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In the Canary Article entitled, “Assaults on democracy come in many forms – not just storming the Capitol,” they say, “The storming of the Capitol in the US by a white supremacist mob, egged on by the white supremacist-in-chief Donald J. Trump, has rightly seen calls for concern around the state of US democracy. However, some of these concerns also have legitimacy closer to home in the UK. Some threats to democracy are far more subtle and insidious than recent events in Washington, D.C. As part of our #factofthematter series, The Canary has been monitoring policy reviews and changes of electoral processes in the UK. As we’ve already covered, the Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL) is currently reviewing the financial regulation capabilities of the Electoral Commission. The Commission is also under review by the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC). These reviews, while presented with much political jargon, are very important for the work of free and fair elections.”
The Canaty explain, “The Nolan Principles” saying that, “The CSPL has recently turned its attention to the importance of the Nolan principles to maintaining public trust and understanding in politics. The principles are a guideline in the ministerial code and involve: Selflessness; Integrity; Objectivity; Accountability; Openness; Honesty and Leadership. In a recent blog post, the chair of the CSPL lord Jonathan Evans outlined that the Nolan principles are a guideline for public life and contribute to maintaining high standards of integrity: Imagine a democracy without ethical standards. A political system where there are free elections, but where those elected make decisions solely in the interests of their supporters or paymasters; where public funds are systematically diverted to private purses; or where policy is sold to the highest bidder. Such a corrupt system is not democracy in any real sense. Democracy means more than just an elected dictatorship.” Sadly te UK now has a fraudulently elected ‘Tory Sovereign Dictatorship.’
The Canary point out, “But political cronyism has seen just that, government contracts handed out without tender, ministers’ friends benefiting from their associations, and peerages handed out to associates.” I cannot for the life of me think of a single one of the Nolan principals that this Tory Government hasn’t already violated in spades and with growing impunity. “The Canary spoke with campaign group Unlock Democracy’s director Tom Brake, who cited problems with enforcement of the Nolan principles: ‘I would say that the Nolan principles are very hard to enforce and unfortunately there is evidence that the Nolan principles are not being observed. The Nolan principles are, in effect, reflected in the ministerial code of conduct, for instance, which quite clearly states that things like transparency, integrity, honesty, and so on, are things that all ministers should observe at all times.”
The Canary focus on Brake’s observations exposing key flaws in what is essentially an honour system, saying, “But the ministerial code recently has become something that is simply not enforced. The enforcement rests solely with the Prime Minister, and he has chosen not to enforce it. If the principles are difficult to enforce, their use must be questioned. Brake continued: ‘There is another weakness with the ministerial code, and that is the ministerial code, of course, applies to the Prime Minister, but the Prime Minister is responsible for enforcing it. So if the Prime Minister breaches the ministerial code, it seems unlikely that he or she would enforce it against themselves. I think that’s a fundamental flaw in the ministerial code and there are strong arguments in Unlock Democracy’s view that that process should be something that has an independent element to it in terms of the enforcement.”
The Canary highlight that, “Enforcement of the Nolan Principles doesn’t currently rest with an independent regulator. Instead, the principles are an ethical code of practice which governments can choose to comply with or not. The structure of the UK Parliament makes this issue more complex. In his blog post, Evans claims that standards of behaviour are important but: it’s more complex for those in elected office who owe their positions to the democratic choice of their electors,” admitting that, “’I suppose I should add that it is even more complex for Members of the House of Lords like me who are neither employed nor elected…’ The House of Lords is the second chamber of UK parliament and features unelected officials who gain entry by appointment. The tail end of 2020 saw renewed criticism of Boris Johnson with accusations of ‘chumocracy’. Analysis from the Guardian found that: Almost a quarter of peerages awarded this year have been to Conservative party donors, close associates or former colleagues of Boris Johnson.”
Brake told The Canary that: “We are now unique in the world in terms of having a second chamber that legislates that is unelected, and it continues to grow. It’s now bursting with people placed there. Most recently, as you’ll know, someone placed there who the Prime Minister was advised not to put forward, but chose to anyway. We have a House of Lords which is bursting to the seams with people who have supported the different political parties and is an anachronism that most people think should have been dealt with 50 or 100 years ago, if the storming of the Capitol portrayed a negative impression of US democracy, then I’m afraid that the House of Lords continues to do the same for UK democracy. Evidently, erosions of democracy don’t always come in the form of domestic terrorists invading government buildings. The Nolan Principles could be useful standards for ensuring fairness in the UK electoral system. But, as Brake argues, more work is necessary to ensure a robust democracy in the UK.”
