Challenging established power

Does this not neatly summarise the entire British political system? Rules don’t matter. Principles don’t matter. People don’t matter. Only power matters. The only thing that can inform policy and action is the expediency that serves established power.

If this was no more than an internal characteristic of one political party, it would be troubling enough. But the attitude encapsulated in the argument being put to the Court of Appeal by the Blairite faction of British Labour extends to the entire British political elite. It is the defining characteristic of the whole British political system. As Elliot Bulmer put it in a recent article for Bella Caledonia,

“The people by whom we are governed today might belong to the same privileged class as their forefathers, but they have all of their vices and none of their virtues. What once could portray itself as a relatively benign aristocracy has yielded to a crass, greedy and shameless oligarchy. The rich and powerful still see politics as a game for schoolboys, but it is more like illicit gambling than cricket. They gamble recklessly with your job prospects and wages, with your parents’ care in old age, and with your children’s education. They play banker and dealer, and they have loaded the dice. These are not the sort of people that you want to be able to make up the rules as they go along. They are not the sort to be trusted with absolute power.”

What is happening in Scotland is not, as Blairite candidate for the British Labour leadership Owen Smith supposes, merely an upsurge in “national pride”, but a rising tide of democratic dissent. A questioning of the very political ethos exemplified by the argument that those in power should not be constrained by rules. A generalised recognition that those who would resort to such an argument are “not the sort to be trusted with absolute power”. And a growing determination to break the system that allows them power.

We have started to ask of the established power of the British state the five questions commended by Tony Benn,

“What power have you got? Where did you get it from? In whose interests do you exercise it? To whom are you accountable? And how can we get rid of you?”

What makes Scotland’s political culture distinct is nothing so trivial as some sentimental attachment to “Scottishness”. What is driving the progressive independence movement in Scotland is a refusal to accept that a ruling elite should have absolute power; that its power should be entrenched; that this power should be exercised in the interests of a select few; that established power should be accountable only to itself; and that we should have no means of effectively challenging this power.

It is time people in England started asking those five questions. More importantly, it is time they found an effective way of responding when they are not satisfied with the answers. They might do worse than look to Scotland for some hints as to how to go about it.

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2 thoughts on “Challenging established power

  1. Graham

    While I agree with your sentiments and much of Bulmer’s argument, I feel we still have a long way to go before Scotland achieves a true democratic settlement. We still have representative government based on periodic elections which is nothing other than a way of keeping the plebs in their place and the elite in power. Real democracy would hand back sovereignty to the people in a meaningful way and involve ordinary citizens in the process of government.

    Can I recommend a book by David Van Reybrouck -” Against Elections: The Case for Democracy” which demolishes electoral representative government and re-examines the case for sortition, or the drawing of lots, which was used in Athens and some other parts of Europe and is now used only for jury service.

  2. Dan Huil

    It is evident from every interview that non-Scottish-based politicians give, regardless of party, that they just haven’t a clue what’s happening in Scotland. They get all their information [!] from Scottish-based britnat politicians and media types, hence their ignorance. I’m quite happy to have these people wallow in their blissful ignorance; anything which furthers the political differences between Scotland and England is fine by me.

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