Europe Today

Boris’ Britain and the rise of English Nationalism

by Stuart Clark |

Status Summary:
In the weeks since Boris Johnson took over leadership of the Conservative Party and became Prime Minister he has lost his majority in Parliament by triggering the defection of Philip Lee to the LibDems, he has expelled 21 MPs for voting to block a no deal exit from the EU and lost all key votes in both Houses of Parliament, which means the Bill preventing no deal was voted through and was made law before Parliament was prorogued in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
Scotland’s highest court has now ruled that Boris Johnson’s suspension of Parliament is unlawful. MPs are calling for Parliament to be recalled. The Government are planning to appeal the ruling.
If the PM cannot get an amended deal which he can get through Parliament, his only choices will be to try and call for a General Election again – which is unlikely to succeed — or to ask the EU for an extension, until at least 31st January 2020 which he has sworn not to do.
Facing this choice, he is likely to resign as prime minister but stay leader of the Conservative party. He’ll then let someone else ask for an extension and fight a “Parliament vs the People” election where nothing can be ruled out in terms of tactics to win.
In normal circumstances elections are a sign of democracy in action.

BUT these are not normal circumstances
The PM continues to take instruction from no. 10 special advisor Dominic Cummings. He and his cabinet continue with the line that they are trying to get a deal, although no such evidence has so far been seen.
He is boxing himself into a corner, the result of which is that while the media is in a frenzy of analysis, discussing the potential scenarios that might play out, English nationalism, normally restricted to the football terraces and the fringes of right-wing politics, is seeping into the daily narrative for many English voters in the Leave areas of England. This, in turn, is emboldening extreme right-wing groups to participate in demonstrations.

Adversarial rhetoric and lies
In order to win back voters who switched from the Conservatives to the Brexit Party, Boris’s strategists have decided to out-Brexit the Brexit party. They want to be able to win a General Election without having to do any kind of electoral pact with the Brexit Party.
They know that after an election, they can slowly re-assert conservative values, but if they enter a pact with the Brexit Party they will never be free of them, and the party will have no road back.

The Populist trail
In the last 2 weeks, Johnson, Gove and Rees-Mogg crossed an important line – and they must be called out for this again and again and again. The move to prorogue parliament was a political act. Calling it a clever tactic or an attack on democracy is what was expected from both sides. What came as a shock was that they continued to lie about it when they would’ve still had the support of their base had they owned the decision they had made. This is what turn out to be their biggest mistake.
We need to protect our free and fair media and press but at the same time identify the outrageous lies and propaganda coming from certain publications which is often left unchallenged and feeds daily into many voters social media feeds, creating an inaccurate assumption that all expert advice is false.

Dangerous game to play
Lessons should be learnt from Yugoslavia, in terms of using nationalism as a means of electoral gain. While we’re unlikely to deteriorate into war, the fracturing of identity either from British into English vs Irish and Scottish or us versus the rest of Europe has disastrous consequences. We have spent decades building a collaborative European Identity where nationality is an interesting aspect of our makeup, to be admired. This work can so easily be undone.
Opposition parties, Independents and rebel MPs, when forced by the prospect of a no deal, proved that they can work well together, proving to the public that when the need is urgent, they can stand up and take responsibility. But it’s doubtful this unity will last through the conference season or at a General Election unless they are pressured into a longer lasting alliance by the public opinion.
Jeremy Corbyn and Tom Watson are already at odds about what the Labour Party position should be in terms of calling for a Referendum first or a General Election first – and similarly whether the Party in such a referendum should campaign for Remain. The split will only get wider as the party tries to be all things to all people.

Current MPs and the big dilemmas they have.
We must remember many of those sitting as MPs currently in whichever Party have worked hard to win their seats and their place in Parliament (let’s for the moment not think about safe seats, the privileged or career politicians) but those MPs who have campaigned hard for issues, constituents and doing what they believe to be the best for the country. Many have found themselves in Parties that have changed from the parties they joined, or they themselves have changed.
They are often criticised for staying in those parties, and sometimes towing the line on specific policies. But when they jump (like the Change UK MPs, or the Conservative rebels) they receive an amazing amount of abuse some will say it would’ve been better for them to stay and try and fix things from within – some will say they should’ve jumped sooner etc…
Be sure, they have not taken these decisions lightly and they should be supported even if we don’t agree with them on a lot of their previous decisions. There’s a big chance that at the next election they will all be replaced by less principled and objective MPs from the left or the right.
We at the Federalist Party fully support all those progressive MPs who are fighting to give the public a voice through a People’s vote whether they decide to remain in their parties or switch to other major parties or decide to stand as Independents. And we offer our services to those who wish to stand on a platform of constitutional reform to devolve power away from Westminster to protect and strengthen the United Kingdom.
An Electoral pact to protect those brave enough to leave their party is essential – in order to prove that it is not political suicide to stand up for one’s principles. Organisations like Best for Britain and Unite to Remain must work with parties to create separate electoral pacts in each home nation. This is the only way it will work.

A final point about the Speaker, John Bercow
On Sunday it was reported that the Conservatives planned to break with tradition and stand a candidate against the Speaker was yet another attack on democracy from this government, devoid of any democratic principle. These are the first dangerous steps in the dismantling our democracy and must be reminded of consistently in any forthcoming election.

 

Stuart Clark, Editor, UK

 

 

Stuart Clark is currently, board member and Nominations officer for the Federalist Party
He was leader of the UK section of the European Federalist Party 2013-2016. He is active with Alliance Europa, and also the Federal Union in UK. As well as promoting Federalism, Stuart also campaigns for constitutional reform and electoral reform. He stood for Council Election in Lambeth in 2018. Stuart works for a global ticketing company and is based in London and Cornwall.

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