapped trundling into the Prime Minister's Jag, tote bag and air of arrogance in toe. Dominic Cummings adds a genuine touch of 'holy shit he’ll really let us all burn' air to proceedings.
More Police for a Police State
'20,000 more police! 20,000 more police!' says our Bo, ad nauseam, like it’s the solution to absolutely everything. The irony of being part of the government that removed the 20,000 police in the first place is, I fear, somewhat lost. However, you do need police numbers to effectively run a police state, so get the recruitment machine whirling early, I’d say. Circle circle!
Absolutely fundamental. Think of any man hell-bent on dictatorial lunacy and you’ll find hair that defies convention. From your Kim Jong Un wedge, to your Trump blow-out, and our own Johnson’s ‘Eton Mess’, you can’t expect to rule with an iron fist if you haven’t got the barnet to prove it. Luckily, with Johnson’s scrappy ‘Children of the Corn’ locks, we’re on track to call Bingo.
Have Favourites, Treat ‘em Nice
There’s no point being in power if you can’t dole out treats to whomever you want to bone. Now, I’m not saying that anyone in the current role of Prime Minister has done that, but if he were to be a Despot, that’s what he’d do. So, until any independent investigation, let’s say we leave this one under review. Close, highly-scrutinized, review.
People, we’re nearly there! Just a few quick skips into the breakdown of democratic institutions and we will have a fully-fledged despot at the helm of power. Strap on to your seats; I feel I am about to call ‘BINGO!’
Renew's very own James Bryan asks: can we get some more experts in here?
Westminster is full of the lousiest pack of blowhards that one could possibly conceive of.
How is it possible, that in a country where there are people working on nanotechnology and data science problems that were completely infeasible ten years ago, we have ended up with these morons in power? This dislike of experts just doesn’t make sense. When you want to make a computer program, you bring in computer programmers, when you want to build a rocket you bring in rocket scientists, when you want to build a quantum computer you consult quantum physicists.
You call in the experts required. And you listen, and you examine, and you cross-compare, and you figure out a way of handling the situation. Before it becomes a ridiculous waste of both time and money.
21st century problems require 21st century solutions.
And if we are going to get anything done we are going to need expertise, carefully applied and thoroughly researched.
No more to traditional politics, the old gods are dead. Let's get some people into politics who can actually get stuff done.
If we're going to live peacefully together as a society going forward in a turbulent and confusing world full of computers and cars and neural networks, then we are going to need the best people for the job.
Less petty squabbling between the major parties.
And plenty of different choices in individual constituencies - but all thoroughly vetted, with at least a few examples of large scale projects they have successfully pulled off.
There really is no replacement for doing your research, but if we all recognise that society is something that is built every single day by amazing people doing incredible feats of science and engineering, as long as we can stay humble in the face of the great powers that we have come to wield, maybe we can create a better future for everyone.
I humbly submit that while I may not personally be anything close to brilliant enough to understand half of what these people are saying, they are describing real things which we are building right now. In a spirit of mutual cooperation and figuring out what the hell is going on, I invite every single expert to start discussing politics like their life depends on it. It probably does.
You know who I think should be our MPs?
Experts in every field; regular people, navigating through our system; teachers; students; parents. Representatives of all areas of society. The future is not going to be built by these out of touch career politicians who still think that economic theory hasn’t progressed beyond the days when politicians talking like characters from Yes Minister was the standard.
Fuck these guys, these guys suck, let’s get some new people please.
Renew's James Bryan airs his frustrations with the current political climate.
We choose representatives to make decisions of national importance, that is the core principle on which our democracy is built. There is a certain level of trust that comes with this level of power, and it has often been the case that politicians have abused that trust.
Taking away the ability of our elected representatives to create policy for five weeks during one of the most politically tumultous times in living memory is at best cynical political manoeuvring and at worst the sort of archaic abuse of power that one would expect of a medieval monarch.
