It’s not Gordon’s fault

All the attention lately seems to be on Gordon Brown, when will he step down or when he will be ousted if he doesn’t go voluntarily. Everyone is blaming him for Labour’s current difficulties. If “difficulties” is the right word, it seems to be a weasel-word used by those who lack the moral fibre to say it like it is. “He is a difficult child,” someone might say of a seriously dysfunctional, out of control brat. Or, “It was a difficult crossing,” someone else might say about the maiden voyage of the Titanic. And that’s about it, really, they’re sunk, so get rid of Gordon. But it’s not his fault.

While Gordon is indeed the Prime Minister, he isn’t the only one in the cabinet. The “iceberg in the corner of the room,” if I may mix my metaphors, is the incompetence of the entire cabinet. Everyone surely knows it, but nobody will talk about it. If a camera was allowed into a cabinet meeting and it panned around the table showing each minister in turn, you could categorise them, one after the other, “Useless, useless, useless.” Every man jack of them. The only exception would be those who are “dangerously incompetent” instead, like Alistair Darling or Jacqui Smith. Labour is in it’s current difficulties not because of one man, but because of a couple of dozen men and women. They should all go.

That still wouldn’t solve Labour’s problem, though. The Labour back-benches are full of has-beens that never should have been in the first place. There are very few exceptions because the Blair legacy is one of filling the Parliamentary Labour Party with apparatchiks and researchers, clueless about the real world, but well skilled in manoeuvring within the party and therefore contemptuous of the democratic process. That is how we can have a Labour government that increases taxation on the lower paid while falling over itself to appease the super-rich. That passes Draconian laws to suppress peaceful protests while swindling the police over their pay. That promises to listen to us while denying us a vote on the European Constitution. The list is just too long to detail, the ruination of the NHS, the underfunding of the armed forces, the chaos of immigration, those few gripes only scratch at the surface of the problems. Difficult times indeed.

There is nothing we can do about it. The Labour Party was elected with a five year mandate, and Gordon Brown still has two years of it to play with. The House of Lords has been emasculated, it can no longer provide a check or counterbalance to the House of Commons. There is no mechanism, as there is in the United States, for a “Recall” vote to cause an election to be re-run if the winner fails to live up to his or her election promises. There is no prospect of the Queen dismissing Brown and causing a general election. Constitutionally we are in unchartered waters. A party in power with a huge majority in parliament, and a country with no confidence in it whatsoever. Did we celebrate the downfall of the Soviet Union too soon?

Is democracy viable?

I was thinking in the aftermath of the Bhutto assassination that we hadn’t really succeeded in leaving a legacy of democracy behind as we pulled out of former colonies and left them to rule themselves. Then I wondered, “What does it take for democracy to work in the Third World?” Then like a thunderbolt it hit me – we don’t even have democracy in this country, so who am I kidding? Describing Benazir Bhutto’s murder as a “sad day for democracy,” as Gordon Brown has done is risible. It is a monumental disaster for Pakistan and a huge setback for world peace. A “sad day for democracy” was when Gordon Brown took over as Prime Minister without an election.

So while we wait helplessly for the bloodbath to ensue in Pakistan, let’s consider the miserable state we’re in. We watch the news and we read the papers and we lament. A lying, incompetent government signs away our freedom to Europe without so much as a by-your-leave. Their hypocrisy knows no bounds. They are quite literally shameless. But what can we do about it? The Conservatives only promise incremental change, a little less tax here, a little less legislation there, but our future has already been signed away to the EU. The daily diet of cock-up and corruption distracts us from the more serious problem; democracy in this country has broken down. The question is, can we fix it or should we replace it?