“What can we do? The Canary has been following the CSPL’s review of the Electoral Commission (EC), and has seen that several campaign groups laid out their concerns in the public consultation. Fair Vote UK, an NGO campaigning for fair elections, and Open Rights Group (ORG), an NGO campaigning around freedom and digital rights, told the consultation that: The laws creating the Electoral Commission were written in the pre digital age and a time of different campaigning norms. Campaigning innovations incubated in the USA are now commonplace in the UK. Regulation must evolve to meet them. For example, we live in the era of ‘permanent campaigns’, with political parties advertising on social media all year round. As a result the current rules narrowly defining election periods and corresponding spending limits are outdated. They should be replaced with per-annum spending limits, with fresh spending limits imposed again once an election has been called.”
The Canary report that, “Fair Vote UK and ORG suggest: ORG and Fair Vote UK support the creation of a body, the Office for Election Integrity, that would coordinate the work of the relevant regulators. It is clear from the elections of recent years that not only do the responsibilities of several regulators overlap in this space, no single regulator can currently sufficiently regulate it.
Such a suggestion is indicative of the growing calls to give more investigatory and regulatory power to the EC. The Brexit Referendum from 2016 and the 2017 and 2019 general elections were all beset with allegations of disinformation.” They report on, “Threats to electoral regulation,” saying that, “The Conservative position on the EC, however, is somewhat different, as Brakes argued: When the vice chair of the Conservative Party submits evidence that says there are circumstances in which we will abolish the Electoral Commission if it doesn’t do what we say it should do, then that means there is a threat to the Electoral Commission.”
The Canary report that, “We know that even though the Electoral Commission has acted impartially and it has fined all the political parties, not just the Conservative Party, for their breaches of the rules…it seems to be the Conservative Party in particular that has an apparent grievance against the Electoral Commission. Now the EC may well need reform that equips it to deal with digital campaigning. But nonetheless, any threat to its independence is grave. Indeed, Brakes warned: If we needed any evidence of the need for there to be a very strong, impartial, independent body able to oversee our elections we can go across the pond and see what’s happened in the US where what we may need in the UK in the future, and I hope this isn’t the case, but what we may need is an independent body like the Electoral Commission that can…provide evidence that our elections are fair and have been conducted properly, because that is clearly the Electoral Commission’s role.”
“An EC spokesperson told The Canary: As the regulator of political finance, the Commission’s role is to provide assurance that there is a level playing field for all parties and campaigners, and that political finance is transparent and consistent with the law. Our independence is paramount to this work and to ensuring fairness, trust and confidence in our democratic processes. The EC’s full response to the public consultation can be found here. Its spokesperson did emphasise that it was open to reform in view of a commitment to democracy: The functions of the Commission are vital to the integrity and transparency of elections. We are always open to feedback from our stakeholders and keen to build and maintain trust and confidence. We are receptive to change, including where reforms can deliver greater oversight and scrutiny of the Commission on behalf of parliaments and voters, while maintaining our independence.”
The Canary point out that, “These campaign groups and their current work reveal much about the state of democracy in the UK. Independence and reform of the EC, according to campaign groups, are vital to a free and fair democracy that works for all. Let’s hope the Tories don’t get in the way of that.” The privatization of the Electoral process, coupled with zero possibility for EC oversight of the companies involved with this operation, now means that the integrity of our Elections can no longer be guaranteed; it is wide open to industrial scale fraud. Idox, the same company who exert almost total control over the Postal Vote Management program used throughout the UK, also created a Canvassing App to help political parties target their supporters. You must be blind as a bat and way too trusting not to recognize the inherent danger in placing so much unaccountable power in the hands of a Corporation with strong links to the Tory Party! But when the Tories claimed a miraculous ‘landslide victory’ no questions were asked!
In the Byline Times Article entitled, “Blinding Exceptionalism The Insidious Attacks on British Democracy Are No Less Dangerous than Trump’s America. Security forces respond with tear gas after President Donald Trump’s supporters breached the US Capitol on 6 January 2021. Hardeep Matharu explores why the attacks on the rule of law and accountability by Boris Johnson and his Government are not interpreted to be as alarming for the UK as the more overt destruction being waged by Donald Trump in America. No one thinks it could happen here. Britain is not America, India, Brazil or China. Authoritarianism and fascism are the ideologies we fought against and won two World Wars over. We are the mother of Parliaments, the cradle of the rule of law. Our justice system is second-to-none. In this heroic and exceptional formulation of ourselves lies the key to why Britain’s democracy is so vulnerable, by Boris Johnson and forces beyond.”