It is certainly not the kind of sensible decision making that one would expect from a logically minded parliamentarian attempting to secure the best possible future for this country.
There is a certain irony in someone who has found themselves in the highest possible position in this country through luck attempting to overrule those who derive their power from an actual mandate.
Whether one believes that the UK should leave the European Union or not, whether one falls on the liberal or conservative side of the ideological spectrum, this is a matter of the political future of the United Kingdom. We, the people, voted for our representatives, and having our Prime Minister take that away is the mark of either a misinformed idiot on a power trip, or a malicious bastard attempting to push through a personal agenda at the expense of this entire country’s future.
Reject the lies, reject the cynical political manoeuvring and don’t let party politics get in the way of securing the best possible future for everyone.
If Mr Johnson disagrees with his fellow MPs then he should argue a coherent position, not shut them out.
No single person has all the answers.
The Royal Prerogative has forced the Prime Minister to go back to the people. That’s a good thing, says Renew supporter John Nucciarone.
British parliamentary democracy maintains, in essence, a balance of power.
As the country changed over the centuries, the balance of power between the monarch, Lords, and Commons did too. In the 1900s, majority governments became the norm, with the executive not only becoming more powerful but also with a higher degree of concentration in the Prime Minister’s office and his special advisors. The checks and balances reserved to not only the Commons but also the Lords and Her Majesty increased in importance. But, as the Commons and Lords are driven by partisan politics, Her Majesty’s powers cannot be re-characterised as only ceremonial by the very people she is meant to provide a check and balance against. Her powers must remain relevant. In the 21st century, they belong to the people.
An unconstitutional prorogation?
The UK constitution is a political constitution, and its conventions have a political dimension to them. That would include Her Majesty’s powers including her right to grant prorogation. The power to deny or grant it rests with her and is neither political or a convention. It is her legal right. The convention that she follows the advice of her PM is only that - a convention. The political aspect comes in when she uses her judgement as to whether to follow the advice or not.
The only way one could argue Her Majesty granting prorogation (and perhaps the advice given by the PM) is unconstitutional is if it eliminates an option MPs would otherwise have had, meaning the Queen is no longer seen as being a check and balance on Parliament, but rather a threat to the Commons.
And then you have to answer the question: did Her Majesty, in granting the prorogation, eliminate the possibility of stopping a no-deal Brexit by legislative means or reducing the amount of days available for a new government to be formed?
A court would also likely take into account the possibility of a No-Confidence Vote being held before the Queen’s Speech has been eliminated. It should then note that the Opposition was unlikely to call for one during the period before prorogation and has been playing tennis with both the government and itself on this issue for over two years.
It is important to note that a court would need to rule that the advice given by the PM and Her Majesty’s decision to grant the prorogation was illegal, as to do otherwise would reduce Her Majesty’s role to that of a figurehead, throwing the rest of the UK constitution into a spin and putting us on the road becoming a Republic. This is not something within the court’s jurisdiction and powers.
More than a pretty crown
Under the guise of not politicising the Queen, a process has started where the Queen is seen as only as a figurehead with no subjective element in her decisionmaking process. This could not be more wrong or unconstitutional.
This reasoning or interpretation of the constitution would enable a PM to request a prorogation beyond 31st October, or linger on after losing a non-confidence vote and another government is ready to be formed. The Queen may rely on her PM to convey an accurate picture of the political landscape, but the final decision still rests with her. For this reason, her advisors at the Palace must be independent of the Prime Minster’s Office.
Her Majesty likely granted this prorogation as a result of thinking that, should the House of Commons wish to finally make itself heard, it can - either by bringing down the government or passing legislation preventing a no-deal Brexit.
Perhaps she is asking them to get on with it if that is what is necessary or desired. Either way, have no doubt that the Queen’s legal powers, including her power to dismiss a PM (after the Commons has acted) now have our Prime Minister considering an election to avoid a No-Confidence vote and the possibility of having to leave Downing Street so soon.