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From: Irish Political Review: Articles
Date: November, 2019
By: Angela Clifford

Some Guidance For The EU!


The case with Brexit, as we write, is that Britain has become a Parliamentary Democracy which refuses to govern. The Opposition in Parliament has become the majority. The business of the Parliamentary majority is to appoint a Government and enable it to govern, but the present majority insists on remaining the Opposition. The power to legislate independently of the Government has been bestowed on it by the Speaker, a former member of the ultra-Right Monday Club who is doing penance for his sins by shifting things towards anarchy. The present arrangements only need to be perpetuated for there to be effective anarchy. Anarchy just means “no Government”. And a nominal Government, maintained in Office by a Parliament which is hostile to it and prevents it from governing, is virtual anarchy. What Britain had from the time of the Hanoverian Succession in 1714 until 2019 was Parliamentary Government, in the form of government by the Crown in Parliament, in which the sovereignty of the Crown was exercised by the leader of the majority in Parliament. There is no necessary connection between Parliamentary Government and Democratic Government. For more than two centuries British Parliamentary Government was anti-democratic. The system now established might be described as an anti-Government Parliamentary Democracy. Under the traditional system, Parliament could defeat Government Bills but it could not itself initiate legislation. Now it can legislate, independently of the Government, and against Government policy, and not be responsible for implementing what it legislates. It has power without responsibility. If the Irish Establishment had not made itself wilfully ignorant of the political history of Ireland in the 1970s, rather than face facts about the North, it would know that Legislative Power without Governmental Responsibility was what brought the Irish Parliament to grief in 1798. The 1782 settlement brought about an extreme division of power between the Irish colonial Legislature and the Government (based in Dublin Castle), which remained a Whitehall Department of State. In 1798 the (London) Government suppressed the rebellions provoked by the Parliament, and then it abolished the Parliament it had set up in 1691, inadvertently making room for the Irish populace to engage in a national development after 1800. British Parliamentary Government became democratically-based only in 1918. But, as is the English way, when it became democratic itself it made a universal principle of it in other realms, regardless of circumstances. And, in 1919, as the world Super Power, it established forms of ultra democracy in the new states created to take the place of the ‘authoritarian’ order of Europe which it hd destroyed. In the matter of democratic government for others, it gave primacy to democracy over government and produced a system of disorder. A short while later the primacy of government began to be restored by the rise of fascist movements. Our guess would be that the traditional authority of government in Parliament will be restored by the Tory Party, that the anarchist illusions which have overcome so many MP this year will be forgotten, and that the Labour Party will revert to the position of a Loyal Opposition waiting to become the Government, instead of continuing as the leader of a miscellaneous-majority Opposition whose purpose is to disable government. The two-party-system is imprinted on English political culture as a kind of Platonic form. But a resolution in the other direction is certainly possible, and would be a good thing for Europe—and for Ireland, if it still had a sense of national purpose. Parliamentary Democracy against Parliamentary Government has just taken the form of a law requiring the Government to ask the EU for a further extension of the Brexit deadline, even though that is against Government policy. That is the Benn/Bercow Act. (Bercow is the Speaker of the Commons, who has made himself the leader of Parliamentary direction of Government.) Its purpose is to make the Government a puppet operated by Parliament and humiliate it for Labour Party political advantage when it will eventually have to face an election. The Government complied with the Act to the extent of posting to the EU an unsigned photocopy of the letter in the Act, along with a letter of its own which says in effect that it does not want an extension. The EU is an arrangement made between Governments, not an arrangement made by Parliaments. There was no European Parliament while Governments were making the functional arrangements that became the EU. The Spanish Government has many internal discontents, and it is faced with a democratically-based national rebellion which it is treating as Britain treated the Irish democratic rebellion in 1919. The EU does not interfere. If it did, it would be undermining itself. But it is interfering in British politics. It has allowed itself to be drawn into British politics by putting a Parliamentary majority which refuses to govern on a par with the Government which the Parliamentary majority opposes but refuses to bring down. It is treating the British state as being under a dual system of authority, and being without a Government. Bobby McDonagh, former Irish Ambassador to the UK and the EU, advocates treating the UK as being under dual authority—which of course undermines the Government’s authority. (Who Should The EU Deal With, Irish Times Oct. 24). He says that the unsigned letter written by Benn and passed on to the EU, along with Government letters, was a valid request by the Prime Minister for an extension, “whether he likes it or not”. The implication of that is that the Parliamentary majority which refuses to govern is the authority with which the EU should deal. But he backs away from that conclusion by saying “the current blockage at Westminster obfuscates” the matter and presents the EU with a dilemma. The EU has chosen to face itself with a dilemma by recognising a non-governing body as being a body it must deal with, along with dealing with the nominal Government. He says:
“The answer to this dilemma must surely be for the EU to deal with Britain’s democracy in all its complexity by recognising the House of Commons has constrained the prime minister to request an extension.”