Matharu says, “To forget one’s vulnerabilities is to stare at the shadows in the cave, convinced that whatever fallibility touches others cannot touch us. In a way, it is a vital act of survival, the distractions and delusions that get us through the day, what T.S. Eliot summed up aptly with: ‘Humankind cannot bear very much reality.’ But it is also a dangerous myopia, blinding us to the darkness within and ahead. That we think it really couldn’t happen here, is exactly why it could. It won’t look or feel the same as elsewhere, but it will be there, as the beginnings already are, hidden in plain sight.” The UK is rendered far more vulnerable than the US, by our lack of a written Constitution. Reckless maneuvers are only prevented by convention, a poorly defined ‘Gentlemans agreement’ that is easily trashed by an unruly authoritarian bold enough to break with both tradition and honour. The so-called, “Henry VIII powers’ refer to ‘Statutory Instruments:’ changes to UK laws that do not even have to come before parliament!
Brexit removed the last remaining constraints on an already seriously out-of-control Government after they had already claimed an undemocratic dominance over Mainstream Media and our state broadcaster, the BBC, became a Tory propaganda mouthpiece. The Covert 2019 Rigged Election result gifted the Tory Party unassailable power in the House of Commons, but post-Brexit the UK is now less able to curb the Tory Sovereign Dictatorship than Germany was to derail Hitler before he assumed absolute control as a Fascist Dictator! Matharu comments that, “Nothing less than fascism entered the heart of American democracy yesterday, as Donald Trump-supporting insurgents stormed the Capitol, spurred on by the President’s incitement: ‘You will never take our country back with weakness.You have to show strength.’ After they entered the corridors of power, halting a vote affirming Joe Biden as the country’s next President, he told them ‘we love you, you’re very special people’. Four had lost their lives.” Now five!
Matharu reports that, “On the same day, in India, Narendra Modi continued his country’s march of authoritarian Hindu nationalism. Following 150,000 deaths from COVID-19, the writing into law of the ‘Love Jihad’ conspiracy theory and attacks on the income of rural farmers leading to widespread protests, the Prime Minister pressed on with his controversy. India’s Supreme Court has given him the go-ahead to replace the country’s Parliament building in Delhi, built during the British Raj by Edwin Lutyens, with one of his own design. In an attempt to pull down its imperial history and replace it with a nationalistic one, one architect commented: ‘It will remind us of Mussolini’s Rome and Speer’s Berlin’.” Somehow the British are able to recognize the rise to power of authoritarian despots overseas in Brazil, Turkey, Hungary and elsewhere, while remaining oblivious to the extreme danger here in the UK.
Matharu shares, “Speaking to my Mum last night about developments in America, she was alarmed by what was happening in the world’s two largest democracies, the US and India. A British immigrant who grew up in post-partition India, having voted for Brexit and Boris Johnson’s Conservatives, she doesn’t agree with the Government’s handling of the Coronavirus crisis or Johnson’s leadership. But it is hard to convince her that something, structurally, is badly amiss in the British state, just as she believes it to be in India and America. Why this is the case, I believe, is due to that most English of traits, so English that you can hardly see it: insidiousness.” He describes it as, “’Hidden from view, but in plain sight.’ The appearance of order, a polished authority, prosaic diction, a leadership bred to believe it can lead. This is the image many still have of Britain’s ruling class: an internalised belief in noblesse oblige which has arguably contributed to the deaths of more than 80,000 people during the Coronavirus pandemic.”
Matharu explains how, “Under this almost effortless image lies immense inequality, structural racism and class discrimination, all completely embedded in who we are, yet hard enough to pinpoint with precision. But the ‘cover-up’ is the old imperial way and always has been. As Britain’s colonies gained their independence one by one, ‘Operation Legacy’ ensured that the blushes of the British establishment were spared with this Government-authorised destruction and concealing of thousands of documents relating to the country’s colonial exploits. Unlike the US, a country which seems to at least know when it is at war with itself, Britain’s denial of its truth through appearances, myth and pomp acts as the ultimate defence mechanism to stop any discontent bubbling up over the surface and being seen for what it is. Under Boris Johnson, the norms that Britain’s democracy is built on have been shockingly subverted in ways not seen before.” He asks, “yet, do we see things for what they are?”
