by Roger Silverman in London
Curiouser and curiouser, as Alice might have said. Britain staggers towards its third general election in four years, under an unelected Prime Minister who has won not a single vote in
parliament and reacts by shutting it down. He watches his wafer-thin parliamentary majority literally vanish in the course of his first speech, and goes on to expel dozens of his former ministerial colleagues, including the grandson of his chosen role model, Winston Churchill. Meanwhile, his own brother gives up politics rather than endure any longer the “tension between family loyalty and the national interest”.
What next? Outright defiance of a parliamentary vote? Advice to Her Majesty to withhold royal assent? Proposing a vote of no confidence in his own government? Vetoing his own application to the EU to delay Brexit? Jail for contempt? All of these Monty Pythonesque scenarios have been seriously contemplated.
No laughing matter
Yet this pantomime is no laughing matter. In the tradition of that genre of horror movies in which the monster wears a clown’s mask, beneath the bluster a sinister plot is under way.
Johnson justifies his violation of established parliamentary procedures on the grounds of one single snapshot vote held more than three years ago. A plebiscite has always been the preferred instrument of dictators. Britain really is lurching into an era of coups and even civil war.
Johnson is acting out the role of comic-opera Englishman as a counterpart to Trump’s fake redneck masquerade. Both should take heed of the already shaky flagging grasp of comparable regimes throughout the world: the fall of Salvini, the disgrace of Bolsonaro, the electoral humiliation of Erdogan, the protests against Orban, the general strikes of 200 million trade unionists in Modi’s India.
Likewise, if Johnson wins the coming election, that will be just the start of his troubles. His laziness, vanity, arrogance and shallow incompetence, symptomatic of his surrounding coterie of speculators and profiteers, will soon bring him down in disgrace.
Paradoxically, his time will come only if and after he loses. He will find himself in his element as the ugly figurehead for a real future far-right mass street fighting movement. Already the cry has been heard: “Hail Boris”.
We don’t yet have the power to overthrow Johnson on the streets, so parliamentary manoeuvres do have their place. Corbyn and McDonnell both performed brilliantly in the recent debate. But so far all the resistance has been focused on the parliamentary plane. It’s not enough; it needs to be taken to the streets and the workplaces. It’s time for mass action, rejecting both the Brexiteers and the Camerons and Watsons, on a working-class programme.
For more on Brexit by Roger Silverman, see “Brexit and the degeneration of British capitalism“