The answer to the dilemma is to intensify it! Parliament, without significant dissent, organised a referendum so that the electorate as a whole could decide by direct vote, instead of through constituency elections, whether the state should remain in the EU or leave it. The supporters of remaining in the EU, which included the main body of the Government, told the voters that leaving the EU would be bad for the country economically. The supporters of leaving the EU said that the most important thing about leaving would be the restoration of national sovereignty, that the economic consequences could be dealt with, and that economic opportunity would follow. The Prime Minister who called the referendum refused to undertake implementation of the decision. The new Prime Minister called an election, in which both parties undertook to implement the referendum result. The electoral contest, therefore, was not between Leavers and Remainers. But, in the new Parliament, it turned out that a majority of MPs were covert Remainers and they set about preventing the implementation of the Referendum decision. Their justification in the first instance was that the electorate had been misled by the Leavers and therefore did not know what they were voting for—as if the Leavers had been the Government and had not allowed the Remain case to be put! The next Remain argument was that the Referendum imposed no obligation on Parliament to implement its decision because it was no more than an advisory opinion poll. This case was put by Benn, but almost sotto voce. Latent in this argument was the view, held by Parliament through most of its existence, that the people were unfit to decide matters of state. At best they could be trusted to choose between two parties which were in basic agreement with each other. But the populace had irresponsibly been given the power to decide a fundamental matter of state. It had made a wayward decision. And now it was up to Parliament to save the people from the consequences of the decision they had made when power was irresponsibly delegated to them. But that was a view that could not be stated openly, least of all by Benn’s party—the Labour Party with its routine rhetoric of populism. And Bobby McDonagh is of the opinion that the EU should help the anti-Government majority in Parliament to save the British people from themselves. He praises— “the immense courage of those parliamentarians in Westminster who continue to seek to advance the UK’s real long-term interests…” And he says that the EU “cannot but have significant sympathy for the growing enthusiasm of British pro-Europeans”. What grounds are there for supposing that the seeking of party-political advantage against the Tory Government by preventing it from implementing the Referendum decision has anything to do with pre-Europeanism? The explicit policy of ‘Remainers’ is “Remain and Reform”, which is the policy effectively set in motion by Thatcher. John Bruton, when he saw British Europeanism at close quarters, was irritated by it. It was continuous pressure for Exemptions and ‘reforms’ in the British interest, with every concession instantly becoming part of the status quo and being in need of further improvement. When the British populace was brought to think about Europe outside the routine of domestic party-politics, as it was in the recent European elections, it elected the party whose only policy is that it is anti-Europe. The British are not European. They broke with Europe half a millennium ago, and made themselves into the greatest World Power ever seen by fostering a series of half-a-dozen balance-of-power wars in Europe. They put themselves in thrall to a powerful sense of destiny—which Professor Foster never cared to comment on in his capacity as an English historian. At various junctures they gambled everything on their Providential destiny, rather than reduce themselves to equality with an enemy by negotiating a settlement with an enemy. It would be pleasant to think that they had shrugged off that sense of singularity by a free existential act of self-negation, but we see no sign of it. And Bobby McDonagh is entirely mistaken that “Each member of the European Council” represents “a democracy every bit as vibrant, if not as volatile, as the UK’s”. All the EU states are post-1945 constructions, with the exception of Spain, Portugal and Ireland, which were neutral in Britain’s last major act of mayhem in the world: World War 2. (And official Ireland is in denial about the De Valera era, which warded off domestic fascism and deterred Britain from forcing it into its World War, just as Spain is about the Franco regime which pulled the society together into national cohesion by forceful methods, refused to co-operate with German fascism, and made provision for transition to a democratic system when the national state was strong enough to bear it.) British democracy is something else. The new-fangled European states are bewildered by it. Its political culture seems to consist of an extremist rhetoric of civil war, of revolution an reaction, of a conflict of antagonistic systems. The Government, from the viewpoint of the Opposition, is always intent on destroying the country. It seems to be a democracy barely surviving, on the brink of anarchy—and it could be argued that that is what authentic democracy must be. The European democracies, constructed in the shadow of the World War, and of the Soviet power which destroyed the Nazi system, appear kindergarten affairs by contrast. In March 1914 the rhetorical antagonism