It was disclosed by The Guardian yesterday that the Labour Party may suspend its cooperation with the government as the latter suggests cutting the funding of opposition parties by 19%. This is not the first time that the government has attempted to hamper democracy by covert legal means; the Conservatives are slowly but surely making themselves out to be the only party that a voter could select on his ballot. Campaigning for votes is one thing but engineering a situation in which any other party is at a disadvantage is quite another.
The Conservatives won the 2015 General Election not through outstanding appeal but by default: against the incumbent government was the traditional opposition party (Labour) whose support had been scraped and scratched away by new groups tired of one or more of the mainstream dishes on the menu. The political system can cope with two large parties and a small one nipping at their toes but no more serious contenders than that.
After the election of Jeremy Corbyn MP to the leadership of the Labour Party, Conservative MPs, including the Prime Minister, took to the stage, from television to Twitter, to denounce the new opposition as “a threat to our national security, our economic security and your family security.” The Russian Embassy commented on Twitter that UK media would be quick to accuse a foreign government of authoritarianism if it made similar remarks about the opposition. Strangely I find myself in agreement with the Russians. The Conservatives have tried again and again to deride the Labour Party not just as incompetent, as they did successfully in the previous Parliament, but now deliberately operating against the interests of everything that the British public hold dear. It is as if the Labour Party were determined to destroy the economy, tear down society and, I don’t know, sympathise with terrorists? It’s stuff and nonsense; a strawman deliberately created to denigrate the opposition by likening their beliefs to irrationality. (Complaining feels pointless, admittedly, as the Prime Minister won’t apologise for it.) No one should still be falling for the trick of Jeremy Corbyn’s supposed sympathy for the “tragedy” of Osama bin Laden’s death, purported by the Conservatives; but the fact is that the government will continue to peddle this out-of-context slander without admitting dishonesty and gullible people will believe it.
Set to lose £1,000,000 a year, the Labour Party would have its work cut out for it if the Chancellor were to have his way. Deliberately cutting the funding of the opposition will mean that the Labour Party will have less money to exercise its democratic right to campaign for election. This stinks of anti-democratic misbehaviour by a government that intends to keep power by dodgy means. Failures, incompetence and outrage can all be brushed under the carpet if the alternative, whether genuinely capable or not, can be made to seem worse.
The Chancellor also tried to implement a law that would demand the government to end every year with a budget surplus, by any means. This would give the Conservatives free reign to cut as much as was necessary to make an overall profit. It would also give them another way of deriding Labour as the party of high taxation (to get the desired surplus) and financial illiteracy, relating to previous governments’ budget deficits.
After the House of Lords bulldozed the government’s economic plans for the reduction of tax credits, the first rejection of financial matters for one hundred years, the Conservatives responded with allegations of “unconstitutional” illegitimate behaviour on behalf of the peers; the Prime Minister intends to ban the Lords from overturning legislation. Isn’t the House of Lords there to keep the House of Commons in check?
While the opposition is quietly being moved out of the picture, the Conservatives are keeping their members satisfied and in reach of political control. While public sector pay is set to stay where it is, some lucky Conservatives will be pleased to see their salaries increase. Notable donors and allies to the Blues are being rewarded with honours: the award of a knighthood to Lynton Crosby, a political strategist who aided the Conservatives in getting into office for “political service” (to whom?) has especially riled critics from without and within the party.
The Conservatives once were interested in expanding the Freedom of Information Act; now it seems they might prefer to reduce it. Chris Grayling MP voiced his annoyance at the use of the Act by journalists who make stories out of nothing (The Guardian replied with one hundred important stories that would never have come to light, had it not been for Freedom of Information). The Freedom of Information Act would enable the public to find out the things that go on backstage in government. There are obviously matters that the Conservatives would like to hide, for example the amount of people who have died due to public sector support cuts.
Often the Conservatives promote the security of a job; it seems that this rhetoric applies especially to the party itself. Some say this is motivated by fear of election defeat, but I believe that this is the work of a clever government that is well-educated in sly methods of tying the opposition’s shoelaces together as the race is about to begin. Though it’s hardly on parallel with the dictatorships that society experienced in the previous century, this is the behaviour of a party that would like to have a one-party state within a ‘democracy’, promising voters that their choice should be a reasonable, well-intentioned and (unfairly) prepared organisation surrounded by others, the incapability, incoherence and untidiness of whom the government has in fact craftily engineered.
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