As I write this, Boris Johnson is bouncing yet another dead cat on the desk in the shape of Free School Meals. Unlike other dead cats, such as Operation Moonshot, feeding children is actually real and important. But in the end Boris & Cummings are quite happy to have the media screaming about the issue. Afterall, if the front pages weren’t filled with Marcus Rashford, they might talk about the 60,000+ dead from Covid or the failed Track & Trace system or the billions being handed to cronies for PPE or the impending disaster of a No-Deal Brexit or, well the list just goes on and on.
Government by distraction is the name of the game. In their playbook, it is much better to look bad on some relatively minor issue than to have people look closely at what they are really doing. Because behind that smokescreen, Boris is dismantling our democracy. Cutting the number of MPs; preventing courts scrutinising Government decisions; making the Civil Service political; underfunding councils; removing human rights. Like a game of Jenga, every one of Boris’ policies removes a piece and brings democracy closer to collapse.
And we on the left are helping them. By treating Boris’s Government as just another Tory Government and fighting each issue separately we are spread too thin. No one issue can gain the public’s attention before the news cycle comes around with another dead cat.
There is only one way forward for the left. Only one issue which can unite our many disparate groups. It’s time to call for a revolution.
Just to be clear, this is not a call for a Marxist revolution. In fact, we need a revolution without politics akin to the mass movements in Serbia, Ukraine or the Arab Spring. Only once a caretaker Government is in place and the process of rebuilding democracy has begun, can we engage in a serious discussion about a new constitution and where the UK goes next.
Any sensible person reading this will be scoffing at the idea of a revolution, either because it’s unrealistic or undemocratic. And they are partly right. A revolution in the UK is as unthinkable as leaving the EU or a national lockdown to prevent the spread of a killer epidemic. It’s also true a revolution is undemocratic, but how democratic will the 2024 General Election be with gerrymandered boundaries, Russian & US money funding political groups, and no judicial oversight?
By shifting our fight from a mass of complex individual issues to one simple message we gain numbers and unity. More importantly we shift the political conversation to the central issue facing the UK in 2020 – Boris Johnson is an existential threat to the future of the country.
If we on the left don’t lead on this issue and demand the end of this Government, then others will. Already the 3.5% movement, the radical end of the Pro-EU activists, are calling for the end of Boris. More worryingly, the ‘Crazy-Right’, the weird intersection between the far-right and Covid conspiracy theorists, seek the downfall of the entire democratic establishment. Both these movements are gaining numbers as more and more people seek simple messages in confusing times.
The UK is on the edge of a precipice. Scotland is on a route to independence, Wales is increasingly distancing itself from Westminster and god-only-knows what will happen with Northern Ireland. Unemployment is about to sky-rocket with the end of the furlough scheme, we face the real possibility of Brexit food shortages and everyday more people die of Covid. Meanwhile, students who are historically at the forefront of all revolutions have just been treated like utter shit and don’t even have the distraction of cheap bars anymore. Revolution is impossible in a stable democracy but just how stable and democractic is the UK?
It’s time to be bold. It’s time to be simple and clear. It’s time to boot out Boris and reboot our democracy.