August 28, 2000
Is England Still Free?
the next few weeks, Emmanuel Goldstein will be conducting a survey
on Britain's diminishing liberty under Tony Blair.
Loses Its Place
I start my main piece, I want to give you a quick political quiz.
It is from an
article I will cite later by Robert Henderson (so no looking).
It intersperses quotes from the leader of the British Union of Fascists
and first major British pro-European politician, Oswald Moseley
and Tony Blair, the British Prime Minister. Can you tell who said
what (answers at the bottom)?
believe we have broken through the traditional barriers of right
and left; that we are developing a new and radical economic approach
for the left and centre
all it is a realistic creed. It has no use for immortal principles
in relation to the facts of bread-and-butter; and it despises the
windy rhetoric which ascribes importance to mere formula.
Britain. That is the patriotism for the future.
must be absolutely clear to the British people that we are a political
arm of no one other than the British people themselves.
need a new social morality.
seek to establish a new ideal of public service, and a new authority
based on merit.
case advanced in these pages covers, not only a new political policy,
but also a new conception of life. In our view, these purposes can
only be achieved by the creation of a modern movement invading every
sphere of national life.
new establishment is not a meritocracy, but a power elite of money-shifters,
middle men and speculators... people whose self-interest will always
come before the national or the public interest.
things occurred when Tony Blair and his entourage processed into
government in 1997. The first was the abdication
of day to day control of the interest rates from the Government
to the Central Bank. This was, in my opinion "A Good Thing",
although hardly the sort of thing one would expect from a government
that spent its time attacking the Conservative's lack of enthusiasm
towards the state sector of the economy. The other and under reported change was the restriction
of Prime Minister's Questions from one day a week to two. This
was an ominous portent.
PITS ARE GOOD
Minister's Question time is commonly lampooned in America. "You
have these two guys, one the most powerful in the land, who trade
personal abuse and have background noise unworthy of a farmyard
produced by 633 of the rest of the most powerful people in the land.
And you say that proves how good your democracy is?" Well yes it
does. In the absence of separated powers and elected executives,
the British people need some way of holding their executive to account.
And PMQ's are an excellent way of doing this precisely because
they make good TV. They are more informative than Jerry Springer
and more interesting than the State of the Union. Yes, they are
partisan, point scoring and adversary but they bring out
the best or worst in a Prime Minister and the desire to control
them shows a contempt for Parliament, and hence for democracy itself.
And all to cover up one man's weakness.
Tony Blair has nothing to fear? He
is popular beyond a politician's wildest dreams and he has an
impregnable majority in parliament behind him. This analysis misses
out that Tony Blair has always been a privileged dullard, who relies
on a private education and good connections to make up for a very
average intelligence. In the best
psychological profile of Tony Blair to date, political writer
pinpoints an essential weakness as the source of Blair's sometimes
all consuming urge to control. Tony Blair is very scared that his
limited abilities will be put on display. One way in which this
essential insecurity reveals itself is the way in which instead
of trying to persuade the people that they may not like what he
is doing but he is right, he shifts his position. Margaret Thatcher
was not cut of the same cloth, as her very public efforts to forestall
national bankruptcy and curtail the Trade Unions tell. As an actor
the man rates well, but as a man on his own account, he falls down.
The public can not see this.
Reagan, whom Mr. Blair imperfectly copies, was often accused of
successfully appealing to the American People over the head of Congress.
There are arguments both ways on the desirability of this, and the
American columnists on antiwar.com probably hated this aspect of
the "Imperial Presidency." Whatever the constitutional damage this
may have done, the fact cannot be denied that Reagan needed to do
this, to get past a House of Representatives dominated by his political
opponents. What is odd about Blair, no what is downright creepy,
is that he does not need to do this. But he does it anyway. Government
announcements are made to the press before Parliament. European
laws are rarely even referred to Parliament before they become law
through executive decree. Opponents are seduced to muffle
criticism and are demonised if they don't succumb. Close
personal friends are routinely appointed to high office. Parliament
is sent away for three and a half month holidays. Even the position
of Speaker of the House of Commons in Britain a non-partisan
role representing the general interests of Parliament now
seems to be going to one of his friends.
of the most telling facts has been the outlawing, yes outlawing,
of imperial measurements. It is now illegal to buy two pounds of
apples in an open-air market. Much has been written on this absurd
piece of over regulation usually on the way in which the
Government does not understand the people. However, little has been
written on the way this episode shows how little the government
understands, or cares for, its own constitution. The source of this
pernicious regulation was an order put out by a Government department
in 1994, setting a timetable for the gradual removal of imperial
measurements. This regulation relied on powers given to the government
in an earlier act, the 1972 European Communities Act in which Britain
adhered to the (then) European Economic Community. Unfortunately
they ignored the fact that a law had been passed in 1985 (the Weights
and Measures Act) regulating imperial measurements, and therefore
recognising them. What this meant was that the government was outlawing
a law made in 1985 from a law made in 1972. Under British constitutional
law, "no Parliament can bind its successors", this means that no
law is permanent if a democratically elected Parliament overrides
it. The government ignored this, and showed its contempt for the
Parliament from which it derives its power.
government even tried to stop debate on the Kosovo war. It was even
seen as a minor event when Blair described it as a war, for to admit
to a war would be to admit that we were fighting a war without Parliamentary
approval something that is illegal. The inability to call
a vote on this subject was not for fear that the war would not be
called both the Liberals and, although privately critical,
the Conservatives were for it. It was a fear of criticism itself
and probing questions. Needless to be said, once his contempt
for Parliament was safe until the next country is bombed, Mr. Blair
called it the "first progressive war". At least he didn't call it
the first democratic, legal or constitutional war.