With the posh boys in total control what happens next?
The answer is pretty obvious – a attack on anything that would place any limit, check or constraint on their power or privilege, anything that might stop them handing out cash to their mates, or compromising Britains interests with members of other elites around the world – particularly Russia.
The rules of elections are being quietly rewritten – the independence of the electoral commission has been removed and it is now controlled by the Government. Parliamentary boundaries are gerrymandered to give extra seats to the Tories. The House of Lords stuffed with chums and allies no matter how weird or ridiculous. Voting them out of power is getting harder and harder.
With these are sweeping changes to our legal system; restricting legal aid, repealing the Human Rights Act, leaving the European Court of Human Rights, limiting the right of Judicial Review, all while allowing foreign oligarchs to use our courts to silence critics – Roman Abramovich, Mikhail Fridman and Pyotr Aven used Britain’s archaic libel laws against HarperCollins over the book Putin’s People. Since Brexit we have already seen attacks on the Judiciary, and a Government happy to break the law, whether on proroguing Parliament or holding parties during lockdown.
There are 2 things that to me define Britain:
The first is a literate culture that stretches from St Bede the Venerable through Shakespeare, which embraces high culture and popular culture equally; Byron and Shelly, Lennon and McCartney.
The second is a commitment to private life and personal liberty. From Magna Carta to the Bill of Rights, from the Act of Settlement to the Great Reform Acts and the Abolition of Slavery.
The Americans have the right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness, we Brits have the right to close out doors and do what we like without nosey parkers sniffing around and interfering.
While it may be shocking that substantial part of Britain’s population are happy to give up their freedoms, liberties and legal protections., it is not illogical They do so in the belief that they don’t need complex legal protections – their privilege or skin colour will protect them well enough. The only people who need their liberties protected by law are minorities, or immigrants, or LGBTQ, not the people who voted for Boris and Brexit. Giving up centuries of hard won liberties will affect people. Just not them.
And this campaign to strip away checks and balances has other more subtle facets. Eroding Civil Service independence, centralising control over the NHS, ending clinical autonomy.
It hardly seems worth rehearsing the changing role of the press – no longer do they report what the Government are doing or hold them to account, instead they breathlessly cheer on Boris in the manner of Pravda or Tass. Those few who hold out – the Guardian, the FT – have tiny circulations and are often marginal voices.
But Boris is not the poshest boy in the this process,. Boris is Pere Ubu: a chubby lewd and unscrupulous despot with no redeeming qualities. But he will never be Ubu Roi as there is already one ahead of him.
What happens next will be the rise of King Charles, the poshest boy of all.
Some time in the near future we will have a new Monarch – King Charles III (unless he decides to style himself as George VII). Queen Elizabeth II may have her faults, mostly financial, which I covered here:
But she does have a unique connection and understanding of her people, who she has led through a lengthy period of intense change. Her understanding of her subjects is all the more remarkable because she has hardly ever met or interacted with them. She may have tilted the laws in her favour in financial matters, but she took to heart Bagehot’s description of the constitutional duties imposed on the monarch, to “counsel, encourage and warn”.
Charles is a completely different character, with his own agenda, equal parts reactionary, environmentalist, and hippy shit.
Charles’s view on the role of the Monarch are best set out in Jonathan Dimbleby’s biography. Charles is often thought of as a classic Tory, but in reality he is a reactionary paleo-conservative. He intends to rule without the constraints of the constitutional monarchy, and to intervene directly in politics. Liberals may welcome this, based on his recent intervention on Rwanda, but this is misplaced.
Just as Boris sees the Human Rights Act as an encumbrance on this ability to rule unchecked so Charles sees the Act of Settlement and the Bill of Rights. Charles would rule ignoring the constraints they place on the role of the Monarch. The combination of a Monarch and a PM both stripping away anything that might limit their power and privilege is an explosive combination, and Charles’s media team are already briefing about a strained relationship. This is not surprising given that Boris and his poise chums treated the Monarchy with contempt, lying to the Queen about proroguement and partying while she mourned alone.
Equally important to understanding Charles are his views on the environment. We associate “green” politics with the middle class left, but the origins of the environmental movement in the UK are on the far right.
