Saturday, 15 June 2019

Humpty Dumpty’s ‘Democracy’

“When I use a word,” said Humpty Dumpty (in Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass), “it means just what I choose it to mean.” And in this topsy-turvy world beloved of make-belief politics, no word is more prone to egoistic manipulation than ‘democracy’.

Since democracy is ultimately about the power of citizens to shape their own governance so that they would not be oppressed collectively or individually, it follows that any attempt by authoritarian wolves to cloak themselves with the appearance of ‘democracy’ is not going to stand up to serious scrutiny.

At the most basic level, democracy needs robust and transparent rules to operate. Otherwise, anyone can lie, intimidate, bribe, break the law to gain an illegitimate advantage in the electoral process, and claim to have a democratic mandate to rule.

Unfortunately, the Humpty-Dumpties around us seem to have been given a free pass these days to use the word ‘democracy’ in any way they like, regardless of how nonsensical they are being.

Listen to them defending as ‘democratic’ a referendum outcome that is produced by mass deception and systemic law-breaking. When their lies are exposed, the best they can say in response is “Everybody lies”. When their illegal activities are discovered, they insist that everyone else is biased against them.

Meanwhile, a new Prime Minister will be installed in the UK by 124,000 members of the Conservative Party, while the rest of the country’s 46.8 million registered voters will have no say whatsoever. If the House of Commons chooses to eject this leader with a vote of no confidence and call for a general election, be ready for cries of outrage against this affront on ‘democracy’ – as though 0.26% of voters should override MPs representing the whole electorate.

Under the ‘democratic’ system in the US, you can become President of the country by getting fewer votes from the people than your rival. Once in power, you can put your faith in the words of the Russian leader even though everyone else in high office back home has warned against Russian interference in American elections. If anyone is likely to expose any financial crime or deliberate obstruction of justice you may have committed, you dismiss them or appoint someone in a more senior position to sideline their findings.

Furthermore, in both the UK and the US, those who assume poor and minority ethnic people are more likely to vote against them, have turned to devising Photo ID requirements that will serve little purpose other than preventing these categories of citizens from voting. All in the name of defending ‘democracy’ [Note: the evidence has shown that voter fraud is actually few and far between].

If we value democracy, we can’t allow the word to be used by demagogues to mean whatever they choose it to mean. Humpty-Dumpties are full of themselves, but they too can fall – quite spectacularly.

Saturday, 1 June 2019

Ask Grayling: the politics of chaos

Politics is meant to be the art of bringing people together, promoting harmony, and enabling people to work together to achieve what none individually could attain. But in the name of ‘politics’, some people practise the devious craft of sowing seeds of divisiveness, breaking up joint endeavours, and weakening the many so as to gratify the powerful few. This ‘politics of chaos’ presents itself as a governing option for the people, but in truth, it is little more than a series of tactical moves to disrupt society so an irresponsible elite can do as they please.

How does it work? Perhaps we can learn more about it by raising a few questions in connection with Chris Grayling, a long serving member of the Conservative Government in the UK, who seems to have an abiding interest in advancing chaos as an ideological goal.

The National Audit Office has found that changes pushed forward by Chris Grayling when he was Justice Secretary in 2014, which led to part-privatisation of the probation service in England and Wales, involved serious failings and had cost taxpayers almost £500 million. The Chief Probation Inspector, Dame Glenys Stacey, said what Grayling insisted on bringing about despite having been warned against it, was "irredeemably flawed" and people would be safer under a system delivered by the public sector.

Having created chaos in the supervision of offenders, Grayling moved on to become Transport Secretary, and continued with the mantra that private companies were better at meeting public needs, irrespective of the evidence. As the previous privatisation of the railway service was fuelling a growing chaos, and the railway regulator issued a report to highlight the need for the government to deal with the crisis, Grayling declared that it was not his responsibility – as the Secretary of State for Transport – to sort out the underlying system problem, which only the government could tackle.

The one area Grayling seemed to accept was his responsibility was to help the UK prepare for a no deal Brexit, since that could lead to critical imports not reaching the country, and vital medicine and key manufacturing components being held up indefinitely. So Grayling took immediate action by awarding a £13.8m contract to a ‘start-up’ company to provide extra ferries to help with shipping goods into the UK, even though that company had no experience in running ferry service – in fact, it had no ships at all. For the record, Grayling gave contracts to other companies too, and his handling of those arrangements led to costly compensation having to be paid out – estimated by the National Audit Office to be over £50 million.

Was Grayling just overwhelmed by the fear of Brexit chaos that he ended up rashly taking some rather ill-considered decisions? Actually, on all matters relating to Brexit chaos, he was all for turning the country upside down for the sake of combating the cause of all ills – immigration. Back when he was Leader of the Commons, he warned that mass immigration “will change the face of our country forever”. He actively campaigned for Brexit to keep ‘foreigners’ out and claimed that otherwise “additional demand for housing will gobble up vast tracts of green belt land and mean we will have to dramatically expand our transport system to avoid gridlock.” And he did go on to demonstrate, irrespective of levels of immigration, he could ensure chaos across our transport system all by himself.

Wasting public money, undermining public services, stirring up animosity towards immigrants – have we here a litany of utter incompetence, or an ideological obsession with the politics of chaos, or both? Ask Grayling.

For a report on the failings of Grayling’s part-privatisation of the probation service, see:
Other reports on his role as Transport Secretary and advocate for Brexit can be found in most newspapers published in the UK.