Matharu points to the clearly allarming examples set by Boris Johnson and this Tory Government, listing the most obvious first: “See that the Prime Minister unlawfully prorogued Parliament in an unconstitutional attempt to avoid parliamentary scrutiny of the Government’s plans for Brexit? See that the Government admitted that its changes to customs rules for Northern Ireland would ‘break international law in a very specific and limited way’? See the obliteration of accountability which allowed Dominic Cummings to drive to Barnard Castle to test his eyesight and Priti Patel to break the ministerial code through her bullying behaviour? See the cronyism and corruption at the heart of the awarding of Government contracts during a public health crisis? See the Vote Leave lies, scapegoating, ‘divide and rule’ and racism weaponised in the ‘culture wars’; the emotional answers served up which will fail to improve people’s lives in any material way?”
Matharu questions why his, “…Mum doesn’t see that Britain under Boris Johnson should be concerning, just as India under Modi or Trump’s antics in America are, isn’t so surprising. The mainstream media and the BBC seldom label his Government’s actions as the assaults on democracy and the rule of law that they are.” Referring to our British ‘Trump-baby’ Boris Johnson he says, “In his upper-class bonhomie and language of ‘folks’, nothing seems amiss in the extreme or in advance of his consistent incompetence. Democracy, as a system of governance based on plurality, is inherently vulnerable. It requires nurturing and safeguarding. Combined with the modern threats of dark money, social media radicalisation, disinformation and the monetisation of hate, it is teetering precariously in the 21st Century.’ Yesterday’s scenes in the US Capitol were horrifying and should never have happened. The Trump era has, however, seen American society starting to confront the darkness which created them.”
Matharu points out that, “At every turn in Trump’s term, there has been alarm and horror voiced at his actions,” warning that, “Here in Britain, we think it can and will never happen to us, even as it continues to right before our eyes.” His statement is demonstrably true as highlighted by our former Green Party Leader now sitting in the House of Lords, Natalie Bennett. In her Left Foot Forward Article, “Three proposed laws make a mockery of the PM’s claims about ‘Global Britain’,” she elaborates on how, “Three proposed laws are going to see further damage to the UK’s global reputation.” She explains very serious concerns over the Internal Markets Bill, the Covert Human Intelligence Sources Bill or ‘Spy Cops Bill,’ and the Overseas Operations Bill. Further she describes how, “Boris Johnson is vying with Jair Bolsonaro as the most prominent remaining global leader of Trumpism, with the PM’s plan to reverse election promises on international aid.” The Tory Sovereign Dictatorship is a festering swamp filled with vicious crocodiles!
The Tory controlled UK Media are the greatest perpetrators of hate speech manipulating the truth in shock headlines to stoke racial tensions; there must be greater efforts to curb their self-serving agenda. The public have already discovered that they were lied to by Brexit politicians who ramped up fears of a Turkish invasion and made false promises of huge sums being channeled into the NHS after we left the EU. Under the repression of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan Turkey gets further and further from joining the block and this Tory Government couldn’t even manage to keep NHS staff supplied with sufficient Personal Protective Equipment to keep them safe on the job. Why is no one holding Boris Johnson his Tory cabal responsible for these appalling lies? Instead we just signed a trade deal with Turkey and I am sure there are other despots eager to sign lucrative deals to accelerate the most highly valued UK trade in weapons and the equipment of repression which is one of our rapidly growing, no questions asked, exports.
The Tories should never have been allowed to come to power due to corrupt practices in the Covert 2019 Rigged Election. In any properly functioning democracy the use of public funds to pay fake Charity, the Integrity Initiative, to generate defamatory material targeting a legitimate opposition political party would be considered corruption sufficient to jail the perpetrators. I raise this issue because the evidence to support this clandestine operation has already been exposed and could be used in a court case, but no one is taking action. This is totally aside from the Psyops targeting of voters using illegally obtained contact data and the highly suspicious result from outsourced postal votes that still requires robust Investigation. Our Electoral Commission in the UK is totally worthless to protect the public from electoral fraud and the Tories will make sure it stays that way if they don’t decide on a whim to abolish the EC altogether: “A Watchdog that cannot watch is just a dog;” “All Votes Must Count:” Please Sign the Petition. DO NOT MOVE ON!