Prince Charles has a long standing connection with the Soil Association – Britain’s first environmental pressure group, founded over 70 years ago.
The Soil Association has deleted from history their early relationship with fascim. One of it’s most prominent early activists was Jorian Jenks, a leading member of the British Union of Fascists, who edited “Mother Earth” the Soil Association journal. Jenks wrote the first ever environmental manifesto for a British political party – the BUF in the 1930s. Under his editorship Mother Earth promoted far right and fascist ideas – putting the soil into blood and soil nationalism.
Jenks was anti-capitalist. The destruction of capitalist industry was essential, not just to save the planet but to reverse the economic and social changes that capitalist had brought about. To return the UK to a hierarchical society, with the aristocracy at the top protecting the land, and governing it’s people both capitalism and socialism have to go.
Only those who inherit wealth and power can be trusted to manage our land for future generations.
Jenks is mostly forgotten, but he has left behind a legacy of far right anti-capitalist environmentalism, of which Charles is only the most famous adherent. Too many on the left see the combination of anti-capitalism and environmentalism and latch onto to it, ignorant of it’s deeper ideology.
Both fascists and aristocratic environmentalists share a mistrust of enlightenment rationalism. They believe that the modern logical world has led us to lose our connection with the soil, the land, the nation, the volk. Jenks promoted the idea of ‘spiritual ecologism’ a link between man and environment.
It is this spirituality that is at the heart of the 3rd of Charles’s obsession; hippy shit.
In his book “Harmony: A New Way of Looking at the World” Charles gives full reign to his new age wibble:
“The Earth’s orbit contains a five-pointed star. The mean orbit of Mercury sits within the orbit of the Earth in such a proportion that it fits exactly over the pentagon at the heart of the five-pointed star,”
The double helix form of DNA is “the dance of Venus”, fibonacci sequences are profoundly spiritual, and some stuff about a “golden number”.
How this new age piffle is reconciled with his role of Defender of the Faith and Head of the Established Church is anyones guess.
It is common to argue that Britain lacks a written constitution. I am not sure if that is true; if you put Magna Carta, the Act of Settlement and the Bill of Rights in a ring binder and wrote “Constitution” on the front you would have pretty much all you need. Add in the big reform acts, abolition of slavery, votes for woman, as a amendements and off you go.
What is true is that the British constitution relies on good blokes. It is a fundamental part of our system of Government that we should rely totally on the good character of the Prime Minister and Monarch, and that no checks or balances are needed over their personal conduct. They are above reproach.
We have a crook and a liar as Prime Minister and crank heading towards Buckingham Palace, with not a lot that can be done about their character.
All autocrats eventually find themselves in a dilemma. They strip away all checks and balances that might limit their power, only to discover that in doing so they have removed any obstacles that might prevent someone else removing them. This is where Putin is at right now. In pursuit of absolute power he is now anxious, paranoid, always looking over this shoulder fearful of a potential successor.
Boris, a wannabe autocrat has the same problem – the more power he claims for himself, the more he changes the rules in his favour the weaker and more chaotic he looks. He may well last into the next General Election, unless a challenge to him gains sufficient momentum.
But while getting rid of Boris and undoing his authoritarian changes is difficult there is no mechanism to deal with a crank with a Crown on, trying to run the Government from Buck House. Just like Boris Charles may well find that the more he strips away restrictions on his right to exercise power the weaker he looks and the more unpopular he becomes.
Dealing with a maverick monarch, protected by wealth and privileged is going to be the next huge challenge for the country.
I am not a staunch Monarchist, however I do recognise that having shared plural institutions is important; Royal Family, NHS, CofE, BBC. Most people don’t like all of them, but pretty much everyone likes most of them. Britain has held together well through times of change, and has never flirted with an authoritarian leader like Franco, or De Gaulle. Oswald Mosely was a figure of fun, lampooned by PG Wodehouse as Roderick Spode who secretly made his fortune out of saucy underwear for the larger lady.
I believe that our shared and plural institutions are an important part of that cohesion. Once upon a time the Conservative party would have agreed with me. Now those shared institutions are under attack form the same Tory politicians who once would have defended them. If Charles destabilises the Monarchy, which I think he will, then our shared institutions will be weakened hugely.
Boris and Charles may well be opening a door for something very nasty to step through.