I love my pressure cooker. It is one of these gadgets that I would probably, quite foolishly, consider rescuing from a house fire or flooding incident. They must be treated with respect though, and there are quite a few highly amusing clips on YouTube of what happens when your local village idiot succeeds in removing the lid whilst the vessel is still under pressure. The resulting noise, carnage and destruction is something to behold, especially when one considers the relatively diminutive size of a pressure cooker.
I can think of no better analogy that reflects the current state of UK (and indeed Western) politics at the moment, certainly now that it is strongly rumoured that Keir Starmer (and possibly his deputy), will shortly be in possession of Fixed Penalty Notices for breach of COVID regulations during the lockdown. I am unequivocal on how I expect party leaders should lead, and that means leading from the front rather than using their often corpulent and flabby physique to shove from behind. If the rumours are true, this leaves both parties in an extremely vulnerable position, especially should Boris Johnson decide to throw caution to the winds and throw a snap general election, something that would force the hands of many anti-Johnson rebels to get behind him, albeit just for the sake of electoral lip service. On first analysis it would be a risky strategy indeed to oust him during an election campaign, for the constitutional implications alone would be immense. In these days of “Clown world” politics, anything is seemingly possible, for if you can be elevated to global hero status for allegedly playing a piano with your penis, the sky is indeed the limit.
If both party leaders end up being smeared with the foul-smelling hypocrisy that is Partygate, I have considerably more faith in the British public in bringing the subject to a swift close at the ballot box than all of the establishment, Crown Prosecution Service and police force put together. The anger surrounding this issue is palpable, especially when considering the number of families that were grievously torn asunder by lockdown. “A curse on both your houses” will be the refrain from the voting booth, but how exactly will this manifest itself? Many, holding their noses in a similar fashion in to the last election, will switch political horses, hoping to “Punish” either party for their indiscretion. Some, will go as far as to try out new political flesh, such as the Liberal Democrats or even the Greens. The big problem with general elections is inevitably the pragmatic elector is faced with one of two choices, Labour or Conservative. In reality it doesn’t matter who you vote for, the puppet on the stage may change, but the producers, directors and stage hands – indeed the production itself – will carry on regardless.
Hence why if an election is called very soon we will be on extremely dangerous ground indeed. The threat of going back into the European mincing machine is very real, with globalists such as Blair and the Remain camp determined to overturn Brexit decision be it through volte face or the adoption of Proportional Representation, a very non-British system that already has caused chaos with its close brethren Supplementary Vote, Single Transferable Vote and Additional Member System. These alternative voting systems have been used for Mayors and Police Commissioners, Scottish and Irish local elections and the Scottish, Welsh and London assemblies. Brought in to bring more “Democracy” to the masses, in reality they have brought unprecedented change and instability to the political landscape, as the majority of the electorate are unaware that we have four competing voting systems in place. Like the whole Devolution debacle, they were designed to fracture and divide the historic political union between Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales, and anyone suggesting otherwise is naive in the extreme. One just needs to see the mess and the tribal division that now exists between the four nations, especially now that a major part of the “Glue” that held all of this together – The Monarchy – is rapidly drowning in a sea of public disillusionment in a similar fashion to that of the politician. Anyone who thinks this is coincidence or “Accident” really needs to take teachings of Machiavelli a tad more seriously.
The traditional cure to this illness, the truly independent parliamentary candidate, might seem a possible solution, but this takes two things that a snap election would squash immediately – time to build a reputation and numbers. Sure there, will be a few, like Martin Bell OBE, but he was the first independent MP to be elected in a British election in almost 50 years. Without a party-political machine behind them, few independent candidates have a snowballs chance even in local never mind national elections, where the two-party state has dominance. How the party whips love such a system, for them it is a win-win irrespective of which puppet stands on the stage, as they will command and control their respective MP’s regardless.
Sooner or later, the screams for political reform will reach fever pitch amongst the general populace, and by a strange coincidence, PR or one of its relatives will be magically pulled out of the hat, bringing us ever closer to the same model of government that Europe has. How exactly this will be implemented remains to be seen. Will it be via referendum, something that will scare the establishment rigid taking into account the Brexit vote or will it be using the traditional “Consult and Ignore” model so well utilised by local and central government? Such political perfidy is not lost on the residents of Cumbria, North Yorkshire & Somerset for central government has already decided that these three counties will soon have their respective councils abolished and replaced with unitary authorities thereby moving to the “Mayoral” model in a similar vein to Manchester and London. We all know how well that turns out.