went to the point of the Opposition raising its own Army to counter the Government’s Army. A year later that Opposition joined the Government—and made no more apology for what it had done than the IRA did in 1998. This English mode of politics by all-out antagonism always seems to be entirely in earnest, but always proves to have been no more than role-playing. And one of the things it can do is draw others into internal British affairs to their own disadvantage. Michael Collins was drawn in in 1921, and it obliged him to launch a spurious ‘Civil War’ in 1922. And Bobby McDonagh is now encouraging the EU to get drawn in. A spokesman for the Scottish Nationalist Party, Brendan O’Neill, told Sky News on October 24th that they had “got the Prime Minister in a cage” and they would do nothing that risked letting him out. An election would let him out and therefore they would support the Labour Party in preventing it, even though they were certain to win it in Scotland, and would not contest it anywhere else. The Government in its cage seems to have decided to withdraw from the business of legislation because any Bill it introduces could be taken over by the majority Opposition and turned against itself. (Even though the Opposition has been given the right to introduce Bills independently of the Government, it still cannot enact Bills involving money, but can take over Government Bills.) The Government seems to be going on strike against a Parliament controlled by the Opposition in order to oblige the majority Opposition to call an Election. Part of the Opposition case has been that Brexit violates the Good Friday Agreement, which is sacred. We could never see how it did that. But now it seems that the Taoiseach wants to discard the GFA by restoring majority rule in the North. The essential thing done by the GFA was that it provided the conditions in which War could be ended. It ended the War by abolishing the principle of majority rule in the North, and giving constitutional effect to the fact that there were two peoples in the North. That fact had always been obvious but had been denied constitutionally. The new arrangements recognised that there were two electorates in the North with no political overlap between them. That fact followed inevitably from the structures imposed by Britain in 1921. In 1998 Britain recognised the fact of two peoples and set up a kind of apartheid system for them, abolishing the majority political status of the majority community. Under the new arrangement, each took a piece of the devolved government independently of the other. This was possible because all the main structures of State continued to be run by Whitehall. There was no general Devolved Government, only distant departments of government, which were chosen by Unionists and Nationalists in turn, in order of their electoral support. It does not seem that Dublin ever understood what it agreed to in 1998. John Bruton recently said it was a system of reconciliation, when it was clearly the opposite: a recognition of division. 1998 provided for a veto by one side on proposals made by the other. This was then to the advantage of the Nationalists. At present the two peoples are close to parity and the Veto will soon be to the advantage of Unionists. And Varadkar, who played no part in the War or the settlement, now suggests that the essential thing in the GFA should be discarded when it comes to the most divisive issue in the North! The Unionists, with their 10 Westminster MPs, unexpectedly got the balance of power at Westminster in 2017. They installed the Tory Party in Government but voted against Teresa May’s Deal with the EU. And now they have voted against Johnson’s Deal and regret having voted against May’s, and are coming to think that defeating Brexit gives them the best chance of maintaining the Border. It has not yet clicked with them that their 1921 agreement to operate a Six County system cut off from British politics isolated them and made them incomprehensible within British politics. They might possibly have rectified that situation, when we suggested it almost fifty years ago, before the IRA had fought the War to a successful conclusion that gave it Constitutional standing with far-reaching effect on the spirit of the Nationalist community.


CONTENTS

Some Guidance For The EU. Editorial
Meanwhile . . . Another EU Matter. Jack Lane
Budget 2020: Competent On Brexit, Inadequate On Everything Else. Dave Alvey
Readers' Letters: Why Tory MPs Were Expelled. David Morrison
Brexit And British Labour Party Policy. Martha Seale
LEST WE FORGET (4). Extracts from Irish Bulletin. This issue lists British Acts Of Aggression, 9 - 29
November 1919 (ed. Jack Lane)
Es Ahora. Julianne Herlihy ( Clair Wills And The Story She Tells, Part 13)
Toxin-Laden Atmosphere Surrounds Climate Change Campaign. Tim O'Sullivan
Inscrutable Politics. Donal Kennedy
A Minor Setback Before The UK Exit. Dave Alvey (Brexit Summary, Oct.)
Middle East Cauldron. Editorial
Wackypedia. Jack Lane
Working Britain In The 1950s. Wilson John Haire
Mr. Dudgeon OBE: A Belfast Virgil. Paul Hyde
Casement: Speculation And A New Conspiracy! Jack Lane
Centenary Of How The American Legion Marked Armistice Day 1919.
Manus O’Riordan England's Crisis Of Democracy, 1919. Pat Walsh
Biteback: The Occupied Territories Bill. Gerry Liston, Sadaka (Letter Irish Times)
Does It Stack Up? Michael Stack (Lest We Forget 1; Lest We Forget 2; Martin Mansergh)
British Roulette. Wilson John Haire (Poem)
Labour Comment, edited by Pat Maloney: James Connolly - Slums And Trenches