The problem we face is that voters are now so disillusioned and under so much pressure between the effects of COVID, inflationary pressures (never mind the post-2000 banking crash), that such Machiavellian moves easily pass below the collective radar. To a drowning man, a rolled up wet newspaper is better than no tree branch or life-belt. People are genuinely angry and want matters to change, and at such times the astute politician will leverage every ounce of bitterness to manifest change, even if that is far from the change people actually want in reality. It is a sad reflection that the US Right wing has labelled those that voted for such measures as defunding the police as effectively “Crazies”, as all that happened in political effect was the usual cycle of “Problem, Reaction, Solution”. The think-tanks and lobbyists had already prepared the ground, the Rand Corporation arguing that the police are given too many roles in society and better outcomes would be achieved by using those better trained in such issues as mental health, homelessness, drug abuse, and school related violence etc. The resulting vicious financial cutbacks quite naturally resulted in Police Departments decimating their biggest expenditure – Policemen. Whilst the resulting social carnage I would agree is down to the lack of the US electorate understanding the repercussions, I withhold my greatest wrath for the politicians who cynically exploited a genuine primal scream for change. After all, the US populace is just as much trapped in a two party system as much as we are, if not more so. Depending on who you believe, at least they have guns to balance the odds a bit. Having read a recent harrowing article on a police officer who was shot in the abdomen and the resulting agonising treatment he had to undergo in ICU (He suffered multiple internal infections due to the rupturing of his intestines that required daily flushing with saline – Even morphine wouldn’t mask the pain), who would want to be a LEO under such circumstances? Job done, one eviscerated police department.
This is why I am very twitchy indeed at the sound of “Snap Election” being called. This furnishes both sides of the political divide with considerable ammunition to bring radical change to the ongoing tribal two-party war. Jeremy Corbyn tried this at the last election, and the UK public firmly said “No thanks”. What is to stop Starmer (or his replacement if he falls on his sword post Partygate), serving the same dish, albeit reheated? With the current train-crash of an economy, would the electorate fall for it?
There is also still a very big question surrounding Jeremy Corbyn himself. While there is virtually no chance of the Labour party returning the whip to him (Even the Guardian admits this), a coalition between Blair and Corbyn would give Labour a real headache if they both managed to reconcile their respective differences around the Stop the War Coalition. This could act as a form of “Blairite repentance”, potentially giving both access to the levers of power. Far fetched? I would have said exactly the same thing about the Cameron-Clegg coalition. Islington North will be a very interesting seat to watch. Jeremy Corbyn is extremely popular there, and I can’t see him retiring into the political wilderness.
My political spider-senses are not happy with this new potential development. If Starmer falls on his sword, this leaves the Left extremely vulnerable as they will not have time to get a new leader in post for an election. The only option for the party is for him to cling on and hope the voting public is willing to forgive and forget, that their animus towards the Conservatives is greater than the effort it takes to hold their nose when ticking the Labour box on the ballot. A very risky strategy, and if he loses, it paves the way for such individuals as Blair to pick up on the progressive ticket at the next election, if he doesn’t already attempt some sort of coup or comeback this time around.
As far as Johnson is concerned, a snap election is his to lose. While not quite as kamikaze a mission as Edward Heath who dared ask “Who runs this country?”, it is still a very dangerous gambit. All elections are a gamble, a week is a long time in politics and traditionally newspaper editors have saved plenty of ammunition stored in the office safe held in time for such occurrences. This time round the media, overfed on a diet of government COVID subsidy, will no doubt be wary of biting the hand that has fed them over the past couple of years. Boris can be painted as an adulterous buffoon, but this can be easily spun as mere human weakness when compared to the drinking habits of another wartime Conservative prime minister, Churchill. After all, who would want to rock the boat when we are potentially standing toe to toe with Vladimir Putin with each nation potentially reaching for that big, nasty, red nuclear button?
My bet is that if Starmer resigns, Johnson will quickly call for an election. Even if he stays, there is still an outside chance he will go for it, if only to purely ameliorate the rancour of his back benchers. I could be wrong, but years of Local Government service has taught me one thing very well. In politics, what would seem madness to anyone else is frequently the path taken. For once touched, the levers of power demand the grip upon them are total and uncompromising, no matter what the cost.
Ed: Written before the current resignations.
© Rookwood 2022